Tucked amidst stone and mortar stands a timber gateway felled from mystical woods. Carved upon its deep grain rests a tale of redemption and honor, families and the battle of bastards. And on the other side of its darkly hued story? A breakfast fit for John Snow.
For this is Ballygally Castle Hotel in Northern Ireland, possessor of one of 10 coveted doors carved from two trees felled by a storm on the Kingsroad in Westeros (or, as known outside the Game of Thrones, the equally imposing ‘Dark Hedges’). What nature lay waste to nonetheless received new life through intricate carvings that tell ten tales upon ten doors, each connected to an episode of Season 6 of Game of Thrones. The initiative, undertaken by Tourism Ireland and HBO, has strategically placed the doors at pubs and restaurants around Northern Ireland, drawing visitors into a route around the country. After all, Northern Ireland provides a backdrop for much of the series. Here one can venture from Winterfell through to King’s Landing, trek where Littlefinger took Sansa as she allied with the Boltons, or simply slip one’s toes into the unforgiving frigid waters of the Iron Islands.
And it is here that one finds Ballygally Castle, an imposing 17th century stronghold turned into a majestic hotel (that’s notoriously haunted, BTW), situated at the entrance of the County Antrim and the Causeway Coast, where liquid emerald fields roll down craggily edges into opal waters. To choose Ballygally Castle as host of the door representing ‘Battle of the Bastards’, in which Ramsay Bolton and John Snow warred over the fate of Winterfell Castle, seems appropriate for a castle in its own right. And the carving is nothing less than spectacular in craftsmanship and portrayal, with intricate skill positioning the Crests of House Bolton and House Stark at odds with the prize of Winterfell in between. Weaponry lays strewn across the field of battle, the smallest details not overlooked in its carved timber.
Offering Game of Thrones fans more than just a night in a castle of their own and exclusive episode door, Ballygally Castle Hotel has gone so far as to present thematic meals ranging from Hodor’s Pulled Pork Brioche and Dothraki trifle with mini Dragon’s Egg to a Westeros Tomahawk Steak complete with Valyrian Steel style carving knife.
“It is a quite traditional Antrim Tea but a lot of the items are themed,” explained Lisa Wallace, the hotel’s front office manager. “So they are a bit more quirky.”
And who knows… maybe you will even find yourself drinking with John Snow.
IF YOU GO:
Book your stay at Ballygally Castle Hotel here.
For more ideas and inspiration, check out Discover Northern Ireland.