Mary Queen of Scots Historic Sites

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If you're wondering ’where did Mary Queen of Scots live?’ Or you want to find our more about the places that Mary Queen of Scots spent her life then we can help you follow in the footsteps of this iconic Scottish Queen.

Visit the places that Mary Queen of Scots called home, those that became her prison as well as other historic sites that relate to the life of  Mary. There's a host of popular historical places relating to Mary Queen of Scots and among the very best are Fotheringhay Castle, Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle. 

We’ve put together an experts guide to historical sites linked to Mary Queen of Scots, with our top places to visit as well as a full list of sites which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.

Where History Happened: Mary Queen of Scots

1. Holyroodhouse Palace

Holyroodhouse Palace is the Scottish royal residence famed as having been home to Mary Queen of Scots. Not only was the palace Mary’s main home between 1561 and 1567, it was where she married two of her husbands. It was also at Holyroodhouse Palace that she was witness to the murder of her private secretary by her husband.

Today, visitors can see the ruins of the abbey of Holyroodhouse as well as touring the palace and the royal apartments. A visit to the site usually lasts around an hour to an hour and a half.

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2. Falkland Palace

Falkland Palace was the country retreat and hunting lodge of the royal Stuart dynasty and a favourite home of Mary Queen of Scots. Begun in 1450 and completed in 1541, Falkland Palace was the work of kings James IV and James V and was very much a regular retreat of Mary Queen of Scots. The highlights of Falkland Palace today are its gardens and portraits of the Stuarts.

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3. Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House is an English country estate that once served as the prison of Mary Queen of Scots. Today Chatsworth is open to the public and boasts a wealth of interesting art, furniture and antiques as well as exceptional architecture. Visitors can explore a number of stunning rooms and displays as well as taking an audio tour.

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4. Fotheringhay Castle

Birthplace of Richard III and site of the trial and execution of Mary Queen of Scots, this Norman motte and bailey castle is now a ruin - in fact very little is left of it today. Fortheringhay Castle is easily accessable during daylight hours, and should delight those interested in medieval history, the Wars of the Roses and Elizabethan politics

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5. Edinburgh Castle

A royal residence, a vital stronghold and an iconic structure, Edinburgh Castle is one of the most famous castles in the world. The castle was the site of the birth of King James VI, also James I of England from 1603, to Mary Queen of Scots in 1566. Visitors can still see the small room where this monarch was born. 

Today, visitors to Edinburgh Castle can explore the history through a series of guided tours and exhibitions. Amongst its many attractions are the Scottish National War Memorial and National War Museum, the Mons Meg and the Great Hall.

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6. Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle is an iconic royal palace which was the location of the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543.

Today, Stirling Castle offers tours around its buildings and grounds. Visitors can tour with an audio guide or with a tour guide and there are a range of exhibitions to see. Not least of these is the Regimental Museum, a military museum dedicated to the Argyll

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7. Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle was built from the fourteenth century and is now a pretty and well-preserved medieval ruin. The most famed aspect of Craigmillar Castle was that it played host to Mary Queen of Scots when she was recovering from an illness. It is also the namesake of a pact between several noblemen to murder her husband, Lord Darnley.

Today, several aspects of the fourteenth century structure of Craigmillar Castle remain, including an impressive tower. There is also a maze of medieval tunnels.

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8. Inchmahome Priory

Inchmahome Priory was first founded as an Augustinian monastery in approximately 1238 under the instructions of the Earl of Menteith. Over the centuries, Inchmahome Priory’s secluded location made it an ideal refuge.

Even royals saw Inchmahome Priory as a sanctuary, including King Robert Bruce. However, it is more famous for the time when a young Mary Queen of Scots sheltered there in 1547 following the Scottish defeat at the Battle of Pinkie. Today, its picturesque ruins are a major tourist attraction.

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9. Lochleven Castle

Lochleven Castle was a medieval island stronghold, the dramatic ruins of which can be reached by boat. Whilst being most well known for being the prison of Mary Queen of Scots, Lochleven Castle’s role within Scottish royal history extends far further.

Many royals were guests - as opposed to prisoners - at Lochleven Castle, including King Robert Bruce and even Mary herself. What’s more, other royals were imprisoned at Lochleven Castle other than Mary Queen of Scots, particularly the (then future) Robert II. Mary was imprisoned at Lochleven Castle by Sir William Douglas from 1567 and forced to abdicate her throne in favour of James VI, her own infant son. She would escape within a year.

Today, visitors go to see the fourteenth to fifteenth century tower where Mary was held. Inside, you can still see where the kitchen and other spaces would have been.

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10. Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace was built in the fifteenth century on a site with a history dating back thousands of years. Now a dramatic ruin, its royal connection makes it an enduring tourist attraction.

It was James I who began building Linlithgow Palace in 1424. With its location between Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle, it soon became a popular place for royals to visit, including most of the Stuart kings.

In 1542, Linlithgow Palace also became the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, although the room in which she was born no longer exists.

From 1603, Linlithgow Palace’s era as a royal pit stop began to deteriorate as the royal court moved to London under James VI. The palace’s decline was confirmed when it was destroyed by a fire in 1745.

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Full list of Mary Queen of Scots Historic Sites

Beyond the most famous historical places relating to Mary Queen of Scots, there are many similar places to visit, including Falkland Palace, Lochleven Castle and Linlithgow Palace to name but a few. We’re constantly expanding this list of Mary Queen of Scots historic sites and you can view the current selection below.

Dumbarton Castle

It was at Dumbarton Castle that a young Mary Queen of Scots once sought refuge before travelling to France.

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Sheffield Manor Lodge

Once a prominent Tudor country estate and one-time prison of Mary Queen of Scots, the remains of Sheffield Manor Lodge include the well-preserved Tudor Turret House.

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Tutbury Castle

Tutbury Castle is an imposing medieval site in Staffordshire which had one very famous prisoner, Mary Queen of Scots.

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If you know of other historical places relating to Mary Queen of Scots, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by contacting us today.