Beach invasion as Game Of Thrones shoot shuts strand to public
Holidaymakers were left high and dry when one of Northern Ireland's most popular beaches, Portstewart Strand, was completely closed off to the public.
The closure is to facilitate filming of the blockbuster TV series Game Of Thrones.
The strand – with sand stretching as far as the eye can see – is a magnet for locals and visitors.
When the weather is good cars cram into almost every available space at the attraction.
Every day, regardless of the weather, locals flock to the beach to walk or to take their dogs for a stroll.
Yesterday their way was barred by a wall of steel put up by the film crew, who also had security guards dotted throughout a network of sand dunes where filming has been taking place. The Game Of Thrones storylines are closely guarded as the film-makers are keen not to ruin the plot ahead of being viewed by tens of millions of people around the world.
One eyewitness said yesterday: "There is a huge fleet of lorries on the beach and lots of generators and stuff like that.
"They appear to be filming in the sand dunes a long way along the beach.
"I saw a couple of wee boats being brought in on a lorry so perhaps they are for a scene – and there are also horseback scenes being shot.
Portstewart SDLP councillor Maura Hickey walks along the beach early in the morning a couple of times a week, but she admitted there was a sense of excitement in the town about Game Of Thrones being shot locally and she had not heard of any complaints about the ongoing disruption.
She said: "The general consensus is that it is a bit disruptive, but people are accepting it. People are fascinated by what is happening and would perhaps like to get closer to what is going on.
"People are looking at this as something positive and there has not been much negativity because it can only be good for us from a tourism perspective – and is a great advert for the beach."
Portstewart Strand is managed by the National Trust.
A spokesman said: "We are pleased to welcome another filming production to Portstewart Strand and expect there to be many benefits for the town and the wider north coast.
"As well as showcasing this amazing beach to people on a world stage, filming brings a number of economic benefits to the local town with many crew members spending time and money in the local economy.
"To facilitate this opportunity, there will be some short-term inconvenience to visitors who wish to access the beach between August 4 and 11.
"However, the site will be fully reopened by August 12. On August 6 and 7, there will be no public access.
"We hope our visitors understand the reasons for this temporary closure and we are sure they will appreciate the longer term benefits to the area."
Scenes for Game Of Thrones have been shot in other areas of Northern Ireland like Downhill Beach, Mussenden Temple, Ballintoy Harbour, Larrybane, Murlough Bay, Cushendun Caves, east Antrim, and the 'Dark Hedges' trees near Stranocum.