The Palace of Holyroodhouse (also known as Holyrood Palace) is The Queen’s official residence in Scotland. This is where she resides during Royal Week or Holyrood Week at the end of June or the first week of July. The palace is open to the public year round except for certain days in the year.
Holyroodhouse began as an Augustinian abbey in 1128, founded by David I. It was named Holy Rood, meaning ‘Holy Cross’ because of the king’s vision of the cross between a stag’s antlers, or so the medieval legend goes. The abbey has been roofless since the 18th Century and only the foundations of the Choir, Chapter House, and Cloister remain.
James IV (brother-in-law to Henry VIII) had the first palace built at the beginning of the 16th Century although very little of it survived. For the next three centuries, the palace has been rebuilt, refurbished, and updated. Today, the oldest part of the palace is Mary, Queen of Scots’ Chambers in the north west tower. Her Bedchamber was probably my favourite in the palace given its significance, age, and beauty. Unfortunately for Mary, Holyroodhouse was not a very pleasant place for her during her stay from 1561-67. It was especially disturbing to know that her Private Secretary, David Rizzio, had been stabbed in front of her in the Supper Room. Not to mention she married two horrible husbands at Holyroodhouse.
My other favourite part of the palace was the King’s Bedchamber in the State Apartments. The late 17th Century Tester Bed has the most exquisite cresting (if that’s the right term) I’ve ever seen. I was naturally disappointed when I realised that no monarch had slept in the bed.
During my visit, I learned that Louis XVI’s brother, the Comte d’Artois, had been a resident at Holyroodhouse. He first stayed there shortly after the French Revolution and returned after his exile in 1830. I had wrongly assumed that Marie Therese, Marie Antoinette’s daughter, had also stayed in the palace. I later read that she disliked the palace and decided to rent a house on Regent Terrace.
Outside in the Palace Gardens, I enjoyed exploring the remains of the once magnificent Abbey and the view of Arthur’s Seat. Just two weeks before my visit, there was an article on how the two previously thought to be extinct Wentworth Elm trees are thriving at Holyrood. I’m not sure if I was aware of it at the time but the tallest tree impressed me the most.
Overall, I was so impressed with Holyroodhouse and Edinburgh, that I was glad to have been selected as an invitee for the Garden Party at Holyroodhouse.
- Visit the palace as soon as it’s opened. I visited on Sunday morning whilst most people were still sleeping.
- Rain or shine, dress accordingly for the weather.
- No photos allowed inside the palace but you can take plenty around the palace and of the Abbey.
- *Gift Aid your ticket and get a 1-Year Pass so you can visit again. Unfortunately I waited too long to visit again and realised that Holyroodhouse was closed for Holyrood Week.
- If you’re hungry or thirsty, there is a Cafe where you can enjoy afternoon tea. I was not hungry during my visit.
- The Queen’s Gallery features art from the Royal Collection and it looks like these arrive in Edinburgh after they have been on display in London. I did not visit the Queen’s Gallery during my visit in October.
Address: Palace of Holyroodhouse, Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX
Opening Hours: Jan-Dec 9:30-16:30 / 18:00 (check the website for closing times and when the Palace is closed to the public)
Tickets: £14* or £23* for Palace + Queen’s Gallery + Garden History Tour
How to get there from London (without a car):
- Take the coach (not recommended unless you really can’t spend too much money, are not claustrophobic, and can endure an uncomfortable journey) OR
- Take the train (book at least 2 weeks ahead for good deals) from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley
- Walk 15 min down the Royal Mile all the way to the Holyrood Palace.