Visiting Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh, Scotland

Visiting Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh


When I traveled to Scotland, one of the things that I was hoping to see was the ruins of an Abbey.

I was a little disappointed that our timeline was not going to leave room to head south of Edinburgh to see the “Four Border Abbeys” [Kelso Abbey, Melrose Abbey, Dryburgh Abbey, and Jedburgh Abbey].

Holyrood Abbey.

After our experience of touring the city of Glasgow using the hop-on hop-off bus tour, we decided that when we returned to the second stay in Edinburgh we would also purchase a hop-on hop-off bus tour there.

We ended up opting for the 48-hour Royal Edinburgh ticket because it gives you fast-track admission to Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Yacht Britannia, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse along with the hop-on hop-off bus tours.

I had not done much research on the Palace of Holyroodhouse prior to our trip, so it was a delightful surprise to learn that there was an Abbey and that we would be able to tour it with our admission to the Palace.


The Holyrood Abbey was founded by King David I in 1128.

The Legend is that King David was hunting nearby during the Feast of the Cross. He was thrown from his horse after it was startled by a stag. The King was saved from being gored by a miraculous appearance of a cross that caused the stag to back down.

Rood means cross, hence the name being “Holy Cross”.


The original Abbey church was constructed for the Augustinian Canons.


Holyrood Abbey was the site for the coronations of James II in 1437, Margaret Tudor in 1504, Mary of Guise in 1540, Anne of Denmark in 1590, and Charles I in 1633.


There are also royals and non-royals interred at the abbey.

The photo above is of a vault.

The sign reads:

“This simple vault was built after the eastern part of the Abbey Church, enclosing the Royal tombs was destroyed by the English army in 1544. Here were placed the coffins of James V. Magdalen his first Queen and his infant sons by his second marriage to Mary of Guise. In 1688 the tomb was violated during the riots at the end of James VII’s reign. Its contents were left in disorder. In 1898 Queen Victoria ordained a repair of the vault. The remains of those previously interred here were re-buried in one coffin. The Vault also contains the coffin of Mary of Guilders, Queen of James II, which was moved in 1848 from Trinity Church in Edinburgh.”

Royal Weddings.

Some Royal weddings also took place here.

Of course, one of the most famous marriages to take place happened in 1565. That was when Mary, Queen of Scots wed Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.


Although the Abbey is in ruins, it still showcases some impressive architecture in the structure that remains.


I was very happy that we opted to tour the Palace rather than just admire the exterior.

Have you toured the Palace of Holyroodhouse? If so, what was your favorite part?

If you’ve ever visited the ruins of an Abbey, which one is your favorite?

I hope to get back to Scotland again someday and am curious what you would consider “can’t miss” sites.

Be sure to check out my other wanderings through Scotland by searching under the Destinations category.

Every beginning comes from some other beginning's end -Seneca quote

Let your light shine!


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44 thoughts on “Visiting Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh, Scotland

  1. These ruins look amazing, so impressive!! I live near some beautiful ruins in Bury St. Edmunds and also some in York, it’s great to be surrounded by history like that. Love your blog, some great photos!

    1. Thanks so much! I did find all of the architecture that I was able to see while in Scotland to be absolutely stunning.
      I looked up Bury St. Edmunds and those ruins do look beautiful. In fact, the surrounding town looks amazing.
      York looks like it has some impressive abbey’s as well! How awesome that you are surrounded by such beautiful history! And the stories those places could tell…!

      1. Yes it’s a lovely place to live! Exactly!! However sometimes living in such a lovely place you forget to look around you and miss how beautiful it really is!

  2. Stunning photos of the Abbey Amy, you’ve done Scotland proud!!! And an excellent bit of history too! πŸ™‚ Hopefully, you’ll manage to get to see the four Border Abbeys next time, I gather they are well worth a visit.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I only wish my visit to Scotland had been longer. I hope that I do get to return to see the Border Abbey’s….and the Highlands…and the Standing Stones…and… πŸ™‚

      1. Lol!!! It looks like your next visit is going to be jam packed with sightseeing again! In fact, if you like standing stones and other such archaeological sites, you should also give Dorset, Avon, Wiltshire and Somerset in SW England a look, along with Cornwall, which is where I grew up, there’s stacks of standing stones, stone circles, quoits and fougous to see πŸ™‚

  3. There is something extra awesome and romantic about Abbeys that are falling down like this. I mean, it is sad that they have fallen into disrepair, but i have always loved the look of windows opening up to the sky. I think I like those blue-sky windows even more than stained glass.

    P.s. I had no idea that Holyrood means Holy Cross. Your blog post is beautiful *and* educational. πŸ˜€

    1. Thank you!! I’m glad you enjoyed the tour. πŸ™‚ I do think there is something romantic about them in their state of ruin. I imagine they were quite magnificent when they were in their full glory.

  4. Visiting Holyrood Abbey will be in my things to do when I get a chance to visit Edinburgh. Even though it’s a ruin, it looks impressive and holds important histories. Aren’t you glad you decided to tour the inside?

  5. I love this! We visited Scotland last summer and visited several abbeys, including Holyrood. They were all so fabulous. Thanks for bringing back the great memories.

  6. These ruins of the Holyrood Abbey are so amazing!! My hubby and I visited Edinburgh a couple of years ago and planned to visit Holyrood Palace but Prince Charles happened to be visiting that day (we saw him exit his limo!) and so it was closed to the public! We did get to see a bit of the ruins but we didn’t get the full experience like you did! Thanks for sharing!

    1. I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to visit, but how exciting that you got to see Prince Charles! I was in London right before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. I was secretly hoping to see a royal, but it didn’t happen. I’m glad you got to see a bit of the ruins though. Edinburgh is such a wonderful city!

  7. I’ve never been to the Palace of Holyroodhouse but would absolutely enjoy it. It looks like such a beautiful and interesting tour. I think tours always add so much value to the experience as you learn so much history behind what you are looking at.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’m always amazed by the intricacy of older architecture. They were able to create such stunning buildings and without all the tools that make the job easier in this day.

    1. Thank you! We were lucky with the weather that day! Our trip up to Stirling Castle was a rainier one. We visited Edinburgh Castle as well and can see why that would be the choice if you had to choose one. πŸ™‚

  8. Wow! I love this post. I must say you are a prolific photographer. I loved seeing all the pictures. The stonework is excellent and a feast for the eyes. I would love to see Holyrood Abbey someday.

  9. I have been wanting to visit Scotland for the longest time – and I think that’s the next trip. My mother loves visiting abbeys and churches anytime we visit that part of the world so you know some of these would be added to our must-visit list.

    1. I loved Scotland. I’ve been twice now. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the trip. There are a lot of great abbeys and churches there. This was the only abbey that I had a chance to get to, but I visited quite a few churches. They should definitely be on your must-visit list. πŸ™‚

  10. I loved Holyrood Palace. My favorite part were the Mary Queen of Scots rooms. We visited in the winter so I would love to go back and see the garden in full bloom

    1. The Mary Queen of Scots rooms were so cool to see. It’s so amazing the history in these places. I need to go through my archives and hunt those photos down. πŸ™‚ I hope you get a chance to go back and visit with the gardens in full bloom! πŸ™‚

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