Holyroodhouse Palace and Abbey, Edinburgh

4 out of 5 stars 65 Reviews

Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX +00 44 (0)131 556 5100

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  • Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh
    Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh
    by antistar
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    Hollyrood Abbey
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    Hollyrood Palace
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    Holyrood Palace

    by antistar Written Nov 1, 2014

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    At the foot of the Royal Mile you will find Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the British Queen. She visits Edinburgh for one week every year, at the start of summer, and during that time the palace is obviously closed to the public. Unfortunately she was there for my visit. The palace has been a central part of Scottish history since the 12th century witnessing marriages and murders, such as when Queen Mary's private secretary, David Rizzio, was stabbed 56 times by a mob of nobles.

    Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh Holyrood Palace from Calton Hill, Edinburgh

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    Holyrood Palace

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Updated Feb 14, 2014

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    The Holyrood Palace as well-known is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. I saw it only from outside at the bottom of the Royal Mile in at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle.

    Holyrood Palace
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    Holyrood Abbey

    by Drever Written Jan 30, 2014

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    What remains of Holyrood Abbey is the ruined and roofless nave of its church. However in Scotland’s history it looms large.

    King David I founded the Augustinian Abbey in 1128. Tradition has it that he created it on the spot where he had a vision of a stag with a cross between its antlers - the Abbey's symbol! A more imposing building, commissioned in 1190 replaced the original Norman style with Early English architecture.

    David set up the Abbey as a Sanctuary for criminals and debtors. If accepted and on payment of a booking fee, the debtor received a ‘Letters of protection’ from creditors. The debtor was then safe to live within the Sanctuary, free from risk of arrest. Debtors crowded into houses within the protective zone. It covered a large part of present-day Edinburgh.

    During the final 200 years of the sanctuary, Holyrood sheltered around 2,000 people. These included pastors, lawyers, officers of the army and navy and members of the aristocracy. The ancient right of sanctuary within the grounds of Holyrood still exists however the need for a debtors' sanctuary ended in 1880 with abolition of imprisonment for debt.

    In addition a community of trades people, shopkeepers, innkeepers and residents chose to live within the Sanctuary. This gave it the feel of being a town, independent of control from Edinburgh. David had created in effect a self-governing, self-financing prison - surely a better idea than politicians have since created. Top marks to the King!

    The abbey church preserved in a golden reliquary a fragment of the Cross of Christ’s crucifixion, brought from Waltham Abbey by David’s mother. The relic known as the Black Rood of Scotland (‘rood’ means cross) in 1346 fell into the hands of invading English forces. Transferred to Durham Cathedral it disappeared during the Reformation.

    For 450 years the Abbey hosted major royal events similar to those hosted now by Westminster Abbey in London. On July 22, 1565, the Mary, Queen of Scots married her cousin Lord Darnley in the church. The Scottish coronation of Charles I took place here in 1633.

    In the 16th century, James IV built Holyrood Palace next to the abbey. Kings previously stayed at the Abbey when in Edinburgh but this cemented its place in royal pageantry.

    King James VII in 1687 created ‘The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle’, Scotland's leading Order of Chivalry. The nave of Holyrood Abbey became its chapel. In 1688, the Edinburgh mob ransacked the Abbey, furious at King James' Roman Catholic devotion. It was only in 1911 the Order regained a home – this time in Giles' Cathedral on the Royal Mile.

    Following the Reformation, the abbey became deserted. However the church became a parish Kirk until in 1768 the roof collapsed in a hurricane and brought down much of the building with it.

    Access to the Abbey is through the entrance to Holyrood Palace. Step lightly for you will be treading on the graves of kings.

    The ruins of The Abbey Church Inside the church of Holyrood Abbey Inside the church of Holyrood Abbey nside Holyrood Abbey Church
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    Holyrood Palace

    by Drever Updated Jan 29, 2014

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    Holyrood Palace, sitting at the end of the Royal Mile against the spectacular backdrop of Arthur’s Seat, has witnessed Scotland's turbulent past. Within its walls kings planned wars, royals danced deep into the night, murders occurred. In contrast today, the Palace is the setting for State ceremonies, garden parties and official entertaining.

    The State Apartments have magnificent plasterwork ceilings and collections of tapestries. The longest and largest room in the Palace is the Great Gallery - decorated with 89 of the original 110 Jacob de Wet portraits of the real and legendary kings of Scotland, from Fergus I to Charles II.

