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Northern Ireland has become a hot new tourist destination, thanks to Game of Thrones


ON A COLD, windy morning, on top of a frost-capped hillside overlooking the sea, a small, shivering group of people gathered around a large rock. The ice on the ground crunched as a Chinese tourist wearing a long black cloak with fur trim knelt and stretched her neck toward the rock, as a great sword rose above her head.

Fortunately for Cawei Hua, a 24-year-old visiting from Shanghai, the sword was plastic, the cloak a borrowed prop, and the hillside—in Cairncastle, Northern Ireland—is a regular stop on one of the many location tours celebrating the George R.R. Martin book series that became the HBO fantasy show Game of Thrones. The rock in Cairncastle marks the point where Ned Stark, played by actor Sean Bean, executed a deserter in the show’s first season. In the nearly six years since that scene was shot, the series has become a global phenomenon (its sixth season starts on April 26), and Northern Ireland— where the majority of the show’s production takes place—has reaped the rewards.

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