From Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace is approximately a one mile stroll through the heart of the Old Town of Edinburgh, referred to as The Royal Mile. These succession of streets were packed with stores, restaurants, and entertainment of all kinds.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, after discovering City Sightseeing’s Hop On, Hop Off Bus Tour, I took a second tour on my own. Although I hadn’t originally planned to tour Holyrood Palace, official residence of Elizabeth II when in Scotland, I seized the opportunity to visit by myself. Admission included a self-guided audio tour.
I arrived late in the afternoon, which made for a relatively uncrowded tour. Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed inside the Palace, so you will just have to use your imagination.
Inside the Palace, there were several rooms in which people wait to have a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II. All are elaborately decorated to her liking. What I found really admirable about the Queen was that she will always learn something about each of her guests, so that when she finally meets with them, she can connect with them personally and put them at ease!
My other thrill about visiting this Palace was that Mary, Queen of Scots also resided here for several years, someone whom I had read about extensively. It was exciting to imagine walking in the same footsteps as her! This section of the castle was 500 years old. Her bedchamber was on display, as well as the Supper Room, where her jealous husband, Lord Darnley, stabbed her private secretary to death.
Directly outside of the Palace is Holyrood Abbey (pictured below), once one of the grandest medieval abbeys in all of Scotland.
The tour finished up with a walk through the lush, green gardens of the Palace. Just beyond the Palace, stands Arthur’s Seat, another dormant volcano, providing excellent views of the city.
At the conclusion of my Palace tour, I couldn’t resist a closer look at Arthur’s Seat. I walked down the road and stopped in the parking lot, watching people scramble up onto several different paths. I wasn’t sure which one led to the summit, so I opted for an extremely steep climb up and around one of the sides, which seemed to offer great views.
I really wasn’t prepared for a hike, and I had no water with me, which I quickly realized was a mistake after choosing such a steep path! The path was covered in large rocks, and boulders, and the incline was quite a workout. I stopped often to take in the views (eh, catch my breath).
For as crowded as it was, it was also a peaceful climb. The path finally gave way to an amazing view, making it a worthwhile effort! As I made my way higher, gusts of wind began picking up, and when I raised my hand to take a picture, the wind almost whipped the camera right out of my hand! Luckily I had a tight grip.
I was nowhere near the summit of Arthur’s Seat, but as the sun began to lower in the sky, I decided I’d gone far enough, and turned back. It was one of my highlights of Edinburgh!
The conclusion of our Edinburgh tour was the Edinburgh Castle. We ended up touring this on a Saturday, which we knew would be crowded. We walked from our apartment, through the city, and up a steep hill onto the Royal Mile. We planned to arrive about a half hour early, as we had been warned about long lines and crowds.
Due to some excellent advice from another blogger, after entering the castle gates, we took a detour and went straight up the Lang Stairs to visit the Crown Jewels first, when it’s the least crowded. Obviously, pictures were not permitted, but they were the best part of the Castle, aside from the views!
Then we went through the chambers where Mary, Queen of Scots lived and gave birth to a son, James IV, who would later be king.
Next we visited the Great Hall. My kids really liked all of the swords and armor.
Another highlight was the stunning Memorial to Scottish Soldiers. We could not take pictures inside, but it was gorgeous.
We also stopped to see the prisons that held the Prisoners of War in the later 1750’s after the outbreak of the Seven Years War, where they slept on hammocks.
We spent as much time taking in the views, as we did touring the castle itself. The landscape was stunning from all sides!
Up next on the blog: Our Hunt for Nessie, the infamous Loch Ness Monster!