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Winterfell

TV show Game of Thrones (2011)
Game of Thrones begins with the execution of a deserter on the heights of Winterfell, the stronghold of the Stark family. One of the most powerful in the Kingdom of the Seven Crowns. At Winterfell, where Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) is preparing to receive his friend the king. Thus begins this ambitious fresco tinged with heroic fantasy.
Entrance to Castle Ward
Entrance to Castle Ward - Ardfern, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

“Winter is coming”

Eddard “Ned” Stark (Sean Bean)

The year 2007 begins for HBO with the acquisition of the rights to George R.R. Martin’s books. Quickly attached to the series, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss describe the project as a kind of version of the Sopranos in Middle Earth, in reference to the Lord of the Rings. A chivalrous saga populated by treacherous characters, big-hearted heroes, dragons and black-hearted witches, Game of Thrones began production in Northern Ireland in the fall of 2009.

During the scouting, the teams scoured the country to select the most appropriate locations. Immediately, Castle Ward, a former private estate now owned by the state, was selected. The oldest part, with two towers, is perfect for the entrance to Winterfell Castle, the stronghold of the Starks, the family at the center of the story.

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The arrival of King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), one of the most important scenes of the pilot episode, takes place in the grounds of Castle Ward. All the members of the family took their places in the courtyard, in front of the stables, to welcome their monarch. Numerous green screens are set up to allow for special effects in post-production. The main tower, located to the right of the entrance, is for example duplicated, while the modern elements are all erased. While modern technology is already an important part of the manufacturing process for the series, the teams also use more traditional processes. Several banners representing the Stark wolf surround the castle, the roof of the stables is thatched and braziers are set up to reproduce the desired medieval atmosphere.

From the start, Game of Thrones has made a point of standing out with its sets, effects, and costumes. The latter are successively inspired by Persian, Japanese or European cultures, depending on the characters and their geographical origin. System D is also widely used as evidenced by the cloak Jon Snow (Kit Harington) wears when he joins the Night’s Watch. This one, is made from a cleverly cut IKEA shaggy rug. Castle Ward is used several times for close-up shots. All the sequences taking place in the courtyard, when the Stark children are practicing archery or when the characters enter or leave the castle, are filmed here. Nevertheless, the various directors working on the series also use Doune Castle in Scotland in a more brief way to bring the final touch to Winterfell. The Stark castle is a clever collage of real places and purely digital elements.

10

Game of Thrones was filmedin ten countries, including Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Morocco, Malta, Spain, Croatia, Iceland and Scotland.

Scene in the courtyard of Winterfell castle in Game of Thrones
Scene in the courtyard of Winterfell Castle in Game of Thrones – Credit: HBO
Scene in the courtyard of Winterfell castle in Game of Thrones
Scene in the courtyard of Winterfell Castle in Game of Thrones – Credit: HBO

National Trust - Castle Ward

An 18th century building owned by the National Trust, Castle Ward overlooks the beautiful Strangford Lough, a few miles from Downpatrick.

A collection of buildings from several eras, Castle Ward began in 1570 and includes a castle with several towers, stables, a Victorian laundry, a sawmill, a working mill, a Gothic facade, various outbuildings and a large walled garden. Once owned by the Ward family, the estate reverted to the Government of Northern Ireland in 1952. The site was also the scene of an abortive IRA bombing in 1973. A major tourist site, Castle Ward now welcomes history buffs and Game of Thrones fans alike.

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By Gilles Rolland

Monday, May 23, 2022

Passionné de cinéma, de rock and roll, de séries TV et de littérature. Rédacteur de presse et auteur des livres Le Heavy Metal au cinéma, Paroles de fans Guns N' Roses, Paroles de fans Rammstein et Welcome to my Jungle : 100 albums rock et autres anecdotes dépareillées. Adore également voyager à la recherche des lieux les plus emblématiques de la pop culture.

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