Edinburgh, 2016 – Day Two: A Walk Through a Palace

Edinburgh Day Two promised to be more succinct: we had a plan we were going to stick to, and it only involved one destination – the Palace of Holyrood. Along the drive in, though the route was slightly different, we still saw plentiful churches and other buildings.

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One of the most startling moments of the entire trip occurred on our drive from Stirling to Edinburgh. I knew the Kelpies were based around Falkirk, but since I hadn’t bothered to explore a map short of needing to know where we were going, I was completely caught off guard by their appearance directly alongside the highway. The pictures below are from the second day’s drive into Edinburgh.

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Annoyingly, any time during which we had the opportunity to take the time to stop and look at them, the skies had opened and rain was falling somewhere along the spectrum of misty drizzle to torrential downpour. I suppose this is somewhat appropriate, since in Scottish folklore kelpies are water spirits who take enjoyment in drowning travelers. At nighttime, these 30 metre statues are illuminated in red.

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Our goal for today in Edinburgh was simple: spend the afternoon at Holyrood, keeping the day short and simple. We had been financially burned the previous day by parking in the lot closest to the castle – be warned, the parking cost is not cheap if you plan to park there most of the day – and we were not willing to make the same mistake again.

The biggest downside to the palace is that they do not allow photos within the rooms. I somehow managed to miss the sign stating no photography, and was sharply reprimanded by a staff member standing in the second room. Oops.

We opted for the audio guide, and I’m thrilled we did. The rooms had little to no information on their own, so the audio guide was a necessity.

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The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. The palace is still regularly used today, but – as with most of our destinations in Scotland – the most intriguing periods of the palace all stem from the time Mary Queen of Scots resided within its walls.

The palace was founded as a monastery in 1128, and the location quickly became the preferred residence for royalty, as opposed to living in the castle. In 1501, James IV had a palace built, and though only pieces survive from the original, his successors continued to expand the palace.

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The palace was stunning, and the audio guide pointed out everything from rules of etiquette to how a room was decorated to the hidden opening in the wall to allow staff to serve dinner during banquets.

If I’m being completely honest, I’ve forgotten most of what the audio guide informed me of. I forgot to keep a journal of everything we learned and heard each day, and I’m kicking myself for it now. One story I heard while there, I’m not sure I can ever forget – the murder of Mary’s private secretary, David Rizzio.

After her husband Francis’ death, Mary returned to Scotland in 1561. In 1565, she married Lord Darnley, who from all accounts craved power. He was suspicious of David, and in 1566 murdered him in Mary’s private apartments, in front of her and with the help of his closest friends. He sounds like a real charmer, right?

After exploring the palace, we made our way outside to Holyrood Abbey, a ruinous abbey that gave St. Giles’ Cathedral a run for its money in my books.

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Once again, the Gothic style wowed me, and I wandered around with my eyes as wide as saucers. Though the abbey is in ruins, I preferred its current state to seeing it decked out in a recreation of what it might have looked like. The beauty and magic of it felt organic this way.

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The crypts had barely legible inscriptions on them, but from what I understood, it is mostly notable people who are buried here.

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Upon exiting the abbey, you are able to walk around the stunning grounds. The palace of Holyrood, Holyrood Abbey, and the surrounding grounds are all stunning, and definitely worth a visit if you have the chance.

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My biggest disappointment with Holyroodhouse was related to the horses and their small stalls. My mom asked a staff member, and apparently they are frequently out of the stalls, but it was depressing to see such beautiful horses in seemingly cramped conditions.

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Have you been to Holyrood? 

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