Old Hillsbrad Foothills is the setting of the instance Escape from Durnholde Keep. It is one of the timeways ("wings") accessible in the Caverns of Time. The setting takes place seven years before WoW's present (i.e. two years before the events of Warcraft III), to when the future Warchief was a slave of , master of Durnholde Keep. The questing involves helping Thrall escape. The instance area in question spans from Southshore (where familiar personalities of WoW present can be found) to Tarren Mill.
This instance, being the replica of a level 20 zone, is quite explorable alone. The actual areas where you encounter the fights and bosses of this instance are few and far between, leaving a wide-open zone full of things to explore. In fact it is encouraged that player come here alone to see all the cameos and find the interesting tidbits that lore fanatics crave, because while coming with a group for a run, they are not going to want to wait for player to explore so they can tackle content.
You enter the instance from a cave that replaces the Yeti Cave at Darrow Hill in the present-day Hillsbrad. Head south from there and you hit the road that goes east-west from Silverpine Forest to Arathi Highlands.
However, you cannot wander too far away from the zones included in the instance:
- Access west towards Hillsbrad Fields or Silverpine Forest is blocked by fog blanking the screen
- the gate of Thoradin's Wall to the Arathi Highlands is closed tight
- the southern coast that leads to Arathi is blocked to swimmers by that same fog
- the passage to the Alterac Mountains is closed shut by a wall
- the river that runs through the foothills is blocked at the entrance to Alterac by a troll-wall.
- the cavern leading to Ravenholdt has not yet been excavated.
- The valley to the Hinterlands is blocked by a rock slide.
- The instance is explorable as a solo adventurer. As the elites are grouped in Durnholde Keep and Tarren Mill, most of the open areas are populated by level 20ish non-elites, much like the present-day Hillsbrad Foothills.
- There are no herbs or ore veins to harvest here, and the waters cannot be fished. Also, there is no mailbox next to the inn.
- Despite the thick fog kicking in before you reach it, the actual Town of Hillsbrad is present within the instance. Oddly there is a new cave just north of Hillsbrad itself that seems to serve no purpose. The Tower at the entrance to the Hillsbrad region is also present and is not in disrepair. There is a wall blocking entrance or exit from the west of the Hillsbrad region and the path starts to go into the Silverpine region but then is cut off by instance limits.
- The instance even includes Dalaran though it is not accessible due to the fog that kicks in if one ventures too far. Dalaran during this period in lore is restored but in the game it is not. The vast arcane bubble is not present but what lands it does cover is nothing but brown dirt.
- The map extends into the Arathi Highlands and even the city of Stromgarde is built to how it appears in World of Warcraft.
- Aerie Peak is also present in the map if a player manages to get past the rockslide that blocks the path from the foothills to the Hinterlands.
- The map (estimated) spans from Silverpine Forest to the edges of Arathi. An interesting fact is that a hunter or shaman can view most of these places by using their / ability; and in doing so, may also be able to see that neither the crater nor the opaque dome that surrounded Dalaran before its movement is present.
There are many NPCs with some connection to important events in WoW and the Warcraft universe as a whole seen here in the past, many of them later being involved with either the Scourge, the Scarlet Crusade or the Argent Dawn. They include (current locations in parentheses):
- A still-human can be found in Southshore, on the road leading north. Patrolling with Kel'Thuzad is , a necromancer made famous by the Horde quest  .
- , the future boss of Scarlet Monastery Cathedral, playing tag with , the future other boss from Scarlet Monastery Cathedral. can be seen following them; he later becomes Interrogator Vishas in the graveyard instance of Scarlet Monastery Cathedral. The trio also re-enact some of their lines and events when you encounter them as bosses on a .
- can also be seen walking around Southshore, and he is much larger than the other children.
- On the docks, <Aspiring Merchant> can be seen building a robot: <Protector>. In the present day, this goblin (known as <Merchant Supreme> in the current Hillsbrad) can be found patrolling around Hillsbrad as a traveling vendor, accompanied by <Protector>.
- Also on the dock is He is fishing with in a zone which, surprisingly enough, has no fish. They have some amusing conversations about Nat's strange dreams.
- Main article: Old Hillsbrad Ashbringer event
- In the Southshore inn, many well-known members of the Scarlet Crusade are standing around a table. If you wait a minute or so, they'll have a discussion about the upcoming war against the Scourge, which reveals some backstory about the , in what appears to be their first meeting. This is mostly bosses from Scarlet Monastery as younger versions of themselves, as well as the prominent members of the Scarlet Crusade who splintered off to become the Argent Dawn because they disagreed with the Crusade's fanaticism, including , the eventual leader of the Argent Crusade and Ashen Verdict.
