If you’ve ever wondered ’where did Mary Queen of Scots live?’ or, ‘where did Mary Queen of Scots spend her time?’, then we’re here to help.
Visit the places that Mary Queen of Scots called home, those that became her prison, and a number of other historic sites that relate to her famous life. There’s a host of popular historical places which relate to Mary Queen of Scots, and among the very best are Fotheringhay Castle, Edinburgh Castle, and Stirling Castle.
We’ve put together an expert’s guide to historical sites linked to Mary Queen of Scots, including our top places to visit as well as a full list of sites which you should check out if you’ve got time.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
10. Linlithgow Palace
Linlithgow Palace was built in the fifteenth century on a site with a history dating back thousands of years.
It was James I who began building Linlithgow Palace in 1424. 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.
11. Tutbury Castle
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.
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.
12. Dumbarton Castle
Dumbarton Castle was a medieval stronghold which served as a wartime prison, a royal shelter and a defence against both foreign and national threats.
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. 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.
13. Sheffield Manor Lodge
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. 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.