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

Michaela Crisell (5 months ago)
Much preferred the Palace to the castle. Audio tour was brilliant with images on screen as well. If you're interested in the Stuart's and Mary Queen of Scots you shouldn't miss this. Really enjoyed the Prince Philip exhibition too. The ruins of the Abbey and the surrounding gardens are lovely. Takes about 2 hours to do it fully.
Steph (5 months ago)
Visited with husband and children (aged 4&5). Interactive audio guide was fantastic, really held the children's attention with the right balance of information and games. The 3d rendering of the Abbey was particularly brilliant. The site itself is spectacular. I have visited several times and every time I find it breathtaking. The colleagues are incredibly welcoming and helpful. I'll definitely be visiting again.
Mark Goldie (5 months ago)
Must go and visit if you have any interest in history or royal family. Wow amazing. The guided tour on headsets is brilliant. You go around at your own speed and I really like how some of the royal family had added to the tour. Gave you feeling of home and history all together. Definitely somewhere I would love to visit again.
Mercia Wijaya (6 months ago)
Probably the best audio guide experience. It gives a very clear and detailed explanation of the artifacts, the rooms and how they were used. Anyway, I am an adult but I chose the kids version of the audio guide (choose "family tour" when first given the device) as they are more interactive (there are activities, trivia, and even some role plays!)
Hazel scott (6 months ago)
Fabulous visit. I would highly recommend visiting the Palace. It’s stunningly beautiful. Audio tour is first class. Each room is spectacular. Gardens are also stunning. Loved it.
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