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Highlights of the Palace of Holyroodhouse

A visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse includes the remains of 12th-century Holyrood Abbey, the Palace gardens, the State Apartments of the Palace itself, and stories of its most famous residents from the past and present. 

State Apartments

State Apartments Palace of Holyroodhouse

The State Apartments ©

A reflection of the changing tastes of successive monarchs, the State Apartments are famous for their beautiful plasterwork ceilings and unrivalled collection of French and Flemish tapestries.

As you walk through the Palace, you will notice how the rooms become progressively grander as you approach the King's Bedchamber - the grandest room of all, where historically, only the most important guests would have been granted an audience.

 

Explore the King's Bedchamber in our 360 image

Royal Dining Room

Her Majesty and members of the Royal Family use this as their dining room when they stay at the Palace. The silver banqueting service on display was presented to King George V and Queen Mary to mark their Silver Jubilee in 1935.  Commissioned specifically for use at Holyroodhouse, the service was made in Edinburgh and based on Scottish examples from the early 17th-century.

 

Throne Room & Morning Drawing Room

During Holyrood Week, when The Queen stays at the Palace each year, Her Majesty hosts lunch in the Throne Room for the Knights and Ladies of the Order of the Thistle, the highest order of chivalry in Scotland. The Morning Drawing Room, created for Charles II in the late 1600s, is used by The Queen for private audiences with the First Minister of Scotland and visiting dignitaries.

 

Explore the Morning Drawing Room in our 360 image

Warden Short Talks

Join our daily short talks to learn about Palace life and discover some of the hidden treasures in the Palace. Look out for our short talk sign on the visitor route or ask one of our wardens for more details. 

Mary, Queen of Scots' Chambers

Mary, Queen of Scots Chambers

Mary, Queen of Scots Chambers ©

Perhaps one of the most famous monarchs to live at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Mary, Queen of Scots' chambers where she lived between 1561-1567 are not to be missed. When you climb the steps up to the north-west tower you enter a world of intrigue, tragedy and murder.

Reached by a narrow, steep and winding staircase, this is the oldest section of the palace. Built almost 500 years ago, the battlements and fortified walls are typical of a time when kings and queens required protection against their enemies. A virtual tour is available using the computer located in the Great Gallery. Alternatively explore the online trail all about the queen. 

 

Bedchamber           

Described as ‘the most famous room in Scotland’, the bedchamber is known for its original decorative oak ceiling, painted frieze and incredibly low doorway. While people were much smaller in the 1500s when this tower was built, Mary grew to be six feet tall.
 

Supper Room

Just off the bedchamber is the tiny Supper Room where Mary was dining on 9 March 1566 when she witnessed the murder of her private secretary, David Rizzio. Killed by her jealous husband, Lord Darnley, and a group of powerful Scottish lords, Rizzio was stabbed 56 times. It is claimed that the bloodstains from Rizzio's body are still visible in the Outer Chamber where he was left for all to see. See if you can spot the marks on the floor when you visit.

 

Outer Chamber

In the Outer Chamber Mary received visitors. The devout Roman Catholic Queen enjoyed many a debate with John Knox, the headstrong Scottish Protestant cleric. The oak-panelled Oratory is where she said her prayers, the original ceiling is decorated with the cross of St Andrew encircled by a royal crown. Also on display is the spectacular Darnley Jewel, one of the finest treasures in the Royal Collection.

Bonnie Prince Charlie

Bonnie Prince Charlie

Bonnie Prince Charlie ©

Prince Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, brought the Palace of Holyroodhouse to life in 1745 when he set up court for six weeks.

Charles arrived in Scotland to claim the throne of Great Britain for his father, James Francis Edward Stuart. As he entered the royal palace of his Stuart ancestors, he was cheered by great crowds of supporters.

The Great Gallery was used as the Prince's Audience Chamber during the day, and transformed in the evening for extravagant balls and receptions. Imagine this magnificent room at night, lit by hundreds of glowing candles and alive with the sound of music, laughter and dancing.

