Six trees with long branches that twist up to the sky that were made famous by the series “Game of Thrones” will be cut down in the coming weeks, officials in Northern Ireland said on Monday.
The trees are part of the Dark Hedges, an international tourist attraction for fans of the HBO fantasy series. As many as hundreds of tourists visit each day. The beech trees, which form an arch over a road, have become one of the most photographed spots in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure said that the six trees, in bucolic County Antrim, needed to be cut down because they were in poor condition and posed a risk to the public. An additional four trees will require remedial work and a fifth will be assessed, the statement said. The work will begin on Nov. 20.
“This decision has not been made lightly and whilst the amenity value afforded by the corridor of trees is acknowledged, the safety of road users is paramount,” the Infrastructure Department said. The government said it would engage with the landowner and others to determine a strategy for protecting the other trees.
“Game of Thrones” is based on the first five novels in George R.R. Martin’s series “A Song of Ice and Fire.” The Dark Hedges appear in the first episode of Season 2, when Arya Stark, disguised as a boy, escapes from her enemies in a cart, traveling north on the Kingsroad.
“Game of Thrones” was filmed in locations around Northern Ireland, including at Titanic Studios in Belfast. Popular tourist locations for fans include Cushendun Caves, the beach where the priestess Melisandre gives birth in a cave to a supernatural assassin, and Ballintoy Harbour, built in the 1700s. There were more than 20 “Game of Thrones” filming locations in Northern Ireland, including medieval castles, harbors and coastlines, according to the country’s tourism board, which advertises of “Game of Thrones” tours.
The Dark Hedges were also featured in “Transformers: The Last Knight.” There were originally about 150 trees, but today just 86 remain, with some having been damaged in storms or by rot.
The trees that make up the Dark Hedges, which sit on privately owned land on Bregagh Road, were planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century. They were arranged to impress visitors as they approached the entrance to a Georgian mansion, Gracehill House. According to local lore, the area is haunted by a ghost known as the Grey Lady.
A line from one of Martin’s books, “A Storm of Swords,” gives readers a sense of how foreboding the Kingsroad could be: “I’d stay well clear of that kingsroad, if I were you,” a peasant says. “It’s worse than bad, I hear. Wolves and lions both, and bands of broken men preying on anyone they can catch.”