Mary Queen of Scots Historic Sites

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 Trip Historic 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.

To find out more about these Mary Queen of Scots sites, you can explore our interactive map above or navigate further by using the links below. Once you’ve selected those you wish to visit you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan your trip and then print off a free pocket guidebook. This indispensible holiday guide will help you make the most of your time discovering Mary Queen of Scots sites.

Our database of historic places is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other historic places relating to Mary Queen of Scots, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.

Mary Queen of Scots: Site Index

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House is an English country estate that once served as the prison of Mary Queen of Scots.

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Chatsworth House in Derbyshire is an historic English country estate that has served as the home for the Dukes of Devonshire and their ancestors since the mid-16th century.

The first house to be built on the Chatsworth House site was constructed in 1549 by Sir William Cavendish and his wife Bess. This original estate was notable for its use as a prison for Mary Queen of Scots, who was kept here on several occasions between 1569 and 1584. Little remains of the original structure except the Hunting Tower which still stands on the hill behind Chatsworth House.

It was not until 1686 that the 1st Duke of Devonshire began a major re-building programme at Chatsworth House. He undertook a number of significant upgrades to the property over a number of years, forming the core of what can be seen today.

Further renovations and additions were made to Chatsworth House in the 19th and 20th centuries, notably under the 6th Duke of Devonshire.

Today Chatsworth House is open to the public and is operated by the Chatsworth House Trust. The house 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. Also a must see at Chatsworth House is the amazing Devonshire Collection, which displays an array of interesting items from the family's collections.

The estate has a wonderful 105-acre garden which is also open to the public and includes a large maze. For children, the estate includes a farmyard and adventure playground.

Currently, Chatsworth House is undergoing a major restoration project.

Photo by conskeptical (cc)

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle once played host to Mary Queen of Scots when she was recovering from an illness.

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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.

Photo by baaker2009 (cc)

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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Dumbarton Castle was a medieval stronghold which served as a wartime prison, a royal shelter and a defence against both foreign and national threats. Even the site upon which Dumbarton Castle sits -Dumbarton Rock - has an illustrious past. Little survives of the medieval castle - most of it is from the eighteenth century - but this is still a fascinating site to visit.

Mentions of Dumbarton Rock date back to the fifth century AD, when it was called the Rock of the Clyde or "Alt Clut". From this time until the early eleventh century, Dumbarton Rock was the centre of the capital of Strathclyde. There is thought to have been a castle there at the time, which would have defended this British kingdom from ongoing Viking attacks, although there are no visible remains of this.

The building of the medieval Dumbarton Castle began in the 1220, amidst the danger of attacks from Norway. It was constructed under Alexander II of Scotland and was intended to protect the border.

Once the Norwegian threat subsided, Dumbarton would go on to become a royal castle and to play a role in the Wars of Independence. In particular, it is believed that William Wallace was imprisoned here for a short time in 1305 before being taken to his execution in England.

With its slightly more remote location, one other important function of Dumbarton Castle was as a royal escape route. In the fourteenth century, David II sailed from Dumbarton and, in 1548, this was where a young Mary Queen of Scots sought refuge before travelling to France.

Unfortunately, most of what can be seen at Dumbarton today dates back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries - when it was renovated as a garrisoned fort - rather than from the medieval or dark ages.

Photo by Bernt Rostad (cc)

Edinburgh Castle

Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son James - future king of England and Scotland - at Edinburgh Castle in 1566.

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A royal residence, a vital stronghold and an iconic structure, Edinburgh Castle is one of the most famous castles in the world. Known by its English name since the invasion of the Angles in 638AD, the first mentions of Edinburgh Castle occurred in 600 AD during Roman Britain, when it was called “Din Eidyn” or “the fortress of Eidyn”.

Stronghold
However, even before the Angles and the Romans, Edinburgh Castle’s location had served as a vital stronghold for centuries. In fact, archaeologists have found evidence of human settlement on the rock on which the castle sits as early as 900 BC, the late Bronze Age. Over the following centuries, Edinburgh Castle continued to play its role as a crucial defensive structure as well as becoming an integral part of Scotland’s history.

Royal Castle
It initially became a royal castle in the Middle Ages and has since been the site of many significant events in royal and military history. As a royal residence, Edinburgh 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. However, Edinburgh Castle’s main role was a military fortification.

Tug of War
From as early as the thirteenth century, Edinburgh Castle was a focal point of the war between England and Scotland. Captured by Edward I of England following a three-day siege, Edinburgh Castle was then the subject of a tug of war between the warring countries, swapping hands numerous times in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries until the Scots took it back again in 1341.

By this time, much of the original castle had been destroyed, to be rebuilt under the order of David II, who later died in Edinburgh Castle in 1371. However, the buildings of Edinburgh Castle were to suffer further destruction in battle and David’s Tower, which was built in honour of David II, was razed during the Lang Siege. The final siege at Edinburgh Castle would take place in 1745, carried out by the Jacobites.

Prison
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Edinburgh Castle found itself fulfilling a new role: as a prison. It housed prisoners from numerous wars, including the Seven Years War, the American War of Independence, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.

Iconic Site
Today, visitors to Edinburgh Castle can explore the castle’s 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, a giant cannon gifted to James II in 1457 and the Great Hall, built by James VI in 1511. Royal exhibitions include The Honours of Scotland jewels which, along with Scotland’s coronation stone, the Stone of Destiny, can be found in the castle’s Crown Room. Edinburgh Castle is also home to the oldest building in the city, the 12th-century St Margaret’s Chapel.

Photo by beltzner (cc)

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.

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Falkland Palace was the Renaissance country retreat and hunting lodge of the royal Stuart dynasty for around two centuries.

