In September 2018, HBO announced a project called ‘Game of Thrones Legacy’. Four venues in Northern Ireland, locations which had stunning sets from the series, were in negotiations with HBO to secure license agreements to develop each site as a visitor attraction. The four sites were Linen Mill Studios (one of the two main studios used for filming Thrones), the set of Winterfell Castle on Moneyglass Estate, the set of King’s Landing in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast and, last but certainly not least, Magheramorne Quarry near Larne, location of the set of Castle Black, the door through the Wall and the set of Hardhome.
At last, more detail is emerging. It would appear that the first Legacy project will be the Game of Thrones Studio Tour. It will open its doors to the public in autumn 2020.
Linen Mill Studios
First, some background on the venue itself. Set along the River Bann, the Linen Mill Studios was once the base of operations of a key player in the story of Irish linen, the Ballievey Bleaching Company, founded in the 1920s. By 1974, the linen mill was operated by Ulster Weavers, employing 410 people at its height. The Ulster Weavers factory closed in 2011, with some buildings retained for storage until last year. The Game of Thrones TV production moved in from 2011-18, building several sets indoors but also some magnificent outdoor sets including the ruins of Harrenhal, the gateway and drawbridge into Riverrun and a huge ship set in an intake tank – Stannis Baratheon’s ship for the Battle of Blackwater Bay at the end of season 2, again used as Arya’s ship when she crossed the Narrow Sea to Braavos and Euron’s ship when he launched his sneak attack on Yara and Theon’s fleet. Since filming ended, Ulster Weavers have been turning Linen Mill Studios into the Game of Thrones Studio Tour. Courier firm DPD and Banbridge Storage & Logistics Limited, part of the John Hogg Group, also used the site until early last year but the entire site is now given over to the Studio Tour visitor attraction.
Game of Thrones Studio Tour
So Linen Mill Film & TV studios is now being converted into this Studio Tour. It will feature original sets, props and costumes used in the filming between 2011-19. Here are a few stats published recently in The Irish News on 7th January 2020:
- The total investment into the Game of Thrones Studio Tour is expected to be £23.7 million.
- The Studio Tour will open to the public by the fourth quarter of 2020.
- A large park and ride facility that can accommodate up to 350 will be built nearby at the Boulevard shopping outlet in Banbridge.
- The Studio Tour floor plan will measure 10,000m2 or 110,000ft2. This will make it a 2 hour visitor experience.
- Linen Mill Studios and HBO anticipate about 600,000 visitors per year, of which 75% will be international tourists. If the tour achieves its 600,000 annual target, it will become the north’s third most visited tourist attraction, behind the Giant’s Causeway (1.04 million) and Titanic Belfast (815,000). Thrones pumped a lot of money into the local economy while it was filming, hopefully the study tour will secure the show’s legacy is felt in the Northern Irish economy.
- It is expected to employ 194 people when it’s fully up and running.
- It will be open 12 hours per day, seven days a week.
- There will be a restaurant “designed to replicate the studio catering experience.” Let’s hope fans won’t have to get too immersed in the authentic Thrones catering experience!
The Winterfell Great Hall will be one of the big reconstructed sets. Others include the Castle Black mess hall, the Dragonstone chamber of the Painted Table and the Dragonstone Throne Room.
Artist’s rendering of the Dragonstone chamber of the Painted Hall courtesy of HBO/Linen Mill Studios.