The Dark Hedges of Northern Ireland – Tips to Visit and What you Need to Know

Written By: The Planet D

Bregagh Road is the most photographed location in Northern Ireland. You may not have heard of the road, but I guarantee you have heard of the Dark Hedges. Even the wildly popular Game of Thrones has popped over to the Dark Hedges to film a scene at this eerily beautiful road.

It’s surprising that the Dark Hedges became so popular. The road is just a short lane surrounded by farmer’s fields. When driving up to the Dark Hedges, we weren’t sure if it was even the right place?

At first glance, it doesn’t look like much. But once you step out of your car and take a look around, you can see why it has attracted photographers, painters, and curious tourists for decades. 90 Beech trees line this road creating a canopy of twisting branches overhead.

The Dark Hedges are truly hauntingly beautiful. But, tourism is taking its toll over the years and you may want to go soon before it all disappears.

Dark Hedges Ireland, Dave
Dave jumping for joy at the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland

Where Are the Dark Hedges Located?

The Dark Hedges are located on a quiet road near the town of Ballymoney in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Bregagh Road is lined with 90 with beech trees twisted branches forming an arch over the road it makes for impressive photographs indeed.

However, over the last year or so, the trees branches have been pruned and the tunnel is just a little less impressive. That doesn’t mean it’s not still spectacular, you just have to work a bit harder to find the right spot.

Note: Tour buses stop regularly here in the afternoon, so get there early to avoid the crowds. 

Dark Hedges from the Giant’s Causeway

Dark Hedges Ireland from Giant's Causeway
We approached The Dark Hedges from the Giant’s Causeway.

We approached the Dark Hedges from The Giant’s Causeway. Staying at the Causeway Hotel allowed us plenty of time to do a lot of sightseeing around the area and our first stop was the mythical Dark Hedges.

Just a half-hour drive from the Giant’s Causeway, it’s an easy hop over to see the Dark Hedges first thing in the morning. We approached from Ballinlea Road turning left on to the Dark Hedges Road and stopped a little too soon.

Map to The Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland
Map to The Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland

From our first vantage point, we couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. We spent the better part of an hour taking photographs that just didn’t quite work. Where were those iconic shots of the Dark Hedges taken? After awhile, we decided to move on.

dave at the dark hedges

It was then that we drove to the other side of the road for a proper look. Had we done that earlier, we would have learned that the best photographs are taken from the Southern End of the Dark Hedges where you will see a bend.

There’s even a parking spot for busses and cars to pull over safely as opposed to us just popping onto the shoulder.

History of the Dark Hedges

Dark Hedges Ireland
The Dark Hedges Northern Ireland

The Dark Hedges originated in the eighteenth century. The Stuart family planted the rows of beech trees designed to impress visitors as they approached the entrance to their mansion, Gracehill house named after James Stewarts’ wife Grace Lynd. 

Two centuries later, the trees remain a magnificent sight and have become one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland. 

I have scoured the Internet trying to find out what significance the Stuart Family had in history. Many blogs talk of the Stuart family planting the trees but nobody mentions who they were and how they had this fortune.

One blog mentions that James Stuart was a preacher’s son. I looked it up and found a link that stated the Reverend Irwin Stuart of Ballywillan had a son named Stuart who married Grace Lynd, so this must be true! Wow, Reverends were raking in the money back then!

Dark Hedges Ireland Deb
No crowds when you go early to The Dark Hedges in Ireland

Little did the Stuart family know that their driveway would be so popular two centuries later! The Gracehill mansion still stands. It has been turned into a golf course, but it is the beech trees that bring countless tourists to this part of the country.

When the light is right and the crowds are gone, it’s a mystical feeling to stand on the silent road. When staring down from the bend, you can understand why the Dark Hedges has drawn so many visitors. It’s absolutely magical.

If you go at dusk, it is truly mystical. Legend has it that the Grey Lady haunts the road at dusk. I can understand why Game of Thrones shot the iconic scene of Arya Stark escaping Kings Landing along the King’s Road.

Dark Hedges Fast Facts

  • Arrive early to beat the rush of tour busses – Sunrise is beautiful
  • Drive through to scout your location before deciding to take a photograph
  • The best photo opportunities are from the South End
  • Sunset is also a good time to visit the Dark Hedges
  • Use a car rental to see the Causeway Coast, it’s an excellent way to get around

Read More About Northern Ireland

Check out more Ireland Guides:

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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15 thoughts on “The Dark Hedges of Northern Ireland – Tips to Visit and What you Need to Know”

  1. How long ago were the hedges trimmed back, We will be there in a few weeks, Hope it is in full leaf !!

    Reply
  2. This means you will end up going by the people’s choice and they undoubtedly
    will comply. Does the photographuy company come across as professional, or do they never return phone calls.
    Maybe for a wedding in New York I might want a photographer who knew
    their way around town, but not on a Greek island.

    Reply
  3. Nice! Must admit, I’d never heard of the Dark Hedges until Game of Thrones, but I’ve seen loads of photos of them since. It’s great to see a post about the history of them, though, – thanks. Also, great advice on how / when to get good photos of them! (I may have to avoid dusk though – don’t want a ghostly encounter!)

    Reply