Did you know that Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin took inspiration for the series from several UK locations? Here are the real-life locations that inspired Game of Thrones.
What some Game of Thrones fans might not know, however, is that many of the notorious locations, scenes and characters from the show are inspired by real-life events – most of which took place in the United Kingdom.
With hotels across the entire country, Premier Inn has compiled a must-visit list for any Game of Thrones fan, to get close to the real-life inspirations behind this fictional world.
Read more: The 7 GOT locations you can visit
The Wall: Hadrian’s Wall, Carlisle, England
Where better to start than The Wall, a location that has been at the centre of the entire series, thanks to the impending danger of The Night King and his army.
George R.R. Martin has openly said the inspiration for The Wall came from a visit to Hadrian’s Wall, and it isn’t difficult to see why. Hadrian’s Wall was built by the Romans to keep out the free people of Scotland to the north. Manned by soldiers night and day, it’s possible the wall was even whitewashed to stand out. Sounds a little familiar to the people of Westeros and the Night’s Watch guarding their own giant white wall of ice, to keep out the wildlings to the north.
Today, Hadrian’s Wall offers a great day out for the whole family – especially for any Thrones fans in your life!
The Red Wedding: The Massacre of Glencoe
Speak to any Game of Thrones fan and The Red Wedding will stick out in their mind as being one of the most shocking scenes of the entire show. A huge, brutal turning point, the Red Wedding feels too barbaric to be anywhere close to reality. However, it was inspired by two real-life events. The first, The Massacre of Glencoe, happened in 1691. Arguably an even bloodier piece of history than The Red Wedding itself, 120 of King William’s men were sent to the MacDonald’s in Glencoe, claiming they needed shelter from the cold. However, after two weeks of being fed and given shelter, William’s men murdered 38 MacDonald men in their sleep and drove a further 40 women and children out into a blizzard.
Horrible history indeed! Luckily today, Glencoe offers up some of the most stunning scenery in the United Kingdom, so it’s well worth the hike.
The Red Wedding: Edinburgh Castle and The Black Dinner
The second inspiration for the Red Wedding happened even earlier, with the similarly named ‘Black Dinner’ of 1440. Here, the Earl of Douglas and his little brother (also known as the Black Douglas clan) were invited to dine with the 10-year old King James II at Edinburgh Castle. A seemingly friendly invite, however the young king’s chancellor (or Hand in Games of Thrones terms) was fearful of the Black Douglas clan, so halfway through the meal, a black bull’s head was dramatically dropped on the table – symbolising death. The Earl and his brother were promptly dragged out of the dinner and beheaded. Who knew Edinburgh Castle had such a dark past!
Book: A Game of Thrones tour
In 2019, Edinburgh Castle is Edinburgh’s biggest tourist attraction and a place that retains the Games of Thrones grandeur for any fan.
Winterfell: Fotheringhay Castle
One of the main sources of inspiration for the A Song of Ice and Fire series was the Wars of the Roses: a series of English civil wars for the throne of England, fought between the House of Lancaster and the House of York (sound similar to the Lannisters and Starks of Game of Thrones?)
Just as the Lannisters have King’s Landing, and the Starks have Winterfell, the Lancasters and the Yorks had their preferred places of residence. For the Yorks, their real-life version of Winterfell was Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire. The castle is actually most well known as the place Mary, Queen of Scots was beheaded in 1587, however during the Wars of the Roses, this was the number one resident of the Yorks. Now, the remains of Fotheringhay Castle can be visited along the River Nene, amongst the beautiful rolling landscape of Northamptonshire.
Tyrion Lannister: Richard III and Leicester Cathedral
From the first episode, Tyrion Lannister has been a fan favourite of the series, but if Game of Thrones was real, he may have been remembered like Richard III. There are more than enough parallels between the two to believe George R.R. Martin drew inspiration from the 15th-century king. Just like Tyrion, Richard III is lambasted for his looks (a slight hunchback) and also potentially framed for murdering his nephews (think Tyrion with Joffrey!)
In 2012, Richard III’s remains were discovered in a Leicester city centre carpark, of all places. Now, he’s buried in the much more fitting location of Leicester Cathedral. Who knows what Tyrion’s fate will be by the end of season 8?
The Night’s Watch: The Knights Templar and Temple Church
As we follow Jon Snow on his journey in the early seasons of Games of Thrones, a lot of focus is placed on the Night’s Watch, a military order that guards The Wall. Each member swears an oath of duty, prohibiting marriage, family and land ownership until their death.
In reality, the clear inspiration here is the Knights Templar, a Catholic military order that have long been portrayed in film and television. These knights lived by the Templar Order that bears many similarities to the oaths of the Night’s Watch. This consisted of some 72 clauses that defined their way of life, from what to wear to what to eat, and how they were forbidden from any physical contact with a woman.
Knights Templar landmarks can be found across the globe. In the United Kingdom, however, the Temple Church in London was their English headquarters, and today remains a beautiful place to visit, especially if you’re looking for a little escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Pick any Game of Thrones Battle: The Battle of Bosworth
Game of Thrones isn’t Game of Thrones without a battle. From the Battle of the Blackwater to the Battle of the Bastards, the series has been filled with epic battle scenes that signal a major turning point in events. These battles are undoubtedly inspired by the many ancient battles that took place around the world.
With the main inspiration for the entire series being the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Bosworth was surely a reference point for George R.R. Martin, as Bosworth was the battle that effectively ended the conflict between the Yorks and the Lancasters. An estimated 17,000 men took part in this battle back in 1485, and now you can learn about it while taking in the countryside at Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre in Leicestershire.
* Originally published in Apr 2019.