- This article is about the castle. For other uses, see: Dragonstone (disambiguation)
- "But the Targaryens managed to raise a castle here. Simpletons claim they used ancient Valyrian sorcery, forgetting that the Targaryens brought a small army with them from Essos; there's no magic in strong backs. Though admittedly the castle is unlike any in Westeros, foreign and... strange."
- ―Stannis Baratheon
Dragonstone is the castle that stands upon the eponymous island located in Blackwater Bay. It is the ancestral seat of House Targaryen and the former stronghold of House Baratheon of Dragonstone, a cadet branch of House Baratheon of Storm's End. It is within the Crownlands, the capital region of the Seven Kingdoms.
At the time the series begins, it is held for King Robert Baratheon by his younger brother, Lord Stannis Baratheon. The castle contains the Chamber of the Painted Table and it was built using advanced Valyrian stonemasonry techniques, long since lost. Resulting in its exhibition of many exotic features unique in all of Westeros, including massive dragon-shaped gargoyles. The entire castle is dominated by dragon motifs and reliefs. Unlike the richly-decorated and extravagant Red Keep in King's Landing, Dragonstone is sparsely decorated and has a rough, austere appearance; its function is as a military base, not as a palace.
The castle itself is very robust, due to its advanced Valyrian design, combined with its isolated location, making it an ideal redoubt and refuge, for both the House Targaryen and Stannis Baratheon. The castle's features and its geographical position make it advantageous for its owners in wartime for defence, as it is extremely difficult to breach and can be held by a relatively small garrison against a vastly larger force.
The island of Dragonstone became the location of the westernmost outpost of the Valyrian Freehold, the dragonlords' empire in Essos, which dominated most of the known world, a unique castle that was considered fearsome and foreign due to it's dragon statues. Although the island bore no abundance of gold or jewellery, only bearing vast hordes of dragonglass, it became the refuge of House Targaryen right before the Doom took Valyria and left them as the last surviving dragonlords. Dragonstone became the ancestral seat of the Targaryens afterwards and as Aegon proved during his conquest, the perfect staging point for an invasion.
After he had united six of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros under his rule, Dragonstone became the seat of the crown prince due to its importance in the survival of the Targaryens in the Doom.
Prior to the Sack of King's Landing and Following the Battle of the Trident, Queen Rhaella Targaryen and Prince Viserys Targaryen were sent to Dragonstone for their protection. Queen Rhaella perished during a stormy night giving birth to Daenerys Targaryen.
After King's Landing fell and Robert Baratheon took the Iron Throne, Stannis Baratheon was sent to deal with what remained of the royal family and their retainers. However, Prince Viserys and Princess Daenerys were smuggled across the Narrow Sea to the Free Cities by a loyal knight. Enraged, Robert stripped Stannis of Storm's End and gave it to their younger brother, Renly, and gave Dragonstone to Stannis, to rein in the Targaryen loyalists there. Stannis would take this as an insult and blame this event on Robert's extreme hatred of the Targaryens. In later years, Robert tried to humor Stannis that he was actually honoring him with the Lordship of Dragonstone because under the Targaryens it was the traditional seat of the heir to the throne, but Stannis scoffed at such pleasantries.
Lord Eddard Stark sends a messenger to Dragonstone to personally deliver a letter to Stannis, revealing the secret that Cersei Lannister's children are really bastards born from incest, and thus Stannis is the rightful heir of the dying King Robert.
At the outbreak of the War of the Five Kings, Dragonstone becomes the seat of King Stannis Baratheon. Unfortunately for Stannis, at the outset, he is only supported by the lords of the few islands in Blackwater Bay that were already sworn to him. To curry support for his weak position, Stannis converts to the religion of the Lord of Light, influenced by the Red Priestess Melisandre. At a gathering of Stannis and his supporters on the beach, Melisandre burns the wooden statues of The Seven from Dragonstone's sept as an offering to the Lord of Light.
Dragonstone is said to be definitively deserted by the time of Stannis's death.
Whilst discussing their enemies in the Red Keep's new map room, Cersei Lannister asks her brother Jaime where he thinks Daenerys will head first to launch her invasion. Jaime predicts she will land at Dragonstone; it is strategically located with harbors for her ships, Stannis had left it vacant, and it was where Daenerys was born. Jaime's prediction proves correct, as Daenerys returns to Dragonstone around the same time. She spends a few minutes exploring the castle's entryways, tearing down at least one banner with Stannis's heraldry, before reaching the throne room. Declining to seat herself immediately, she proceeds into the Chamber of the Painted Table and declares "Shall we begin?"
