Holdfasts can be solitary or be surrounded by villages or towns. Holdfasts can be built of stone or timber, and they can have gated walls and timber palisades. They can include towerhouses overlooking small villages, roundtowers within towns, or encompass large compounds.
Maegor's Holdfast is a massive square fortress within the Red Keep. The spacious holdfast at the Gods Eye town has rough unmortared stone ten feet high and a wooden catwalk inside its battlements, and the holdfast of Pennytree has thick stone walls twelve feet high. The sept of Stoney Sept sits above a strong stone holdfast, while the holdfast of Queenscrown is defended by a lake. Shandystone in Dorne is a holdfast decorated with fluted columns and triple arches.
Younger sons of House Stark are sometimes given holdfasts to rule in the name of the Lord of Winterfell. Small farms and villages are spread around holdfasts north of Winterfell and south of Castle Black, along the kingsroad. Northern farmers often leave their farms and holdfasts for the safety of the winter town and Winterfell during winter.
The First Men of the Dawn Age built ringforts in Westeros, such as the Fist of the First Men. They chopped down trees for their farms, ringforts, and holdfasts, eventually leading to war between the humans and the children of the forest.
Lord Eddard Stark and Hallis Mollen sometimes visit holdfasts distant from Winterfell, and Jon Snow once saw an abandoned fortification. Many villages and holdfasts in the Gift have been abandoned over the years.
A Game of Thrones
Sansa Stark observes fields, farms, and holdfasts while the royal party travels south on the kingsroad to King's Landing. Sansa and Prince Joffrey Baratheon find a holdfast by the Trident, and the prince requests food and wine from its occupants.
After Tyrion's abduction by Catelyn Stark, Lord Tywin Lannister sends Ser Gregor Clegane to raid the riverlands. While some of the people of Sherrer find refuge in their stone holdfast, the timbered holdfast at Wendish Town is set afire. Ser Edmure Tully sends men to defend every village and holdfast, but they are eventually overwhelmed by the army of Lord Tywin Lannister. While his own army besieges Riverrun, Ser Jaime Lannister subdues stubborn holdfasts.
A Clash of Kings
The riverlands suffer during the War of the Five Kings, with many people seeking protection in holdfasts. Yoren's band passes by Briarwhite and later finds Weasel in a burned holdfast. They stay within the holdfast of the Gods Eye town, but come under attack there by Ser Amory Lorch. While marching to Harrenhal as a captive of Gregor, Arya Stark sees husks of burnt holdfasts. Martyn Rivers makes his camp at a shattered holdfast near Riverrun.
Friends from nearby holdfasts attend the harvest feast at Winterfell, and Ser Rodrik Cassel gathers a host of six hundred men from Winterfell and nearby holdfasts. After the capture of Winterfell, Asha Greyjoy warns her brother, Theon, against trying to hold the castle because it is ringed by hostile holdfasts.
A Storm of Swords
A Feast for Crows
Jon had seen an abandoned holdfast once, a drear place where nothing moved but the wind and the stones kept silent about whatever people had lived there.—thoughts of Jon Snow
When there was a Stark in Winterfell, a maiden girl could walk the kingsroad in her name-day gown and still go unmolested, and travelers could find fire, bread, and salt at many an inn and holdfast. But the nights are colder now, and doors are closed. There's squids in the wolfswood, and flayed men ride the kingsroad asking after strangers.
Inside the homes all the fires had been put out, but some still smoked, and none of them were cold. The nanny goat that Hot Harry Merrell found rooting through a vegetable garden was the only living creature to be seen ... but the village had a holdfast as strong as any in the riverlands, with thick stone walls twelve feet high, and Jaime knew that was where he'd find the villagers. They hid behind those walls when raiders came, that's why there's still a village here. And they are hiding there again, from me.—thoughts of Jaime Lannister
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 13, Tyrion II.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 43, Eddard XI.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 1, Bran I.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 9, Arya III.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 41, Jon V.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 47, Arya IX.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 14, Arya IV.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 47, Eddard XIII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 48, Jaime I.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 29, Arya V.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 40, Bran III.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 21, The Queenmaker.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 28, Catelyn V.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 5, Arya II.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 5, Jon I.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 70, Jon IX.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 37, Bran V.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Free Cities: Norvos.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 34, Jon IV.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Coming of the First Men.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 24, Bran IV.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 52, Jon VII.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach: Andals in the Reach.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn V.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Beyond the Free Cities: Ib.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 15, Sansa I.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 56, Tyrion VII.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 63, Catelyn X.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 9, Tyrion I.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 26, Arya VI.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 39, Catelyn V.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 21, Bran III.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 46, Bran VI.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 56, Theon V.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 24, Bran II.