The release date of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was a life-changing day for many of us. It was the day we were given almost everything we wanted in an RPG, and more that we didn’t know we needed. Versatile combat, impactful decision-making, charming voice lines, stunning graphics (with the right mods), and most importantly, dragon battles; all of these mesh seamlessly to create a truly iconic video game. The only things Skyrim didn’t quite hit the mark on were the UI (again, easily fixed with a quick mod) and AI (“must’ve been my imagination”).
A true testament to the game’s revolutionary design is that the game remains relevant to this day (and not just because Bethesda keeps re-releasing it). Players who started playing back in 2011 are still finding new and previously undiscovered quests, NPCs, and locations, both in the vanilla game and the expansions (Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn). Even little, seemingly ordinary scenes like a tent or a stray helmet often have a dark story behind them. Remember, almost every detail of this world was manually added, so it comes as little surprise that each addition has a reason behind it. If you’re a seasoned player, you may have found your fair share of secret and unmarked locations, but this list will prove that the realm just might be much bigger than you think.
30. I Can See Morrowind From Here
With an open world filled to the brim, it’s hard to imagine any player would need to get to the edge of the map. Doing so will cause you to run into an invisible wall and see an error message. Beyond this digitized wall is usually generic terrain, a less-than-detailed forest of wilderness scene. However, there is one location that yields a more nostalgic view.
In the hold of Eastmarch, east of Windhelm, there is an abandoned watchtower known as Refugee’s Rest. This is part of a location known as Dunmeth Pass. While you can’t go past the wall here either, in the view beyond you can catch a glimpse of Morrowind, the province of Tamriel from the third Elder Scrolls game. A book near the watchtower called “Decree of Monument” explains the purpose of this pass and the tower itself.
29. The Haunted Inn
Directly South of Soljund’s Sinkhole is a place called Old Hroldan Inn. If you check the area on the map, you’ll see a point where two rivers meet; the inn is just to the right of this. It is best-known for one of its previous guests, Emperor Tiber Septim himself, who stayed at the inn after a victorious battle. But this was back in the days before he was a ruler, and actually known as Hjalti Early-Beard. You have the option to sleep in this very bed, and spending the night will prompt a ghost to appear and mistake you for the bed’s original owner. This triggers a fun little quest to reclaim Hjalti’s sword.
28. A Little Help Would Be Nice
West of the Hall of the Vigilant and South of the Dwemer ruins of Mzinchaleft, there is a dungeon called Frostmere Crypt. Upon first arriving, you’ll see bandits attacking a member of their own group, a girl named Eisa Blackthorn. You can either help her or sit and watch. If she survives, she’ll explain that there is a sword within the crypt that, obviously, she wants you to go retrieve. While undertaking this daunting task, you’ll learn of the Pale Lady, a mysterious figure that haunts dreams and was responsible for driving this bandits mad.
27. Just Didn’t Dig Deep Enough
Here’s a spot with a bit of a sad backstory. You’ll find this place, the Lost Prospect Mine, a short way east of Riften. When you get there, you’ll find the journal of someone called Hadrir inside. This will reveal the backstory behind the mine: Hadrir’s old friend Bern bought this mine for an unbelievably low cost, and invited his friend to join him in reaping its ore. But after three weeks of mining, they found nothing, and began to realize why the mine was so cheap to buy.
One day, Hadrir left to get supplies in Riften, and returned to find Bern had disappeared. According to the journal, he assumed his friend had abandoned the mine, ashamed of his failure. But, go deeper into the mine and you’ll come across a waterfall hiding a secret passage. The easy way is to use the Whirlwind Sprint shout, but another option is to simply jump from the edge while hugging the wall. On the other side you’ll find a skeleton holding a pickaxe, crushed by fallen rocks. Nearby are three gold ore veins.
26. Sleeping With The Dead
There is a secluded cave just south of Dawnstart called Yngvild. The strangest aspect about this dungeon is that all the draugr and ghosts you’ll encounter are female. Eventually, you’ll meet a necromancer called Arondil, who has apparently mastered the art of reanimating corpses to become his minions. The reason they’re all female is that many of them were kidnapped young women from Dawnstar, whom Arondil reanimated and had “relations” with.
