Fit for a Queen: The Palace of Holyroodhouse

Goal 5. Visit fifty new places.

Last Friday morning I was sitting at my desk, facing the prospect of sitting there all day, working on my dissertation, while the sun streamed in through the windows. I’d had a bit of a setback with my dissertation this week, and since I thought I might waste what could possibly be the only day of the Scottish summer, I decided to come up with an interesting and useful way to spend the day.

Now, despite mentioning it several times a day at work, I had never actually been to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. So – for educational purposes, really – I set off for a little walk in the sunshine to visit the Queen’s official residence in Scotland.

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I apologise for this terrible photo. I am no photographer. I could neither fit in the building nor get the ‘horizon’ straight.

I got my ticket, then was given an audio guide at the entrance. I’ve used an audio guide once before, at the Royal Yacht Britannia, and I think they’re a great way to get to know a place: you can repeat sections, skip sections and go at your own pace. It’s not a particularly social way to visit an attraction, but it suited me being on my own.

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I spent some time in the forecourt enjoying the weather and listening to the introductory sections. Then I proceeded into the castle, where you wander up the Great Staircase. I didn’t think it was all that ‘great’ until the audio guide informed me that, as this would be the start of any procession into the palace, rooms became progressively grander. The dining room provides information on Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, while the throne room focuses on a portrait of King James VI.

In the next room – a drawing room, I believe – there are large tapestries hung on the wall, which were apparently introduced by Queen Victoria as she found the room too dull. Odd, since the tapestries were all deep browns and greens, the very picture of blandness. What a shame that royals seem have no freedom to decorate their rooms magenta and turquoise if they so desire. In the next drawing room there was a family photo – a royal family photo – on a side table, which had been taken in that room. I found it bizarre to imagine the most famous royals in recent history wandering around the palace, which is daft, of course. They need to eat, sleep and socialise like the rest of us. It just so happens that one of their ‘homes’ is open to the public when they’re not there.

Perhaps the most interesting stories were about Mary, Queen of Scots. Obviously I knew a lot of her story already, but it was quite horrific to be faced with the place where the murder of David Rizzio took place. She also married her husbands here, and you can imagine her, hopeful about the future, only to be imprisoned when she was 26 years old. (Not much older than I am.) It’s a really tragic story.

Outside are the ruins of the Abbey, and the beautiful gardens. I got a load of gravel in my shoes, but it was worth it. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words (although perhaps they were unfamiliar with my photography skills) so here are some photos instead of more rambling:

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The Abbey

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So there we have it: a fun, touristy Friday, and another new place to add to my list. I haven’t yet decided where to visit this Friday, so let me know if you have any favourite tourist attractions in Edinburgh!

Lauren

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