‘Lord of the Rings’ flooded New Zealand with tourists; Sicily was swamped after the success of ‘The Postman’; the platforms at Kings Cross station have been heaving ever since ‘Harry Potter’; and now ‘Game of Thrones’ has put Northern Ireland firmly on the map.
The phenomenal ascendancy of HBO’s fantasy TV drama – which is filmed in a Belfast studio and shot on location across the stunning Causeway Coast – has encouraged thousands of fans to visit a country otherwise best known for its vitriolic politics, and the violence of ‘The Troubles’.
Having already boosted Northern Ireland’s economy by an estimated 77 million euros, the series has been a tourist board’s dream, as Moyra Lock, of the Northern Ireland Screen Agency notes: “Apart from the pure economic impact on Northern Ireland in terms of expenditure and goods and services, I think there is a huge tourism value. When people see ‘Game Of Thrones’ on the TV they will see a whole different side to Northern Ireland – they see the beautiful locations here.”
Among the various different Game of Thrones related activities available to travelling aficionados, the impressive Titanic Museum in Belfast is home to an exhibition showcasing the programme’s enormous range of costumes.
Packed with blood, bosoms, but plenty of intellectual muscle too, the show has won plaudits from almost everyone – from television critics to academics. The show came 40th in the Writers Guild of America list of the 101 best-written TV series this year, and as the actor Kristian Nairn explains, this is precisely why it is so popular: “I think it has incredibly well written characters and complicated but really edible story-lines, and I think that is the key.”
Adapted from a series of novels by George R.R. Martin, ‘Game of Thrones’ charts the fortunes of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros as they seek control of the Iron Throne.
Fans still left shell-shocked and shaking from the finale of Season 3, will have another year to collect themselves before Season 4 is aired.
In the meantime, Northern Ireland beckons.