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10 must see Game of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland

Game of Thrones returns to TV screens from July 17.

The new series of Game of Thrones is only weeks away and those of us in Northern Ireland are lucky enough to have the majority of its fantastic filming locations right on our doorstep.

Take a look through the top 10 must-see locations to get yourself excited for the return to Westeros.

1. Tollymore Forest, Co. Down

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Tollymore Forest.

Tollymore Forest was the first state forest park in Northern Ireland, established in 1955 and coovering an area of 1600 acres.

The Forest appeared in the first season of Game of Thrones as the lands around Winterfell when Ned Stark comes across the orphaned direwolves -  the symbol of House Stark - and finds there are as many pups as there are Stark children.

2. Ballintoy Harbour - Co. Antrim

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Ballintoy Harbour.

Ballintoy is a village on the coast of Co Antrim with the small fishing harbour located at the end of a narrow, steep road down Knocksaughey hill which passes by the entrance to Larrybane and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.

It features in season two of Game of Thrones when Theon Greyjoy returns home to Lordsport Harbour.

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Alfie Allen, who plays Theon Greyjoy, during filming at Ballintoy

3. Portstewart Strand - Co. Londonderry

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Portstewart Strand.

This area is owned and managed by the National Trust - sweeping along the edge of the North Coast, it is one of Northern Ireland's finest beaches with views of Inishowen headland and Mussenden Temple perched atop the cliffs.

The strand doubled as the coast of Dorne in season five of Game of Thrones when Jaime Lannister was tasked by his sister Cersei to bring her daughter Myrcella back to King's Landing.

4. Binevenagh - Limavady, Co. Londonderry

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Binevenagh Mountains.

The plateau and steep cliffs extend for over six miles across the peninsula of Magilligan, dominating the skyline over the villages of Bellarena, Downhill, Castlerock and Benone beach.

It appeared as the Dothraki Grasslands in season five when Daenerys Targaryen was rescued by her dragon, Drogon, while fleeing from the Sons of the Harpy in the fighting pits of Meereen.

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Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen – photo Macall B. Polay/HBO 

5. Dark Hedges - Stranocum, Co. Antrim

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The Dark Hedges.

The Dark Hedges is one of the most photographed areas in Northern Ireland and a popular attraction for tourists from across the world. This beautiful avenue of beech trees was planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century and intended to impress visitors as they approached the entrance to Gracehill House.

The site featured in Game of Thrones series two, doubling as the Kingsroad which young Arya Stark travelled on in the back of a cart along with Yoren, Gendry and Hot Pie - all new recruits for the Night's Watch.

6. Downhill Beach - Co. Londonderry

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Downhill Beach (Jonathan Leathem photography)

Located in the very north of Northern Ireland, the beach is part of a seven mile stretch of sand offering a wealth of activities including water sports and scenic walks.

Above the beach is the prominent Mussenden Temple, one of the most photographed buildings in Northern Ireland.

In Game of Thrones, Downhill Beach appeared in season two when Stannis Baratheon rejects the Seven Gods of Westeros and allows Melisandre to burn their effigies as an offering to the Lord of Light.

7. Castle Ward - near Strangford, Co. Down

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Castke Ward.

Overlooking Strangford Lough, Castle Ward has been home to the Ward family since the 16th century. The 18th century mansion house rests on a rolling hillside overlooking the Lough and surrounded by a beautiful 820-acre walled demesne with gardens and woodland.

The site appeared in Game of Thrones season one as the iconic Winterfell - home of the House Stark.

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Sean Bean playing Eddard Stark in the HBO production of Game of Thrones

8. Cushendun Caves - Co. Antrim

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Cushendun Caves.

The village of Cushendun stands on an elevated beach at the outflow of the Glendun and Glencorp valleys and at the mouth of the River Dun. The caves are easily accessible by foot along the coast from the village.

The beautiful area appeared in Game of Thrones season two as a cove in the Stormlands - the memorable scene saw Melisandre give birth to the shadow creature.

9. Pollnagollum Cave, Marble Arch Caves - Co. Fermanagh

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Polnagollum_Cave.

Pollnagollum Cave in Belmore Forest is part of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark in Co. Fermanagh. The cave is fed by a waterfall and you can follow the Belmore Forest walk which leads to a viewing point for the cave.

The cave featured in season three of Game of Thrones as Beric Dondarrion's hideout in The Riverlands.

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Maisie Williams as Arya Stark-photo Helen Sloan/HBO

10. Inch Abbey - Co. Down

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Inch Abbey.

The remains of a Cistercian Abbey were founded in 1180 by John de Courcy and are set beside the River Quoile, with distant views towards the Cathedral town of Downpatrick.

The site was used as Robb Stark's Camp, Riverrun in season one of Game of Thrones.

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