While killing him might be the first thing on your mind, another option is to get one of his minions to turn against him. To do so, you’ll have to sneak past him and steal the Greater Soul Gem on an adjacent platform. This will cause the ghost in the room to attack Arondil, and you can join in if you so wish.
25. It’s More A Location In Your Mind
Some books in Skyrim help you level up a skill. Some trigger quests, and some are just interesting bits of lore. But there’s also a book, by the name of Kolb and the Dragon, that is actually a choose-your-own-adventure novel. You can find it in several locations, including the Arcanaeum in the College of Winterhold, a shelf on the second floor of Dragonsreach, or even in Jorrvaskr.
Just like you would with any book of this genre, you choose your path, flip to the right page, and try to get a good ending. Sure, it’s not a physical place, but with the right level of imagination, it can get pretty close.
24. An Icy Prison
It’s likely that when you’re sentenced to prison, you reload to a previous save because who has time to plan an escape (or was I the only one that did that?). Coupled with the more detached location of Winterhold, it’s unlikely you were ever sent to jail in that hold, and therefore never learned about The Chill. This is an unmarked cave just north of the College of Winterhold. Inside are three cages with adept-level locks, guarded by Frost Atronachs. The easiest way to reach this icy cell is actually to be sent there as a prisoner, since getting there adventurer-style is quite difficult, given its location all the way in the northeast corner of the map.
23. Skyrim Horror Story: Coven
While there aren’t any quests that lead to this cave, there are several quests you can complete within it. Southeast of Helgen (remember that town where the game’s main antagonist saves your life?) is a cave called Southfringe Sanctum. This is home to a warlord named Bashnag and his coven of witches.
After killing your way through the cavern, you’ll encounter a witch trapped in a spider web, asking for you help in escaping the cave. With the enemies already dead by the time you get to her, it should be an easy one.
22. Much Higher Than High Hrothgar
One of the secretive yet iconic landmarks included in the latest expansion, Dragonborn, are the mountain peaks of Solstheim, the island on which the DLC takes place. The peaks are hardly visible unless the time of day and weather is favorable. Getting to the top of each is possible but insanely difficult on account of that fact that they aren’t shown on the map until you actually climb high enough. Unlike High Hrothgar, there isn’t exactly a convenient path to follow; it’ll take some serious, horse-physics level maneuvering each the areas.
However, reaching each peak enables fast travel to the spot, so you can return to admire the view whenever you’d like. Outlining a guide to get to each of the four peaks in words would be quite detailed and difficult to follow. Instead, check out this walkthrough.
21. Follow The Headless Horseman
Along the roads of Skyrim, some have been unlucky enough to encounter The Headless Horseman, a spectral rider (without a head) who haunts travelers at night, specifically between the hours of 10pm and 4am. It is impossible to fight this NPC, as he will neither attack you, nor can he be attacked by you. Following him around (which you’ll likely have a natural urge to do anyway) will eventually lead you to his home at Hamvir’s Rest.
At this Nordic ruin, you’ll also find three skeletons, a draugr, and a master-level chest. If you don’t want to wait for him to show up in order to follow him (we don’t blame you), you can visit Hamvir’s Rest on your own. Follow the path eastward out of Whiterun, past the Western Watchtower (the first dragon battle location) until you reach the fork. Turn northward here and eventually you’ll reach the Rest.
20. Not A True Hunter
Southwest of the Rift, atop a mountain, is a small home marked as Froki’s Shack. Inside lives Froki along with his grandson, and an insight into their way of life can be found higher up the mountain in the form a Shrine of Talos. A humble dwelling, to be sure, but the start of an epic quest known as Kyne’s Scared Trials. At first, the man will doubt your skills as a hunter, and send you to kill all manner of beasts across the realm. Accept and complete his challenges, and you’ll be rewarded with his bow and token, each providing respectable enchantments.
