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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 07 February, 2024
Expert travel writer: Lucy Gillmore

Once the home of Mary Queen of Scots, today it’s used as a residence when the British Monarch is visiting. Rebuilt during the 16th and 17th centuries, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is an elegant pile at the bottom of the Royal Mile with a ruined abbey, art gallery and obligatory gift shop.

Mooch around the Royal Apartments, still used for official business, and snoop around Mary Queen of Scots’ chambers for a fascinating peek into the life of the monarchy past and present.

During the summer (1 May-30 Sept) you can book a private half-hour tour of the gardens, exploring their history and seeing parts of the grounds normally closed to the public.

Logistics

Price from: £17
Minimum age: 3
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse top and tail the Royal Mile. The palace is opposite the strikingly contemporary Scottish Parliament building, in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat.

A 1-hour audio tour (multiple languages) is included in the ticket price (bring your own headphones if possible). A printed version of the transcript is available on request. There’s also a specific audio guide (in English) aimed at children aged 7-11, searching for mysterious unicorns and lions. In summer there are hourly (except midday) guided tours of the ruined abbey, founded by King David I of Scotland in 1128, with wardens clad in Stewart tartan.

The café in the courtyard is charming and serves simple soups, salads and sandwiches, along with home-made cakes.

When to do it

It’s open all year round, Thursday to Monday. Closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Destination guides

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Edinburgh

Edinburgh Region, United Kingdom (UK)

An overview of Old town Edinburgh and Edinburgh castle in Scotland. thousands of buildings covering the ground with on a blue sunny day with a scatter of white clouds

Capital treats abound, from mighty castles and royal palaces to gourmet restaurants and arguably the world’s best performing arts festival.