This beautiful avenue of beech trees was planted by the Stuart family in the eighteenth century. It was intended as a compelling landscape feature to impress visitors as they approached the entrance to their Georgian mansion, Gracehill House.
The large estate surrounding the house has a Royal heritage dating back to the early 17th century. King James I granted the land to a cousin who drowned on his way to Ireland before he could take possession of his new home. The estate then passed to his grandson, William Stuart, and remained in the Stuart family for many years.
Two centuries later, the trees remain a magnificent sight and have become one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland.
Today, the ethereal tunnel is better known as The Dark Hedges from the first episode of the second season of The Game of Thrones, and are one of several different Game of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland. The Dark Hedges have proved to be a magnet for followers of the series from around the world, including Japan, China, America and Scandinavia.
Featured Scene: Season 2, Episode 1: On the King’s Road, Arya Stark has escaped from King’s Landing, disguised as a boy. She is with Yoren, Gendry, Hot Pie and others who are to join the Night’s Watch, in a cart, travelling north on the King’s Road.
Traffic Now Banned from Iconic Dark Hedges Route
Since 30 October 2017 the Department for Infrastructure have banned private vehicles from the road near Stranocum in a bid to protect the iconic beech trees from further damage.
The tree-lined avenue dates from the 18th century and is protected. It is thought about 150 trees were originally planted and around 90 remain.
addition to natural damage, other issues have been caused to the area by the high levels of traffic including private cars, buses and coaches which have created damage at the trees’ root systems. Also abuse to the trees by devoted fans attempting to climb the trees, and carve into the bark.
Local tractors, emergency services and postal workers will still have access to the area but privately owned vehicles, buses and coaches will be placed on diversion from the three-mile route.
Note that high fines (up to £1,000) may be given to motorists attempting to drive or park along the Dark Hedges since its closure.