The Palace of Holyroodhouse (commonly known as "Holyrood Palace") in Edinburgh is the Queen’s official residence when she is in Scotland. It nestles beneath the imposing form of Arthur’s seat (an extinct volcano) at the foot of the Royal Mile, so named because it is a mile-long street which links the palace to Edinburgh Castle. By tradition, the Queen takes up residence during Holyrood Week (at the end of June) to discharge her official duties north of the border. But when she isn't in, visitors flock here to enjoy the great collection of artwork hosted by the Palace.
A little history
The Holyrood Palace began life as an Augustinian Abbey. The original buildings were built by King David I of Scotland in 1128. James IV converted the monastic buildings into a royal palace in the fifteenth century, although almost nothing remains of this early structure.
Palace of Holyroodhouse — Photo courtesy of John Allan
In 1528, James V built the massive rectangular tower, which forms the oldest remaining part of the palace. It was in part a defensive structure with a drawbridge and probably also a moat. The work of rebuilding and renovating the palace was continued by his son James VI of Scotland (James I of England), but a fire in 1650 caused extensive damage and what remained was relegated to becoming a barracks for some time.
Following the restoration of Charles II to the throne, the architect William Bruce was appointed to rebuild the palace, incorporating the old structures harmoniously with the new. The renovations were completed in 1679, and the beautifully balanced edifice he designed stands to this day.
Where royalty and art make their home
When in residence, the Royal Family uses the State Apartments for official ceremonies and entertaining guests. When they are not in residence, the apartments can be viewed by the public. They are decorated with an impressive collection of artwork, sculptures and tapestries.
The Throne Room hosts the banquet for those invested in the Order of the Thistle (the highest honor in Scotland), and the Morning Drawing Room is where the queen entertains honored guests, such as the First Minister of Scotland and the Pope. The Great Gallery is hung with the portraits of the real and mythical Kings of Scotland and is the location of the ceremony to grant honors in the New Year's and Queen’s Birthday honors lists.
The Holyrood Palace is the home of the Royal Collection. This fascinating collection, which has been assembled over the last five hundred or more years, includes paintings, drawings, ceramics, clocks, furniture, silver, sculpture, textiles, jewelry, fans, books, manuscripts, prints, maps, weapons and armor. Visitors can also see the apartments of Mary Queen of Scots, including the bed chamber of the queen and the outer chamber where her husband, Lord Darnley, murdered her Italian secretary Rizzio.
Visiting hours at the Palace of Holyroodhouse are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from November through March and 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from April to October.