Tree of the week: a sycamore on Game of Thrones’ Slaver’s Bay

Tree of the week: a sycamore on Game of Thrones’ Slaver’s Bay

Kieran Meeke’s favourite tree stands on a headland at Murlough Bay on the County Antrim coastline in Northern Ireland. The beauty spot was a key location in Game of Thrones and the TV show’s fans have since flocked to what they know as “Slaver’s Bay”. “But I’ve been coming here since I was a child,” the 67-year-old says, “and it remains a very special spot.”

He has come to terms with the fact that his secret is out. “Tourism, as we’ve all discovered in the pandemic, is a very important part of the economy,” he says. “Anything that brings in employment is great.”

The bay offers spectacular views across the Irish Sea, but Meeke, a travel writer based in Northern Ireland after a decade in South Africa and three years in London, thinks it is the sycamore – which was probably planted in the late 19th century – that gives this place its windswept grandeur. “People often ask me about my favourite spots in the world, and I give a lot of different answers, including New Zealand and the Wild Coast of South Africa, but in terms of scenery Murlough Bay is tough to beat. I’ve never seen anywhere as picturesque, with the same combination of sea, sky, islands, headlands and history – and that tree.”

The bay owes its place in Northern Irish history to Roger Casement, a diplomat and Irish nationalist hanged for treason at Pentonville prison in London in 1916. While waiting for his execution, Casement sent a letter to his cousin saying: “Take my body back with you and let it lie in the old churchyard in Murlough Bay.” Meeke says: “That never happened. Instead, a makeshift memorial to Casement stands above the bay. I like to think this tree is a more fitting memorial to him and the many others who have enjoyed the natural beauty here.”

Meeke’s mother first brought him to the bay. “She was born in 1926 and was brought up around Torr Head and Murlough and I never feel home until I’ve been back to visit.”

His younger sister died a few years ago. “Most of her ashes are in Arizona,” Meeke says, “but I held a tiny part back to scatter near the tree. Since then it has become even more of a spot for quiet contemplation about life and death – especially as I get much older myself. I can think of no better place for my own ashes in due course.”

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