Set amid splendid gardens at the foot of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official Scottish residence of the British royals, who first decamped here from nearby Edinburgh Castle back in the 15th century. The complex grew from a 12th-century abbey, whose ruins can still be seen on the grounds, into a full-fledged Baroque palace complete with elaborate plasterwork, sumptuous furnishings, and a number of tapestries. The palace is perhaps most famous for having hosted to the rather unfortunate Mary, Queen of Scots, whose beloved secretary was slaughtered here by her jealous second husband.
For anyone hoping to get a taste of the royal experience in Edinburgh, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is an essential stop. Visitors often glimpse the palace during walking tours of Edinburgh’s UNESCO-listed Old Town, as well as on hop-on, hop-off bus tours. Some city tours include admission to the palace so travelers can explore the state apartments and Mary's Bedchamber with the aid of an audio guide. Palace ticket holders can join guided tours of the Holyrood Abbey ruins, which take place several times daily, or buy combination tickets to the palace and the onsite Queen’s Gallery, which hosts temporary art exhibits from the royal collection.
Things to Know Before You Go
Audio tours are included with palace admission and are available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Mandarin, and Portuguese.
Parts of the palace are wheelchair accessible. Mary, Queen of Scots’ Chambers, however, are not, and can only be accessed via a steep, spiral staircase.
While there is a cafe onsite, food and drink are not allowed elsewhere in the palace.
How to Get There
To get to the palace, walk for 15 minutes from Edinburgh’s Waverley Station. Bus routes 35 and 6 also stop near the palace.
When to Get There
Although the palace is generally open year-round (November through March from 9:30am to 4:30pm and April through October from 9:30am to 6pm), it does close to the public during royal visits. Check ahead to find out when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is due in town. She usually stays here for Holyrood Week, or Royal Week as it’s known in Scotland, in late June and early July.
Learn About the Troubled Life of Mary, Queen of Scots
Of all the royals who have lived at Holyrood Palace—among them Queen Victoria and King George V—none are as closely associated with the palace as Mary, the 17th-century Queen of Scots. Many of the most shocking episodes from her tumultuous reign took place here, including the murder of her Italian secretary, David Rizzio, by her second husband, Lord Darnley. Holyrood is also where Mary married her third husband, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, a suspect in the murder of her second husband.