Northern Ireland tourism

Big budget blockbusters and small screen series use our scenery and talent to make movies

Northern Ireland is gaining a reputation as the go-to location for big film and television production companies eager to make use of the unique bio-diversity, creative industries infrastructure and great transport links.

American TV company, HBO continues to use Northern Ireland’s mountains and forests to help set the scene for the phenomenally successful, Game of Thrones series which returns to screens in April 2015 for a fifth season.  Good news for Northern Ireland, as during the filming of seasons 1 – 3 an estimated £65.5m was spent on goods and services here.

Game of Thrones, The Exhibition generated £2.9m worth of PR stories and a direct spend of £735k.

And last year, Hollywood rolled into town to film, Dracula Untold, with a cast and crew of hundreds and armed with a $100m budget, some of which was spent locally.

But that’s only a small part of the much bigger picture.

“When Hollywood comes to town you know you’re doing something right”, said Laura McCorry, Tourism Northern Ireland Director of Product Development.  “And Northern Ireland can boast several big projects over the last number of years with more to come.”

Big screen movies filmed in Northern Ireland over the last number of years include Good Vibrations starring Richard Dormer, Your Highness starring Hollywood names James Franco and Natalie Portman and City of Ember starring Bill Murray.

Laura continued:  “With the unique Paint Hall Film Studios studio facility in Titanic quarter, countless breathtaking landscapes to choose from and a wealth of local talent Northern Ireland is increasingly being mentioned by Hollywood executives at brain storms, by hip filmmakers looking for scene stealing backdrops and location managers seeking atmosphere and character.

“We are fully aware of the staggering beauty of our country so it is somewhat gratifying to know that millions of TV and film fans across the world have been let in on the secret.  I think it’s fair to say that if a fraction of these people get curious enough to take a trip to the locations they’ve seen on screen then we can expect to see more of these types of tourists in Northern Ireland.”

But it isn’t just beautiful landscapes and green pastures attracting filmmakers as the BBC series, The Fall, starring Northern Ireland’s very own Mr Grey, Jamie Dornan, shot in and around urban Belfast, proves.

“For New Yorkers, seeing their buildings and streets on the big and small screen is nothing new but for people from Northern Ireland it’s a different matter.  Catching a glimpse of a place you’ve holidayed in or a nightspot visited with friends on screen adds an extra frisson of excitement that’s new to us but that we’re happily getting used to”, said Laura.

Screen tourism reality

As the result of the film and TV shows being produced here, location Northern Ireland is fast becoming a star in its own right, and like a sharp-eyed director Tourism Northern Ireland is out to make sure the countryside is cast in a leading role as the screen tourism sector begins to take shape.

Together with Northern Ireland Screen, Tourism Ireland and the hospitality industry, Tourism Northern Ireland is working on a series of measures to make a screen tourism industry a reality.  For example Tourism Northern Ireland has produced dedicated screen tourism and Game of Thrones web pages incorporating a Game of Thrones filming locations map.

“When people see our Jurassic coastlines, crumbling castles, stately homes, mountains, forests and cityscapes on the TV they see into the heart of our offering, and that is something we are very keen to capitalise on,” says Laura.

Tourism Northern Ireland has met with a number of local tour operators who have built experiences around the Game of Thrones locations, and is continuing work to enable local trade to develop further initiatives based on screen tourism.

Laura continued:  “In 2013 we held a screen tourism insight event with over 150 attendees from local industry which examined how film and TV locations can be used to create tourism experiences. This has undoubtedly fed an appetite, as we now have several operators with product in this area which is continually growing.”

Game of Thrones Love Belfast

Northern Ireland taking a starring role

The places and attractions in Northern Ireland which can been seen on screen read like a who’s who of our top attractions including the Giant’s Causeway, Downhill Beach, Tollymore Forest, Ballintoy Harbour and grand estates like Castle Coole, Mount Stewart and Castle Ward.

2015 is just as exciting for screen tourism as The Frankenstein Chronicles, a re-imagining of the Frankenstein myth as a six-part ITV period crime drama, has begun filming, starring Sean Bean who also starred in Game of Thrones.

Jamie Dornan and Gillian Anderson are to reprise their starring roles in a third season of successful TV series, The Fall for the BBC.

Further soon-to-be released productions include High Rise, featuring Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller and Luke Evans and a drama set in Fermanagh and filmed entirely on location at Castle Coole, Miss Julie starring Colin Farrell and Jessica Chastain.

Action film Robot Overlords, which used Donaghadee, Greencastle Beach, Tollymore Forest and Carrickfergus Castle as locations, hit cinema screens in early 2015 which stars Gillian Anderson and Ben Kingsley.