Later, Daenerys chairs a meeting with her advisers Tyrion Lannister, Missandei, and Varys during a thunderstorm. She forgives Varys for plotting against her in the past and gets him to reaffirm his allegiance. Daenerys and her entourage are later greeted by Melisandre, who tells Dany about the prophecy of The Prince That Was Promised. When Melisandre mentions Jon Snow the King in the North, Tyrion convinces Dany that he will make a good ally. Dany accepts on the condition that Jon bends the knee like his Stark forebears. Tyrion sends a missive to Jon Snow.
Dany later chairs another meeting in the Chamber of the Painted Table with Yara Greyjoy, Ellaria Sand, and Lady Olenna Tyrell. Following a heated discussion, Tyrion convinces Daenerys to send Ellaria and the Sand Snakes on Yara's fleet to Dorne to rally the Dornishmen for a siege of King's Landing. Tyrion's plan is to use a combination of Dornish and House Tyrell forces to lay siege to King's Landing to combat the image that Daenerys is a foreign invader. He also successfully proposes sending Grey Worm and the Unsullied to seize the Lannister seat of Casterly Rock. Olenna reluctantly agrees to commit her forces but admits privately that she is motivated by hatred and a desire for vengeance against the Lannisters. Before Grey Worm departs for Casterly Rock, he and Missandei express their love for each other and have sex.
It is possible that after Daenerys and her army march north to fight the army of the dead, the castle is either once again abandoned as it was after Stannis left, or it is manned by a smaller retinue of Stark/Targaryen forces responsible for mining the remaining dragonglass for the war effort against the white walkers.
The Targaryen forces head back to Dragonstone, but their fleet is ambushed by the Iron Fleet armed with Scorpions. As a result, Rhaegal is killed and much of the Targaryen fleet wiped out. After Missandei's execution, Daenerys and Jon return to Dragonstone, where a force of Unsullied remains stationed during the siege of King's Landing. They leave to attack the city after Daenerys decides on her course of action.
With the position of the "Crown Prince of the Seven Kingdoms" having essentially been made obsolete following the dissolution of the hereditary monarchy, the Lordship of Dragonstone is currently unknown.
Behind the scenes
Dragonstone was introduced in Season 2 when Stannis Baratheon debuted in the story, but many specific interiors and exterior sets for it were only introduced when Daenerys Targaryen arrived there in Season 7. Season 2 introduced the Chamber of the Painted Table, used as the main war council room, but the large throne room set was only introduced in Season 7; also the exterior shots were greatly expanded from prior seasons.
Starting in Season 7, the interiors and carved gates were built on sound stages, but other exterior shots are filming locations in Spain. The place where Daenerys lands on the coast is Zumaia Beach. After ascending a vertical set of stairs up the cliff, the much lower and longer set of stairs from the gates to the castle is actually an entirely real location at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in Spain. The map room was also slightly expanded in Season 7 (so more camera could fit around it to film the larger number of major characters in it). As for the stratified rock formation design with the volcanic island's carved chambers, designed by Deborah Riley, director Jeremy Podeswa said:
- "It's a very new look for the show, I think. It has a fascist architecture feel to it, in a way, but it also integrates elements of the actual location in terms of the striated rocks you see on the beach, which is married into the interiors in a beautiful way."
Riley's designs for the interior of Dragonstone also took inspiration from Louis Kahn's Salk Institute and the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, while the tiles on the floor of the throne room were influenced by the look of the Giant's Causeway. 
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Dragonstone is a volcanic island located a couple of hundred miles north-east of King's Landing. The island has a small port and a large castle on it, built by the Targaryens some 500 years ago when they settled Dragonstone as a trading outpost of the great Valyrian Freehold. When Valyria was destroyed in the cataclysm known as the Doom a century later, Dragonstone was the largest Valyrian stronghold to survive intact. The Targaryens refused to help the colony-states along the west coast of Essos maintain Valyrian rule. They would later become the Free Cities.
