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"Winterfell is our home. It's ours and Arya's and Bran's and Rickon's. Wherever they are, it belongs to our family. We have to fight for it."
Sansa Stark to Jon Snow[src]
Winterfell Pin

The location of Winterfell on the continent of Westeros.

505 Bolton map 2

Winterfell marked by name on the Boltons' map in "Kill the Boy".

Winterfell is the seat of the ruler of the North and the traditional home of House Stark. It is a very large castle located at the center of the North, from where the head of House Stark rules over his people. A small Godswood is enclosed within the walls. It is the capital of the North under King Jon Snow. The castle is located alongside the Kingsroad as it makes its way from the Wall to the capital at King's Landing, more than a thousand miles to the south. It is situated atop hot springs which keep the castle warm even in the worst winters.[1] Winding tombs below the castle contain the remains of Stark kings and lords and record the history of the ancient family.[2] The castle has stood for millennia.[3]

The castle is put to the torch by Ramsay Snow after Theon Greyjoy was betrayed by his own crew. This burned out the wood portions of the castle, though the core stone structures remained fundamentally intact, as did the enclosed godswood.[4] After the fall of Moat Cailin, the Bolton army relocated to the ruined castle in order to restore it as the seat of the rulers of the North.[5]

House Stark eventually retook their castle after the defeat of House Bolton at the Battle of the Bastards.[6] It is currently controlled by the King in the North.



According to legend, House Stark has held a castle at Winterfell for 8,000 years, though it has been considerably expanded over the centuries.[7]

Eddard Stark rode south to fight in Robert's Rebellion after his father and older brother were killed by the Mad King. At the end of the war, he returned to Winterfell with his new wife Catelyn Tully, their infant son Robb Stark, and also Eddard's nephew Jon Snow, who he raised as a son at the behest of Jon's mother, Lyanna Stark. After the Greyjoy Rebellion eight years later, Eddard took Theon Greyjoy back to Winterfell as his ward - partly as a political hostage, but perhaps partially to raise him to be an honorable man.[8]

Season 1

After the death of Hand of the King Jon Arryn, King Robert Baratheon makes a formal visit to Winterfell along with much of the royal court, including his wife Queen Cersei Lannister, their three children Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen, as well as Cersei's brother and Kingsguard member Jaime Lannister, and their brother Tyrion Lannister. A great feast is held in Robert's honor. Robert visits the tomb of Lyanna Stark and asks Lord Eddard to return with him to King's Landing as his new Hand, and to solidify the union between their two Houses by betrothing Eddard's elder daughter Sansa Stark to Crown Prince Joffrey.

Before they leave, however, while climbing a tower Bran Stark accidentally stumbles upon Queen Cersei having sex with her own twin brother Jaime, who then pushes Bran out of the tower window.[9]

Bran survives the fall from the tower, though his legs are left crippled. Lord Eddard reluctantly departs down the Kingsroad with the royal party, along with Sansa and his younger daughter Arya Stark. Jon Snow also leaves Winterfell to join the Night's Watch at the Wall, accompanied by Tyrion. A Catspaw assassin sent by one of the Lannisters tries to kill Bran while he is still in a coma, but he is fought off by Catelyn and killed by Bran's direwolf Summer. Catelyn decides that Eddard must be warned so she leaves for King's Landing along with Ser Rodrik Cassel, leaving her eldest son Robb Stark in charge of Winterfell.[10] After visiting the Wall, Tyrion stops at Winterfell on his return journey to the south, along with the Night's Watch recruiter Yoren. He gives Robb instructions for a special saddle which will allow Bran to ride without the use of his legs.[11]

After word reaches Robb that his father has been arrested in King's Landing, he calls the armies of all the Northern bannermen. Robb departs Winterfell to lead his army to war in the south, and leaves Bran in charge as acting lord of Winterfell. His youngest brother Rickon Stark has a prophetic dream that Robb and his men will never return to Winterfell.[12]

Season 2

After Eddard is executed by Joffrey and Robb wins the Battle of the Whispering Wood, his bannermen hail him as the new King in the North. The North and the Riverlands declare themselves an independent kingdom under Robb. Winterfell is the de jure capital, though Robb remains with his armies fighting in the south. Now-Prince Bran Stark continues to rule as acting lord of Winterfell, with the guidance of Maester Luwin.[13]

