Last Time: I retired to the countryside with my wife, retainers, and small child who whined about mud-crabs and chores. Read it here.

This Time: I trek around Haafingar Hold, and explore the top ten locations every adventurer should seek out. Numbers 10 – 6 are detailed here:

 Haafingar Hold
Haafingar Hold: A sunrise over the majestic arch of Solitude, with the sea mist still shrouding the mouth of Karth River.

Exploration. That’s the key to months of entertaining wandering through the realms of Skyrim. You might think you’ve been everywhere, stabbed every Bandit, and slapped around every haughty High Elf. But there are strange, out-of-the-way places that few explorers have found. Or, there are barrows teeming with creatures to batter and characters to better. Over the next few blog posts, I’ll wander through each of Skyrim’s provinces, and list my favorite locations. Let’s start in the bleak northwest hold of Haafingar.

Aside from the towering majesty of Solitude, and the scattered buildings along the Karth River to the southwest that serve the Capital, Haafingar is a hold of fortifications and numerous caves weaving deep into the granite foothills and mountainous terrain that the Hold is famous for. Expect smuggling bolt-holes along the coast, and a strong Thalmor presence; their embassy is atop the mountain to the northwest of Solitude. There are two large forts -- Northwatch Keep and Fort Hraggstad -- where a large number of foes may be faced. And you haven’t fully experienced Haafingar until you’ve seen the majesty of the Statue of Meridia and the light of Kilkreath Ruins….

#10: Northwatch Keep 

Northwatch Keep

It wouldn’t be right to have a list of locations and not mention the fortification that serves as this blog’s name. The rude, but well-equipped Thalmor have taken to the battlements here. Side Quest: Missing in Action culminates here, with a thrilling romp to rescue Thorald Gray-Mane from their clutches. The interior chambers are musty but not too confusing, and there’s much to keep the elf-hater, or battle-hardy warrior happy.

#9: Volskygge 


A Dragon Priest Lair buried at the bottom of a lengthy Draugr tomb, Volskygge requires some serious planning and inventory management before it’s recommended you explore these depths. Volsung is a nasty piece of work, and there are plenty of traps to dodge. But it’s the epic battle on the exterior peaks with Volsung, and the subsequent Whirlwind Sprint word of power you can obtain, that makes this hard-fought dungeon crawl worthwhile.

#8: The Steed Stone
The Seed Stone 

One of the 13 standing stones of Skyrim, scale Haafingar’s snowcapped central mountains to discover an ancient stone with curious markings. Inspect it to gain the stones’ power; you can carry more and don’t suffer a movement penalty for armor. Watch for annoying Bandit incursions from the nearby Ironback Hideout, but if gathering supplies without slowing to a crawl is part of your planning, be certain to mosey on over to this lump of rock.

#7: Statue to Meridia and Kilkreath Ruins

Merida and Kilkreath
Located atop Mount Kilkreath near the heart of Haafingar, a majestic statue stands at the top of an ancient, defiled set of ruins. When you discover Meridia’s Beacon (which randomly appears in treasure chests), you are drawn here, and a vertigo-inducing chat with the Daedric entity this shrine was built for. The actual trek involves aligning her light again, and defeating a host of Corrupted Shades; a very infrequently-seen enemy. Your reward? A fight with a Dragon Priest named Malkoran.

#6: Dragon Bridge

Dragon ridge
Come for the exceptionally-crafted bridge the settlement is named after. Stay for the Imperials, if they’re your kind of people. Haafingar’s southernmost primary location is a small yet bustling community on the Karth River. Venture here during a Dark Brotherhood Quest in search of a target to eliminate, or else befriend the merchants, innkeeper at the Four Shields Tavern, and chat to the Penitus Oculatus troops stationed here.

Found a dungeon, hovel, abandoned camp or other location in Haafingar Hold and want to tell us about it? Then head on over here.

Until next time (where my top five locations are revealed), may your run-ins with the Penitus Oculatus be advantageous, and your attacks on the Thalmor triumphant.

As always, look for the The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Revised & Expanded Prima Official Game Guide at a retailer near you!