Holyrood Palace

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining.

Queen Elizabeth spends one week in residence at Holyrood Palace at the beginning of each summer, where she carries out a range of official engagements and ceremonies. The 16th century Historic Apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots and the State Apartments, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public throughout the year, except when members of the Royal Family are in residence.

The origins of the Palace of Holyroodhouse lie in the foundation of an Augustinian abbey in 1128 by David I (r.1124-53). From c.1195 to c.1230, extensive monastic buildings were added, including cloisters, a chapter house, a refectory and guest houses. The enlarged foundation prospered, and from an early date contained royal chambers for use by the sovereign.

James IV (r.1488-1513) decided to convert these chambers into a palace. Although virtually nothing survives today of the early Palace buildings, it appears that they were laid out around a quadrangle. Principal rooms, including the royal lodgings and the chapel, occupied the first floor, and a tower was added on the south side to provide extra accommodation for the sovereign. Work also began on the Palace gardens, and in 1507 a loch beside the Abbey was drained to provide additional space.

Further construction of the Palace took place during the reign of James V (r.1513-42). Work began in 1528 on a huge rectangular tower, rounded at the corners, to provide new royal lodgings at the north-west corner of the Palace. Equipped with a drawbridge and probably protected by a moat, the tower provided a high degree of security and is now the oldest part of the Palace surviving today. The west front of the Palace was rebuilt to house additional reception rooms. The elegant design incorporated a double-towered gateway, battlemented parapets, ornamental crestings and large windows with great expanses of glazing. The south side was remodelled and included a new chapel, the old chapel becoming the Council Chamber.

During the reign of James VI (r.1567-1625) extensive repairs to the Palace were carried out, and the gardens were enlarged and improved. Buildings that had originally been part of the Abbey were absorbed into the Palace, and ancillary buildings were erected outside the main courtyard for use by court officials. The Palace and Abbey were renovated further in 1633 for the Scottish coronation of James’s son, Charles I.

Charles II (r.1660-85) was restored to the throne in 1660, and Holyroodhouse once again became a royal palace. A full survey of the building was carried out in 1633 by the King’s Master Mason, John Mylne, and the re-building process began in earnest in 1671. By the end of 1674 the shells of the three main sides of the Palace and the new tower were virtually finished. Two years later the west front, which linked the towers, was completed. By 1679 the Palace had been re-constructed, largely in its present form.



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Founded: 1671-1678
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in United Kingdom


4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Hock Sing Tan (4 months ago)
Great palace with many interesting stories, especially about Queen Mary. The footprint on Mary Stewart painting also quite an interest. Almost all places here are good for photography but unfortunately many indoor rooms no photography allowed.
Claire Gudewich (4 months ago)
Excellent experience! Arrived early, and there were no lines. Love the self guided audio tour. I honestly can not get over how much access the public is granted. Coming from Washington, DC, our similar attractions are generally more restricted. It was an honor to visit. Make time for this in your itinerary!
CM (5 months ago)
The Palace is well preserved and very enjoyable. The gardens are beautiful and peaceful. You can't take photos inside, what is a pity and a bit nonsense as today most of us make our turist choices based on the others photos and reviews, so you want to be there as well, anyway, we had a lovely afternoon over there ?
Betta Rautio (7 months ago)
This self-guided audio tour was very well set up and allowed you to enjoy viewing each room without being overloaded with information. Most of the palace is easy to negotiate and you have the ability to skip certain audio portions if you choose not to climb stairs, etc. the outside gardens are not to be missed. The gift shop is well stocked and you don’t need to go on the tour to make a purchase. There is a cafe and restaurant on the premises. A must visit if you are in Edinburgh! No photos are allowed inside the castle and security is present throughout. This is a working castle.
GC (9 months ago)
If you’re visiting Edinburgh you have to visit here. We booked the night before online (slightly cheaper) Turned up had our tickets scanned , no wait at all. Then grabbed our headphones and small tablet. These are optional but I would advise getting them as they are very informative. As you enter different rooms / outside around the house you choose what section to listen to. They are numbered in each room so you won’t get lost / confused. Sections are very informative and have videos to watch too. Very beautiful building with exquisite rooms. It’s a brilliant experience visiting here. I spent just over an hour here. You could spend longer quite easily. It’s very easy to find.
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