19. Rings Of Power
The Midden is a dungeon beneath the College of Winterhold that most players will likely have traversed. But, there is a more secret chamber in The Midden Dark, a deeper area within this dark cavern. With a bit of exploring, you’ll come across a circular room with a gauntlet set on a pedestal in the center. On a nearby table you’ll find a parchment labelled the “Midden Incident Report” and an Investigator’s Key. It details how a group of students were killed during a summoning ritual. It mentions that four rings were removed from the artifact and are now stored in the Arcanaeum, warning the reader not to put them back on the gauntlet. Naturally, you’ll want to go get the rings and put them on the gauntlet. What happens next? You’ll have to play through the quest to find out, but involves summoning a demon.
18. A Warrior, A Wizard, And A Dragonborn Walk Into A Dungeon
While it may seem like just an ordinary, average-difficulty dungeon, the more interesting feature of Ironbind Barrow is what you find before going in. If you survive the higher level monsters along the mountainous climb (located on the cliff face just southwest of Winterhold, NNW of the nearby river that empties into a small lake), you’ll come across a campsite. Here, you’ll find two adventurers, a warrior named Salma and a wizard named Beem-Ja, who are arguing about whether to brave the dungeon. Salma is eager to explore while Beem-Ja wants to be more cautious. When you arrive, they’ll be galvanized, and the timid wizard will agree to go in. Whether or not they survive is up to you.
17. Out Of The Frying Pan…
Once you’ve completed Ironbind Barrow, you’ll exit to Ironbind Overlook. Turning east and following the path up the mountain will eventually lead you to a Dwemer Shrine. Two unlocked jewelry boxes sit behind an enchanted warhammer, leveled just for you. The only things guarding this shrine are two ice wraiths, which, if you aren’t drained from the dungeon, should be easy to dispose of. It’ll be even easier if your wizard and warrior friends, Salma and Beem-Ja, survived along with you.
Past the shrine, there is a tall pillar, which provides a decent view and has some helpful potions on top. To get up there, you’ll need to use the Whirlwind Sprint shout. There’s also a quicksilver deposit nearby, should mining be one of your preferred skills.
16. Just Some Hunters Taking A Bath
Now back to the less depressing unmarked locations. A little ways Northwest of Darkwater Crossing, there’s a hot springs where some hunters have set up camp. When you arrive, three of them will be bathing in the water. They’re not initially hostile, but will attack if you take anything from the camp. They may also interact if you drop an item. If you remove your clothes and get in the springs yourself, one of the hunters will tell you to put some clothes on despite the fact that they’re half-naked as well. Besides that, there aren’t any dialogue options with them, and as far as we know they’re in a perpetual state of bathing regardless of when you visit them.
15. At Least You’ll Know How To Keep Warm
It may or may not come as a surprise that Skyrim has a Star Wars reference hidden within its vast open world. It’s located southeast of Winterhold, along the coast and north of Snow Veil Sanctum. The interior is littered with skeletons and loot, but the most interesting aspect is actually on the ceiling. Dangling upside down near the back of the cave is a skeleton alluding to Luke Skywalker. Below it is a glowing sword, a not-so-subtle reference to a lightsaber.
14. A Honeymoon Gone Terribly Wrong
In the wilds near Dawnstar, there’s a seemingly ordinary abandoned tent. Inside, you’ll find sleeping mats, empty wine bottles, scattered flowers, and an Amulet of Mara (the goddess of love). Doesn’t take a skilled detective to figure out what was about to go down. However, the lovers apparently decided to leave their camp. If you follow the coastline, you’ll find that they’re nothing but skeletons now, cause of death unknown. Perhaps they decided to take a walk, perhaps they were attacked and had to run. There aren’t any other clues to paint a clearer picture, unfortunately. All we know is that they had romantic plans that tragically never came to fruition.
