The three main official residences of the British monarch are Buckingham Palace (London’s official residence), Windsor Castle (the country’s official residence), and the Palace of Holyroodhouse (the official Scottish residence). Holyroodhouse is located in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh on the other side of the imposing Edinburgh Castle (it’s a must-see). It has been the main royal residence in Scotland since the 16th century.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is a working palace and therefore may not always be open to visitors. Visitors should check the calendar before planning a visit (it may be closed if members of the Royal Family are visiting). Some of the main attractions include the 16th century Mary Queen of Scots Apartments, the Queen’s Gallery, the Palace Gardens and the State Apartments.
Holyroodhouse – The Traditional Scottish Royal Palace
Holyroodhouse began in 1128 as an Augustinian monastery and has a close connection to the history of Scotland. Over the years, Scottish kings chose to live in Holyroodhouse rather than the gloomy Edinburgh Castle which was also exposed to the elements. Today it is the focus of national celebrations and other events in Scotland.
The palace, as it is seen today, was largely built between 1671 and 1678.
Before 1603, Scotland and England were separate kingdoms with separate monarchies. But in 1603, King James VI of Scotland was granted entry into the kingdom of England as James I. This united the two kingdoms under a single monarch. The crowns of Scotland and England remained separate until 1707 with the Acts of Union uniting England and Scotland into the United Kingdom.
Highlights of the Palace of Holyroodhouse
Visitors to the Palace of Holyroodhouse will see remains of the 12th-century Holyrood Abbey, the Palace Gardens, the State Apartments and stories of its most famous residents.
Visitors see how the rooms get bigger and bigger as they approach the king’s bedroom. The State Apartments catch the eye with their French and Flemish tapestries and their beautiful plaster ceilings.
Royal Dining Room:
See the dining room used by Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the Royal Family when they stayed at Holyroodhouse. Check out the silver banquet service offered to King George V and Queen Mary.
Throne Room and Privy Room:
Each year, Queen Elizabeth II spent a week at Holyroodhouse during Holyrood Week. There she would have lunch in the Throne Room in the presence of the Knights and Dames of the Order of the Thistle (which is the highest order of chivalry in Scotland). The Privy Chamber was created in the 1600s for Charles II for private audiences.
Mary, Queen Of Scot’s Chambers:
Perhaps the most famous monarch to live in Holyroodhouse was Mary, Queen of Scots. She lived there between 1561-1567 and her story is one of intrigue, tragedy and murder. She was Queen of Scotland until 1542, when she was forced to abdicate. She was the only surviving legal child of James V of Scotland, and she was only six days old when her father died. At one point she claimed the English throne, but after 18 years in captivity, she was beheaded on the charge that she intended to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I.
Other highlights of the palace include the Supper Room, the Outer Chamber, Holyrood Abbey and the Palace Gardens,
Planning a visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse
After the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the Palace of Holyroodhouse has reopened to the public. With the death of the Queen, the Platinum Jubilee display will not reopen. The palace is open all year round – although it is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and during certain events, such as the visit of the monarch.
- Grown up: £18.50
- Youth: £12.00 (aged 18 to 24)
- Child: £10.50 (aged 5-17) – under five free
- November 1 to March 31: 9.30am to 4.30pm (Last admission 3.15pm)
- April 1 to October 31: 9.30am to 6.00pm (Last admission 4.15pm)
- Closed: Tuesday and Wednesday
At the time of writing (October 2022), Holyrood Abbey and the Family Room at the Palace are closed until further notice. Hopefully they will reopen in time for a tour of Scotland.