Probably my favorite part of Edinburgh is the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This beautiful palace sits on the lower end of the Royal Mile while the Edinburgh Castle is at the other end. Holyroodhouse has been the residence of kings and queen since the 1600s and is still used as Queen Elizabeth’s residence while she is in Scotland.
If the Her Majesty is not residing there, then visitors can tour this incredible palace and soak up the centuries of history that are there. This was where Mary Queen of Scots lived out her days and you can see her chambers and a kind of memorial to her. Tours come with an audio guide that takes you through the history and the architecture of the building. But photos are not allowed inside the palace.
And while the palace itself is absolutely incredible, my favorite part about it was the ruined abbey that stands next to it. This abbey was originally built in 1128.
The legend goes that King David I was out hunting when a stag got startled and charged him, but right before the stag could issue a fateful blow with his horn he was distracted by light bouncing off of the kings crucifix around his neck. That brief distraction gave the king enough time to escape the stag’s horn. So in honor of his life being saved, he commissioned the abbey to built on that site.
This was the main religious site of the period. Within the next few centuries a guest house was built near the abbey and then royals starting spending more and more time there instead of at the castle on the hill. Eventually that little guest house grew and grew into the beautiful palace as it is today. But the abbey that has been standing since 1128 is still there, offering a spiritual respite for visitors. The abbey has been burned and vandalized over the years and yet it still stands as a hauntingly beautiful tribute of thanksgiving and faith.
For me no visit to Holyroodhouse is complete without walking through the abbey; after all, this is where the palace began.