Walking around Edinburgh you can’t help but find a palace or castle along your route. At the top of the high street, known as the Royal Mile, is Edinburgh Castle, while at the bottom you will find Holyrood Palace. This royal estate is one of the Queen’s royal residences, has hosted dignitaries across the globe, and is a sneak peek for visitors who want to check out royal life.
I am a little obsessed with the royals. Not stalker obsessed. I’m not crazy. I also don’t spend oodles of cash on trinkets from the royal wedding or anything, but I do find them fascinating.
While traveling through Scotland with my kids and parents, I wanted to see as many castles and palaces as possible. It had rained while we explored Edinburgh Castle. Spring tends to open the flood gates. Naturally, it was raining again as we toured Holyrood Palace.
The rain would be a trend throughout our two-week journey in Scotland. Anytime we visited a castle it would rain. If Scotland is ever in a drought they should call my family. We’ll visit a few castles so they can get some water back into the land.
HOLYROOD PALACE SELF-GUIDED TOUR
We had seen the outside of Holyrood, the giftshop and the café, after hiking Arthur’s Seat with the kids, but I wanted to get into those walls and see what was housed there. No photos are allowed in Holyrood (found that out the hard way and got yelled at by a guard. Eek!). You do get an audio guide device as you enter though. I thought this was just for adults, but one of the attendants quickly asked if I wanted a children’s guide when he saw my son.
My oldest has become obsessed with audioguides lately. While touring the Louvre and the Musee d’ Orsay in Paris with a guide, he insisted on having his own. He didn’t always know what was going on, but he liked to remind me to stay with the group anytime the guide spoke in his ear via her microphone. To have a guide tailored just for him was a blessing in disguise. It also meant our visit was a lot longer than I intended.
HOLYROOD PALACE CHILDREN’S AUDIOGUIDE
Each room of the palace has a numbered sign so you know what number to press on your audioguide. While my guide told me the history of the space, tidbits about the paintings and sculpture, and generally rambled on a bit, my son’s guide gave him a scavenger hunt through the rooms.
More often than not I would be ready to move onto the next room before him. He would reprimand me saying “no mommy, I need to find the sword with the dragon” or whatever the audio guide had asked him. Suddenly he was setting the pace and deciding what we would see and do. This doesn’t happen often in our travels. I was more than happy to let him set the pace.
HOLYROOD PALACE ABBEY
My favorite part of the palace wasn’t the inside. It was the burnt down Abbey with no roof, and the palace gardens. Spring was in the air, so flowers were popping out. The rain filled the space with a floral scent as we passed azaleas and rhododendrons.
The skeleton of the abbey was a wondrous space to photograph. My son was tickled pink by the number of “pirates” buried there. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the skull and cross bones didn’t really mean the people had been pirates. They were just buried there. Usually they were pretty important, law abiding citizens, at least in their day.
The rain may have put a damper on the start of our journey, but by the time we went outside it had subsided to a drizzle. We celebrated the end of the rain with scones and ice cream at the Holyrood Palace cafe, before walking back up the high street towards our rental apartment.
A tour of the palace didn’t take up more than a morning, leaving plenty of time to explore other parts of the city. If you are up for a true adventure, you can easily hike Arthur’s Seat and end at Holyrood Palace for a full day of royalty.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- Holyrood Castle,
- Stroller? Leave the stroller at hotel if possible. Opt for a baby carrier instead.
- Get the free audio guide for the kids and adults
- Enjoy the café. Decent food at decent prices.
- Pack an umbrella
- No PHOTOS inside the palace.
- Check the Palace website for hours. It will close to the public if the queen is in town.
- Don’t let the rain scare you from the gardens and abbey. You might just get them to yourself.