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

It is the most photographed location in Northern Ireland. Even the wildly popular Game of Thrones has popped over to the Dark Hedges to film a scene at this eerily beautiful road.

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The Dark Hedges in Ireland

The Dark Hedges are Very Popular

It's surprising to hear that the Dark Hedges are so popular.

It's just a short road 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.

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Dave jumping for joy at the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland

Where are the Dark Hedges Located

The Dark Hedges are on a quiet road near the town of Ballymoney in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Lined 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. 

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 them first thing in the morning.

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

We approached from Ballinlea Road turning left on to the Dark Hedges Road and stopped a little too soon.

We spent the better part of an hour taking photographs that just didn't quite work.

Had we driven through to the other side for a proper look before pulling our car over on the side of the road, we would have learned that the best photographs are taken from the Southern End where you will find 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.

Map to The Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland

Map to The Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland

History of the Dark Hedges

The Dark Hedges originated in 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!

Little did the Stuart family know that their driveway would be so popular two centuries later!

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

The Gracehill mansion still stands and is today a golf course, but it is the beech trees that brings 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.

But if you go at dusk, it may be absolutely mystical. Legend has it that the Grey Lady haunts the road at dusk.

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

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