The Dark Hedges in County Antrim in Northern Ireland is probably among the most photographed natural attractions in recent times. It became even more popular when it was featured in the hit TV series ‘Game of Thrones’.
Now one of the most visited tourist spots in Ireland and in Northern Ireland, the Dark Hedges is also quite fascinating.
This avenue of large mature beech trees are natural tunnels that are both enchanting and eerie.
These trees are now almost 250 years old and have only become even more atmospheric over time.
A number of these beech trees were lost through the passing years, mostly due to changing weather and seasons as well as storms.
From the original 160, only 90 are left. Steps are being taken to ensure that these remaining trees are protected. Tourists are also encouraged to help in its preservation.
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Dark Hedges: History And All The Things You Need To Know
How Dark Hedges got its name?
There really is no exact explanation of why or how this gorgeous site got its name.
For now, there are two popular answers. One pertains to the obvious: how the trees lining the roadblocks the light, therefore making it dark. The dark tunnel that is formed also looks like hedges so it’s easier to call it such.
Another explanation says that the hedges are haunted by a spirit known as the Grey Lady. This spirit wanders avenue of trees and disappears at the last beech tree.
It’s also said that Grey Lady is joined by spirits from an abandoned graveyard close by.
History of Dark Hedges
Legends aside, though, these beech trees were actually planted by James Stuart. The purpose of these trees was really to line the avenue that leads to his home, the Gracehill House.
The trees were planted in 1775, around the same time that his house was built. These trees line a road that’s between 6 to 10 meters wide.
The trees were also planted to impress the visitors arriving in Gracehill.
A hundred and fifty trees were originally planted, but only 90 were left still standing today. These trees stop just before one reaches the gate of Gracehil House.
Today, this tree alley no longer belongs to the Gracehill estate, but you can still visit this property. It is now a bar and restaurant, a golf course, and a popular wedding venue.
If you’re a ‘Game of Thrones’ fan, you might want to check out the GoT-themed door. It is one of the ten doors around Northern Ireland, and it is carved from a tree that fell due to Storm Gertrude 2016.
Location and Access to Dark Hedges
The Dark Hedges is located in County Antrim in Northern Ireland. It is situated between the villages of Armoy and Stranocum, on a section of Bregagh Road close to The Hedges Hotel.
Driving from Belfast to the Dark Hedges takes about an hour while if you’re coming from Dublin, it will take three hours.
If not driving, this place is pretty accessible via bus or train from Belfast, but a good option is to join a day tour from Belfast or a day trip from Dublin that will take you straight to this location.
The Dark Hedges in TV and Movie
The hit HBO television series ‘Game of Thrones’ was what made the Dark Hedges popular.
In the series, the Dark Hedges was called ‘King’s Road. It appeared in the first episode of Season 2, called “The North Remembers“.
The Dark Hedges was also seen in the Transformers: The Last Knight. It was in that part where the magician Merlin was seen riding a horse through the avenue of beech trees.
Hi, I’m Christine – a full-time traveler and career woman. Although I’m from the Philippines, my location independent career took me to over 40 countries for the past 8 years. I also lived in 3 continents – from the Caribbean, South East Asia to Africa. But despite living in several countries, my love for Ireland remains the same. A country that had been a part of my life since I was 14 because of my love for Irish music and bands. Ireland Travel Guides was born because of this passion and hopefully, in some little ways, this website will be able to help you on your next trip to Ireland.