House Greyjoy - insulted at the prospect of allying with the Starks against the Lannisters - then counter-intuitively chooses to both declare the independence of the Iron Islands from the Lannister-controlled Iron Throne, and to attack the North while most of its armies are in the south. To impress his father Balon Greyjoy, the conflicted Theon leads a daring assault that captures Winterfell with under 30 men. Theon's ironborn were few, but the castle only had a skeleton defensive garrison left, and Theon used his intimate knowledge of the castle to lead his men over the walls using climbing spikes. Out of fear for Winterfell's population, Bran surrenders the castle to Theon. Maester Luwin barely manages to get a messenger-raven out warning of what has happened, after which Theon kills all the ravens to stop any further messages from getting out.[14]

Theon, however, has no way of easily holding Winterfell so far away from the sea, even with most of the North's armies away in the south. Bran and his brother Rickon escape Winterfell along with Hodor and Osha, making his position tenuous, so he passes off the burned bodies of two orphan boys so he won't look weak; this backfires, however, and the North rises in anger at the apparent murder of the Stark boys. When word reaches Robb's army camp in the south, his commander Roose Bolton says that he can send a reserve garrison led by his bastard son Ramsay Snow to besiege Theon. Robb decides to offer the ironborn at Winterfell safe passage back to the Iron Islands - if they will hand over Theon, so he can be executed as a traitor to the Starks. Theon's sister Yara Greyjoy briefly stops in Winterfell but only to warn him that they have no way of reinforcing or holding the castle, and he must withdraw while he can. Theon, however, fears that he has come to far too turn back now in failure.[15]

Maester Luwin pleads with Theon that this is now who he is, and he must surrender and join the Night's Watch while he still can. Theon admits the truth in this but says he has come too far. In a rousing speech to his men, Theon accepts that he will die, but they will all die bravely fighting sword in hand, so the other ironborn will remember their example. Instead, one of his men knocks him unconscious from behind, to hand him over as part of the deal for their lives. Ramsay reneges on his agreement, however, and after flaying the ironborn to death orders the Sack of Winterfell. The castle of Winterfell is put to the torch and most of her people to the sword. All of the wooden parts of the castle are burned out, though the core stone structures remain intact. Bran and his companions emerge from the crypts where they had been hiding and are horrified to find their beloved home in ruins flee north to the Wall.[16]

When word reaches Robb Stark at Harrenhal of the sack of Winterfell, the report sent by Roose's son Ramsay says that the ironborn put the castle to the torch before fleeing, put the inhabitants to the sword, and killed Bran and Rickon.[17] The loss of Winterfell makes Robb look weak, particularly after the Lannisters secured victory in the southern front of the war against the Baratheons at the Battle of the Blackwater. Rickard Karstark loses all faith in Robb and calls him "The King Who Lost the North"[18]

Not long afterwards, Boltons and Freys betray the Starks at the Red Wedding, destroying the Northern army, and resulting in the deaths of Robb and Catelyn. Roose Bolton personally kills Robb by driving a dagger into his heart. Subsequently, Walder Frey and Roose muse on their future plans, and Walder asks if as the new ruler of the North, Roose will relocate to Winterfell. He says that he will in time, after it is rebuilt. Walder also asks what really happened at Winterfell, because after Theon took the castle no further news came out. Roose explains that he indeed sent his bastard son Ramsay Snow to besiege Winterfell with the Dreadfort's remaining garrison, and Theon's men betrayed him, handing him over to Ramsay in return for promise of safe passage. Ramsay, however, "has his own way of doing things" - he flayed all of the ironborn alive, even though they surrendered in good faith, and spent the next year slowly flaying and horrifically torturing Theon. As for Winterfell, it was Ramsay and his Bolton army who burned the castle, and who massacred all of the inhabitants - the Boltons simply lied to Robb Stark about what really happened, as they were planning to betray him for months before the Red Wedding occurred.[19]

Season 4

Boltons in Winterfell

House Bolton bannerman riding to Winterfell

After Ramsay manages to retake the fortress Moat Cailin from the ironborn, the path is cleared for the main Bolton army to return to the North, and enforce Bolton/Lannister rule. Roose, Ramsay, and Reek (the tortured, broken wreck once known as Theon) lead the Bolton army back to Winterfell[20]

