Game of Thrones: Traffic ban on Dark Hedges road begins

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The Dark HedgesImage copyright
Northern Ireland Tourist Board

Image caption

The tunnel of beech trees was used in Game of Thrones to represent the Kingsroad

Traffic is to be banned from travelling through the Dark Hedges – made famous by the TV fantasy drama Game of Thrones – from Monday.

The tunnel of beech trees on the Bregagh Road near Armoy in County Antrim has become a major international tourist attraction.

The scene was used by the Game of Thrones crew to represent the Kingsroad in the HBO drama series.

The ban comes after concerns about the impact of traffic on the site.

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Media captionTourists at the beech-lined avenue have welcomed the move

The Department for Infrastructure order will also prohibit buses and coaches from using the designated stretch of the road.

The ban is will be enforced along Bregagh Road, from its junction with Ballinlea Road to its junction with Ballykenver Road.

Any motorist who flouts the ban could face a fine of up to £1,000.

Some vehicles, including agricultural and emergency vehicles, will be exempt from the ban “in certain circumstances”.

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Bob McCallion says the closure will be difficult to police

Bob McCallion has campaigned for the preservation of the Dark Hedges, and he welcomed the traffic restrictions.

“We have been campaigning to have barriers put on the road because its going to be abused and its going to be very hard to police, but it’s a step forward,” he said.

Mr McCallion called for measures to be be put in place to stop people climbing the trees, and carving their names into them.

“There needs to be a daily management of the site,” he added.

‘Damage to trees’

The Dark Hedges were planted more than 200 years ago by the Stuart family, who created a tree-lined avenue along the entrance to their Gracehill House mansion.

Image copyright
Kevin McAuley

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A large branch of one of the trees fell onto the Bregagh Road in July 2016

About 150 were planted by James Stuart, but time has taken its toll over the centuries and now fewer than two thirds remain standing.

In January 2016, during Storm Gertrude, high winds ripped up two trees, causing them to collapse.

Later that year, a large, rotten branch broke off one of the trees and fell across the road.

The Dark Hedges became a huge draw for tourists and TV fans after they appeared, albeit briefly, in the closing scene of one episode of Game of Thrones.

Arya Stark, one of the show’s main characters, was filmed travelling on a cart along the road, disguised as a boy.

Image caption

A sign at the Dark Hedges marks the site’s contribution to the TV show

Conservationists have expressed alarm about the increasing traffic levels in the area and the possible damage to the trees’ roots.

During the Easter holidays this year, pictures of traffic jams were shared on social media and some users criticised the number of vehicles lining the road.

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Cars continued to roar by as Patrick Cregg was interviewed by the BBC

Patrick Cregg, director of the Woodland trust in Northern Ireland, said tourist coaches in particular were doing great damage.

“Our great fear was that what we enjoy today future generations would not enjoy, and we have already lost a significant number of trees,” he said.

Mr Cregg explained that replanting was already under way to replace the lost trees.

“Hopefully, with replanting we will create the Dark Hedges of the future, although its going to take centuries for that,” he said.

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