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Edinburgh Scotland in 3 days - Day 3

Take 3 Days to explore the Royal Mile

Day 3 – Holyroodhouse and Arthur’s Seat

Day 1 activities got you acquainted with the Royal Mile and Day 2 packed in the western end of the Royal Mile with Edinburgh Castle, the Scotch Whisky Experience and a touch of the haunted history.

For Day 3, let’s head to the eastern end of the Royal Mile and explore another historically pivotal castle, climb a little hill and enjoy another underground tour!

Royal Palace of HolyroodhousePalace of Holyroodhouse – the official residence of the British Monarch in Scotland, this magnificent structure is built in the quadrangle design with inner courtyard. Over 500 years old, this residence has housed many Scottish and British monarchs the likes of famed Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie. Touring the upper floors in the old tower section are Mary Queen of Scot’s bedchambers and Halls where murder, tragedy and intrigue changed the fate of her reign.

Today, the Palace of Holyroodhouse stands as Queen Elizabeth’s official residence in Edinburgh and home of Scotland’s royal families. In summer Queen Elizabeth hosts an annual garden party in royal style – the 9-acre garden blooming from end to end in royal splendor with sightline to Holyrood Park and the Salisbury Crags. And the gardens host a unique ha-ha garden … ask a Palace Warden for some insight.

majestic Holyrood AbbeyAttached to Holyrood Palace is the legendary Holyrood Abbey. 12th century lore described how on this site, King David of Scotland, while hunting his royal deer-hunting park, was thrown from his horse as it was startled by a stag. Instead of being run through by the stag, King David claims to have seen a crucifix between the stag’s horns as a sacred sign. Taking note, the stag leaves with the King unharmed. Hence the roots of the stag’s head on a cross as an iconic motif. On the location of this legendary event was built the beautiful Holyrood Abbey, where the ruins stand today – well worth a visit on your tour.   

At the Palace of Holyroodhouse:

  • Plan to spend 1.5 - 2 hours (longer in high season) to explore all that’s available
  • Add a visit to the Queen’s Gallery and spend an hour exploring.
  • Add an additional 2-3 hours to hike the Salisbury Crags and Arthurs Seat (see below)
  • Audio tours are available for free to explore at your own pace taking time to explore the many rooms and exhibits on site
  • Holyrood Park view from Arthur's SeatFood and beverages are available at Café at the Palace in the Mews Courtyard, but food and drink are not permitted within the palace.
  • and don’t forget to visit the Gallery gift shop for your Royal souvenir.

Holyrood Park – part of the royal grounds of the Palace of Holyrood. Once the official royal hunting ground, on this 650-acre parkland sits lochs, glens, the Salisbury Crags and Arthurs Seat. Open to the public, these grounds are worthy to be explored, especially on a sunny day!

Salisbury Crags and Arthur's SeatArthurs Seat and the Salisbury Crags – iconic landscape features on the Edinburgh skyline, your eye first glimpses the Salisbury Crags and their 150ft cliff faces which then are dwarfed in height by the imposing Arthur’s Seat. If the day is sunny and you’re up for an amazing view of Edinburgh, we challenge you to climb the Salisbury Crags for it’s great cliffside views, then climb the switchback path to the summit of Arthur’s Seat for an even better view. The Salisbury Crags reach 150 ft, Arthurs Seat 823 ft – a challenging but manageable climb well worth the effort.

ruins of St. Anthony's ChapelFollow the north-facing paths down from Arthurs Seat and take a small detour to the brooding ancient ruins of Saint Anthony’s Chapel overlooking St. Margaret’s Loch – unconfirmed dating put’s this chapel’s roots back into the 1300’s.

Real Mary King’s Close tour – a very popular tour transporting you back to 17th century Edinburgh and touring you through the life experiences of a very over-crowded historic city. A close is considered a narrow alley or passage between buildings allowing access to living spaces off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. This real Mary King’s (she was a real 17th century merchant) Close (where she lived) tour gives you some insight into the living conditions in the vaults and buildings that enclosed the old city. Consider 50,000+ people crammed into tight, unhealthy living conditions in closes branching off the Royal Mile. The underground network of streets, the living conditions – with rats and the plague devastating the population – you get the picture!

visiting 17th century Real Mary King's CloseThe Real Mary Kings Close tour is an entertaining piece of educational history that introduces you to the characters, traditions and conditions of a Close housing many 1000’s of people. Join the tour and take an enlightening walk back in time.

Oh, and if you’re touring Edinburgh’s streets and hear “Gardy-loo” … run and don’t look up! It’s a term used in historic Edinburgh as a warning cry when it was customary to throw slops (toilet waters and such) from the windows into the streets!

A few need-to-know’s on the Real Mary King’s Close tour:

  • tour takes about an hour in the underground Close
  • tours run every 15 minutes daily and cost about £15 per person
  • there are steps and hills on the tour
  • check out their great reviews on Tripadvisor.

If you have some extra time to fill in some time gaps, consider adding (from west to east):

The last 3 days has been spent touring Edinburgh and seeing the sights, sounds and tastes of the grand Royal Mile. From Edinburgh Castle in the west to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in there's 98% more of Scotland to explore ... like the Isle of Skye's Quairing Trail hike!the east, and all the shops, pubs and boroughs in between.

You now have a taste of Scotland and have explored the famous #RoyalMile, there’s 98.8% more of Scotland yet to explore. For a continuation to the larger reaches of Scotland [and congrats on Scotland’s Highlands and Islands for being voted Lonely Planets Top 10 regions to visit!], explore more through local resources in Edinburgh and greater Scotland:

Check back for more GoGirlfriend stories of our Scotland adventures – hiking Ben Nevis, exploring the Isle of Skye, Castles visited and Castles we stayed in (and some haunted ones)! Don’t forget to check out our #ScotSpirit album on Facebook where you can explore our stories in pictures.

Have you been to Scotland ? Enjoyed the moors and highlands, or the lush hillsides of the southern regions? We’d love to hear your stories … connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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