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

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User Reviews

Julia (2 years ago)
Fantastic palace a short walk away from the city centre. Beautiful grounds, attentive and helpful staff with an excellent produced audio tour guide which comes free with the ticket. The Gallery is also a wonderful change of scenery from the palace showcasing the Royal Collection artworks.
Theresa Afzali (2 years ago)
This is a great historical place you must visit when you are in Edinburgh! Just walk the Royal Mile and you will find it. it is one of the many great attractions that Edinburgh has to offer. Palace of Holyrood is home to the queen once year for about a week. It is said to be one of her favorite place to stay at. The gardens are beautiful as is the whole palace.
williamskdn1 (2 years ago)
This is a great palace with some great interiors. The audio guide was great as very informative as can learn a lot while having a look around. It makes you see what you may not notice without audio guide. The price was reasonable and well worth it. Staff were friendly and helpful. Well worth a visit.
Amber Webb (2 years ago)
I thoroughly enjoyed my time here! I actually enjoyed this palace more then Edinburgh Castle. With your ticket you will get an audio guide that provides wonderful information as you make your way through the castle. Tickets are about 15 pounds for an adult. The only downside was that the gardens were closed when I went. There are also lovely views of Arthur's Seat from the palace.
Denise Fisher (2 years ago)
We were only in the cafe. The cafe is spacious, great for groups. The staff is friendly. The cafe bright and clean with lovely loos. Interesting choice of food. They make a gluten free cake that should be truly scrumptious were it not for all the artificial sweetener in it.
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