Game of Thrones: Top 10 castles in Westeros, ranked

Image: Game of Thrones/HBO
Image: Game of Thrones/HBO /
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George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire features some of the most extensive worldbuilding in all of science fiction and fantasy. The main series of books is incredibly detailed when it comes to descriptions of landscape and geography, and The World of Ice & Fire compendium book takes things to another level.

Drawing on real history and from his own imagination, Martin has come up with a number of fantasy castles that, to fans, can feel as real as anything in our world. Here are our top ten castles from the A Song of Ice and Fire books.

Beware SPOILERS below for A Song of Ice and FireGame of Thrones and the new prequel series House of the Dragon.

10. Moat Cailin

Moat Caillin is an ancient fortress in the swamps of the Neck, the region that connects the North with the southern half of Westeros. It is a natural choke point between the two regions and has effectively prevented a southern invasion of the North for thousands of years. It is the main reason that the Andals failed to fully assimilate the North, and why the North still prays to the Old Gods and has a unique set of traditions and culture compared to the South. Ned Stark himself said that 200 good archers positioned at Moat Cailin could prevent an army of thousands from entering the North.

The fortress was once even more formidable, with 20 towers that are now fallen and sinking into the swamp. Three towers remain, but an army marching north must pass through them and deal with constant fire from archers. The swamps are impassable on all sides except through the narrow passageway through Moat Caillin. Native to the swamps are crannogmen, a reclusive group of northerners ruled by House Reed of Greywater Watch.

During the events of A Song of Ice and Fire, Ned and Robb Stark fortify Moat Caillin to protect the North. In A Clash of Kings, Balon Greyjoy sends his brother Victarion to capture Moat Caillin, and it remains under the control of the Ironborn for a time. Victarian eventually leaves Moat Cailin to attend the kingsmoot after Balon’s death and appoints Ralf Kenning as the garrison’s commander. Under Robb Stark’s orders, crannogmen repeatedly conduct guerilla attacks to weaken the Ironborn.

The Ironborn at Moat Cailin are effectively abandoned when Euron Greyjoy — who has no intention of taking the North — wins the kingsmoot. Victarion is unable to return to his men as Euron sends him to Slaver’s Bay to fetch Daenerys Targaryen.

When the Boltons return to rule the North after the Red Wedding, Ramsay is sent by his father to retake Moat Cailin. Under Ramsay’s orders, Theon Greyjoy — now going by Reek — is sent into the castle to negotiate the Ironborn surrender. He finds Ralf naked and dying in a bedchamber, poisoned by a crannogman’s arrow. Theon puts Ralf out of his misery and then successfully convinces the remaining Ironborn to surrender Moat Cailin peacefully. Naturally, Ramsay proceeds to flay the men once they give up the castle. This is the last time we see Moat Cailin in the books. It is presumably garrisoned by Bolton men thereafter.

Moat Cailin may come back into play in the future books, especially if Stannis Baratheon is successful in deposing the Boltons. Even if Stannis fails, there is a chance that the Northerners retake the castle, as a few lords still loyal to Robb’s cause are at Greywater Watch with Howland Reed.