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Palace and Abbey of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

Holyrood courtesy Visit Britain PR Holyrood grounds by Barbara Ballard The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. In the grounds of the Palace of Holyroodhouse are the ruins of the nave of Holyrood Abbey, responsible for the palace being located here.


Holyrood Abbey ruins by Barbara Ballard The Augustinian abbey was, according to legend, founded in 1128 by King David after his vision of a cross at the site. The legend is that a deer that was attacking him suddenly disappeared and the antlers turned into a cross in his hands. Only the roofless nave, dating from the late 12th-early 13th century, now remains.

Holyrood Abbey ruins by Barbara Ballard Holyrood Abbey ruins by Graeme Smith courtesy Geograph








James II was born, married, and buried at the abbey. The abbey guest house was used as a royal residence until James IV decided to build the round north-west tower, constructed in the early 16th century. Charles I was crowned at the abbey in 1633. In 1650 the abbey was burned by Cromwell, but the nave survived to serve as the parish church. In 1688 James VII took over the church to make it a chapel royal.

Holyrood Palace and Grounds courtesy Visit Britain PR Charles II commissioned the architect Sir William Bruce to build the royal palace in the Palladian style. The tower apartments were the home of Mary Queen of Scots from 1561 upon her return from France in 1568. Her secretary, David Rizzio, was murdered here. In 1672 the tower apartments were redone.

Holyrood grounds by Barbara Ballard In the tower lobby are 17th century Mortlake tapestries. The 16th century coffered ceilings, one with painted designs, are of special note. Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) stayed here in 1745. In addition to the tower rooms a tour also takes in the royal apartments, a large suite of rooms that includes a throne room, Adam style dining room, morning drawing room with 17th century French tapestries, evening drawing room with Brussels tapestries on the wall, and a picture gallery where 90 portraits of 17th century Scottish monarchs are on view. The ceilings in the royal apartments are decorative plasterwork while the doors are carved woodwork. The king’s chamber holds a red bed dated 1672.

The fountain by Nigel Chadwick courtesy Geograph Holyrood Palace entrance by Nigel Chadwick courtesy Geograph The fountain in the grounds is a 19th century one and copied the design of the fountain at Linlithgow palace. The palace entrance is set off by columns and stonework above the door with the coat of arms of Scotland.

The Queen’s Gallery, Edinburgh, built in the shell of the former Holyrood Free Church and Duchess of Gordon's School, has changing exhibitions from the Royal collection.

Visitor Information

Palace of Holyroodhouse
At the end of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh
Tel. 0131 556 1096
Open: April-end Oct, daily (except 25-26 Dec and when the Queen is in residence—check with Tourist information or phone), 9:30am-6pm, last admission 5pm; Nov-end March, 9:30am-4.30pm, last admission 3:30pm; free guided tours of the abbey
Shop; cafe; no parking
Website: Palace of Holyroodhouse
Queen’s Gallery
Open: April –end Oct, 9.30-6pm, last admission 5pm; Nov-March, 9:30am-4.30pm, last admission 3:30pm; also closed when Queen is in residence—check website for full details
Website: The Queen’s Gallery, Holyrood House

Photos © by Barbara Ballard and as follows:
Photo of exterior of Palace of Holyroodhouse and Palace of Holyroodhouse and grounds courtesy of Visit Britain
and others courtesy of Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Holyrood Abbey by Graeme Smith; Palace of Holyroodhouse fountain and Holyrood Palace entrance gates by Nigel Chadwick.

All content ©.

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