No trip to Edinburgh would be complete without a visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in the Scottish capital. The palace is best known as the home of Mary, Queen of Scots – she was married here, and witnessed the brutal killing of her secretary in her private apartments.
Commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, the residence stands at one end of Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile and has close ties with several historical Scottish figures, including Bonnie Prince Charlie, who held court there for six weeks in the 18th century. Now it is used by the Queen for official engagements in Scotland and the State Apartments are the main draw when she is not in residence. These rooms at Holyrood Palace feature a stunning array of French and Flemish tapestries, while the Throne Room houses a pair of thrones commissioned by King George V in 1911.
Built around 500 years ago, Mary Queen of Scots’ chambers can be found in the oldest part of the palace via a narrow, winding staircase in the north-west tower. Stories of intrigue and murder accompany these rooms, as the bedchamber features the original oak ceiling from when she lived there between 1561 and 1567. Mary also witnessed the killing of her private secretary David Rizzio in the Supper Room.
The ruins of the medieval Holyrood Abbey are adjacent to Holyrood House, and the surviving roofless nave, Gothic windows, vaulted windows and Romanesque arcading provide an insight into what was once one of the nation’s grandest buildings. Palace wardens provide daily guided tours of the abbey, exploring the history, myths and legends relating to ruins. Look out for the Royal Vault, which contains the remains of James V.
Getting to the Palace of Holyroodhouse
Holyrood Palace is a 15-minute walk from Edinburgh’s central station, Edinburgh Waverly or a 20-minute walk from the nearest tram stop at York Place. Edinburgh Waverley station is served by trams from Edinburgh Airport, with a journey time of around 30 minutes. Alternatively, bus numbers 6 and 35 both stop near the palace, as do open-top tour buses.
At the opposite end of the Royal Mile, a mix of shops, restaurants and other attractions, is the historic fortress of Edinburgh Castle. The imposing fortification is just one of many things to do in Edinburgh though, as the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh Dungeon and Dynamic Earth – an exciting exhibition that tells the story of the planet – are all within walking distance.
Click here for opening times and to purchase Palace of Holyroodhouse tickets.