Castle Ward and Winterfell Castle

Last updated on May 16, 2024

If you’re a “GoT” fan, there’s no way around Winterfell Castle. But even if you’ve never heard of ‘GoT’, these two castles on the same site are absolutely worth a visit!

Winterfell at Castle Ward
Winterfell at Castle Ward (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)


Alright, let’s solve the mystery: “GoT” stands for Game of Thrones and was a very successful medieval fantasy television series that was largely filmed in Northern Ireland. The studios were in the harbour area of Belfast, not far from the Titanic Experience and many of the filming locations were in Northern Ireland.

Winterfell Castle played a major role in the series. This part was filmed on the grounds of Castle Demesne and the medieval Old Castle Ward was later renamed Winterfell and marketed to tourists as a filming location.

There is also the new Castle Ward, which is located on the same land and is more of a mansion.

So you get two castles for the price of one, so to speak – a bargain!

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We visited Castle Ward as part of one of our round trips through Northern Ireland, spent several hours there and really enjoyed it.

Originally from Germany, we have lived in Ireland for several years (second home) and run our motorbike rental business ( and our guest rooms here, south of Dublin, in the summer. We have travelled the island extensively on several occasions.

Let’s take a closer look at the two castles:

Visiting Castle Ward and Winterfell Castle

You’ll find Castle Ward on the southern shore of beautiful Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland. It’s just over an hour’s drive from Belfast and if you’re travelling from Dublin to Belfast and following the coast, I can highly recommend the route via Strangford Lough.

Like Carlingford Lough, a little further south, Strangford Lough is not a lake but a large and very sheltered bay. You will be surprised to experience high and low tides here, as the lough actually feels more like a lake. The estuary into the sea is very narrow and is crossed by the small ferry at Strangford-Portaferry.

On the Ferry at Strangford
On the Ferry at Strangford (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

Part of the huge grounds of Castle Ward then also border the lough. The shore begins just outside the old castle walls of Old Castle Ward / Winterfell. You can watch seabirds there and sometimes even see seals.

The Castle Ward estate is really huge with over 300 hectares of land and includes large woodlands and huge grasslands. There are around 34km of trails to walk on the estate!

You can bring your dog, explore the grounds by bike or on foot. We were on foot for quite a long time!

Castle Ward
Castle Ward (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

There is a large playground and a small petting zoo for children and you can also shop in the Farmyard.

You can visit the new Mansion and the flower garden on a guided tour, or simply explore the old Winterfell Fell Castle on foot.


Some background to Castles Ward and Winterfell

The new mansion of Castle Ward was planned and built in the 18th century by Lord Bangor and his wife Lady Ann Bligh after they had acquired the old castle and grounds.

Castle Ward
Castle Ward (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

It was built partly in the classical Palladian style and partly in the neo-Gothic style. Interestingly, the Lord and Lady had different tastes and wanted to reflect both in their house. A decision that was greeted with both derision and admiration by aristocratic visitors.

The interior is prestigious, luxurious and opulent, with walls full of oil paintings and magnificent furniture.

The Old castle Ward / Winterfell was built in the Middle Ages and was much less cosy. No wonder, as it was primarily a fortress.

Old agricultural machinery at Winterfell (Castle Ward)
Old agricultural machinery at Winterfell (Castle Ward) (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

This was built in the style of a tower house, with walls and towers around it. The fortress dates back to the 16th century and was originally built by the Ward family, Earls of Kildare.

As is so often the case, this castle changed hands and purpose several times over the years – from a fortress to a magnificent residential complex.

At the outer wall of Winterfell, bordering Strangford Lough (at Castle Ward)
At the outer wall of Winterfell, bordering Strangford Lough (at Castle Ward) (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

Game of Thrones in Winterfell

The Old Castle Ward became famous as the filming location for the successful series Game of Thrones and was renamed Winterfell in keeping with its film name. Here you will find display boards showing clips from the series and exactly where they were filmed.

The extensive forests of Castle Ward were also used for film scenes. Filming ran from 2011 to 2019, although I can’t say exactly which years were filmed in Winterfell, but most of the scenes will have been shot in the earlier years, when the younger actors in particular were still very young.

Game of Throne filming location (Winterfell at Castle Ward)
Game of Throne filming location (Winterfell at Castle Ward) (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

If you’ve seen the series, you’ll definitely recognise one building, namely the single tall (clock) tower that played a major role in the film (without the clock).

There are many more filming locations from the GoT series in Northern Ireland and I have written my own article about them – you can find it here:

I loved watching the series in its entirety and visited many of the filming locations myself.

Tower at Winterfell (at Castle Ward)
Tower at Winterfell (at Castle Ward) (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

What else you can see in the area

Game of Thrones Studio Experience

West of Castle Ward, near the town of Banbridge, you’ll find the Game of Thrones Studio Tour. This was actually built in old film studios, but these are not the studios where the series was filmed, they are in the Belfast harbour area and are now used for other films. But you will find a multimedia show with many original props – a must for fans! See:

Mount Stewart House & Gardens

Mount Stewart is a dream of a mansion with a dream of gardens and parks – beautifully landscaped! It’s not far from Castle Ward, on the way towards Belfast, on the northern shore of Strangford Lough. Here you can find my article about Mount Stewart:

View on Strangford Lough from Winterfell (Castle Ward)
View on Strangford Lough from Winterfell (Castle Ward) (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

Belfast and the Titanic Experience

Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and is not far from Castle Ward. It was a centre of linen production and shipbuilding and the famous Titanic and her sister ships were built here. You can find my article on the subject here:


Further south you’ll find the lovely town of Carlingford on Carlingford Lough and – surprise – I’ve already written an article about that too:

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Two castles for the price of one! Castle Ward is not only worth a visit for this reason, but also because you can spend a wonderful half or full day here.

The new mansion is beautiful from the inside, the old castle is beautiful from the outside, the estate invites you to take long walks or even hikes and the location on Strangford Lough is beautiful!

Lord and Lady obviously knew where it was nice to live – and now you know how to get there!

Have fun in Castle Ward and Winterfell!

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Picture credits cover picture: Winterfell Castle at Castle Ward, photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg (

Uli Written by:

Hello and welcome to my blog. Originating from Germany, my family and I now live in Ireland (at least part time). We have travelled this amazing isle many times and know many parts of it very well. In this blog, I would like to share valuabe tips and information for your next trip to Ireland with you. Enjoy the content, yours, Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg