Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

Everyone visiting Edinburgh typically goes to the castle but how about the Palace of Holyroodhouse, have you been? Well I hadn't either until moving here but I've now taken along a number of our visiting guests, all keen to see the Queen's official residence in Edinburgh as well as the historic apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots. The palace is at the opposite end of the Royal Mile from the castle making for a nice walk along its length and a good chance to take in all that it has to offer, even if it is very touristy there! Once you arrive at the palace you're in the shadow of Arthur's Seat and the open space of Holyrood park, a total contrast to the old buildings along the Royal Mile and the narrow passageways of the Old Town.

The palace that you see today was built between 1671 and 1678, asides from the 16th century tower, which you can see in the photo below, which was built by James V. The more modern part of the palace was designed for Charles II on the restoration of the monarchy. Upon entering the palace you go into the state apartments first of all. By the way, after you've paid to enter you can then collect a free audio tour to self guide yourself around. I absolutely recommend you take this as there are no information boards on display whilst walking around. It's free and gives you all the information you need, pointing out the highlights of each room and telling you of its past and current usage etc. 

The rooms that you pass through on the tour gradually get grander and more richly decorated as you go until you reach the heart of the apartments and the grandest of all. On this first part of the tour o
ne of the most impressive being, in my opinion, the Great Gallery. This is the largest room in the palace and is home to 110 portraits of all the legendary and real Scottish Kings right from Fergus I who supposedly ruled from 330 BC! The paintings were all painted between 1684 and 1686 by Jacob de Wet II and it is certainly interesting wandering around looking at them, particularly for someone who will fully admit to not knowing a great deal about the Scottish Kings before King James VI of Scotland, subsequently James I after the union of the English and Scottish crowns. 

I mentioned earlier the older tower to the side of Holyroodhouse which you enter upon leaving the state apartments, these historic rooms were once the home of Mary, Queen of Scots following her return from France in 1561. Here she subsequently married, Lord Darnley and also later witnessed the murder of her Italian secretary, David Rizzio by her husband. These rooms are full of items from Mary's time belonging to her, Lord Darnley and his family and as a consequence of that gruesome murder have been visited by curious tourists for many years. Perhaps not unsurprisingly this part of the tour was definitely the most enjoyable for me but the whole palace is absolutely worth a visit and very interesting.

The tour of the palace though is just the first part of your visit. After you've completed your viewing of the oldest part of the palace you step outside to the even older ruins of Holyrood abbey. The abbey was founded in 1128 by King David I. Legend has it that he was hunting in the forests near Edinburgh when he was thrown from his horse after it had been frightened by a deer. He was saved from being gored by the animal when it was startled by a holy cross descending from the sky, as an act of thanksgiving for his escape the King founded the abbey. The abbey church was used as a parish church until the 17th century but has been a ruin since the 18th century. I admit that before my first visit I hadn't really appreciated that the abbey ruins were in the same location as the palace, I figured they were in the same area of the city but not necessarily so close, so it was a bit of a bonus when I realised we could visit them too. Whilst it's only ruins now it's not hard to appreciate the grandeur of the building and how impressive it must once have looked. From here, if you wish, you can go and explore the gardens but we haven't as yet, mainly because the weather was either not being very kind or our visitors were keen to make use of the cafĂ© by that stage. 

hilst Edinburgh castle may be top of everyone's historic building list when they visit a trip to the other end of the Royal Mile is just as rewarding. Oh and when you buy your ticket, like a lot of places now, if you get it stamped before you leave you can then use it to re-enter for free as many times as you wish over the course of the following year. Just perfect for return visits!


  1. Wow love this, I live and work on the Royal mile and have NEVER ventured into the Palace. I feel so bad, all that on my doorstep... I need to get out more haha. But I am Enjoying your blog so thanks for that, I do web design and always looking for inspiration on design ideas from the photography or even content writers from great blogs I visit like yours.
    P.s. great tip about the getting a stamp and re-using the ticket... that's a diamond of an idea!
    Cheers, Sean @


Post a Comment

Popular Posts