In the Queen's Ante-Chamber you can see where the Prince dined in public, watched by crowds of admiring spectators; and in the Queen’s Bedchamber, the sumptuous bed where he slept.

Bonnie Prince Charlie left Holyroodhouse in October 1745 and was finally defeated at the battle of Culloden in April 1746, before fleeing to Europe and life in exile.

Throne Room

Throne Room

Throne Room ©

The Throne Room is used for receptions and other State occasions. The centrepiece of the room is the pair of thrones, commissioned by King George V in 1911. His ancestor, George IV visited Scotland in 1822, the first reigning British monarch to do so in almost 200 years.

In honour of the Scottish people, George IV had a complete Highland dress outfit specially made for his visit, which he wore to a grand reception in the Throne Room for 1,200 gentlemen. You can see Sir David Wilkie’s portrait of the king in his kilt in the Royal Dining Room. 

The king’s kilt was made of Royal Stewart tartan. He also wore traditional Highland weaponry, including a dirk (a type of dagger), sword, belt and a powder horn (a container for gunpowder), all of which are on display at the Palace.

Holyrood Abbey

Standing next to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and overlooked by the dramatic Salisbury Crags, Holyrood Abbey was once one of the grandest medieval abbeys in Scotland.

The Abbey was enlarged over the centuries and the surviving roofless nave, Romanesque arcading, Gothic windows and vaulted ceiling help us imagine the grandeur of this once magnificent building.  Look out for the Royal Vault which contains the remains of James V.

 

Abbey Tours

Join our Palace Wardens on a daily guided tour of the Abbey, and discover the history, myth and legend surrounding this iconic national treasure. The tours start inside the Abbey ruins and they run every hour – ask a Warden for more details on timings when you visit.

Palace Gardens

Palace Gardens

Explore the Palace Gardens ©

Set against the dramatic backdrop of Arthur’s Seat, the beautiful 4-hectare Palace gardens have uninterrupted views towards the Queen's Park, also known as Holyrood Park.

During the summer, the gardens are a kaleidoscope of colour, filled with the chorus of song birds. Highlights include the Jubilee Border, originally planted with silver plants in celebration of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee; the Wentworth Elm, a species which until recently was thought to be extinct; and Queen Mary's sundial, made for Charles I's Scottish coronation in 1633. Each summer, The Queen hosts her annual Garden Party at the Palace.

 

Visiting the Gardens

The gardens (following the garden path) are open with standard admission tickets every day April – October and in December for our Christmas programme. During November, and January – March the gardens are only open at the weekend.

 

Garden Tours

With our special Royal Visit ticket, you can visit the Palace, The Queen’s Gallery and take a Garden History Tour around the Palace Gardens. Accompanied by our Palace Wardens, we will take you off the public garden path to see the Jubilee Border, sun dial and ha-ha (a deep trench at the edge of the garden, which acts as a barrier without breaking the line of sight across Holyrood Park and Salisbury Crags).

Great Gallery

The Great Gallery

The Great Gallery ©

The largest room in the Palace, the Great Gallery is hung with portraits of real and legendary kings of Scotland. Depicting 95 kings and one queen, the portraits show the long line of the Stuart dynasty, starting with Fergus I, the legendary founder of Scotland in c.330BC.

The series includes portraits of Macbeth, King of Scots and Robert the Bruce, who led Scotland to victory against the English in 1314. Mary, Queen of Scots, who lived at the Palace between1561-1567, is the only Scottish queen.

There were originally 111 portraits but many were damaged in 1746 by government troops after defeat at the battle of Falkirk. If you look carefully, you can see the marks made by their swords on a number of paintings.

The Gallery today

Today, The Queen uses the Great Gallery for hosting State Banquets, dinners and receptions. Every year an Investiture takes place here, where Her Majesty honours people who have given outstanding service to their profession or community.

 

Treasures in the Palace

The Darnley Jewel

The Darnley Jewel, one of many objects in the Royal Collection ©

Each room in the Palace of Holyroodhouse is filled with furniture, paintings and objects with a story. Discover more about these objects online with our room-by-room listing.