13. The Lover That Never Came
Speaking of tragic love stories, here’s another: On a small island west of Winterhold, southwest of Ysgramor’s Tomb, you’ll find Trius’ camp. It’s assumed Trius himself died waiting for his lover, Shelly. There’s a note left behind at the camp that will explain everything:
“Your ship should have arrived weeks ago and I fear the worst has happened. I’ve set up camp on this rock as your ship should pass by here and hopefully one of these days we’ll be together again. If you’re reading this I’m probably out hunting or bringing in some supplies. I’ll be waiting here until I see your face again.”
12. Deep Sea Diving
Taking a dip into the icy waters of the north seems like the last thing you’d want to do. But should you decide to do so, with the help of a Waterbreathing enchantment, you’ll find a ship graveyard known as Pilgrim’s Trench. Within the wreckage, there are several chests containing levelled loot and other random items. It is believed that here you’ll find the ship that Shelly was travelling on, the ship that never reached its destination.
11. Catch Them In The Act
This one will take a bit of exploration and timing. Go to the hills southeast of Hjaalmarch Stormcloak Camp, where you’ll find a trap door in the form of a grate. It’ll be on a platform, accessible by a small set of stairs, so it’s hard to miss. Inside the tunnel is a sealed sarcophagus. If you arrive between 8pm and 5am, there will be two bandits attempting to rob the tomb. Killing them will allow you to loot the tomb itself, earning you a necklace, and enchanted weapon, and a shield. You can also level up your Block skill with A Dance in Fire, Volume 2, a book you can loot from one of the bandits.
Another way to more easily find the grave is to go to Kjenstag Ruins, southwest of Hjaalmarch Stormcloak Camp. If you go there at night, a ghost will appear and run away from the ruins. Eventually, it’ll lead you right to the trapdoor.
10. Pretty Dark For A Lighthouse
Somehow, there seems to be a shortage of unmarked locations that don’t have a tragic backstory. If you’re still in the mood for dark lore, head over to Frostflow Lighthouse, sitting atop a row of hills west of Winterhold. Inside is a truly gruesome scene, with bloody corpses and a dead Chaurus.
Reading through the diaries will reveal the details: a Redguard couple, Ramati and Habd, moved to Skyrim with their kids Sudi and Mani, and purchased this lighthouse as their home. However, they fell prey to a Chaurus infestation, killing them each one by one. However, Ramati, the wife, has a Falmer War Axe sticking out of her chest, a weapon typically made from the Chaurus exoskeleton. The diaries and triggered side quest will reveal the rest of the backstory.
9. The Giants’ Best-Kept Secret
The only way to get to this location, besides fast travel, is to go through Fallowstone Cave, which is northeast of Riften. And the only way to actually see the path is through a quest called The Cursed Tribe. You can start this quest by speaking to Atub in the orcish stronghold of Largashbur.
Eventually, you’ll follow an NPC called Chief Yamarz into Fallowstone Cave, through which he’ll lead you to a small outdoor area. Here in Giant’s Grove, you’ll find one giant and a Shrine of Malacath. After spending so much time in a dungeon, it’s nice to find respite in a quaint little oasis. The secretive location makes the grove all the more special.
8. The Living Embodiment Of Overkill
If you’re in the mood for another mountain trek, climb up the one south of Broken Oar Grotto. Way up near the peak, you’ll find a corpse, or rather, a pincushion of weapons. They’ll be pierced by an iron dagger, a leveled battle-axe, a leveled sword, and a leveled mace (all of these can be looted, by the way). You can put your detective skills to the test and try to figure out why he met an even more gruesome version of Jon Snow’s death.
Also in the area is a skill book for, ironically, Light Armor, as well as a Staff of Fireballs. There’s also a knapsack by a nearby tree. Sure, it’s not the most exciting spot, but a quirky little find in a wildly vast open world.
7. A Different Plane Of Existence
If completing the Daedric questlines is one of your proud achievements, then this one may be familiar to you. The area is literally inside a soul gem, a magical artifact often used for enchantment magic, and only accessible through a quest.
