Scotland Day Seven: The Palace of Holyrood House

Birds sighted: Wood pigeon, chaffinch, herring gull, rock pigeon, blackbirds
Mammals sighted: Scottie Dog, humans

In the courtyard at Holyrood

Very early, as in a time only a bird would find appropriate, the seagulls, who are fond of standing on the chimney of 7 St. Mary's, woke me up. They did this by having a morning chat with the rest of the neighborhood gulls that echoed loudly down the chimney. The chimney rendered normal gull chatter into something that sounded like a seagull stuck in the middle of a clarinet, copied by a parrot, and played on an old phonograph. A very odd way to wake up, I must say. Then there are the pigeons. They roost just outside the dining room window. They make lovely low, calming sorts of noises, perhaps designed to lull you into a sense of complacency so that the seagulls' suggestions can take root...but I digress....

This morning Traveler Two and I walked down (as in down hill all the way) Canon Gate to The Palace of Holyrood House. It was our first rainy day in Scotland. Hard to believe it took seven whole days to actually rain here, but it did. The rain in Edinburgh is the kind that sort of slides out of the sky and attaches it self to buildings, then slowly seeps to the ground rendering it wet, then creeps deep into one's bones, yet somehow manages to leave your exterior dry.

Holyrood Palace -- Holyrood being an anglicisation of the Scots Haly Ruid, or Holy Cross –- was first established as a monastery by David I of Scotland in 1128. The palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scotland since the 15th century (and having experienced how cold and windy it can get up on Castle Hill I don’t blame the royals for moving closer to sea level). The palace is still the official residence in Scotland of Queen Elizabeth II, who spends time at the Palace at the beginning of each summer.

Holyrood Abbey

The ruin of the Augustinian Abbey that stands on the grounds dates from 1128, built also at the bequest of David I of Scotland.

The palace was built around a quadrangle, situated west of the abbey cloister. Today, of main interest are the rooms that are open to the public where one can view the famous suite of rooms once occupied by Mary, Queen of Scots. The wooden ceilings of the main rooms are from Mary’s time and the monograms MR (Maria Regina) and IR (Jacobus Rex) refer to Mary and her son, James VI. The suite contains Queen's bedroom, leading from which are two turret rooms. It was in the northern turret room, on March 9, 1565, that Mary’s husband, Lord Henry Darnley and his supporters, murdered David Rizzio, Mary’s Private Secretary. Mary witnessed this event. Rizzio is rumored to have been stabbed 57 times. In later centuries, tourists were often convinced that they could see his blood stains on the floor.

Of great interest to This Traveler was the floor to ceiling hand embroidered tapestries covering the walls. I have to admit that I never realized tapestries were fit to the curves of walls and around doors much like modern day wallpaper is. Also, some of the marquetry pieces were just stunning examples of artisanship.

Other interesting residents of Holyrood were Bonnie Prince Charlie, who held court at Holyrood for five weeks during the 1745 Jacobite Rising, and following the French Revolution, Louis XVI's youngest brother, the Comte d'Artois resided at Holyrood. After their second exile, the French royals lived at Holyrood again from 1830 to 1832.

Also of great interest to This Traveler were many belongings of former residents of the Palace. The hand embroidered portraits of Charles I were amazing. Done in the most detailed and tiny needlepoint, the lace on the King's collars looked like true lace yet it was just an exquisitely rendered illusion done with needle and fine thread.

A picture perfect place for a Scottie Dog to sleep. Perhaps, he stopped in for a wee dram.

In the evening, Traveler Two and I went across the street to The Tass for some great Wednesday night music and a pint or two.

Wood pigeon in the garden at Holyrood