Holyroodhouse Castle is a beautiful baroque palace in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, which has the status of the official residence of British kings on the territory of this region. The name of the castle comes from the expression “Haly Ruid,” meaning “Holy Cross.”
Save money on travel!
The royal residence was built in the 15th century in a medieval abbey of Augustinian monks, of which only well-restored ruins remain. The Holyrood Palace underwent several serious reconstructions. In the 16th century it housed the Scottish Queen Mary Stuart and in the 19th century the French monarch Charles X. The ancient palace received the status of an official residence in 1920.
Nowadays during her visits to Edinburgh the British queen always stays at Holyroodhouse Castle. Lavish receptions, various ceremonies and the appointment of the head of the government and the country’s political leader – the first minister of Scotland – are held here. When none of the members of the royal family are at the palace, tourists are allowed into the building.
There are beautiful gardens around Holyrood Castle, and next to it are the ruins of the old Augustinian abbey. The territory of the palace is open to visitors only partially. It is accessible daily: from April to October from 9.30 to 18.00 and from November to March from 9.30 to 16.30.
Tickets are £12.50 for adults, £11.4 for students and over 60s and £7.50 for under 17s. Children under the age of 5 can visit the palace for free. Keep in mind that it is forbidden to take photos, make videos or bring food and drink inside the building.
History of Holyroodhouse Castle
In 1128 King David I of Scotland founded the abbey, where the Augustinian monks began to live. According to legend, David was attacked by a deer while hunting in the woods. The king may have been killed by sharp antlers, but suddenly a light cloud appeared in the sky, on which a large cross glowed. The deer became frightened of it and ran away. The king considered what he saw an omen and built the abbey of the Holy Cross.
In the XV century, the monastery hotel began to be used to receive royalty and hold wedding celebrations. The place became very popular, so at the turn of XV-XVI centuries, when King James IV of Scotland reigned, the inn was replaced by a new palace built in the best traditions of the Renaissance.
As Edinburgh grew and became the principal Scottish city, Holyroodhouse Castle became the residence of the British monarchs. When the Civil War broke out, Oliver Cromwell’s troops quartered in the palace and they caused considerable damage and even a fire.
Major alterations of Holyrood Castle took place in the seventies of the XVII century, under King Charles II, who decided to build a comfortable palace for his brother James – the Duke of York. Trying to accommodate all the king’s wishes, architect William Bruce erected a palace building in the form of a quadrangle and built in it luxurious apartments for the king. It is true that the monarch himself never came to Edinburgh.
In the early XVIII century Scotland and England came to unite, so the Castle of Holyroodhouse lost its former importance and gradually fell into disrepair. Restoration of the palace and preservation of the old rooms and halls began only in the beginning of the XIX century by order of King George IV.
Excursion around the palace
We advise you to spend at least an hour and a half to see the palace complex. Taking into account the importance of the royal residence, there is a one-way route through the Holyrood Palace. It begins with the baroque Main Staircase, built in the XVII century. The ceiling above the steps is decorated with elegant stucco in the form of angels holding the main regalia of Scotland, and on the walls there are paintings by Italian masters of the XVI century.
Then tourists enter the Royal Dining Room. This is followed by the sumptuous Throne Room, where George IV’s coronation ceremony was held. Of particular interest to visitors are the richly decorated apartments of Mary Stuart. These rooms contain many antique tapestries, furniture, rare paintings and antiques.
The part of Holyroodhouse Castle, which tells of the Order of the Thistle, exhibits samples of the awards that were given to Scottish residents who held public office and contributed greatly to the country’s prosperity. In this part of the palace the mantle traditionally worn at the initiation ceremony of knights of the Order of the Thistle is on display.
In Holyroodhouse Castle there is an art gallery, where you can see the portraits of all the Scottish kings. It also exhibits rare jewelry and decorative arts from the rich royal collections.
How to get there
Holyroodhouse Castle stands in the center of Edinburgh, at the end of Royal Mile Street, across from Arthur’s Seat Hill. It can be reached by buses number 6 and 35. Edinburgh’s Waverley Station is a 15-minute walk from the palace.
Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh consists of the royal castle, the park of the same name and the ruins of Holy Cross Abbey.
Holyrood Palace is an ancient castle and the official residence of the British kings located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.
Holyrood Castle has its origin from the inn of the Abbey of the Holy Cross (Holyrood) founded as early as in XII century. At the end of the XV century James IV built on the site of the inn a palace in Renaissance style, which became a royal residence during the reign of Mary Stuart a few decades later. After England and Scotland were united under one crown, Holyrood became the residence of the English monarchs in Scotland. In the second half of XVII century the palace was rebuilt in Baroque style by architect William the Bruce and in such form it has reached our days. Nowadays Holyrood Castle in Edinburgh is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, used for various ceremonies, such as the appointment of the first minister of Scotland and the knighting of the Order of the Thistle, the oldest order in Scotland.
Holyrood was the home of prominent figures of its time. The castle carefully preserved the chambers of the fierce Mary Stuart, who during her lifetime was queen of France and Scotland and was a pretender to the English throne. In the 19th century, Holyrood became the place of exile for the last French king of the Bourbon dynasty, Charles X.
The Palace is located in the center of Edinburgh on the main street of the city, which is called the Royal Mile. The distance from Edinburgh train station is 1 km, so a leisurely walk to the palace takes no more than 15 minutes. Buses 35 and 36 take you to Holyrood from other parts of Edinburgh.
Most of the tourists in the castle are attracted by the chambers of Queen Mary Stuart, which have been protected from any changes since the XIX century by the order of King George IV. The chambers are decorated with a variety of tapestries, antiques and paintings.
Other halls of the palace of great interest to visitors:
- The Grand Gallery, whose walls are decorated with portraits of 110 Scottish kings, including legendary ones.
- The Throne Room, where meetings of members of the Order of the Thistle and knighthoods are held.
- An exhibit on the history of the order and its members.
- The Royal Suite, where Elizabeth II stays.
- The Royal Dining Room.
All the rooms of the Palace are richly decorated; the 17th-century grand staircase and the walls decorated with paintings in the Italian Renaissance style stand out.
Holyrood Park and Abbey
The Royal residence is surrounded by the homonymous park which covers an area of 260 hectares. The park’s natural attractions include basalt rocks, small lakes and an extinct volcano called Arthur’s Throne. On top of the volcano at an altitude of 250 meters above sea level is the highest point of the Scottish capital. On the spurs of Arthur’s throne are the basalt pillars of Samson’s Rib and Salisbury about 50 meters high, used since ancient times by sports climbers.
Tourists can also visit the abbey where Holyrood’s glorious history began. Now only picturesque ruins remain of the once outstanding building, which has remained in this form for more than 250 years after the collapse of the roof in a hurricane. Also standing aside from the main complex is the modest building of the Queen Mary’s baths, built back in the 16th century.
Palace Museum hours:
- 09:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (April through October);
- 09:30 – 16:30 (November – March).
Holyrood Castle is closed at Christmas and during visits to the castle of the Queen of Great Britain. Traditionally, the head of the kingdom has to spend at least one week a year here (end of June – beginning of July).
- 12.50 GBP for an adult ticket;
- 11.40 GBP for students and pensioners;
- 7.50 GBP for schoolchildren and disabled people, free entry for children under five.
In summer for the same price tourists can take a full audio-guided tour of the palace complex, the park and Holyrood Abbey, during which the guide takes visitors through the history of the famous castle and its inhabitants.
Address: Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX, United Kingdom Phone: +44 131 556 5100