Edinburgh & Lothian
Mary Queen of Scots Itinerary
Mary Queen of Scots is one of Scotland’s most famous historical figures; she was queen of Scotland at the tender age of six years old in 1548. She had a turbulent reign and life, which ended tragically when she was beheaded in Fotheringhay Castle by her cousin Queen Elizabeth of England at the age of 44. Her son James VI (James I of England) went on to unite both England and Scotland under a single crown, something that Mary always sought but never accomplished in her life.
This Itinerary focuses on locations and attractions that are strongly associated with Mary Queen of Scotland from her birthplace in Linlithgow to one of her favourite retreats at Falkland Palace. This itinerary is not solely for those who have read about Mary Queen of Scots, if you enjoy grand buildings and fantastic architecture then you will enjoy the fantastic palaces and Edinburgh Castle.
If you would like to learn more about Mary Queen of Scots then read our information page on her here.
Total Cost: £51.50 (Adult)
Day 1: Holyrood Palace / Edinburgh Castle
The day begins at Edinburgh Castle in the heart of Edinburgh, the castle towers above the city on its elevated location at the top of the Royal Mile in Old Town. Edinburgh Castle is the most visited attraction in Scotland and as such it is frequently quite busy so the earlier you arrive the better experience you are likely to have. The castle has a rich history and there is plenty to explore inside (the free tours available are pretty good and informative). The castle was where Mary gave birth to her son James (the future king of Scotland and England) and you can visit the room where this happened. It is found in the Royal Palace and entry to the room is via the South East corner which is adjacent to the gift shop.
In the afternoon head south for Holyrood Palace which is found at the bottom of the Royal Mile within easy walking distance from the castle. The palace is still used as an official building with the current Queen taking up residence here for a week each year. There is plenty to admire inside with luxurious apartments and a magnificent abbey to explore. This palace was the residence of Mary Queen of Scots during her time in Edinburgh and it was also where she married her second husband in 1565. You can visit both Mary’s former bedroom and her audience chamber (where the tragic death of her secretary David Rizzo took place).
Day 2: Falkland Palace / Loch Leven
Today’s itinerary takes place in the Kingdom of Fife which is just across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh. The first attraction to visit is Falkland palace which is around an hours drive from Edinburgh, the best route is to take the A90 out of Edinburgh and then join the M90 as far as Mawcarse where you then switch onto the A91. If you are traveling on public transport then take the X59 bus from St Andrews Square to Glenrothes bus station, then connect onto the No66 bus to Burnside. This will take you to Falkland town centre and from there its only a couple of minutes walk to the Palace.
The Palace is a beautiful building and it was used as a hunting lodge by multiple members of the Stewart royal family including Mary Queen of Scots who stayed there in 1563 and 1565. You can explore inside and views some magnificant period specific rooms and interiros. There are also some well maintained grounds to explore outside and the worlds oldest tennis court!
The next stop is Loch Leven Castle which is only a short drive away from Falkland, if taking a car then follow the A912 to Stathmiglo and then take the A91 and merge onto the M90. Exit to Kinross at junction 6. If you are looking for public transport then take the 66 back to Glenrothes and then connect onto the 201 heading to Kinross.
The Castle is situated on a small island and is only accessible by boat, the trip over means you will be taking the same journey that Mary took when she escaped from the castle in 1567. The castle dates back to the 14th century and it enjoys a fantastic view looking out over Loch Leven. The castle was made famous through its part in Mary’s history as she was imprisoned here for a year and was forced to abdicate her throne and she gave birth to a child (whose eventual fate is still unknown).
Day 3: Linlithgow Palace / John Knox House
The first stop today is the elegant Linlithgow Palace which overlooks Linlithgow Loch in the small town of Linlithgow. The palace was home to a number of the Stewart royalty and it was also the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots.
To get to Linlithgow you can drive in under 40 minutes, simply take the A90 out of Edinburgh and then turn onto the A904 before you hit the bridge. If traveling by public transport you can either take a direct train from Waverly to Linlithgow or take the No38 bus towards Stirling from Princes Street, getting off in Linlithgow town centre not far from the train station.
The palace is now in ruins now but you can get a great ideal of how grand a location it must have previously been with the great hall and stone fountain a couple of the highlights not to miss.
The next stop is situated in the historic Old Town region of Edinburgh, around half way down the Royal Mile. The house is one of the oldest residential properties in the city dating back to 1490. It was named after the Protestant reformer John Knox who was a strong opponent of Mary during her reign (mostly due to her catholic background).
The house has small rooms and narrow staircases in keeping with the traditional buildings of the time, there are three levels to explore with the top level being the highlight.