Skyrim Skeleton Key: How to Get the Unbreakable Lockpick

Wondering where the skeleton key is in Skyrim? This guide tells you how to get the unbreakable lockpick so you never have to buy lockpicks again!

Lockpicking is one of the most useful skills in Skyrim. Unfortunately, lockpicks are not very durable. Except for the Skeleton Key. Finding this unbreakable lockpick will keep you from constantly spending gold on new lockpicks. But where do you find it?

While you could level up your Lockpicking skill to the max level of 100 and spend at six perks in that skill tree to make all your lockpicks unbreakable, that takes a long time. It is much easier to find the Skeleton Key early on and use it to unlock chests and doors hiding crafting materials, weapons, armor, and more.

This guide for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will tell you how to get the unbreakable lockpick, also known as the Skeleton Key.

How to Get the Unbreakable Lockpick in Skyrim

Speak to Brynjolf

Brynjolf and Irkngthand locations on the Skyrim map.

First, you must speak to Brynjolf, a member of the Thieves Guild, at the Riften Marketplace in the Rift, indicated by the red marker on the map above.

Brynjolf will approach you as soon as you enter the market. He will ask you to complete the quest, A Chance Arrangement. To begin your quest to the Skeleton Key, agree to the chain of quests in the Thieves Guild main questline, including:

  • A Chance Arrangement
  • Taking Care of Business
  • Loud and Clear
  • Dampened Spirits
  • Scoundrel's Folly
  • Speaking With Silence
  • Hard Answers
  • The Pursuit
  • Trinity Restored
  • Blindsighted
  • Darkness Returns
  • Under New Management

It will take some time to get the Skeleton Key, which becomes available during the Blindsighted quest, so stay patient!.

Travel to Irkngthand

Irkngthand is an ancient Dwemer ruin located west of Windhelm, indicated by the yellow marker on the map above.

Once you arrive in Irkngthand, follow these steps:

  1. Make your way up to the ruins, and defeat a group of bandits
  2. Once inside, loot the chests, and go upstairs
  3. Turn right and reach the hall with the Dwarven Sphere
  4. Use sneaking to get past it, or use a bow to eliminate it
  5. Turn left, and jump over the fence
  6. When you reach Flame Towers, sneak past them
  7. Once you reach the gate, go upstairs to the main entrance
  8. Fight the Dwarven Spider
  9. Pull the lever next to the main gate

Find Mercer Frey

A new area should be unlocked where you can speak to Karliah. Do so, and follow her and Brynjolf, avoiding traps to ultimately find Mercer Frey, the traitor thief who owns the Skeleton Key.

  1. Follow the stairs down into the hall
  2. Pull both levers on the opposite sides of the gate as quickly as possible
  3. Go upstairs at the dilapidated tower
  4. Once you reach Dwarven Centurion, fight or sneak around it
  5. After, move on to the area with the Frostbite Spiders
  6. Fight another Dwarven Spider down the stairs
  7. Once inside the cave, either fight or sneak past Chaurus and Falmer
  8. At the end, enter the gate leading the Irkngthand Sanctuary

Defeat Mercer Frey

Inside the sanctuary, you will meet Mercer Frey again, who will use spells against your companions, making them fight each other.

From this point, ignore your followers, and rely only on your own skills to defeat Mercer Frey:

  • Use Detect Life or the Aura Whisper dragon shout to detect Mercer Frey, who uses Invisibility
  • The best sword against Frey is Windshear, obtained from the "Hail Sithis!" quest given by the Night Mother of the Dark Brotherhood
  • If you play as a Mage, summon Atronachs, who can see Mercer Frey through his Invisibility
  • If you play as an archer, use Power Shot to deal the most damage to him
  • The most effective dragon shout against Frey is Unrelenting Force, obtained from "The Horn of Jurgen Windcaller" quest given by Arngier at the High Hrothgar monastery on Tamriel

Once Mercer Frey is defeated, loot his body for the Skeleton Key and other items.

Escape Irkngthand

At this point, the cave will start flooding, Here's how to escape:

  1. Wait for the water to reach the top of the statue
  2. The rock above the statue will fall off
  3. You should see a new opening above it
  4. Go through the new opening

At the end, you should end up inside the Bronze Water Cave

Keep the Skeleton Key

At the very end of the mission, Karliah will tell you to return the Skeleton Key to the Twilight Sepulcher. You can follow through with this if you want to complete the Thieves Guild questline, or you could keep the unbreakable lockpick ignore the rest of the missions in the questline.

It is recommended to keep the Skeleton Key, so you will now have an unbreakable lockpick and never have to buy lockpicks again, but that, of course, is up to you!

Related guides

That's everything you need to know on how to get the skeleton key unbreakable lockpick in Skyrim. For more Skyrim tips and tricks articles, please visit our dedicated hub page.


Sergey has been a freelancer in the video games industry for more than five years, writing for various publications around the world. His favorite games are MtG, Dark Souls, Diablo, and Divinity: Original Sin.

Published Oct. 27th 2021

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