Fodor's Expert Review Palace of Holyroodhouse

Old Town Castle/Palace/Chateau Fodor's Choice

Onetime haunt of Mary, Queen of Scots, with a long history of gruesome murder, destructive fire, and power-hungry personalities, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is now Queen Elizabeth's official residence in Scotland. A doughty, impressive palace standing at the foot of the Royal Mile, it's built around a graceful, lawned central court at the end of Canongate. And when royals are not in residence, you can take a tour. There's plenty to see here, so make sure you have at least two hours to tour the palace, gardens, and the ruins of the 12th-century abbey; pick up the free audio guide for the full experience.

Many monarchs, including Charles II, Queen Victoria, and George V, have left their mark on the rooms here, but it's Mary, Queen of Scots, whose spirit looms largest. Perhaps the most memorable room is the chamber in which David Rizzio (1533–66), secretary to Mary, met a nasty end in 1566, stabbed more than 50 times by the henchmen of her second husband, Lord Darnley. Darnley himself... READ MORE

Onetime haunt of Mary, Queen of Scots, with a long history of gruesome murder, destructive fire, and power-hungry personalities, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is now Queen Elizabeth's official residence in Scotland. A doughty, impressive palace standing at the foot of the Royal Mile, it's built around a graceful, lawned central court at the end of Canongate. And when royals are not in residence, you can take a tour. There's plenty to see here, so make sure you have at least two hours to tour the palace, gardens, and the ruins of the 12th-century abbey; pick up the free audio guide for the full experience.

Many monarchs, including Charles II, Queen Victoria, and George V, have left their mark on the rooms here, but it's Mary, Queen of Scots, whose spirit looms largest. Perhaps the most memorable room is the chamber in which David Rizzio (1533–66), secretary to Mary, met a nasty end in 1566, stabbed more than 50 times by the henchmen of her second husband, Lord Darnley. Darnley himself was murdered the next year, clearing the way for the queen's marriage to her lover, the Earl of Bothwell.

The King James Tower is the oldest surviving section of the palace, containing Mary's rooms on the second floor, and Lord Darnley's rooms below. Though much has been altered, there are fine fireplaces, paneling, tapestries, and 18th- and 19th-century furnishings throughout. At the south end of the palace front, you'll find the Royal Dining Room, and along the south side is the Throne Room, now used for social and ceremonial occasions.

At the back of the palace is the King's Bedchamber. The 150-foot-long Great Picture Gallery, on the north side, displays the portraits of 110 Scottish monarchs. These were commissioned by Charles II, who was eager to demonstrate his Scottish ancestry—but most of the people depicted are entirely fictional, and the likenesses of several others were invented and simply given the names of real people. The Queen's Gallery, in a former church and school at the entrance to the palace, holds rotating exhibits from the Royal Collection. There is a separate admission charge.

Holyroodhouse has its origins in an Augustinian monastery founded by David I (1084–1153) in 1128. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Scottish royalty, preferring the comforts of the abbey to drafty Edinburgh Castle, settled into Holyroodhouse, expanding the buildings until the palace eclipsed the monastery. However, you can still walk around some evocative abbey ruins.

After the Union of the Crowns in 1603, when the Scottish royal court packed its bags and decamped to England, the building began to fall into disrepair. It was Charles II (1630–85) who rebuilt Holyrood in the architectural style of Louis XIV (1638–1715), and this is the style you see today. Queen Victoria (1819–1901) and her grandson King George V (1865–1936) renewed interest in the palace, and the buildings were refurbished and again made suitable for royal residence.

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Castle/Palace/Chateau Fodor's Choice Silversea Cruise

Quick Facts

Canongate
Edinburgh, Edinburgh  EH8 8DX, Scotland

0131-556–5100

www.royalcollection.org.uk

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: £12.50; £17.50 includes Queen\'s Gallery; £21.50 includes garden history tour

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