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Palace of Holyrood House, Edinburgh

Palace of Holyrood HousePalace of Holyrood House View slideshow
The Royal Mile ends proudly outside the wrought-iron gates of Holyroodhouse Palace, which stands out against the backdrop of Salisbury Crags. The climb is steep but is rewarded with a magnificent view of the city and Holyroodhouse. The palace has frequently been at center stage as Scottish history has unfolded. James II and James IV were both married here, Mary Stuart wed Lord Darnley, James V and Charles I were crowned and "Bonnie Prince Charlie" held court at the palace for a short time in 1745. After the visits of Queen Victoria in the middle of the 19th C, Holyrood was promoted as the official residence of the British monarch in Edinburgh and for that reason, during the summer months, it is not open to the public.
Address: Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH8 8DX, Scotland

Holyrood Abbey

The ruins of Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh.
The history of the palace and abbey began with a small chapel on the rock. Queen Margaret, canonized in 1251 and named as Scotland's patron saint, died here in 1093. She possessed a sacred crucifix ("holy rood") that was said to have been made of wood from Jesus' cross and the Augustine abbey that her son David I founded here in 1128 was probably named after this relic.
About 1220 the monastery church underwent considerable extension and was further added to during the 13th and 14th century. Badly damaged on more than one occasion, it deteriorated towards the end of the 18th century and the central nave is now all that remains of the medieval abbey. David II, James II and his wife, James V and Lord Darnley are all buried in the church.

Holyrood House

Delighted with the location, Scotland's monarchs decided to build a house for guests at a spot to the west of the abbey. This eventually became a royal residence and James IV and his son James V extended the building into a palace at the beginning of the 16th century. In 1544 the greater part of the palace was burnt down and Cromwell's troops further devastated the rebuilt structure with another fire in 1650. Following the death of Elizabeth I, Mary Stuart's son James IV became James I of England and he moved his court to London. Holyrood lost its importance and only rarely hosted royal guests. On the occasion of Charles I's coronation, castle and abbey were renovated. Work on the present building took place between 1671 and 1679 following the Classical style of the Renaissance and according to plans by Sir William Bruce of Kinless. The royal master builder Robert Mylne was responsible for its completion. A low central section with a charming facade was interposed between the old northwest and new southwest tower, and Doric columns and the coat of arms of the Scottish royal king were added to the main portal. The painter Jakob de Witt was commissioned to carry out the interior decorations, with Jan van Santvoort responsible for the woodcarving and John Hulbert, George Dunsterfield and Thomas Alborn the stucco plastering. Expensive tapestries were ordered from Flanders and Paris.
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Holyrood House Interior

Charles II's royal chamber with its elegant furnishings is now used by the Queen when she stays in Edinburgh. The north wing which escaped the worst of the 1544 fire houses 89 portraits of Scottish monarchs - from Fergus, the founder of the dynasty, to James VII. These were the work of the Dutchman Jakob de Witt who at the request of Charles II completed them all between 1684 and 1686. The chambers of Mary Stuart form part of the northwest tower, which dates from the time of James IV. On March 9, 1566 in the queen's anteroom on the second floor, David Rizzio was murdered. He fell victim to some 50 stab wounds at the upper end of the main staircase. A brass plaque marks the probable spot where he met his death. In the queen's boudoir and bedroom, the original oak coffered ceilings may still be seen. They bear the initials of her parents: IR and ER. J. Michael Wright's 17th century painting of a clan chief - probably Sir John Campbell of Glenorchy, Earl of Breadalbane - adorns the Dining Room. This painting is of particular interest as it is one of the first illustrations of the highlanders' costume with girded plaid and Restoration doublet. The Evening Drawing Room was restored at the request of Queen Victoria and was decorated with 18th century Gobelin tapestries from Buckingham Palace. Sir William Hutchison painted the portrait of the Queen Mother.
An important collection of 16th and 17th century commissioned tapestries as well as "Turkey-work" upholstered chairs of the 1680s can be found in the interior.

Holyrood House Fountain

The fountain (20ft/6m high) in front of Holyroodhouse Palace is embellished with Late Gothic ornamentation and stylish Renaissance figures such as Mary Stuart, the flute-playing Rizzio and Elizabeth I reading. It is a Victorian replica of the fountain at Linlithgow Palace. The tip of the fountain forms a crown with a globe bearing the Scottish lion.

Holyrood Park

Chapel ruins in St Anthony's Park, Edinburgh.
Features within the 642acre/260ha park on the north side of the palace include a sundial, the two artificial lakes of St Margaret's and Dunsapie Loch and, at the foot of Abbeyhill, a small building with a pyramid roof, Queen Mary's bath.

Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat

Path beside Salisbury Crags.
Arthur's Seat (820ft/250m), a volcanic outcrop named after the sixth century Arthur of Strathclyde, is the highest point in Holyrood Park. The view from the top encompasses the city of Edinburgh and the mouth of the Forth. The easiest way to the top is from Dunsapie Loch.
Numerous rocks and geological features abound around the 325 million year old volcano crater known as Arthur's Seat. It is little wonder that the famed geologist Hutton was able to identify many different forms of molten rocks that had been pushed into the softer sedimentary rocks.

Salisbury Crags - Dynamic Earth

Dynamic Earth is a multi-media presentation that will take visitors back over 500 million years. Using the latest technology and special effects natural events, including volcanoes, tropical rainstorms and an iceberg, will be recreated. The presentation will be further enhanced by the natural setting - Salisbury Crags.

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