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'Game of Thrones' puts Northern Ireland on the map, boosts image

BY SIOBHAN STARRS Associated Press

BELFAST, Northern Ireland - Giants, dragons and vengeful queens have for generations populated Northern Ireland's folk tales. Now, such creatures are visiting the land in a different version - on the sets for the hit TV show "Game of Thrones." But rather than spells and destruction, they're bringing an economic boost to this British province still healing from its past of political violence.

Fans of the HBO fantasy drama would recognize here the landscapes from the fictional land of Westeros - the castle of Winterfell, the seaside cliffs of the Iron Isles and the King's Road leading to the north. About 75 percent of the show is filmed in Northern Ireland, both in natural settings and in the Titanic Studios in Belfast.

Since the pilot episode began filming in 2009, attracted by the local government's financial incentives, the show's presence has helped foster a film industry that is catching the eye of other Hollywood productions. And Northern Ireland is taking advantage of the attention by promoting the filming locations as tourist destinations.

The latest visitor is Queen Elizabeth II who will tour the studio sets this week.

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