Season 5

The Boltons settle in at Winterfell, and bring in work crews and timber to start rebuilding the burned-out parts of the castle. The rest of the Bolton household has arrived as well, including Roose's new wife Fat Walda Frey.[21] Following the death of Tywin Lannister, however, their already difficult hold over the North is even more tenuous: the armies of the Northern lords may have been destroyed, but the Lannisters left it to Bolton's army to rein them in, and will send no reinforcements so far out of the way. With Tywin dead, the Lannisters themselves are in a weakened position, and cannot aid the Boltons. Worse, Stannis Baratheon took his small remaining forces to the Wall, where they won a rousing victory in the Battle of Castle Black. Afterwards, Stannis intends to raise the North against the Boltons as a new springboard against Lannister rule. Stannis eventually leaves Castle Black to march to Winterfell, and begins to be supported by Northern houses who do not support the Boltons.[22]

As part of a political plot, Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish arrives at Winterfell from the Vale - bringing none other than Sansa Stark, to make a marriage-alliance between her and Ramsay Bolton. Littlefinger, however, informs Sansa that he truly plans for her to undermine the Boltons from within, hopefully to aid Stannis's probable victory, and if Stannis dies, to at least still be in a position to subvert the Boltons in the future.[23]

With Stannis's army drawing closer to the castle, Roose Bolton intends to muster his strength within the walls of Winterfell with his legitimized son Ramsay.[24] Meanwhile, with support from Queen Regent Cersei Lannister, Lord Petyr Baelish has raised an army of knights from the Vale supported by his own levies to march North and combat both House Bolton and Stannis, focusing on whoever wins the coming battle.[25] In response to this predicament, Ramsay convinces his dad to lend him twenty "good men."[24]

Battle of Winterfell 1

Winterfell during the battle.

Ramsay and his twenty riders launch a sneak attack on the Baratheon camp and succeed in burning much of their food supplies, siege weapons, and horses.[26] While Stannis does indeed reach Winterfell, his resources have been severely depleted and hundreds of his men have deserted due to snowstorms and Stannis's rash decision to sacrifice his own daughter Shireen to the Lord of Light. The army of House Bolton greets Stannis in open battle and after a short clash, smashes his army, and Stannis himself perishes soon after. However, with Winterfell in chaos, Sansa manages to escape the castle with help from Theon Greyjoy, putting House Bolton's future claim to the North in jeopardy.[27]

Season 6

Winterfell remains the Bolton seat of power. Following Sansa and Theon's escape, Ramsay attends to the corpse of his former bedfellow Myranda. Despite his affection for her, he orders Maester Wolkan to feed her body to the dogs. Later, Roose and Ramsay meet to discuss Sansa's escape, which has imperiled House Bolton's position among the northern houses. Roose stresses that they need Sansa in order to rally the northern houses against the Lannisters. Fearful of losing his inheritance to Walda's offspring, Ramsay sends his best hunters to recapture Sansa and Theon.[28]

Later, Roose and Ramsay meet with Harald Karstark to discuss their predicament with Sansa. Ramsay's men had been found dead and he advocated storming Castle Black. Roose chastises his son's rash proposal as tantamount to turning the North against them. He also warns Ramsay that he would be discarded if he does not act more sensibly. After learning that Walda has given birth to a baby boy, Ramsay realizes that his position is shaky and murders his father. He then unleashes his dogs on Walda and his baby brother. Ramsay covers up his father's death by claiming that Roose had been poisoned by their enemies.[29]

Smalljon Umber travels to Winterfell to forge an alliance with Ramsay, the new Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. In return for forging a military alliance between House Umber and House Bolton, Smalljon presents Rickon Stark, Osha, and the head of Rickon's direwolf Shaggydog. Ramsay accepts Smalljon's offer and takes Rickon captive.[30] Later, Ramsay kills Osha after baiting her into killing him by leaving his fruit knife unattended. Ramsay then issues a letter to Jon Snow telling him that he has Rickon in his dungeons and demanding the return of his wife Sansa. In response, Jon and Sansa declare war on Ramsay and vow to retake Winterfell with the help of Tormund's Free Folk and several northern houses.[31]


Winterfell is retaken by the Starks.

