The Palace of Holyroodhouse is an attraction in Edinburgh that we have always wanted to visit when visiting the city.
However after the recent royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, we were inspired to take Holly (aged 7) and Chloe (aged 9) on a visit to the palace.
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Edinburgh’s most famous street links the castle at the top with the palace at the bottom. As we wandered down we passed some of the city’s most famous buildings and numerous unique independent stores until we reached the gates of the palace.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is in many ways Edinburgh’s equivalent to Buckingham Palace, as it is the Queen’s official Edinburgh residence when she visits the city. The palace has in fact been home to residing kings and queens for 500 years.
Founded in 1498 by James IV, Holyrood Palace has witnessed some of the most dramatic episodes in Scottish History, including being home to one of its most famous residents, Mary Queen of Scots.
Before starting our self-guided tour, we each received an audio handset which led us through hundreds of years of history at Holyrood. The girls loved getting their own handset with an audio tour specially recorded for children and activity trail.
As we entered the gateway leading to the outer courtyard you are immediately struck just how impressive the palace is, even in the North Sea fog which had covered the city.
No photos are allowed inside the palace, but its elaborate interior and treasures inside the 14 historic state rooms were just as impressive as the outside.
The audio tour (and in particular the children’s version) was really interesting and engaging for the girls as it made sure we stopped to take in the detail and history of each room that we visited in the palace, giving us a fascinating insight into the world of the Royals.
We wondered where the Queen would have dinner and we were intrigued by the narrow spiral staircase which leads to the former bedroom of Mary Queen of Scots.
My younger daughter, Holly, kept wondering how the Queen managed to climb the steep and narrow steps but, fortunately for the Queen, this is one of the historic rooms that are no longer used by the current royal family.
The throne room had us guessing which one of the two thrones was for the Queen. They were made over 100 years ago for the Queen’s grandparents King George V and Queen Mary and once my children spotted the difference between the two thrones, they quickly worked out who would sit where.
What we really liked about visiting Holyrood with the girls was the fact that it helped bring history to life, especially when they spotted the portrait of Henry Eighth (whom they had been studying in school). There are 95 portraits of kings and a queen on display.
However the children thought some of the period nudity on display in the great gallery was hilarious and certainly captured their attention as we walked through the biggest room in the palace.
As we left the palace we found out that there was a family activity room which contained costumes, games and activities for kids, so look out for this as it’s not very well sign posted or advertised as we had no idea that it existed during our visit.
The tour continues into the ruins of the stunning twelfth century Holyrood Abbey standing next to the Palace of Holyrood which was once one of the grandest medieval abbeys in Scotland.
Although there is little to keep the kids entertained here, it kept their imaginations working as they tried to visualise what it would have been like here before it was destroyed – it must have been such a magnificent building.
Leaving the Abbey you enter the four hectares of the beautiful palace gardens set against the dramatic backdrop of Arthurs Seat – Edinburgh’s very own extinct volcano.
Filled with stunning flowers, immaculate lawns and mature trees this is where the Queen hosts her summer garden parties. The family trail was good for kids to explore the woodland paths of the gardens and spotting the local wildlife.
At the Queens Gallery, the Canaletto & the Art of Venice exhibition was on display (this runs until 21st October 2018), which featured artwork of 18th-century Venice from the Royal Collection.
Although the artwork on display was spectacular there was little here to keep the kids entertained. We later found out that they could have had an activity bag, which would have taken them on a secret mission around the exhibition.
We finished our visit at the Gallery shop where Holly took home a soft plush cuddly toy replica of one of the Queen’s Corgi dogs.
We all really enjoyed our visit to Holyrood Palace, even though we did have some initial reservations about whether or not the girls would enjoy it. Although we have visited castles in the past, including Edinburgh Castle, it was fascinating to set foot in one of the Queen’s current homes, and get an insight into Royal life.
For the latest ticket prices, opening hours and more information please visit the official website of the Palace of Holyrood
We were guests of the Royal Collection Trust for the purposes of this review, but all views and opinions are our own.