by Oliver Smith, The Telegraph, July 21, 2017
Game of Thrones finally returned to our screens this week, reacquainting us all with the world of dragons and White Walkers, and introducing us to a new, and spectacular, filming location.
Daenerys Targaryen finally returned to the shores of Westeros - Dragonstone, to be precise - and the real-life location is remarkably easy to visit. That rocky beach seen in the show is called Itzurun, and it lies beside a Spanish seaside town called Zumaia, in the province of Guipúzcoa.
The best way to take in this Basque beauty is to tackle the Flysch Route, a coastal walking trail – but keep an eye on the tides and consider hiring a guide, says the local tourist board.
Just up the coast is San Sebastian, perhaps Europe’s finest city for food lovers, while the gateway to the region is Bilbao, home to Frank Gehry’s titanium masterpiece, the Museo Guggenheim. BA, easyJet, Vueling and Iberia all fly direct.
The summer favourite of British holidaymakers will continue to take a prominent role, just as it did in season six.
The otherworldly beaches near the Basque town of Barrika will also feature, according to sources in Spain, along with the islet of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a little further east, and the port of Bermeo. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, topped with a hermitage and connected to the mainland by a winding footbridge, looks particularly photogenic.
The Castillo de Almodóvar del Río, in the Andalusian province of Córdoba, is tipped to appear – perhaps as Highgarden, the seat of House Tyrell. It sits of the banks of the Guadalquivir, which can be explored on a river cruise, and dates back to the 8th century.
The city of Cáceres in Extremadura, and the neighbouring town of Malpartida, also look certain to star in series seven. The rock formation of Los Barruecos, on the outskirts of the latter, has surely captured the attention of filmmakers.
Carolina Casanova, the mayor of Santiponce, just outside Seville, last year claimed HBO were interested in filming at the ruins of Italica, an ancient Roman city and birthplace of emperors Trajan and Hadrian. The amphitheatre looks ideal for a trial by combat.
Seville itself will also appear, with the city’s Royal Dockyards a likely location.
Last season, Game of Thrones introduced viewers to the Castle of Zafra in the province of Guadalajara, the badlands of Bardenas Reales in the Navarre region, and Castell de Santa Florentina in the town of Canet de Mar.
In previous series, the bullring of the Andalusian town of Osuna became the fighting pits of Meereen, the Alcazar of Seville became Sunspear, the capital of Dorne, and its Water Gardens, while Cordoba's Roman Bridge became the Long Bridge of Volantis.
Winter is here, so Iceland, a favoured filming location, is once again expected to play a key role in season seven. Tourist bosses will no doubt be delighted. Ever since it first featured in season two, glimpses of the country’s frozen landscapes have lured fans from around the world to the little island in the north Atlantic. The “Game of Thrones effect” has been cited as a key factor behind the remarkable growth in annual visitors to Iceland, from 566,000 in 2011, the year it premiered, to more than 1 million in 2015.
Previous shoots have gravitated around Lake Mývatn and the otherworldly lava fields of Dimmuborgir in the north, the Höfðabrekkuheiði hiking area near Vik, on the island’s south coast, the Svínafellsjökull glacier near Skaftafell, and Thingvellir National Park.
Regent Holidays (0203 733 4931; regent-holidays.co.uk) offers five-day tours, visiting key locations from the series, from £950pp, including flights and b&b accommodation.
The show’s production base is Titanic Studios in Belfast, and last year the Game of Thrones crew were spotted on a private estate near the village of Saintfield, to the south of the city. It is the same spot where last season’s epic ‘Battle of the Bastards’ was shot.
Further information on season seven locations is scant – Northern Ireland’s mayors are less vocal than their Spanish counterparts, it would seem, but Telegraph Travel has contacted the country’s tourist board and will add further information here as we get it.
Among the most notable filming locations from previous series are Downhill Strand, a seven-mile beach overlooked by Mussenden Temple, which is visited by Stannis Baratheon and his frequently disrobed companion Melisandre (“for the night is dark and full of terrors”), the oft-photographed Dark Hedges, a spectacular collection of beech trees that line a road near Stranocum, County Antrim, and the little seaside village of Ballintoy, which becomes Pyke, capital of The Iron Islands, in Game of Thrones.
Full-on tours of “Winterfell”, featuring 20 locations, start from Castle Ward, a National Trust property that filled in for the ancestral home of the Stark family in season one. See gameofthrones-winterfelltours.com.