George R.R. Martin created A Song of Ice and Fire with the idea it would be unfilmable. A number of locations and continent hopping in the series is a testament to that. Westeros itself is a diverse landscape, that houses dozens of micro climates, from the snowy North down to the sandy shores of Dorne. With so much going on all over the place this season, let's run down the Seven Kingdoms in Game Of Thrones.
While for some fans it's just easier to let it go than to ask "where exactly is xxx in Westeros," for others, the opening map of major locations is a point to be obsessed upon. But even with the opening credits swinging around from city to city, it can be hard to remember where exactly everything is located. The Wall is North, of course, and Essos is across the Narrow Sea.
But where is the Eyrie as opposed to the Twins as opposed to Highgarden? With this season's major plot point hinging on the race between Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen to conquer the Seven Kingdoms, this is probably the best time to refresh our memory of what exactly they're fighting for, and more importantly, where it all is.
The Seven Kingdoms
"The Seven Kingdoms" is a misnomer. It's only called that because the day that Aegon landed, that was how it was currently divided. (See above.) There are nine kingdoms in Westeros. Clockwise they are The North, The Vale, The Crownlands, The Stormlands, Dorne, The Reach, The Westerlands, The Riverlands and The Iron Islands.
The North is the largest continental segment of Westeros. As Dany noted when she met Jon Snow, when the Targaryens landed, it was ruled by Torrhen Stark, who was actually not "King in the North" but "The King of Winter."
It has been ruled by House Stark dating all the way back to the Age of Heroes and the Long Night, 8,000 years before Aegon's Conquest, with a lineage that extends all the way back to the Dawn Age and the First Men. They were one of the first to bend the knee to Targaryen rule.
Known as "The Vale of Arryn," it was part of a larger holding know as "The Mountain and Vale" prior to conquest. It was where the Andals began their invasion of Westeros back 6,000 years prior to Aegon's Conquest. Consequently, the Arryn family is one of the oldest Andal lineages in Westeros.
When Aegon came, House Arryn bent the knee along with House Stark and were granted The Vale area.
The Crownlands was an area under dispute between the Stormlands and the Riverlands when Aegon arrived. Subsequently, it became the first area to fall to the Targaryens. Since then, they've considered this peninsula area that surrounds Dragonstone their own and built King's Landing at the mouth of Blackwater Bay across from Dragonstone.
Look how close Dany to King's Landing. She and Cersei are barely a boat ride apart. How easily she could have conquered if she'd flown in on her dragons that first day back.
The Stormlands lie directly to the south of the Crownlands. Ruled for centuries by House Durrandon, their kingdom at one time extended to the roots of the Vale mountains, far into the central area now claimed by The Reach, and down south into the Dornish marshes.
Misrule had shrunk their kingdom down the area it covers today when Aegon arrived. When Argilac the Arrogant refused to bend the knee and was defeated, his daughter was married to House Baratheon.
Due east, the Riverlands covers central Westeros. Most of the early GoT seasons outside King's Landing takes place in the Riverlands. (Riverrun, The Twins, Harrenhal and even the Bloody Gate are clustered quite close together.)
It's an area that's been conquered several times, first by the First Men, who drove out the Children, then by Andals of the Vale, then by Storm Kings, then by House Hoare of the Iron Islands, who named themselves the King of Isle and Rivers, and built Harrenhal -- which was famously finished the day Aegon landed.
The Hoares refused to bend the knee, and Harrenhal was burned out by dragonfire. House Tully, who supported Aegon as a way to drive out the Iron Islanders, were named Wardens of the Riverlands.
The Iron Islands
The Iron Islands are an outlier, with their Drowned God and Kingsmoot elections. Settled by seafaring First Men in the Dawn Age, they were ruled for years by the Greyirons, who were overthrown by the Hoares.
After the Targaryens destroyed House Hoare, Aegon allowed the Ironborn to hold a Kingsmoot, won by the Greyjoys. The Greyjoys stayed neutral through the Targaryen empire and Robert's Rebellion, only for Balon to muck it all up, thinking Robert a weak king. Though he re-bent the knee when Stannis put down his rebellion, the punishment was for Theon to go live in Winterfell as ward and hostage.
Known as the Kingdom of the Rock before the Targaryen came, The Westerlands were ruled by House Lannister since the Age of Heroes, when they tricked House Gardener of The Reach into giving it to them. When the Andals invaded, they teamed up rather than fight, in order to keep their lands.
When the Targaryens came, they tried to stand with The Reach against the invaders, until losing the battle known as "the Field of Fire." They quickly bent the knee and got to keep their holdings as Wardens of the West.
The Reach is the second largest kingdom after The North. The temperate climates make it the fertile crescent of the Seven Kingdoms. Their line goes back to the Dawn Age, ruled by House Gardener. Fearsome fighters, they warred with the Dornish, and took half of the Stormlands for their own before Aegon's Conquest.
House Gardner were the leaders of the rebellion against the Targaryen invasion. All were killed at the Field of Fire. The Tyrells were the Gardener's stewards who surrender the Reach, only to be named Wardens of it.
Believe it or not, Dorne is the most fascinating of the Seven Kingdoms. Originally loose confederation of nation states, this land was conquered by enemies of Valyria, the Rhoynar. Not by war, but by mass migration, followed by intermarriage into the powerful Martell clan. They brought their progressive attitudes towards women, sex and bastards over from Essos to this kingdom, as well as the styling themselves "Prince" instead of "King."
It's also why they refused to bend the knee to the Valyrian Targaryens. Unlike the other kingdoms, they defeated Aegon when he attempted to take it.
The Targaryens had to conquer Dorne the way the Rhoynish had: intermarriage. It forced the Targaryens to semi-give-up their practice of incest, plus the Dornish got to keep their "Prince/Princess" titles. But it also tied them tighter to the Targaryens than any other kingdoms, leaving them on the wrong side during Robert's Rebellion, and at odds with the rest of the continent ever since.