    The room has served many purposes. Here the election of Scotland's representative peers took place after the Union of Parliaments in 1707. George V made the room into the State Dining Room, and today it hosts receptions, State occasions and Investitures.

    The Palace is best known as the home of Mary Queen of Scots (1542-67). She married the heir to the French throne, the Dauphin of France, at 15 and became a widow at 19. Returning to Scotland she took up her duties as the Queen of Scots after a crowning ceremony at the Palace.

    A group led by her second husband Lord Darnley believing she was having an affair with Rizzio, her private secretary, stabbed him to death in her private rooms. Lord Darnley in turn suffered a gruesome death following which Mary acquired yet another husband. Her subjects could take no more. Mary escaping captivity fled to England to the protection of her cousin Queen Elizabeth I. Suspected of treason Mary suffered in turn a gruesome death - at the hands of an axe man.

    In 1501 James IV built his Palace beside Holyrood Abbey. Later kings added extensions until a building resulted with classical facades built round a central quadrangle. Although external appearance of the apartments to the east matches those towards the west the construction is different. The earlier west side has thick walls for defence while the later east is of a residential construction.

    Mary's son became James I of England and Scotland (1603-25) following the union of the crowns and moved to England leaving the Palace empty. During the Civil War Oliver Cromwell's troops billeted at the Palace caused extensive fire damage.

    Following restoring of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II (1660-85) added to the Palace. These additions included the new Royal apartment to the east, the Abbey Church made into the Chapel Royal and accommodation on the second floor for the Court during the sovereign's visit, and for officers of state at other times.

    After the Union of Parliaments in the early eighteenth century the Palace become a sanctuary for poor and distressed 'noblemen'. In 1745 royalty returned when the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, or Bonnie Prince Charlie, held court there during his attempt to reclaim the throne for his father. The Duke of Cumberland whose troops suppressed the Jacobean Rebellion of 1745 followed.

    George IV's visit to Scotland on 15 August 1822 provided the impetus for further improvements and the preserving of the apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots as in her time - these are open to visitors.

    It was Queen Victoria who reintroduced the custom of staying at Holyrood making the Palace once again Scotland's premier royal residence. In the 20th century, King George V and Queen Mary modernised the Palace by installed bathrooms, electricity and lifts to make it a proper family home. They also began the tradition of hosting Garden Parties at the Palace.

    My wife and I have been invited twice and attended the once. It is not at all elitist for otherwise we wouldn’t have been there. It is a colourful occasion with the beverage of choice being iced tea.

    Holyrood Palace home to the kings of Scotland Holyrood Palace home to the kings of Scotland Carvings in the Water Fountain in the forecourt The open parkland within which Palace sits
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    Holyrood Palace

    by spidermiss Updated Jul 12, 2012

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    The site of the Holyroodhouse goes back to the 12th Century and was originally used as an abbey. James IV converted the building into a palace in the 15th Century and subsequent developments were made by successive monarchs including reign of James VI (Had become James I of England) where extensive renovations were made, including conversion of buildings for civic use, took place.

    Most famous residents who lived at the site of Holyroodhosue is Mary, Queen of Scots who came to live there from 1651 and also her son, James VI (James I of England), from 1579, who was involved in the extensive renovations. Since then it has been an official royal residence in Scotland and the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, resides there whenever she is visiting Edinburgh. It is also the location of royal ceremonies and events.

    I visited Holyrood Palace in September 1999 and checked out the abbey and gardens as well. It was an interesting place but I felt I didn't get my money's worth for the admission price I paid. It cost 10.75 gbp (July 2012) including an audio tour but please be aware that there are only a limited number of rooms inside the Palace are opened. I don't think I'll make another visit in the future even if I'm glad I was able to visit then.

    Please check the website for further information such as opening times.

    Please note my photo is scanned.

    Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh
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    Palace of Holyroodhouse

    by Nemorino Updated Jan 27, 2012

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    If the Queen doesn't happen to be in town and there are no demonstrations in the works, you might well be able to take a tour of this palace, which is at the lower end of the Royal Mile. This palace was the home of Mary, Queen of Scots from 1561 to 1567, and is now an official residence of the current queen.

    I have never managed to be there when it was open, so I can't speak from personal experience, but I'm told this is one of the more interesting places to visit. Since there was no access to the grounds when I was there, I simply took a few photos through the various gates, between the bars.