The Targaryens instead waited another century, building up their strength, then invaded and subdued Westeros three hundred years ago. They built a new capital at King's Landing, while Dragonstone became the primary holding of the King's heir (who was also named "Prince of Dragonstone"). After the deposing of King Aerys II Targaryen, Robert Baratheon appointed his brother Stannis as Lord of Dragonstone until his own son, Joffrey, became old enough for the office. This has caused a rift between the brothers, as Stannis feels that he should rightfully be commanding the ancestral Baratheon castle of Storm's End instead of their youngest brother, Lord Renly Baratheon. However, the lords of Blackwater Bay sworn to Dragonstone had been staunch Targaryen loyalists, and Robert felt Stannis was more suited to keeping them in line.
Dragonstone is the home port of part of the Royal Fleet. In addition, Dragonstone commands the loyalty of a number of smaller houses located on surrounding islands in the Narrow Sea and on nearby parts of the coastal mainland. Dragonstone is a cold, drafty, and harsh place. Lord Stannis and his family usually prefer to spend as much time as possible at court away from the island but have recently returned to Dragonstone to attend to business there just before the start of the series.
Dragonstone is one of the strongest castles in all of the Seven Kingdoms, due to its advanced Valyrian design, using strong stonemasonry techniques now lost to the world. Its isolated island location greatly enhances its already formidable defensive prowess: a vast fleet of ships would be required simply to transport troops and large siege weapons to its location, and even then they would be forced to make a risky amphibious landing while under fire from the castle's own catapults. The castle itself is not on the sheer scale of the greatest castles of the realm such as Storm's End or the Red Keep, but both of those castles can be assaulted by land armies. The entire point of building so strong a fortress on such an isolated island was to make the perfect refuge and redoubt for greater noble Houses from elsewhere: the indigenous "lands" of Dragonstone are just a few fishing villages and could never have supported the construction of such a powerful castle on their own.
Before Stannis sails to the Wall, he appoints Ser Rolland Storm as the castellan of Dragonstone. Stannis takes most of his troops, leaving a small garrison (it is not specified of how many soldiers) at Dragonstone.
In the fourth novel, Cersei orders Paxter Redwyne to transport 2,000 soldiers to conquer Dragonstone, which Stannis has left poorly garrisoned. He intends to take the castle bloodlessly by either starving the defenders out or creating a breach in the walls through mining and forcing the defenders to surrender. However, when the ironborn start attacking settlements on the coastline of the Reach following Euron Greyjoy's coronation as King of the Iron Island, Loras Tyrell urges Cersei to send the Redwyne fleet back to the Reach, as it is the only naval force capable of fighting the Iron Fleet. Cersei, unconcerned about attacks on lands controlled by the Tyrells and dismissive of the threat posed by the ironborn, insists that she will only allow the Redwyne fleet back to the Reach when Dragonstone is back in royal hands. Loras estimates it will take at least half a year to starve Dragonstone into submission and asks Cersei for the command, promising to take the castle within two weeks. Cersei agrees delightedly: knowing how rash Loras is, she expects him to get killed. Pycelle objects for the very same reason, but his protests fall on deaf ears.
Dragonstone is taken, but at great cost, due to Loras's rashness: about one thousand Lannister soldiers are needlessly killed, most of them loyal to Tommen, and the best and bravest knights and young lords. Loras, the first to invade the castle, is fatally injured by arrows, mace, and boiling oil. By the point the books reached, he is still lying near death. In the aftermath of the victory, Loras's men search the island but Mace reports to the Small Council they found no treasure, nor any sign of the fabled caches of dragon eggs said to be kept there. Kevan personally doesn't believe they looked very hard, but rather than start an argument between his allies and Mace's on the Small Council, concludes that if there was anything of value at Dragonstone, Stannis likely took it with him when he left the island to go north.
The fall of Dragonstone removes the last direct threat to King's Landing and causes severe damage to Stannis's cause, but it is doubtful whether he is aware of that, at his current position.
The TV series has somewhat altered the design of Dragonstone. In the books, the entire castle is built of fused Valyrian stone, shaped to look like an entire nest of dragons perched on the cliffs, and decorated within with draconic imagery. The Great hall is shaped like a dragon lying on its belly, the kitchens like a curled up dragon, and many of its towers like dragons gazing over the sea or screaming at invaders. The TV-Dragonstone incorporates few of these sweeping architectural features, although it does follow the books in that there are carved dragon images literally everywhere in the castle.
- HBO viewers guide, season 2 map, Dragonstone entry
- Histories & Lore: "Dragonstone"
- "You Win or You Die"
- "The North Remembers"
- "The Night Lands"
- "Valar Morghulis"
- "The Last of the Starks"
- "The Bells"