Winterfell was the ancestral seat of House Stark, the former Wardens of the North. It is considered the capital of the North and sits at the center of the northern province of the Seven Kingdoms on the Kingsroad that stretches from Storm’s End to the Great Wall. Winterfell is southwest of Long Lake and south of the Northern Mountains, inhabited by numerous clans. It sits at the eastern edge of wolfswood and is about one hundred leagues from Deepwood Motte.
- Name: Winterfell.
- Year Created: The Age of Heroes.
- Creator: Brandon the Builder.
- Location: The North, Westeros.
- Leaders: Formerly House Stark, House Bolton.
- Culture: First Men.
- Religion: Old Gods of the Forest.
- Current Ruler: Lord Ramsay Bolton.
- Notable Places: Great Keep, Great Hall, Broken Tower, Godswood, First Keep, Winter Town, Crypt.
There are many key positions at Winterfell, ensuring the castle’s matters run smoothly. Vayon Poole serves as steward, while Ser Rodrik Cassel is the master at arms. Rodrik’s nephew, Jory Cassel, is House Stark’s guards captain, and Maester Luwin serves as Lrd Ned’s adviser. Septa Mordane tutors the Stark children while Septon Chayle tends to the Sept present at the castle. Other personnel includes Barth, the brewer; Gage, the cook; Farlen, the Kennelmaster; and Mikken, the blacksmith.
Winterfell is one of the most technical places in the Seven Kingdoms. It is a massive castle complex built over a natural hot spring whose water is piped through the walls and chambers to give warmth. Winterfell has two massive granite walls covering it, and there are many courtyards where activities like weapons training occur. Older buildings like the Great Keep and Hall are in the castle’s inner ward.
There are many buildings in the inner ward of Winterfell. They are:
- The Great Keep is the inner stronghold of Winterfell. It got built over natural hot springs, so pipes take the water through the castle’s walls, giving it warmth. It houses the members of House Stark.
- The Great Hall is a massive building where dinners and feasts get held. It has a capacity of 500 guests and a raised podium where nobles can sit during a celebration. The Great Hall got constructed with grey stone, and its gigantic doors are from oak and iron. The hall also houses the high seat of the old Kings in the North, a title once held by the Starks.
- Small Sept: When Lady Catelyn Tully married Lord Eddard Stark, a small sept got constructed for her as she practiced the Faith of the Seven.
Other Buildings and Places
- The First Keep is the oldest part of Winterfell. It is a squat and round drum tower abandoned for many years. There are gargoyles on the top, and around is a lichyard where the former Kings in the North buried their most loyal servants.
- The ancient godswood of Winterfell is by far one of the oldest places in Westeros. It outdates the Great Wall and Winterfell and has remained untouched for 10,000 years. It has a weirwood tree with a carved face enclosed by walls that can only get accessed through an iron or wooden gate.
- The Broken Tower, also called the Burned Tower, was once a watch tower that burned from a lightning strike 140 years ago. As no one rebuilt it, it remained unused.
- The Crypts of Winterfell is a burial site for members of House Stark. They are cavernous and house the dead Kings of Winter. Between the pillars of the crypts are sepulchers crafted like Kings on thrones with iron swords before them to ward off evil spirits.
- The Glass Gardens is a greenhouse for growing fruits, flowers, and vegetables. It gets heated by the hot springs.
Other places of note are the Maesters Turret, the Bell Tower, the Guards Hall, and the Library Tower.
Winterfell gets defended by two massive walls. The Outer Wall is about eight feet high, while the Inner Wall is a hundred feet. To access the castle, one must follow the main gates, which are:
- The Hunter’s Gate is close to the kitchen and kennels. It directly leads to the wolfswood and open fields so people can enter and leave without crossing through Winter Town.
- The East Gate channels to the Kingsroad.
- The Battlements Gate is an arched entrance that crosses the moat between the two walls.
The Winter town is a seasonal place where smallfolk gather in winter. It has a market square with wooden stalls, muddy streets, and a row of houses made from stone and logs. It also houses an inn called the Smoking Log.
According to many sources, Winterfell got constructed by Brandon the Builder with the aid of giants eight thousand years before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire. The castle got built through different eras, and some scholars believe there may have been linked ringforts before its existence. Winterfell housed the Kings in the North long before the Targaryens. During the wars with the Red Kings of House Bolton, the castle got burned twice.
According to maester Kennet, the First Keep, Winterfell’s oldest place, got built sometime after the Andals reached Westeros. The Inner Wall got constructed two thousand years before Lord Eddard Stark. The Outer Wall got built during King Edrick Snowbeard’s reign. In Free Folk legend, Bael the Bard, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, snuck into Winterfell pretending to be a singer. He later disappeared with Lord Brandon Stark’s daughter, who returned with a child.
As Aegon’s conquest reached the corners of Westeros, King Torrhen Stark took his men out to battle against the Targaryens. However, on seeing the carnage caused by the dragons, he knelt to Aegon the Conqueror at the Inn of the Kneeling Man. In 58 AC, King Jaehaerys I Targaryen and Queen Alysanne visited Winterfell. They explored the castle and even visited the crypts.