- Also inside the inn are two ship captains drinking at the bar, who go outside to have a private discussion. discusses his plans with to hide his various possessions around the world, and leave that goes from clue to clue in order to get his prizes. can be found in the present day from a world drop off of murlocs in Westfall. The rewards from doing the quest are the items he talks about while in Old Hillsbrad. Captain Edward Hanes is also a quest giver for low level Draenei on the Bloodmyst Isle.
- A young is upstairs in the inn, playing with .
- Stalvan Mistmantle, known from the both famous and very long questchain The Legend of Stalvan lies on one of the beds in the upper parts of the inn.
- Within Tarren Mill, there are two children running around the town: ( is a mushroom vendor in the present day Tarren Mill) and (who goes on to become a mage in present-day Southshore.)
- Within the orchard is the . He patrols around the area and has some interactions with residents and his horses. He starts in the barn.
- can be found in the Tarren Mill barn. ( is a horse that can be found in modern day Westfall.)
NPCs for questing
The quest NPCs include:
- - bronze dragon in high elf guise at the exit of the cave leading from the instance portal (gives both the quest to rescue Thrall and the incendiary bombs to do so)
- - bronze dragon next to Erozion (gives free ride from instance entrance to Durnholde's front gate)
- - primary quest NPC (in a cell in the basement of Durnholde Keep)
- - other primary quest NPC (the inn in Tarren Mill)
- (Found in the Southshore Inn) - sells various types of beer, including one that restores mana and another that adds 15 stamina for 15 minutes.
- <Travelling Salesman> (Travels the roads between Southshore and Tarren Mill) - sells the starting clothes for most classes, repairs gear, and sells the leatherworking pattern for 5.
- (Travels the roads between Southshore and Tarren Mill) - sells the formula for for 6.
- (Frostwyrm Lair, Naxxramas) - Walks along the road to and from Southshore
- (buried in Southshore, part of the Helcular's Revenge chain) - Walks with Kel'Thuzad
- Sally Whitemane (later , the Cathedral, Scarlet Monastery) - Runs around the inn
- Renault Mograine (later , the Cathedral, Scarlet Monastery) - Runs around the inn
- Little Jimmy Vishas (later , the Graveyard, Scarlet Monastery) - Runs around the inn
- Herod the Bully (later just , the Armory, Scarlet Monastery) - Walks in front of the house across the road from the inn.
- (Dustwallow Marsh) - The dock
- (Southshore) - The dock
- (wanders between Tarren Mill and Southshore) - The dock
- (still in Southshore) - Town Hall
- Raleigh the True (later , the inn, Southshore) - Town Hall
- Nathanos Marris (later , the Marris Stead, Eastern Plaguelands) - Town Hall
- - The farm
- - Inside the two-story house nearest to the gryphons. She could be the daughter of .
- (undead, Bloodmyst Isle) - The bar
- (never encountered directly in game, though his treasure can be won and talks about him) - The bar
- event NPCs
- Commander Mograine (later , Deathknight Wing, Original Naxxramas) - At the table
- Isillien (later , Hearthglen, Western Plaguelands) - At the table
- Abbendis (later , Tyr's Hand, Eastern Plaguelands) - At the table
- Fairbanks (later , the Cathedral, Scarlet Monastery) - At the table
- (Thondroril River, Eastern Plaguelands) - At the table
- (The Library, Scarlet Monastery) - At the table
- Taelan (later , Mardenholde Keep, Western Plaguelands) - Upstairs bedroom
- (Manor Mistmantle, Duskwood) - Upstairs bedroom
- Young Blanchy (now , Westfall) - The stables
- Jay Lemieux (now , Tarren Mill) - Running around Tarren Mill
- Julie Honeywell (now , Southshore) - Running around Tarren Mill
2.4.3: Don Carlos' Famous Hat
A young was added to the instance in patch 2.4.3 for the quest  , which starts from his current self in the Gadgetzan graveyard in Tanaris. His younger version can be found patrolling the road on horseback between Southshore and Tarren Mill, with his pet . In the heroic version of the dungeon, he will drop , a haliscan-style hat that summons a coyote spirit vanity pet. For more details, see Don Carlos (tactics).
- All other NPCs in the town use the "old" models from the very earliest stages of the game's development. These differ from the current models because their armor, clothing, etc. is "built in" to the model, instead of the customizable models used by player characters. This is very obvious when you compare the Scarlet Crusade meeting in the Inn with the other characters around the outside of the building.
- Most players (most likely races who were not affiliated with the Alliance during that time) upon entering the zone become humans in appearance. This allows Horde races to interact with Southshore and other places. Night elves and draenei, who at the time of the escape were not part of the Alliance, are also humans in appearance. Since you are technically time traveling, a non-member of the alliance would make no sense at all in that time; this is probably why the effect happens. Savory Deviate Delight and other items that transform you will remove this effect. Unlike some other illusion, druidic shapeshift forms are visible.
- As in the other instances of the Caverns, players of the RTS games will surely recognize the musics playing around Hillsbrad.