An average of 25.1 million people tuned in to watch the sixth season of Game Of Thrones according to HBO. It is no surprise that the millions who watch the award-winning television show are fascinated by the enchanted lands of the Seven Kingdoms that are filmed on Northern Ireland’s coastlands and castles.
The popular television drama returns to our screens on Monday 17th July and we can look forward to many of the Northern Ireland locations gracing our screens once again.
These locations include the Cushendun Caves, Castle Ward (Winterfell), Ballycastle, Causeway Coast and Murlough Bay (the Kingdom of Stormlands.) With a rise in tourism figures, does the appeal of these locations persuade fans to buy homes in Northern Ireland?
Northern Ireland enjoyed a record year in 2016 with 2.1 million overseas visitors visiting the country. These figures boosted revenue from this sector by 12 per cent, according to Tourism Ireland.
“Game of Thrones (GoT) has been transformative for Northern Ireland as a screen tourism destination, with 25 accessible locations, mostly in County Antrim and County Down,” Tourism Ireland’s Sinead Grace explains. Gatwick Airport attributes its record high number of passengers last year in part to what it calls “the GoT effect.” Belfast Airport seen the largest passenger increase of any destination, attracting 388,486 more customers than the previous year.
Game of Thrones has also boosted figures around Belfast’s Titanic Studios, the location of the dockyard where the famous ship was launched, and where many scenes of the TV show was filmed.
The Titanic Quarter is home to many businesses and properties with 474 apartments, hotel and film studios and is a location that has appealed to investors for its healthy yields, says Neal Morrison of Savills, Belfast. “Buyers have included members of the GoT film crew, tech entrepreneurs and executives from Citibank and Bombardier Aerospace [who have offices nearby],” he says.” “Belfast offers both strong capital growth – five per cent a year and yields of five to six per cent.” Prices begin of £139,000
Morrison also highlights that the neighbouring seaside towns of Portstewart and Portrush are the areas that offer the best scope for capital growth, although this may have more to do with golf than GoT. Portstewart hosted the Irish Open this year while Co. Antrim’s seaside resort town, Portrush, will host the British Open in 2019. With such events comes an increase in tourism and investment. Celebrities such as 50 Shades of Grey’s Jamie Dornan and Cold Feet’s James Nesbitt played in the Open’s Pro-Am game. Beside the gold course, a three-bedroom home costs around £350,000 and can be rented for £600 per week.
Portstewart also offers the opportunity to purchase a four-bedroom bungalow for the “early £200,000’s” or a five-bedroom townhouse within walking distance of the famous promenade for £320,000 according to Ryan Telford of McAfee Properties.
“GoT definitely brings focus on the town – it was filmed on Portstewart Strand, the premier location for buying property. There are always coachloads of tourists lined up taking pictures,” Telford explains. Typical property buyers are downsizers, retirees and holiday home owners from the city.
Owner of PJ McIlory & Son, Leo McIlory, believes money may go further outside the Portstewart-Portrush-Coleraine “triangle.” This estate agency sells properties around Ballycastle and Bushmills, home to the famous whisky distillery and near to the popular Giant’s Causeway and The Dark Hedges, a location that viewers of GoT will recognise as The Kingsroad.
“There’s always been a holiday home market around Ballycastle because it’s tranquil, with great scenery and no pretension,” McIlory says. This area is also inexpensive with prices increasing then falling steeply between 2005 and 2015 and is now stable. “You can get a five-bedroom bungalow for £140,000 or a substantial family home from £250,000 upwards,” McIlroy continues.
With its quiet location, gorgeous scenery and affordable prices, it is no surprise that Ballycastle is one of the 10 most in-demand locations in Northern Ireland for holiday lettings in 2017, according to TripAdvisor Rentals. The top three locations consisted of Portrush, Belfast and Portstewart while Enniskillen, Newcastle, Bushmills. Portballintrae, Castlerock and Derry concluded this list.
The picturesque village of Cushenden, found in the Glens of Antrim, is one of the locations that received the highest growth since 2014. The famous 400 million-year-old caves provide the recognisable backdrop for The Stormlands in GoT.
The eight-acre site was once owned by the Sisters of Mercy order and is for sale with an asking price of £375,000 through Simon Brien Residential. This property is in need of complete renovation.
“It would need the same again spent on it but we have had interest from as far afield as Canada,” Simon Brien’s Mark Leinster states. “Access is a challenge but it’s unique and the owners would enjoy complete privacy in their own little bay.”