Holyrood Palace and Abbey

April 29, 2017

After our initial visit to St. Giles’ Cathedral, we headed down the Royal Mile to tour Holyrood Palace. The name is an English version of the Scottish for “Holy Cross,” and is pronounced like “Hollyrood.” My friend Jim Johnson emailed me that there is a town in central Kansas named Holyrood. I'm not sure how they pronounce it now, but at one time their post office spelled it “Hollyrood” but has since corrected that.

The official name is the Palace of Holyroodhouse. It is the official Scottish residence of the monarch, and Queen Elizabeth spends a week there each year carrying out official duties and ceremonies. Balmoral Castle, where the royal family vacations, is not Crown property, but belongs to the royal family as a private residence, having been purchased by Prince Albert. The queen's apartment at Holyroodhouse is supposedly rather small and utilitarian, in contrast to the public rooms that tourists can visit when the royal family is not in residence. No interior pictures are allowed to be taken, so you won't see any here.

The palace has a central courtyard.

Adjacent to the palace are the ruins of the abbey. Visiting the ruined chapel inspired Felix Mendelssohn to write what we know as his “Scottish Symphony,” or Symphony No. 3. He wrote a note to his family back home and sent a scrap of paper upon which he had written what became the symphony’s opening theme. When the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra had a Scottish night a few years back, they played this work and Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy.” The program may have also included something by a composer who wasn't German, maybe even a Scot, but I don't recall. In the lobby one could sample a Scottish ale and haggis. I didn't taste the latter again until I had a bite from the breakfast buffet in Edinburgh. I'll stick with livermush. (I have much more German blood than Scottish.)

The gardens are quite lovely, as are the hills nearby. There is a trail that leads to the top of a hill overlooking the area. On the other hand, the Scottish parliament building is quite modern and looks out of place next door. I took the picture of just the awning or whatever it is.


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