An Afternoon at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

As an Edinburgh student, it's no secret that royals walk among us. Whether they're "minor" royals who attend the same classes as us, or the major royals who visit the city on a regular basis. It's not uncommon to have a friend or two who's met a royal before (I met Princess Anne last year, and have a few friends who have met Prince Phillip thanks to the Duke of Edinburgh Award).

But how much do we really know about the Royal Family? I mean, aside from binge-watching The Crown and Victoria, that is. Despite the celebrity of it all, there's a lot more to the Royal Family than headlines and hairstyles. The history of royalty in Edinburgh is rich and compelling. And when you combine that with the complexities of England's relationship with Scotland, you have a really interesting story.

Being someone who is always keen to learn more about British history, who also loves beautiful architecture, art, and gardens, I was so pleased to be given the chance to visit Holyrood Palace with my mom while she was in Edinburgh.

We started our visit with a short walk around the palace entrance, where the audio tour begins. We were booked in for the 12 o'clock gardens and history tour, but because we arrived early, we took this as an opportunity to get a head start on the audio tour and take some pictures. You can't actually take any photos inside the palace, so this was one of our only chances!

After snapping away at the front gates, and admiring the truly Scottish attire of the staff there, we made our way toward our tour guide. Tartan-clad and enthusiastic, our guide started off the tour by admitting that he was by no means a botanist. The "garden" tour is simply a way for groups to get a feel for the history of the site, while having a bit more space to walk around outside. Doubts aside, our tour guide did a fantastic job at pointing out the notable parts of the gorgeous gardens- particularly the sculptures, one well-known visiting cat, and a thistle or two.

After completing the short 30 minute gardens tour, we meandered into the palace to finish up the remainder of our audio tour. Self-guided tours are usually not my favorite, because I often find the audio snippets overwhelm visitors with lots of information. But this self guided tour was different. With just one audio recording per room, you were really able to focus on the most important aspects of the site. I especially enjoyed experiencing the audio tour after being on the guided tour, where I was able to connect the things are guide said with the physical objects in the rooms; for example, it was fascinating to see where certain paintings had been damaged after the Battle of Falkirk. There were also some very informative videos and photos around the site which emphasized not only the history of the palace, but its role in the Royal Family today.

We also made sure to check out the Abbey- or really, what remains of the Abbey. The Abbey has faced multiple bouts of damage due to attacks to the property over many centuries, so what remains is very little. It was interesting to stand amongst these ruins and imagine what it might have looked like when it was still intact.

Our final stop of the day was to satisfy our tastebuds with a traditional British afternoon tea. I mean, what else would you eat at a royal establishment? We sat down in the room off the main (very busy) cafe, and cheers-ed with a glass of bubbly before selecting our teas. The three-tiered spread of a savories and sweets was as traditional as it gets with egg and cress sandwiches, fluffy scones, and Victoria Sponge as some of the truly British staples. I was partial to the ham and cheese sandwich and the carrot cake, while my mom noted that the scones with clotted cream were her favorite.

From the extensive tours of the grounds and palace itself to the indulgent afternoon tea, we certainly felt like royals after our visit to Holyrood Palace. Whether you're a history buff or just want to know a bit more about the Monarchy's history in Scotland, Holyrood Palace is definitely a must see in the heart of Edinburgh.

Thank you to Holyrood Palace for hosting our visit to the palace grounds! 

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