During the Dance of the Dragons, Prince Jacaerys Velaryon gained Lord Cregan Stark for the Blacks’ cause. On Mushroom’s account, the prince slept with Sara Snow and married her in the godswood. However, many are skeptical of Mushroom’s claim.
When Rhaegar Targaryen allegedly kidnapped Lady Lyanna Stark, her brother, and father traveled to King’s Landing, demanding justice. However, they got killed, and Robert’s Rebellion started. Lord Stark supported the rebellion and fought to defeat King Aerys II Targaryen. After Rhaegar’s death, the Targaryen fell, and Eddard returned to Winterfell as Warden of the North.
Relevance in A Song of Ice and Fire
After the death of Lord Jon Arryn, King Robert I Baratheon travels to Winterfell, and Eddard Stark hosts him. Ned takes him to the crypts of Winterfell to see Lyanna’s grave. While climbing the Broken Tower, Bran Stark sees Ser Jaime Lannister and his sister Queen Cersei Lannister having sex. He gets thrown off the tower and slips into a coma. Ned Stark leaves Winterfell for King’s Landing after agreeing to become the Hand of the King.
With Robb Stark and Lady Catelyn Stark at Winterfell, a fire incident occurs in the Library Tower. As the fire rages, an assassin tries killing Bran but fails. Catelyn leaves for King’s Landing to learn about the assassin’s weapon. Lord Petyr Baelish tells her the blade belongs to Tyrion Lannister, and when Catelyn sees Tyrion in the Inn at the Crossroads, she arrests him. Upon taking him into custody, Lord Tywin Stark begins raiding the Riverlands. Bran wakes up from a coma.
When Lord Ned Stark gets arrested, Robb calls the Stark’s bannermen and marches to free his father while Bran remains in Winterfell. When Ned gets killed, Robb becomes King in the North, and Bran becomes Prince of Winterfell.
Bran hosts the Harvest Feast at Winterfell. Many Starks’ bannermen attend to show their loyalty to Robb and his cause. As the War of the Five Kings rages on, Theon Greyjoy betrays Robb and switches sides to join his father. He captures Winterfell, but Ser Rodrik returns with an army and orders him to surrender. Ramsay Snow, the castellan of Dreadfort, betrays Rodrik and kills him. He then arrests Theon and orders Winterfell to get burnt. Bran and Rickon return to the surface from the crypts and split ways.
As news of Bran and Rickon’s deaths spread throughout Westeros, Sansa Stark becomes the heir of Winterfell. Her engagement gets broken when Joffrey agrees to marry Margaery Tyrell. When Tywin learns Lady Olenna Tyrell plans on wedding Sansa to Willas, he hastily weds her to Tyrion. Meanwhile, Robb Stark and his mother get killed in the Red Wedding after they get betrayed by Lord Roose Bolton.
Joffrey gets killed, and Sansa hides out at the Eyrie. With the Starks gone, the Boltons become Wardens of the North. On the Wall, Stannis Baratheon meets Jon Snow and offers to legitimize him so he can become the heir of Winterfell. However, Jon refuses and becomes Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
Lord Roose Bolton moves the wedding of his legitimized son Ramsay Bolton and Arya Stark, actually Jeyne Poole, to Winterfell. He marries her in the godswood. However, Abel, who is Mance Rayder, rescues her and Theon when a winter storm hits Winterfell.
Relevance in Adaptation
In HBO’s Game of Thrones, Winterfell was the seat of the Starks. It got built after the Long Night. Daenerys Targaryen returns to Winterfell with Jon, Ser Davos Seaworth, and the Unsullied to face the Night King and White Walkers. Though they create excellent defenses, Winterfell suffers much damage from the attack. However, Arya Stark kills the Night King, and the undead gets defeated.
Winterfell: The Home of Winter
Winterfell was a great castle that stood for thousands of years. It was a symbol of the greatness of the Starks. However, it fell because of the Starks’ blind trust. It became a hollow shadow of the past, a ghost of a house once great and mighty.
What happened to Winterfell?
Winterfell’s library gets burned after Lord Eddard Stark leaves with his daughters Arya and Sansa. During the fire, an assassin tries to kill Bran but fails. Catelyn travels to King’s Landing and learns Tyrion owns the knife the killer used. Robb, Bran, and Rickon Sytark remain at Winterfell. However, Ned later gets arrested, and Robb leaves Winterfell in Bran’s hands.
What did Theon do to Winterfell?
After betraying Robb Stark, Theon snuck into Winterfell while Ser Rodrik Cassel fought at Torrhen’s Square and captured the castle. He tried holding on but got arrested by Ramsay Snow, disguised as Reek.
Who currently rules Winterfell?
The Boltons currently govern Winterfell. After it got burned by Ramsay and Robb got killed, the Starks lost their hold on the North as the Boltons became the new Wardens. Ramsay got control of Winterfell as he married Arya Stark.
Is there currently any Stark at Winterfell?
At the end of ‘A Dance with Dragons,’ there were no Starks at Winterfell. Arya Stark was at the House of Black and White, Bran Stark was at the cave of the three-eyed raven, Sansa was at the Eyrie, Rickon was at Skagos, and Jon Snow was at the Wall. Other people close to the Starks, like Old Nan, got relocated.