Begun in 1450 and completed in 1541, Falkland Palace was the work of kings James IV and James V and was very much a favourite of Mary Queen of Scots.

The highlights of Falkland Palace today are its gardens and portraits of the Stuarts.

Photo by Iain Simpson (cc)

Fotheringhay Castle

Fortheringhay Castle was the birthplace of Richard III and site of execution of Mary Queen of Scots

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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

Photo by ToniaYu (cc)

Holyroodhouse Palace

Holyroodhouse Palace is the Scottish royal residence famed as having been home to Mary Queen of Scots.

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Holyroodhouse Palace has a history stretching back to the twelfth century. Now the official Scottish residence of the Queen, the story of Holyroodhouse Palace is intertwined with that of the monarchy, particularly that of Mary Queen of Scots.

Holyroodhouse Palace is said to have been founded as an Augustinian monastery by David I in 1128, this abbey then being closed in the sixteenth century. At this time, James IV built a palace at Holyroodhouse. Successive monarchs would go on to add to and renovate this palace, especially Charles II in the seventeenth century.

However, perhaps the most famous chapter in the tale of Holyroodhouse Palace is the time spent there by 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.

In 1745, the Bonnie Prince Charles used Holyroodhouse Palace as his seat, at the time of the uprising.

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.

Photo by arthurmoodyuk (cc)

Inchmahome Priory

Inchmahome Priory was a medieval monastery which once sheltered a young Mary Queen of Scots.

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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.

Following the Protestant Reformation of 1560, Inchmahome Priory began to fall into decline and ceased being a working monastery. Today, its picturesque ruins are a major tourist attraction.

Photo by DaGoaty (cc)

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and host to most of the Stuart kings.

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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.

Photo by kyz (cc)

Lochleven Castle

Lochleven Castle was a medieval stronghold most renowned for being the prison of Mary Queen of Scots.

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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.

Photo by access.denied (cc)

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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Originally a fine Tudor country estate, the remains of Sheffield Manor Lodge are now an important visitor attraction and give a glimpse into medieval history.

The site upon which the Manor Lodge was built was located within an ancient deer park, and it is likely that a far older hunting lodge stood on the site to serve the administration of the park and to house those who visited the area.

In the early 16th century the Earl of Shrewsbury considerably updated this medieval structure and it became more manor house than hunting lodge. Further renovations were carried out in the 1570s, completing the transformation of the site into an impressive Tudor estate.

Notable figures to have spent time at the Lodge include the infamous Cardinal Wolsey, who resided here for a few days after falling from favour with Henry VIII, and Mary Queen of Scots, who spent 14 of her 19 years of captivity in Sheffield and was brought to the Manor Lodge on several occasions.

By the early 18th century the Manor Lodge had largely been abandoned by its owners and was largely demolished, leaving only a shadow of the site's former grandeur.

Today the most prominent aspect of the Manor Lodge to have survived is the original Tudor Turret House, which can be explored through organised tours. The ruins of a number of other structures from the site can also be viewed and are currently under excavation.

A recent renovation project on the site has seen the development of a Discovery Centre, which takes visitors through the history of the estate, while the surrounding park and gardens are also a popular draw and offer excellent views of the city.

Photo by Historvius

Stirling Castle

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

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Stirling Castle is an iconic royal palace and stronghold, seen to represent Scottish independence and a focal point for many of the most important events in Scotland’s history.

Famous Events at Stirling Castle

It was the site of royal deaths such as that of King Alexander I in 1124 and William I in 1214, the subject of a tug of war between the English and the Scottish during the Wars of Scottish Independence and even the scene of an assassination. This latter event, the murder of William the eighth Earl of Douglas, occurred when he was invited to dinner there in 1452. A skeleton found at the castle in the eighteenth century is believed to have been his.

During the Wars of Scottish Independence, Stirling Castle was fought over by some of the most famous figures in Scottish and English history, including William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.

Royal events at Stirling Castle included the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots (1543) and the baptism of her son, James VI (1566), both at the Chapel Royal.

Strategic Location

At least part of the reason for the prominence of Stirling Castle over the centuries must be attributed to its location. Situated atop the flat top of an ancient volcano, it forms an imposing sight and a formidable stronghold. Furthermore, it is located at a vital strategic point at the centre of various routes across Scotland.

Architecture

The first mention of Stirling Castle dates to 1110, when Alexander I endowed a chapel there, but many believe the site has been fortified since prehistoric times (although this is disputed).

The current grand incarnation of Stirling Castle mostly dates from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries onwards. Some of the highlights include the King’s Old Building, constructed in 1496 for James IV, the Great Hall, which was medieval Scotland’s largest banqueting hall built by James IV in the early sixteenth century and the Royal Palace, built by James V in around 1540.

One of the most well-known parts of Stirling Castle is its Forework Gate, a turreted stone fortification built by James IV in the early sixteenth century.

Visiting the castle

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

Photo by steve p2008 (cc)

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

Whilst its history is said to date back to the 11th century, most of the ruins of Tutbury Castle seen today originate from the 14th and 15th centuries, under the remit of the Lancastrian kings such as Henry IV and Henry VI. In the early 16th century, Tutbury Castle would see some royal glamour in the form of a visit from Henry VIII, but it was at around this time that this fearsome fortress saw a great decline, with records showing it required extensive repairs.

Yet, the historic heyday of Tutbury was soon to come, not as a prized royal residence but rather as a majestic prison where Elizabeth I kept Mary Queen of Scots captive. First arriving at Tutbury Castle on 4 February 1569, Mary would spend much time in her regal jail, a place she disliked both because of its function and due to its rundown state. Mary would be moved several times over the coming years, with her final sojourn there being for almost a year in 1585.

Today, Tutbury Castle is open to the public.