As the Battle of the Bastards turns in favor of the Starks, Ramsay returns to the castle and has the gate closed and barred. The gates are smashed right off their hinges by the giant, Wun Wun and Jon Snow enters the courtyard to face off with Ramsay. Jon prevails and refrains from killing Ramsay, who is taken to the kennels. After the battle, the Winterfell household care for the wounded Stark soldiers, while Sansa later visits Ramsay there and, after speaking, watches as his starving hounds begin to devour their master. The Bolton banners are dropped from the ramparts and the Stark banners are once again hung in Winterfell. Sadly, the crypts must host the burial of yet another Stark, Rickon having been murdered by Ramsay prior to the battle.[6]

Notable residents of the castle

  • King Jon Snow, son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, publicly known as Eddard Stark's bastard son, who served as the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch at Castle Black. Killed by his own men and later resurrected by Melisandre. Believed to be the last son of the true Warden of the North. He is the King in the North and the current ruling occupant of Winterfell.
  • Princess Sansa Stark, Jon's maternal cousin and presumed half-sister, daughter of Lord Eddard and Lady Catelyn Stark, and believed to be the last of the Starks. Briefly lived in Winterfell under the Bolton's reign as Ramsay Bolton's wife, but escaped and helped Jon retake Winterfell with the help of the knights of the Vale.
  • Ser Davos Seaworth, former Hand of the King under Stannis Baratheon and now serves House Stark as one of King Jon's most trusted advisers.
  • Tormund Giantsbane, a former wildling raider and the leader of the army of Free Folk (wildlings) that helped King Jon defeat the Boltons.
    • An unknown number of wildlings that fought and survived during the Battle of the Bastards.
  • Wolkan, the castle's Maester during the reign of House Bolton. Although he still remains in Winterfell, his position now that the Boltons are gone is unknown.

Former residents

Stark rule

Bolton Rule

  • Lord {Roose Bolton}, Lord of the Dreadfort, Lord of Winterfell, Warden of the North and Lord Paramount of the North. Killed by Ramsay.
    • Lady {Walda Bolton}, Roose's latest wife. Granddaughter of Lord Walder Frey. Killed by Ramsay.
    • Lord {Ramsay Bolton}, his legitimized natural son, Previous Lord of Winterfell and the Dreadfort, Warden of the North and Lord Paramount of the North. Executed by Sansa Stark after the Battle of the Bastards by being fed to his own hounds.
  • Reek, formerly Theon Greyjoy, raised at Winterfell as Eddard Stark's ward and hostage for his father's good behavior. Abandoned the Stark cause and joined his father, Balon, in the War of the Five Kings. He took over Winterfell and installed himself as Prince of Winterfell until he was betrayed by his own crew shortly after. Later became the manservant and hostage of Ramsay. Helped Sansa escape Winterfell, Fled from the Iron Islands with his sister Yara Greyjoy. And is currently sailing towards Westeros in the Targaryen Fleet.
  • {Myranda}, one of Ramsay's bedwarmers and lover. Pushed to her death from a catwalk by Reek after she threatened Sansa.

Image gallery

Behind the scenes

For the television series, a variety of locations were used to create Winterfell as it appears on screen. For the pilot episode, Doune Castle in Scotland was used for some exterior shots and the great feast held when King Robert Baratheon and his party arrive. Castle Ward in County Down, Northern Ireland was used for the scenes of sparring in Winterfell's castle yard and the arrival of Robert's party at Winterfell's gates. The rest of the castle, including the other interiors and the scenes involving Bran climbing the walls, were filmed as interiors at the Paint Hall studio facility in Belfast. For the first season itself, Castle Ward was the principal filming location for the Winterfell scenes. Doune Castle was not revisited. One of the only full scenes from Doune Castle to survive from the pilot episode is the scene in the crypts of Winterfell when Eddard and Robert visit Lyanna's grave. All subsequent appearances of the Winterfell crypts from Season 2 onwards were filmed in the cellars of Shane's Castle in Northern Ireland.

While it isn't visible on-camera at all, the cellars of Shane's Castle are infested with numerous spiders. Any scenes in the cellars involving candles with open flames (all of them, because it is dark) will make swarms of spiders crawl out of their hiding places to scramble away from the head source. The actors report that while the camera can't see them, they can, and there are so many they can hear them - and even feel them falling onto them. The actors don't like filming scenes in the cellar as a result.[32]

As of the end of Season 5, Winterfell is one of three locations (the others being King's Landing and Castle Black/The Wall) to be featured in every opening credits sequence, regardless as to whether the location is actually visited in the episode (this includes Season 3 and virtually all of Season 4 during which Winterfell is never visited nor seen at all).

