Winterfell is the name given to the ancient castle of House Stark. It has been the ancestral seat of the Starks for thousands of years. According to legend, it was built by Brandon the Builder, the first King in the North, around the same time that he raised the Wall some eight thousand years ago. This makes Winterfell possibly the oldest continually-inhabited fortress in Westeros. Over the millennia, many parts of the castle have collapsed and been rebuilt, leaving the castle as a collection of numerous keeps, towers, barracks and two layers of granite walls. The outer walls are 80 feet (24 m) high with a deep moat lying just inside it. The inner walls are 100 feet (30 m) tall. The Great Keep of Winterfell lies within the innermost walls. There are several gates through the walls, one leading to the neighbouring winter town and the Hunter’s Gate, which leads directly towards the nearby Wolfswood and fields. There is also an East Gate and a King’s Gate.
The oldest part of the castle is the godswood, three acres of ash and oak trees (among others) centered on a heart tree. The godswood is where the Starks and their retainers pray to the old gods, the nameless gods of the First Men and the Children of the Forest. One of the oldest parts of the castle itself is the crypt, where the bones of the Lords of Winterfell and the Kings in the North before them lie. The crypts are extremely deep and are always very cold. The First Keep was the first fortress to be built on the site of Winterfell, consisting of a round fortress and a tall tower attached to it. Both are now in ruin; the tower was struck by lightning circa 140 years ago and has never been repaired.
The castle is built over natural springs. Hot water is piped from the springs through the castle’s chambers to warm them. There are glass gardens where food is grown even in the midst of winter, and this is kept heated by the waters of the springs.
Winterfell also contains kennels, an armoury, a weapons practice yard, a rookery, a bell tower and a library (with its own tower). The Bell Tower is connected to the Rookery by a bridge. There is also a small sept for the use of southrons.
The winter town lies just beyond the castle and consists of a number of wooden and undressed stone houses. These houses are largely unoccupied during summer, with the smallfolk of the area instead working farms further afield. During winter the smallfolk retreat to the town to await the coming of spring. The winter town also possesses an inn named the Smoking Log.