The Oscar nominated short film Boogaloo and Graham was recently awarded a BAFTA in 2015 following on from the success of Oscar winner The Shore in 2012.

Tourism Northern Ireland has put together a snapshot of our TV and film highlights.

game of thrones n.ireland

Game of Thrones (2011 – Present)

An epic fantasy television series created for HBO.  This production is an adaptation of George R R Martin’s series of fantasy novels, and is filmed at the Paint Hall Film Studios in Belfast as well as a number of locations around Northern Ireland including Ballintoy Harbour, Tollymore Forest Park and Castle Ward Estate.


Boogaloo and Graham (2014)

Bafta-winning and Oscar-nominated short film Boogaloo and Graham, set in 1970s Belfast, follows the story of Jamesy and Malachy who are over the moon when their soft-hearted dad presents them with two baby chicks to care for. Raising their tiny charges, declaring themselves vegetarian and dreaming of running a chicken farm, the two boys are in for a shock when their parents announce that big changes are coming to the family.


Robot Overlords (2013)

Directed by Jon Wright and starring Gillian Anderson and Ben Kingsley, Robot Overlords is a home-grown homage to the action adventure films of the ’80s, packed with incredible special effects and rebellious excitement for all ages.  The film, which stars Gillian Anderson and Ben Kingsley, takes a look at a fictional Earth which has been conquered by robots from a distant galaxy.  Survivors are confined to their houses and must wear electronic implants, risking incineration by robot sentries if they venture outside.


The Fall (2013 – Present)

Made and set in Belfast, The Fall starred Gillian Anderson, better known for her role in cult TV series, the X files and Belfast-born Jamie Dornan who this year appeared in the role of Christian Grey in the feature film adaptation of bestselling novel ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.  In the gripping psychological thriller Belfast born Dornan played serial killer Paul Spector who stalked his victims at random in and around Belfast with Anderson portraying the talented Detective Superintendent brought in on the case.


Dracula Untold (2013)

Vampire mythology combined with the true history of Prince Vlad tell the origin of Dracula starring Luke Evans.  Filmed at many locations across Northern Ireland including: Tollymore Forest Park, Roe Valley Country Park, Mount Stewart House and Gardens, Giant’s Causeway, Divis Mountain and Scrabo Country Park.

DRACULA UNTOLD Courtesy Universal Pictures_00008R

Blandings (2013 – 2014)

The series is based on author PG Wodehouse’s hilarious accounts of the life and times of Lord Emsworth of Blanding Castle.  It was filmed at Crom Castle, Co. Fermanagh and stars well-known actors such as Timothy Spall, Jennifer Saunders, David Walliams and Mark Williams, just to name a few.


Keith Lemon – The Film (2012)

Comedy starring Celebrity Juice host and comedian Keith Lemon and Kelly Brook, Keith Lemon The Film is filmed in various Belfast locations including Linenhall Street, Titanic Drawing Offices, House of Fraser (Victoria Square), The Waterfront Hall, W5 at Odyssey, The Merchant Hotel, Bedford Street, Linen House Hostel, Old Northern Bank on Waring Street, Café Vaudeville, Donegall Square North.


Philomena (2012)

Philomena is the true story of one mother’s search for her lost son.  Starring Judy Dench and Steve Coogan with filming in various County Down locations including Bryansford, Killyleagh, Rostrevor and featuring the Mourne Mountains.


The Shore – Short Film (2011)

This Oscar winning film (best live action short) is the story of friendship and reconciliation starring Ciarán Hinds and Conleth Hill as childhood friends, Joe and Paddy. The film won Best Live Action Short Film at the 2012 Oscars.   Written and directed by Belfast local Terry George, and produced by his daughter Oorlagh, the film was shot entirely in Killough, County Down.


Good Vibrations (2012)

The film is a chronicle of Terri Hooley’s life, a record-store owner, played by Richard Dormer, instrumental in developing Belfast’s punk-rock scene.  As a way to forget about The Troubles in Belfast in the 1970s, Terry galvanises young musicians into action and becomes the unlikely leader of a motley band of kids and punks who join him in his mission to create a new community, an alternative Ulster, to bring his city back to life.


Starred Up (2013)

Starred Up is a prison crime drama filmed in former prisons HM Prison Crumlin Road in Belfast and HM Prison Maze in Lisburn and stars Jack O’Connell.  The film is based on the experiences of a voluntary therapist working at HM Prison Wandsworth, with some of the country’s most violent criminals.  The film’s title is a term used to describe the early transfer of a criminal from a Young Offender Institution to an adult prison.

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