Last Time: I trekked around Haafingar Hold, and explored the top ten locations every adventurer should seek out. Numbers 10 – 6 are detailed here.
This Time: I continue my trek, this time wandering around the top five areas you simply must visit on your exploits throughout this realm. It’s all detailed here:
Haafingar Hold: Kilkreath Ruins, #7 in our list of places to visit, seen here through the blanket of fog and rain that perpetually falls in these inhospitable climbs.
Haafingar Hold is dominated by the massive arch and fortified crenellations of the fortress city of Solitude, and for those approaching from Hjaalmarch, this is indeed the landmark of choice. The rest of the hold has a main path that takes you around the base of the Haafingar mountain range, before petering out along the craggy western edge where progress cannot continue. A few minor pathways shoot off from this main route, which is the recommended way to initially explore, as the rest of this Hold requires careful maneuvering over steep and snowy terrain. Indeed, it is often impossible to reach a Primary Location by trekking over rocks and tundra alone. The Karth River separates this Hold from Hjaalmarch, with the jagged border of The Reach encroaching just southwest of the Dragon Bridge itself. The largest stretch of flat ground is the shoreline of the Sea of Ghosts along the northern flank of Haafingar, where travelers are few, and the Thalmor are out in force.
#5: Broken Oar Grotto
Hate bandits? Want to discover an entire galleon half sunk and moored in a vast interior cave? Trying to find a wayward argonian named Jaree-Ro? Then find the burning campfire along Haafingar’s harsh northeast coast. Side Quest: Lights Out requires you to clear this massive cave, and get your revenge against some double-crossing ne’er-do-wells. After the fighting, there are numerous crafting stations and some cool cave water to doggy-paddle through.
#4: Thalmor Embassy
Main Quest: Diplomatic Immunity is when you’re actually allowed into this gated estate standing tall among Haafingar’s central mountains; otherwise this lair of the Thalmor remains securely sealed. The quest itself is a doozy, as all the most important people of Skyrim are gathered for a party; one that you’re supposed to disrupt without getting yourself killed. Don’t forget the “back entrance”; the Reeking Cave where a nasty Frost Troll has just slain a particularly unlucky mage.
#3: East Empire Company Warehouse
Just south of Solitude, this network of docks has its own interior harbor, where workers patch up Haafingar’s sea-worn vessels. The Red Wave is docked to the south. During Thieves Guild Quest: Scoundrel’s Folly, you must tail an argonian named Gulum-El through here, shadowing him through a passage hidden among shelves that takes you into Brinewater Grotto; an underground river and with Bandits and Horkers aplenty. So much to see and do, and so many deckhands to infuriate: This area is great practice for stealthy folk.
#2: Castle Volkihar
Long thought lost to the eternal mists of the Sea of Ghosts, the sprawling castle manifesting on the rocky islands north of icewater jetty has been seen by fishermen on Skyrim’s northwest coast. The castle is formidable even from the outside, but once past the Watchman, all the horror and decadence of the pure-blooded vampire is on display. Head here during the Dawnguard quests for more sharp-fanged fun than you can shake a stake at. This way lies the Soul Cairn….
Solitude is the jewel of Imperial Skyrim. Ruled by Jarl Elisif the Fair, widow of the late High King, it is home to the headquarters of both the Legion and the Thalmor. Part of the reason for this is the eminently defensible nature of Solitude itself. Set upon a great stone arch that towers above the mouth of the Karth River, and surrounded by the soaring peaks of the Haafingar Mountains, Solitude is both a reinforced and breathtaking stronghold. Given the city’s name, it may be ironic that over 80 percent of the Hold’s population lives within Solitude’s walls, but this is testament to the city’s political importance, formidable defenses, and diverse population. The Bard’s College is located here, as well as the sumptuous Blue Palace; both constructed atop the huge, natural arch that the city rests on; affording spectacular views over the Sea of Ghosts and Hjaalmarch to the east. Solitude’s accessible docks and wharfs are in relatively calm waters, making trade one of the many reasons why the wealthiest Nords hail from this capital city. Solitude is the one, true cosmopolitan city of Skyrim. We’ll wander through its cobblestone streets and get into a spot of bother next time….
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 (when I outstay my welcome in Solitude), may your Thalmor embassy investigation yield many new friends (and a few enemies), and your exploration of Castle Volkihar lead to incredible new powers (and a few more enemies).
As always, look for the The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Revised & Expanded Prima Official Game Guide at a retailer near you!