As explained in the Blu-ray commentary, the main Winterfell set was greatly expanded in Season 5. The original sets from Seasons 1 and 2 primarily consisted of the outer courtyard, the feast hall, and one interior bedroom which could be redressed (for Eddard and Catelyn's room, Bran's room, etc.), but otherwise there wasn't an extensive interconnected interior set. For Season 5, the production team constructed a complex of staircases, corridors and bedrooms, all added on top of the existing courtyard and feast hall.[33]

In the books

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Winterfell is a huge castle complex spanning several acres, consisting of two massive walls with a ditch between them and a village located just outside. The complex consists of many buildings and keeps, some ancient and decrepit, some in good repair. According to legend, Winterfell was built by Bran the Builder eight thousand years ago.

The full castle as it appears at the start of the narrative has not been standing for eight thousand years: it was gradually expanded over many centuries like a tree growing new branches, giving it a less organized appearance than large castles which were planned out all at once such as the Red Keep in King's Landing. Parts have also had to be rebuilt over time, either due to natural degeneration or damage in sieges (Winterfell was burned out several times in ancient wars with the Boltons and other enemies, but the Starks always rallied and rebuilt it). The eldest surviving part of the castle is the First Keep, and old tower no longer actively used, which some maesters think dates back to some point after the Andal Invasion began six thousand years ago.

The crypts underneath Winterfell are massive - larger than the entire castle complex above ground. This is a testament to just how long the Starks have held Winterfell: according to tradition, there should be eight thousand years' worth of tombs in the crypts. According to tradition, while all Stark family members are buried in the crypts, statues are only made for those who were head of House Stark (either as kings or later as lords). There have been some exceptions over the generations, and Eddard himself had statues made at the tombs of his older brother Brandon and his sister Lyanna. The most ancient tombs are in the lower levels, and the more current ones closer to the surface. Many of the lower levels are half-collapsed and unexplored. With their vast size and lack of active use, it is quite easy for someone to hide in the crypts for weeks or even months at a time, as Bran, Rickon, and their followers did during the Sack of Winterfell, provided that they bring sufficient supplies with them. According to legend, when the infamous wildling rogue Bael the Bard seduced the daughter of a Stark lord, they hid out in the crypts for nearly a year undetected, long enough that when the daughter one day reappeared in her chambers she had with her the infant son that she had with Bael.

See also


v  d  e
Lord: King Jon Snow Heir:
Seat: Winterfell Lands: The North
Title(s): King in the North · Lord of Winterfell

Pre-secession: Lord Paramount of the North · Warden of the North

Ancestors:Brandon the Builder · Brandon the Breaker · Dorren Stark · Rickard Stark · Rodrik Stark · Karlon Stark · Theon Stark · Osric Stark · Torrhen Stark · Cregan Stark
Current members:Sansa Stark · Arya Stark · Bran Stark · Benjen Stark
Deceased members:Rickard Stark · Brandon Stark · Lyanna Stark · Eddard Stark · King Robb Stark · Talisa Stark · Catelyn Stark · Rickon Stark
Household:{Maester Luwin} · {Ser Rodrik Cassel} · {Jory Cassel} · {Vayon Poole} · Jeyne Poole · {Septa Mordane} · {Old Nan} · {Hodor} · Farlen · Mikken · {Osha} · Meera Reed · {Jojen Reed} · Brienne of Tarth · Podrick Payne · Davos Seaworth
v  d  e
Lord: None, extinct Heir: None, extinct
Seat: Winterfell
The Dreadfort
Lands: The North
Title(s): Red King (former) · Lord of the Dreadfort
Ancestors:Royce IV Bolton · Rogar Bolton
Current members:None, extinct
Deceased members:Domeric Bolton · Ramsay Bolton · Roose Bolton · Walda Bolton
Household:{Locke} · Steelshanks · {Myranda} · {Tansy} · {Violet} · {Master Torturer} · Maester Wolkan
Overlord:House Baratheon of King's Landing

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