At one end of Edinburgh’s historic main artery, the Royal Mile, you’ll find the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. The Queen stays here during Holyrood Week, which typically takes place every year at the end of June; however, visitors can come and explore this active royal palace year-round to discover its rich history, which spans hundreds of years.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse originally served as a monastery back in 1128, but somewhat more recently, it’s become famous as the home of Mary, Queen of Scots, from 1561 to 1567. During your visit, you can explore the official chambers of the queen who met such a tragic end, including her bedchamber, her prayer niche and the Darnley Rooms, where much drama unfolded during her short reign.
Pick up a complimentary audio guide when you get here to make sure you don’t miss a beat; you’ll hear about the fascinating history of the palace and its numerous royal residents through the ages. Discover the beautiful State Apartments, which the current Queen still uses to this day. The largest and most famous room in the palace is the Great Gallery, where you’ll find original portraits of the kings of Scotland by the Baroque painter Joseph de Wet.
Plan to spend about 90 minutes at Holyroodhouse Palace. Opening hours are 9:30am to 4:30pm November to March and 9:30am to 6pm April to October. The palace is a 15-minute walk from Edinburgh’s Waverley train station; alternatively, bus routes 6 and 35 will drop you off near the palace. Adjacent to the palace is magnificent Holyrood Park, a rugged natural haven (and former playground for the monarchs), which boasts lots of local wildlife. Here, you can hike to the summit of Arthur’s Seat, one of four hill forts that dates back 2,000 years.