Mary, Queen of Scots: A Royal Tour of Scotland

SUMMARY: Mary’s life was a life of power, politics, intrigue and murder, resulting in Mary’s imprisonment and eventual execution by Elizabeth I of England. To some Mary was a tragic queen; to others, simply a shameless and incompetent ruler. Whatever your view, there can be no doubt that Mary’s reign had a lasting impact on Scotland.

Follow in her footsteps and uncover some of the incredible stories as we visit the places she was born, lived, ruled, worshiped, loved and was eventually imprisoned. This will allow us to visit castles, such as Edinburgh, Stirling, Dumbarton and Lochleven; palaces like Holyrood, Falkland and Linlithgow; and key religious sites such as the Border Abbeys, Dundrennan Abbey and Inchmahome Priory.

TOUR DURATION: Four days, but the tour can be easily adapted to allow a ‘shorter’ version of 1-3 days, as required.

HIGHLIGHTS & KEY LOCATIONS: Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, Linlithgow Palace, Stirling Castle, Jedburgh Abbey, Dundrennan Abbey, Dumbarton Castle, Inchmahome Priory, Huntingtower Castle, Lochleven Castle, Falkland Palace

Day 1: Our first day will be spent on a walking tour around Mary, Queen of Scots’ Edinburgh. This will include visits to Edinburgh Castle (where Mary gave birth to her only child, James) and Holyrood Palace, scene of the brutal murder of her favourite secretary Rizzio by a group that included her own husband. We will also explore the Royal Mile, uncovering tales of life in the alleyways and narrow closes of 16th-century Edinburgh.

Overnight in Edinburgh.

Day 2: We will leave Edinburgh and head south to the beautiful rolling hills of the Scottish Borders and the Tweed Valley. Prior to the Union of Crowns in 1603, when Mary’s son James became King of Scotland and England, the Borders were very much the ‘front line’ between the two nations. The Borders were also home to some of Scotland’s finest and wealthiest abbeys and monasteries. Our stops will include Melrose Abbey and Jedburgh Abbey, where we will stop for lunch. In the afternoon we will head south to Dundrennan Abbey where Mary spent her last night in Scotland before departing for England in 1568.

We will then head north to Glasgow where we will spend the night.

Day 3: Our day commences with a visit to Langside, scene of a decisive battle between the army of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the supporters of her son James. The ‘King’s Men’ were victorious, following which Mary went into exile in England. We then proceed to Dumbarton Castle, where in 1548 Mary was besieged by the English army prior to her departure for France where she was to ultimately marry the Dauphin, son of the King of France. After lunch we will head north-east to the city of Stirling where we will take time to walk around the Old Town and the Church of the Holy Rude, where the coronation of Mary’s son James took place in 1567. We will also visit Stirling Castle with its magnificent Great Hall and the Royal Palace built by Mary’s father James V.

Overnight in Stirling.

Day 4: After breakfast we will head west towards the Highlands and the Lake of Menteith. Here we will take a short boat trip to visit the now-ruined nunnery where Mary was kept for safekeeping in the early 1540s. The ancient nunnery was also visited by King Robert Bruce in the 14th century. After a coffee break we will travel east towards Perth, the ancient capital of Scotland, to visit Huntingtower Castle, where Mary spent time with her second husband Lord Darnley. After lunch, we will visit Falkland Palace, favourite hunting lodge of the Stuart monarchs. Here we can visit the Real Tennis court on which Mary played as a young lady. Our final visit of the day will be to Lochleven Castle, site of Mary’s imprisonment in 1567-8 before she fled to England. After Lochleven, we will return to Edinburgh where our tour will end.

OVERNIGHT STOPS & ACCOMMODATION: We will be happy to recommend suitable overnight accommodation in each of the locations on this tour.

PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES: There will be ample photo stops at all main locations

Real or fictional, picking a person can be an interesting starting point for your holiday.

Above we have used Mary Queen of Scots and St Columba is followed on another of our example tours. Harry Potter could have provided a more light-hearted option, taking you from Edinburgh to Skye via Glencoe and the Hogwarts Express in three days, while Bonnie Prince Charlie would be more extensive, his campaign to regain the throne for the Stuarts taking you on a far longer journey through Scotland’s history and landscape..

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