Exterior shot of Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh
Credit: John Freeman | Royal Collection Trust | © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

A visit to Holyrood Palace

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Mon 14 Sep 2015

I was recently invited to visit Holyrood Palace and The Queen’s Gallery, so went along on Saturday with my husband and two young kids, both under three years old. The Palace is a beautiful and impressive building dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. It is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland and a setting for state occasions and official entertaining. The last time I visited was over ten years ago, so I was looking forward to refreshing my memory of the place.

Mary Queen of Scots Bed Chamber
Credit: Antonia Reeve | Royal Collection Trust | © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

As we entered we were given an audio guide, which was very simple to use. You just pressed the corresponding number to the area you were in and held it to your ear to listen. This has replaced the traditional guided tour with a real person, which I had last time I was there. In many ways this is better. You can start as soon as you arrive and go around at your own pace. However, it does make the place strangely quiet as everyone walks around in silence with a guide to their ear. This is something you notice when you have two noisy children with you!

The tour includes the Historic Apartments used by Royals from 1505 and the State Apartments still used by the Royal Family today. Although I didn’t pick up all of the information, as I had two young children to watch, it was fascinating to see these historic rooms. The building is not so easy to get around with a buggy, but they have done their best to make it accessible. The staff were very friendly and helpful, personally taking us to the lift and showing us where to go. The ancient Abbey and royal garden are beautiful outdoor areas. If it hadn’t been raining I think we would have spent more time there.

The Great Gallery in the Palace of Holyrood House Edinburgh
Credit: Peter Smith | Royal Collection Trust | © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Just last week, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British history. The Palace has marked the occasion with a special photographic exhibition ‘Long To Reign Over Us’. The photos are on display in the courtyard, depicting images of the Queen from 1952 to the present day. It was interesting to see the many formal and informal portraits of the Queen and how they changed over time. The exhibition is on until 5th January 2016 and definitely worth a look.

Next up was the Queen’s Gallery, which is located next to the palace. The building dates from the 1840s and has a much more modern interior, making it easier to get about with the buggy. The current exhibition is ‘Scottish Artists 1750-1900: From Caledonia to the Continent’. It brings together paintings, drawings and miniatures by Scottish artists, collected by monarchs from George III to Queen Victoria. There is also an audio tour available here, where some of the paintings have a number, which you enter into your headset to hear experts talking about them. I really liked this idea. It was much better than just reading a sheet of information next to each painting. Again, this was difficult to do with young children to look after, but I did it for the paintings I particularly liked.

We had a really fun morning at the palace and gallery. Although the tours are not really designed for very young children, it was fine having them with us as the staff were great in helping us get around. However, I would like to go back when they are old enough to understand and appreciate it properly. 

Palace of Holyroodhouse, Canongate, Edinburgh, EH8 8DX