Holyrood Palace (1600) and Abbey (1100) connected to one another, awesome.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Waking up with a huge weight off our shoulders. I didn’t realize just how stressful the driving made us. Now we were back in Edinburgh and could enjoy what we missed the first time.

When we left Edinburgh on Sunday we each wished we had one more day to explore this beautiful city. We’d had a good tour of Edinburgh Castle, walked the Royal Mile from top to bottom, and had a seen most of the Scotland exhibits at the National Museum of Scotland, but by the time we arrived at Holyrood Palace, an Edinburgh must see, it was closing.

Our current hotel for one night, the MacDonald Holyrood, is a two minute walk to the palace. After a leisurely breakfast we’re off, but first a word about breakfast. There is always an opportunity to have a full (huge) Scottish breakfast of eggs, sausage, bacon, blood pudding, stewed tomato, and toast, but what we’re really enjoying is the tea! Real tea, in a teapot, with a cute little strainer, and real cups and saucers – so civilized. Add a croissant, real butter, and jam and that’s all we need until more tea mid afternoon! We aren’t taking time for lunch – breakfast, afternoon tea, and an early dinner have become our norm.

Okay this is an internet picture but you get the idea.

Mornings have usually been pretty cloudy, and rain is likely for a brief time each day, but for some reason it doesn’t bother us and we usually have some sunshine during the day. People are hustling to work but its never really crowded. There are certainly lots of tourists, but not the numbers you would see in other European cities in the summer. Edinburgh reminds me of Boston in some ways – on the water, lots of history, a concentrated downtown, and hell to drive in!

Entrance to Holyrood Palace

Gail, the English teacher studiously listening to the audio

Lovely fountain at entrance, all kinds of meaningful carving. Must WIKI that one day, curious.

Inner courtyard and this is where they say no more pictures.

Looking up at Arthur’s Seat from the entance

Holyrood Palace is the official residence of the Queen when she’s in Scotland. Apparently Balmoral is her place for relaxation but when she’s meeting dignitaries, or has official engagements in Scotland, she resides at Holyrood. I got the impression this isn’t too often though. The current palace was built in the 1600s immediately beside an Abbey founded by King David in 1128. The abbey stood until the roof collapsed in the mid 1700s and only the ruins remain today, but they are beautiful. The palace and abbey are surrounded by very well maintained, lovely, and immaculate gardens. Like not a stray leave and every blade of grass perfect. The Scottish rain plays a great roll in the-hurt-your-eyes-green you see all over Scotland.

Back gardens and imposing view of Arthur’s Seat.
Arthur’s seat looms over Edinburgh and you can always see people making the long climb up this mountain (hill) to see the view. I kept telling myself if I only had more time I’d make the climb, but when I had more time I found another excuse. Can’t remember what that was (grin).

You can take pictures of the outside and inner courtyard of Holyrood Palace but not the inside rooms. I can only guess this is for security reasons. The rooms are well maintained and beautiful and the free audio guide very good. The palace is known for the large tapestries in almost every room. The private apartments where Mary Queen of Scots witnessed the murder of her “secretary”, Rizzio by her jealous husband are quite amazing. The room where it happened while she and Rizzio were having dinner is tiny. Apparently this was her go-to room and thinking about it I imagine it was because the palace was so Scottish damp in those days and a cozy room with a fireplace could easily be my go-to place as well.

There’s a large gallery, beautifully decorated with portraits of all the kings of Scotland going back to the beginning. Gail commented that they all looked alike, different hair styles, different clothing, but the same face for the most part. I’d read (in Outlander) how these portraits all by Jacob de Wet were commission by James and elder brother Charles II in the 1600s. De Wet painted 106 (possibly 110) Scottish monarchs, from the legendary King Fergus to James VII. Of course he didn’t know what they looked like so he basically painted the same family traits into all of them. There’s a uniformity that strikes you if you’re paying attention.

The palace is well maintained and interesting, especially Mary Queen of Scots apartments. Everywhere you go in Scotland there’s a Mary Queen of Scots association and story.

The audio guide leads you through the palace, then out a door on the right of the palace into the ruins of Holyrood Abbey. It’s actually attached to the palace. No roof and clearly only half standing, but its beautiful and speaks to you. Everyone is wandering around looking at the architecture, beautiful stone work, plaques and stone coffins, and what must have been amazing stained glass arched windows at one time. Everyone is speaking in low tones as if they were actually in an abbey or church, instead of a roofless ruins. There’s a natural inclination to be respectful in this place.

Gail at Holyrood Abbey

Kathy Holyrood Abbey

Beautiful window, you can imagine how beautiful it must have been in its day.

Stone carving and windows

Flying buttresses!

I’m so glad we had the time to go back to Holyrood Palace and didn’t leave Scotland without seeing it. So worth it. After our tour of Holyrood we gathered our bags to move back to the Inn Place for the next two nights. Then off to buy a camera and see the New Town section of Edinburgh. Just off the Royal Mile, near the Sir Walter Scott memorial there is a bustling shopping area. Fashionable shops as well as the more practical. Alas finding a store that sold cameras was a bit harder and we walked around for awhile following leads and finally seeking a certain department store. The rest of the day was walking around that section of Edinburgh before heading back to Cockburn Street with a stop for an early dinner at Bella Italia – PIZZA, which was very good, and wine. Perfect. Early bed – tomorrow a day tour to St Andrews!


I'm in my sixties with the world at my feet and thoughts mostly of "where to next?". I retired in 2017, sold my house in Massachusetts and most of my furniture and "stuff." When not traveling you can find me in Florida in the winter and Rhode Island in the summer. Travel has been a passion from a young age, over the years I've discovered I'm a traveler, not a tourist. I prefer traveling solo, with a travel friend, or small groups. Whenever possible I would rather spend time in one place rather than moving around. I'll never turn down an opportunity to go to France, but my travels have taken me all over the world. I've met some incredible people and had some fantastic experiences.


  • Bev August 13, 2015 at 6:56 am Reply

    I can imagine Mary sitting for hours, days, weeks, months, years in her dank room in Holyrood with a candle to read (her bible) and not much else to do but wait and wonder about the constant intrigues surrounding her, and her fate – what a life! Another stark reminder of how fortunate we are to live in this century in North America. Really enjoying your excellent recording of your travels. Many of us are traveling with you! Thanks, Kath for taking the time – not easy on the road.

  • Gail Duffy August 13, 2015 at 7:44 am Reply

    Such fun reading about our trip!

    What strikes me is how rainy it looks. Weirdly, while the pictures definitely chronicle just how often it the “wet stuff” falls, it took looking at these pictures to remind me that it was raining that day. When I think about why I’ve minimized the rain, I realize it’s because I’ve maximized all those good memories. The rain becomes a “bit player” in the extraordinary historical drama that is the Scotland of my memories. Thanks for letting me revisit all these good memories. And remember the rain!

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