First, speak to Aranea Ienith at the massive Shrine of Azura south of Winterhold. One part of the quest will require a bit of speechcraft, so be prepared for that. Follow the quest further and you’ll learn about Malyn Varen, a man who attempted to perfect immortality through the Daedric artifact, Azura’s Star. The end of quest involves going into this artifact to battle the soul of Maryn Valen which is trapped inside. It’s a beautifully designed environment with a truly amazing fight. Upon success, you’ll get to keep Azura’s Star, which is actually a soul gem with no limit to how many souls you can collect.
6. If You Survive The Fall…
Southeast of Mzulft and north of Riften, there is another Dwemer dungeon called Kagrenzel. The first room upon entering is somewhat small and doesn’t have any other corridors leading deeper. The most noteworthy aspect is a glowing orb at the center of the room, with two dead bandits on the ground nearby.
Naturally, you may be drawn to the orb. Your curiosity will be rewarded (or punished?) when you activate the orb, causing a cage to close in around you. The orb itself will blare like an alarm for a little while until finally the ground below you opens up into an abyss. Stay away from the walls to avoid taking damage, and you’ll safely land in a lake, Gandalf vs. the Balrog-style. From here, you can traverse the beautifully designed caverns and make your way back to the surface.
5. An Epic Battle
Time to climb a mountain, again. Luckily there are two paths you can take: one is east of Autumnwatch Tower and the other is south of Haemar’s Shame (a cave, not the physical embodiment of a troubled emotional state). Take either of these winding paths up to Arcwind Point, a vast temple on a snowy peak. This deserved mentioning earlier, but you should be a fairly high level before attempting this battle.
That being said, you’ll encounter elite draugr and possibly a dragon priest. While fighting them, don’t be surprised if a dragon happens to join the fray (if you’re above level 78, it’ll be a legendary dragon). The location, coupled with enemies, makes for a pretty epic fight.
4. What If Stonehenge Is Also A Puzzle
If you travel southeast of the Sleeping Tree Camp, you’ll find some Nordic ruins, large rocks sticking out of the ground. Closer inspection will reveal one of those classic rotating pillar puzzles, with the iconic snake, eagle, and whale. Examine the surrounding stones for hints on the correct order; once you solve it, activate the switch at the center of the ruin to open a nearby gate, leading to a spiral staircase. At the bottom is a skeleton lying next to a chest containing a leveled piece of armor and A Hypothetical Treachery, a book that increases the Destruction skill.
3. Your Own Personal Archery Trainer
South of Falkreath, atop the Jerall Mountains, there is a secluded cabin belonging to a Nord woman called Angi. You can follow the paths that lead south of Falkreath, but eventually the trail will end and you’ll have to continue unaided until you reach her cabin (watch out for bear traps).
You’ll learn that Angi is actually in hiding after she killed two Imperial soldiers who murdered her family. She’s a skilled archer who will teach you her craft for free through a side quest. Fight your way through her target practice competition, and you’ll be rewarded with her bow (a simple hunting bow).
2. A Really Big Mudcrab
Mudcrabs are known to be some of the more common enemies in Skyrim. Now, normally, they are of modest size about the size of a person. But there is a pond southeast of Gjukar’s Monument and west of Broken Fang Fang where you’ll find the fossilized remains of a massive mudcrab. It’s surrounded by several live normal mudcrabs, but if you want to fight the big one, there is a way.
Remember way back when we mentioned Froki’s Shack, and the related quest “Kyne’s Scared Trials”? Well, one of the beasts you’re asked to kill is the Guardian Mudcrab, which seems to be the spirit version of the fossilized mudcrab since it spawns in the same location.
1. Some Become Batman, Others Become Ghosts
Travel northeast of Pinepeak Cavern, cross the river, then walk up a winding path. What will you find? At first look, it’ll just be an abandoned well. Move closer and it’ll still be just a well. But, get close enough and you’ll be met with a wispmother, who’ll rise out of the depths along with three wisp minions. You can kill them in any way you see fit. Running is also an option, but the spooky encounter will only happen the first time you approach the well.
Also in the area is a basket behind a broken wall with a copy of The Warrior’s Charge which, ironically, levels up your Conjuration. The basket is resting atop a locked strongbox.
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