The ruined town of Hardhome is northeast of Castle Black, at the end of Storrold’s point, north of the Wall, but alarmingly close.
At the end of episode 8 we leave Jon Snow and Tormund Giantsbane on a boat looking at the army of the dead. So where did they come from? And how far is the army of the dead from the Wall?
The Wall is 300 miles long – one of the few things we have a true scale for in Game of Thrones. That places Castle Black around 120 miles from Eastwatch-By-The-Sea. Hardhome is around 300 miles (as the crow walks) from Castle Black, but only 150 miles from Eastwatch. Assuming the dead walk slower than the living (2 miles an hour rather than 3), but need no sleep – the army of the dead could reach Eastwatch in just over three days. However I’m going to guess that’s not what the immediate future holds.
The other note is that Hardhome isn’t on the way to anywhere. The free folk clearly retreated there for defense, but it’s a dead end. They had nowhere to retreat to from there. They have no boats. So they knew what they were running from, and they must have been desperate to retreat to Hardhome. Jon was their only hope when he arrived with the ships. And the army of the white walkers didn’t arrive by accident – they were in pursuit. The wights are building an army too.
Anyway you cut it, the army of the dead and their White Walker commanders are alarmingly close at Hardhome, and their army is growing.
This map comes from the Lands of Ice and Fire, 12 poster maps that I illustrated for Game of Thrones. North of the Wall was one of the first to be completed. One small inconsistency between this and the original maps in the books is that the forest reaches out along Storrold’s Point all the way to Hardhome. This was changed to be consistent with the army of the dead pouring out of the Haunted Forest to assault Hardhome – slightly different to the last episode in the HBO series.