This extraordinary avenue of interwoven beech trees has existed since the 1700’s, but it is only in the last fifteen years that it has gained notoriety—this, in part, due to its designation as “Kings Road” in the popular HBO series Game of Thrones. Originally, the trees were planted to impress guests of a grand eighteenth century manor home; today, it is one of the most photographed sites in Northern Ireland. World-renowned photographer Jim Zuckerman—whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Conde Naste Travelor, and Time-Life Books—describes the Dark Hedges like this: “One of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever seen… The serpentine trees form a tunnel that is spectacular at any time of the day, but I find it particularly intriguing and mysterious just before dark.”
Indeed! When my family and I visited this past spring, I was anticipating nothing more than a great photo op; however, what I found was an eerie kind of splendor sprouted between two cow fields. This unexpected juxtaposition, along with the remoteness of a country lane, makes it a perfect place for quiet contemplation or even a fun imagining of the resident ghost known as the “Grey Lady” said to wander the road at dusk.
Visitors should add this site to their itinerary that includes the better-known Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge along the northern Antrim coast. All three sites are doable in a day. The Dark Hedges, located along Bregagh Road in the town of Ballymoney, are a mere 13 miles southeast of the Causeway.
For the very best photos, venture to the base of Bregagh Road’s incline at the south end. From this angle, the canopy of branches is most visible, thus most impressive. If you are staying in the area, return at different times of the day to capture the ever-morphing display of light and shadow through gnarly, 300-year-old branches that, on occasion, exude an otherworldly glow.
Final tips: Avoid rush hours. Locals do use this road, and the many passing cars and occasional tour bus can hinder your total appreciation of the experience. Also, be sure to keep your car parked as far off the road as possible in order to keep your photos (and those of the other visitors) striking and timeless!