We had taken the train up from Dublin to Portadown and from there rented a car for the drive through the Irish countryside towards Strangford. I suppose I should have said the Northern Irish countryside, because as the train moved north to Portadown, our cell phone announced the border crossing while we gazed out our windows at the green fields dotted with black faced balls of wool. The drive to Strangford takes you through more of this amazing countryside and over the gentle slopes of green that rise and fall and transport you to the coast. Here at Strangford you can look across this narrow neck of water to the small town of Portaferry, just a short ten-minute boat ride away. This thin neck of water sees the tide rush in with tremendous force and the currents here can be very treacherous if you don’t know them.
We settled into our room at the Cuan Inn in Strangford, the very same room Arya Stark (from Game of Thrones) - actress Maisie Williams, stayed in. This Inn is just exquisite. Caroline and Peter are the owners here and welcomed us like long lost family. We had a lovely stay and enjoyed the tastes of homemade cooking, food with loads of love and goodness. Twice while we were there I enjoyed the slow roasted beef, mash potatoes with veggies and a delicious light gravy.
Ward castle was just down the road from the Cuan and used in the Game of Thrones show as Winterfell Castle. As it turned out we were the only two there on this particular day and so our guided tour was a one-on-one experience with the crew there. We shot our arrows and dressed in period costume of the time as reflected in the show.
We had a peek at how the HBO crew created the Winterfell Castle from the bones that are there at the historical site of Castle Ward. The vision of location planners for films is pretty impressive when you see what they had to work with and then what they created. There is a big screen presentation that walks you through the CGI effects of how they created 90% of the castle as seen on the show.
Our archery instructor was a tall good looking chap, who took the time to ensure we knew what we were doing and I think we impressed him as newbies. It was a beautiful day for the tour and the sunshine warmed us as we steady our arms and loosed arrows with images of Ramsey Bolton standing down field.
The highlight of our tour this day would have to be the Dire Wolves that we got to meet up close. Caelan and Ross Mulhall had begged their father, William Sr. for one of the puppies that a friend of theirs had. Once their father saw the brood of puppies, he scooped up two of them and made all three of his boys very happy.
It's interesting how a moment can change your life forever.
It was some time after that a network called HBO phoned up and also had an interest in wolf puppies. So it's been seven years now and the two wolf pups have grown up in front of the camera and been adopted into the hearts of people the world over. Now merchandising, tours and future movie and television appearances are sure to be in the future for the Mulhall family and their four legged stars. So one moment of puppy love can change your life and open doors of opportunity that you may never have imagined before.
We were very lucky to be the only two there and were able to spend some really up close time with Thor as Oden was at the vet during our afternoon visit. Unusually Thor really took to us and I was able to lay down beside him and love on him with some serious petting. The stories of the wolves interaction on the set of the Game of Thrones series and the work on set that Caelan and his brothers were able to do makes for some real entertainment. Their father as well, was cast into the show, so all four have been extras with some nice camera time. The next morning Thor and Oden came into Strangford to visit with locals and so we took the opportunity to bring our little mascot Roamin Jerome along for a photo opt with a couple of celebrities.