The Dark Hedges

The Dark Hedges
By John5199 (Dark Hedges, County Antrim, Northern Ireland) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Dark Hedges

Morning Glory by Stephen Emerson on

The King

Ireland · The Dark Hedges

“Everything down to the evocative name, “Dark Hedges” screams atmosphere, but when the rows of trees on this lane were originally planted, they were simply meant to welcome visitors to a manor house.” The Dark Hedges is the most photographed location in Northern Ireland. It became a tourist attraction in its own right and has been voted one of the top five most beautiful tree tunnels in the world. It became even more popular after it was featured on Game of Thrones.

It is surprising to hear that the Dark Hedges are so popular. It is just a short road surrounded by farmer’s fields. At first glance, it does not 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.

Planted in the 18th century by the Stuart family, the opposing rows of beech trees were meant to create an impressive, scenic road leading up to their estate, Gracehill House. However as the trees matured they began to bend over the road and their upper branches intermingled creating a shadowy arboreal tunnel. The bent trunks and gnarled branches give the road an aura of the supernatural, which has landed the Irish thoroughfare a number of background roles in both movies and television shows such as Game of Thrones.

The Dark Hedges have even developed their own ghost story featuring a “Grey Lady” who floats along behind the rows, and disappears just as the lane ends. Legend tells that a supernatural “Grey Lady” haunts the thin ribbon of road that winds beneath the ancient beech trees. She silently glides along the roadside and vanishes as she passes the last beech tree. Some say the specter is the ghost of a maid from the nearby house who died in mysterious circumstances centuries ago. Others believe that she is a lost spirit from an abandoned graveyard that is thought to lie hidden in the fields nearby. On Halloween night, the forgotten graves are said to open and the Grey Lady is joined on her walk by the tormented souls of those who were buried beside her.