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Palace of Holyroodhouse

Highlights of the Palace of Holyroodhouse

A visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse includes the remains of 12th-century Holyrood Abbey, the Palace gardens, the State Apartments of the Palace itself, and stories of its most famous residents from the past and present. 

State Apartments

King's Bedchamber, Palace of Holyroodhouse©

A reflection of the changing tastes of successive monarchs, the State Apartments are famous for their beautiful plasterwork ceilings and unrivalled collection of French and Flemish tapestries.

As you walk through the Palace, you will notice how the rooms become progressively grander as you approach the King's Bedchamber - the grandest room of all, where historically, only the most important guests would have been granted an audience.


Explore the King's Bedchamber in our 360 image

Image credit: Will Pearson | Eye Revolution

Royal Dining Room

Queen Elizabeth II and members of the Royal Family used this as their dining room when they stayed at the Palace. The silver banqueting service on display was presented to King George V and Queen Mary to mark their Silver Jubilee in 1935.  Commissioned specifically for use at Holyroodhouse, the service was made in Edinburgh and based on Scottish examples from the early 17th century.


Throne Room and Privy Chamber

During Holyrood Week, when Queen Elizabeth II stayed at the Palace each year, she hosted lunch in the Throne Room for the Knights and Ladies of the Order of the Thistle, the highest order of chivalry in Scotland. The Privy Chamber, created for Charles II in the late 1600s, was used for private audiences with the First Minister of Scotland and visiting dignitaries. This room was also referred to as the Morning Drawing Room in the time of Queen Victoria; when the Queen stayed at the Palace of Holyroodhouse with her family on the way to Balmoral, her mornings were often spent here.


Explore the Privy Chamber in our 360 image

Image credit: Will Pearson | Eye Revolution

Mary, Queen of Scots' Chambers

Mary, Queen of Scots' Bedchamber©
Mary, Queen of Scots, circa 1558©

Perhaps one of the most famous monarchs to live at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Mary, Queen of Scots' chambers where she lived between 1561-1567 are not to be missed. When you climb the steps up to the north-west tower you enter a world of intrigue, tragedy and murder.

Reached by a narrow, steep and winding staircase, this is the oldest section of the palace. Built almost 500 years ago, the battlements and fortified walls are typical of a time when kings and queens required protection against their enemies.  



The bedchamber is known for its original decorative oak ceiling, painted frieze and incredibly low doorway. While people were much smaller in the 1500s when this tower was built, Mary grew to be six feet tall.

Supper Room

Just off the bedchamber is the tiny Supper Room where Mary was dining on 9 March 1566 when she witnessed the murder of her private secretary, David Rizzio. Killed by her jealous husband, Lord Darnley, and a group of powerful Scottish lords, Rizzio was stabbed 56 times. It is claimed that the bloodstains from Rizzio's body are still visible in the Outer Chamber where he was left for all to see. See if you can spot the marks on the floor when you visit.


Outer Chamber

In the Outer Chamber Mary received visitors. The devout Roman Catholic Queen enjoyed many a debate with John Knox, the headstrong Scottish Protestant cleric. The oak-panelled Oratory is where she said her prayers, the original ceiling is decorated with the cross of St Andrew encircled by a royal crown. Also on display is the spectacular Darnley Jewel, one of the finest treasures in the Royal Collection.

Bonnie Prince Charlie

Bonnie Prince Charlie©

Prince Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, brought the Palace of Holyroodhouse to life in 1745 when he set up court for six weeks.

Charles arrived in Scotland to claim the throne of Great Britain for his father, James Francis Edward Stuart. As he entered the royal palace of his Stuart ancestors, he was cheered by great crowds of supporters.

The Great Gallery was used as the Prince's Audience Chamber during the day, and transformed in the evening for extravagant balls and receptions. Imagine this magnificent room at night, lit by hundreds of glowing candles and alive with the sound of music, laughter and dancing.

In the Ante-Chamber you can see where the Prince dined in public, watched by crowds of admiring spectators; and in the Lord Darnley's Bedchamber, the sumptuous bed where he may have slept.

Bonnie Prince Charlie left Holyroodhouse in October 1745 and was finally defeated at the battle of Culloden in April 1746, before fleeing to Europe and life in exile.

Throne Room

Throne Room©

The Throne Room is used for receptions and other State occasions. The centrepiece of the room is the pair of thrones, commissioned by King George V in 1911. His ancestor, George IV visited Scotland in 1822, the first reigning British monarch to do so in almost 200 years.

In honour of the Scottish people, George IV had a complete Highland dress outfit specially made for his visit, which he wore to a grand reception in the Throne Room for 1,200 gentlemen. You can see Sir David Wilkie’s portrait of the king in his kilt in the Royal Dining Room. 

The king’s kilt was made of Royal Stewart tartan. He also wore traditional Highland weaponry, including a dirk (a type of dagger), sword, belt and a powder horn (a container for gunpowder), all of which are on display at the Palace.

Holyrood Abbey

Holyrood Abbey©

Standing next to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and overlooked by the dramatic Salisbury Crags, Holyrood Abbey was once one of the grandest medieval abbeys in Scotland.

The Abbey was founded in 1128 after King David I saw a vision of a stag with a cross or 'rood' between its antlers while hunting in the forest below the slopes of Arthur's Seat. He decided to build a new religious foundation dedicated to the Holy Rood on the site. 

The Abbey was enlarged over the centuries and the surviving roofless nave, Romanesque arcading, Gothic windows and vaulted ceiling help us imagine the grandeur of this once magnificent building.  Look out for the Royal Vault which contains the remains of James V.

Palace Gardens

Explore the Palace Gardens©

Set against the dramatic backdrop of Arthur’s Seat, the beautiful 4-hectare Palace gardens have uninterrupted views towards the Queen's Park, also known as Holyrood Park.

During the summer, the gardens are a kaleidoscope of colour, filled with the chorus of song birds. Highlights include the Jubilee Border, originally planted with silver plants in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee; the Wentworth Elm, a species which until recently was thought to be extinct; and a sundial made for Charles I’s Scottish coronation in 1633. Each summer, Queen Elizabeth II hosted her annual Garden Party at the Palace.

Visiting the Gardens

The Palace gardens (following the garden path) are open with standard admission tickets every day, weather permitting.

Just outside the Palace is a newly created public garden. Situated on Abbey Strand, the garden can be freely enjoyed year round by the people of Edinburgh and visitors to the Palace, with seasonal planting inspired by some of the earliest recorded gardens on the site. The garden is available to access when the Palace is open. 

Great Gallery

The Great Gallery©

The largest room in the Palace, the Great Gallery is hung with portraits of real and legendary kings of Scotland. Depicting 95 kings and one queen, the portraits show the long line of the Stuart dynasty, starting with Fergus I, the legendary founder of Scotland in c.330BC.

The series includes portraits of Macbeth, King of Scots and Robert the Bruce, who led Scotland to victory against the English in 1314. Mary, Queen of Scots, who lived at the Palace between 1561-1567, is the only Scottish queen.

There were originally 111 portraits but many were damaged in 1746 by government troops after defeat at the battle of Falkirk. If you look carefully, you can see the marks made by their swords on a number of paintings.


Treasures in the Palace

The Darnley Jewel (RCIN 28181)©

Each room in the Palace of Holyroodhouse is filled with furniture, paintings and objects with a story. Discover more about these objects online with our room-by-room listing.

Highlights film

Watch our short film about visiting the Palace ©

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.