Fear not Game of Thrones fans, Series 8 doesn’t spell the end of the journey for us. Westeros is closer than you think. Gifting Owl is no stranger to the series and if you’re looking for a gift for your favourite GOT fan friends or to treat yourself to some GOT grandeur, we’ve got you covered so to speak.
While the Seven Kingdoms has its own world map quite different from ours, the spectacular buildings and locations used in the filming of this epic drama are far from strange to us. Every episode of every series is laden with extraordinary places, so perfect and beautiful, they hardly seem real. But they are. The Seven Kingdoms are the culmination of treasured national parklands, ancient cities and cultural and heritage sites scattered across Europe. While transfixed on the woes of all those characters we love and the macabre carryings-on of ones we love to hate, HBO has inadvertently taken us on tours of Spain, Croatia, Iceland and Ireland, just to name a few.
From fantasy to fact here’s a guide to gifts that showcase some of GOT’s most memorable moments. Your travel adventures will be a feast for the eyes and have you hastening back for some heavy-duty binge-viewing filled with the expectation of seeing the Seven Kingdoms in a new light as tangible places with authentic histories that deepen your connections with the whole GOT phenomenon.
Let’s start at the heart of it all - Kings Landing, home of the Iron Throne and that dastardly duo, Cersei and Jaime Lannister. Croatia and in particular the ancient cities of Dubrovnik and Split are littered with sites used repeatedly throughout the seasons. Kings Landing is actually the coastal city of Dubrovnik. A three-hour drive north and you’ll find Split a short distance from there, the Fortress of Klis, Daenery’s home base within the Bay of Dragons. These are beautiful cities - gifts in themselves with terracotta rooftops, dome-tipped towers, high stone walls, narrow streets all facing the calm Adriatic Sea - ooze with majestic old-world charm. Tours of these cities will have you reminiscing over the seasons and scenes that you and I will never, ever forget. Dubrovnik - Season 5 Finale - Cersei's ‘walk of atonement’ - I still shudder, don’t you? This is actually St. Dominic Street in Dubrovnik. And who can forget Quarth’s House of the Undying (Minceta Tower also in Dubrovnik) a feature in Season 2? Well, it’s been a while, but this was where Daenerys Targaryen finds her way inside the doorless tower and walking through snow in a dream-like sequence that briefly reunites the Queen of Dragons with her beloved Drogo with babe in arms. Back to reality and Daenerys later discovers her baby dragons within the tower, chained and guarded by several Warlocks of Quarth. Not someone to be reckoned when it comes to her infant trio, she unleashes her fury and the warlocks soon find themselves facing a fiery end. The cellars that housed the Meereenese slaves, the site where the golden masked Sons of the Harpy waited to attack the Unsullied in a failed attempt to take down Daenerys in Season 4 and the place where the Queen of Dragons kept her fierce-sum offspring in season 5 are all clustered neatly together, making it a great gift adventure. Not to mention countless outdoor scenes of Braavos (Sibenik) and its famous Cathedral of St. James. These are just a few of Croatia’s recognisable GOT must-do sights.
Spain is another hub for GOT gift tours and experiences. The medieval city of Girona in Catalonia’s northeast has provided countless unforgettable locations and scenes connected with Kings Landing and the Lannisters, Oldtown and Arya Stark’s time in Braavos. A tour of the city will take you to the Girona Cathedral and those famous steps where a blinded Arya, broken and begging on the streets, is forced to fight for her life against the Waif. The cathedral is also the Great Sept of Baelor and site of that explosive scene when the High Sparrow and his not-so-merry band of sparrows find themselves on the receiving end of violent revenge Lannister style when they all go out with a bang. Placa dels Jurats the site of the scene where Arya is confronted with her father’s beheading by way of a theatrical performance, the Benedictine monastery Abbey Sant Pere de Galligants where Sam and Gilly take up residence and the Arab Baths where Arya fought her most valiantly against the Waif are all found here in Girona.
So, one thing I know as a GOT fan - just about every scene so far has been memorable in some way or another. But some scenes just stand out. Iceland has been home to a few over the years - that stoush between the Hound and Brienne of Tarth, the early love tussle between Jon Snow and the feisty redhaired Ygritte, the pairing up of Samwell and Gilly and Season 7’s heartstopping Episode 6 when Jon Snow and Daenerys dragon-child Viserion both found themselves drowning beneath the ice, only to be resurrected in the final minutes.
Iceland is a treasure trove of when it comes to locations fit for a king - home of the Night King, his White Walkers and Wights, and the last bastion of hope against his forces - the White Wall and its guardian the Knight’s Watch led by a king in the making (perhaps) Jon Snow who may or may not be the Prince destined for the Iron Throne. Gifting Owl has some sensational sightseeing in store for Game of Thrones fans who want to make the most of this most extraordinary island destination while getting the behind the scenes goss on all things GOT. A private jeep tour from Reykjavík, will take you to places of staggering beauty, and stunning film location highlights within Thingvellir National Park. You’ll see the Bloody gate of the Eeyrie, medieval villages and their Viking houses, Thjorsárdalur Valley with its picturesque waterfalls and finally the warm thermal waters of the Secret Lagoon. And you can’t leave without seeing the Frostfangs and Fist of First Men.
Westeros is an amazing world of contrasts and it wouldn't be the Game of Thrones without the Lord Commander’s Castle Black, the Greyjoys and their Iron Islands and of course home of the Starks - Winterfell. Brace yourselves fellow GOT fans for a gift experience with a difference - a one-day guided Game of Thrones tour that takes in the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, the Iron Island’s main port of Pyke (Ballintoy Harbour) and home to the House of Greyjoy, Castle Black, the Dark Hedges, Dragonstone and the House Targaryen where Stannis Baratheon plotted and schemed with the reader of the flames and all-powerful priestess of the Red God Melisandre of Asshai. These GOTta-see sites are all found not far from Northern Ireland’s capital of Belfast, making it a no-brainer when it comes to a great gift idea for that someone you know who’d love a GOT adventure - with you in tow of course!