    Admission, which includes an audio tour, costs £ 8.50 for adults, £ 7.00 for students and those over 60 and only £ 4.50 for those under 17. There are special rates for families, and you could also get a combination ticket for the palace and the art exhibits at the adjoining Queen's Gallery.

    Update: As of 2012, admission to the Palace of Holyroodhouse costs £ 10.75 for adults, £ 9.80 for students and those over 60 and £ 6.50 for those under 17. This still includes an audio tour, there are still special rates for families and you can still get a combination ticket for the palace and the art exhibits at the adjoining Queen's Gallery.

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    Go for a walk... on an extinct Volcano (part 1)

    by JessH Updated May 30, 2011

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    One of the many things I love about Edinburgh is the fact that - if need be - you can escape the crowds and noise of the city and just a short walk will take you into Holyrood Park (the word Holyrood comes from the term "Haly Ruid" meaning Holy Cross.) This is where you'll find the famous Arthur's Seat (see my separate "Things to Do" tip) and the Salisbury Crags.

    The Crags are a series of 46-metre (151 ft) cliffs at the top of a subsidiary spur of Arthur's Seat, looking down on Edinburgh like a grand fortress. They are situated less than a half-mile (1 km) southeast of Princes Street.

    You'll often see climbers clambering up the sheer rock-face, but you can also simply walk up along the crags as a regular "pedestrian" without any special skills or equipment.

    Basically, you'll start at the end of the Royal Mile. There is a car park situated on the side of the Queens Drive road just behind the ancient Abbey and Palace of Holyrood and the huge Dynamic Earth science centre.

    From the car park follow the wide track known as the Radical Road (this track was given its name after it was paved in the aftermath of the Radical War of 1820, using unemployed weavers from the west of Scotland at the suggestion of Walter Scott.) This leads up and right towards Salisbury Crags, if you are unsure which path to take then have a look at the map and info board at the entrance to the car park.

    --> Useful website: http://walking.visitscotland.com/walks/centralscotland/holyrood_park_arthurs_seat

    Once you've reached the top, you'll be able to enjoy unprecedented views over the gorgeous Edinburgh city panorama... don't forget to bring your camera!

    John getting ready to walk The Crags, Edinburgh The Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh (Aug. 2008)
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    visit the living holyrood abbey

    by sebasti Updated May 18, 2011

    Especially on a Fri/sat/sun this ancient presbyterian community have their doors open,fri/sat as an informsl cafe to get to know the people and as they live right beside the mountain they have great advice and do tours which are well worth going on. A nice genuine community

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    Palace of Holyroodhouse

    by mvtouring Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Queen Elizabeth's official residence in Scotland. A doughty and impressive palace standing at the foot of the Royal Mile in a hilly public park, it is built around a graceful, lawned central court at the end of Canongate. When the queen or royal family is not in residence, you can take a guided tour. Many monarchs, including Charles II, Queen Victoria, and George V, have left their mark on its rooms, but it is Mary, Queen of Scots, whose spirit looms largest. For some visitors the most memorable room here is the little chamber in which David Rizzio, secretary to Mary, Queen of Scots, met an unhappy end in 1566. In part because Rizzio was hated at court for his social-climbing ways, Mary's second husband, Lord Darnley (Henry Stewart, 1545-65), burst into the queen's rooms with his henchmen, dragged Rizzio into an antechamber, and stabbed him more than 50 times; a bronze plaque marks the spot.
    The King James Tower is the oldest surviving section, containing the rooms of Mary, Queen of Scots, on the second floor, and Lord Darnley's rooms below. Though much has been altered, there are fine fireplaces, paneling, plasterwork, 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 are the Throne Room and other drawing rooms now used for social and ceremonial occasions.
    From the top of Edinburgh's minimountain, Arthur's Seat (822 feet), views are breathtaking. www.royal.gov.uk. COST: £6.50. OPEN: Apr.-Oct., daily 9:30-5:15; Nov.-Mar., daily 9:30-3:45. Closed during royal visits.

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    Visit the palace of Hollyroodhouse

    by bicycle_girl Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The queen in person comes here and spend time, so in that case the palace would be closed for the occasion. The admission includes a audio guide with introduction by Prince Charles himself, and you will visit at your own leisure the many rooms of the palace. I enjoyed my visit.

    Holyroodhouse
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    Palace of Holyroodhouse

    by Canadian_girl Updated Apr 4, 2011

    The Queen's official residence in Scotland. Includes the Queen's Gallery with changing exhibitions from the Royal Collection, and State Apartments (including Mary, Queen of Scots' Chambers).
    I can't really comment because a) I didn't have time to tour the palace and b) I was too cheap to pay the admission, so cheated and stuck my camera through the gate to take a picture.
    ;-) Looks like an interesting place, though, and certainly an impressive building.

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    Parliament

    by kenHuocj Written Feb 8, 2011

    Opposite the Place is the Scottish Parliament, Modern and having an interest in Geo Politics, the fact that during the past few days, Scottish Parliament has been in the news , means that the memories of my visit to reawakened

    entrance Modern seating Spacious Lobby ineteresting interesting
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    The Royal Residence

    by rexvaughan Written Jan 4, 2011

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    I read that this Royal Residence is used for State ceremonies and official entertaining, and sure enough, just a couple of weeks after we visited, the Queen was entertaining the Pope there. Darn, we were two weeks early!
    I can’t say I was disappointed in Holyrood, but have visited Windsor, and it is much larger and more opulent. However, Holyrood has some wonderful plasterwork ceilings and has wonderful portraits of the Kings of Scotland, some real and I think some creatures of legend (of which there are many in Scotland). It is probably most famous for having been the home of Mary, Queen of Scots and where she carried out some of her shenanigans. It was here that her second husband, in a fit of jealousy, killed her secretary and purported lover, David Rizzio. I enjoyed the tour of the palace, but enjoyed strolling through the ruins of the Abbey almost as much. It is a lovely place founded in the reign of King David in 1128. Its founding is said to have been an act of gratitude for the king’s miraculous escape from the horns of a deer while hunting on Holy Cross Day (“rood” means “cross”).
    Legend has it that the church was given a piece of the “true cross” by King David’s mother, and this relic became known as the Black Rood of Scotland. It is also said that the relic fell into the hands of the English and was placed at Durham Cathedral, but disappeared in the Reformation.

    Prices for admission include an audio tour and a tour of the Abby ruins.
    Adult £10.25, Over 60/Student (with valid ID) £9.30
    Under 17 £6.20, Under 5 Free
    Family (2 adults, 3 under 17s) £27.00
    Family (2 adults, 3 under 17s) £38.50

    Holyrood Abbey ruins This guy says goodbye as you leave Garden path behind the Abbey The Abbey ruins from the garden
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    The Palace of HolyroodHouse

    by FridgeMagnet Written Feb 7, 2010

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    The Castle is definitely the highlight but I actually enjoyed Holyroodhouse more. Gives you a chance to see how the other .0001 of a percent live! Very impressive interior. I particularly enjoyed the historical tale of how David Rizzio, the secretary of Mary Queen of Scots, met his grizzly end. There's a little plaque on the wall near the ground where his body was left lying after he had been stabbed 56 times. I didn't know I was so bloodthirsty!!!

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    Holyrood Palace

    by leffe3 Updated Mar 28, 2008

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    Holyrood is the official royal residence in Scotland (full title is the Palace of Holyroodhouse).

    It was originally founded as a Monastery in 1128, but has served as the royal residence since the 15th century when an official residence was built to replace the Abbey guesthouse (which in itself was already an unofficial royal residence). Among others, Mary, Queen of Scots lived here between 1561 and 1567 (the famous murder of her lover Rizzio took place at Holyrood).

    The oldest part of this royal residence is 15th century, but most of what we see is 17th century as a result of the rebuilding by Charles II.

    Inside, the decor certainly avoids understatement with oak paneling, stucco ceilings, tapestries, portraits and other gilt-framed paintings. Within the grounds (actually adjoining the palace) are the fabulous ruins of the Early Gothic (12/13th century) Holyrood Abbey.

    Today, the Palace is used primarily for state occasions, although the Queen spends one week per year in residence. The palace is closed to the public during royal residences (other members of the royal family stay here on state occasions, particularly during Scottish parliamentary sittings).

    Opening times:
    1 April - 31 October: Monday-Sunday, 9.30am - 6pm
    1 November - 31 March: Monday-Sunday, 9.30am - 4.30pm

    Entry Fees:
    Palace
    Adult £9.50, Under 17 £5.50, Under 5 Free, Family (2 adults, 3 under 17s) £24.50

    Palace & Queen's Gallery:
    Adult £13.00, Under 17 £7.50, Under 5 Free, Family (2 adults, 3 under 17s) £33.50

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