Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Birthday Tea at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

They wouldn't let me this close in London
Queen Elizabeth turned 88 on Monday and I can't think of anyone else I'd rather sit down and have a cocktail with. Or maybe she'd prefer tea (I won't judge, promise). Her adorable diminutive mother was well known for her nightly tipple but I'm not sure what HRH likes in her crystal glassware. Hopefully the invite would come while the Queen is at her Scottish residence in Edinburgh and we'd have quite a bit to talk about, plus a whole lot of whisky to sample.

Holyrood Palace lies all the way at the end (or you could argue, at the start) of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is the Queen's royal residence when she visits Scotland (annually at the end of June into early July) before she heads up to Balmoral for the summer. Holyrood is open for tours year round, unlike that other little royal residence back in London. Buckingham Palace might be the most grand residence in the entire world but tours only run from the end of July through September.

Built on the site of an old abbey and in the shadow of craggy Arthur's Seat, Holyrood Palace is the perfect mix of gothic and royal and a definite must see with the kiddos when you're in Edinburgh. It's not nearly as big and overwhelming as the iconic Buckingham Palace and the special kids audio tour (free, be sure to pick them up after you walk through the entrance) will keep them entertained with tales of kings and queens through the ages.

Holyrood is a working palace, with the first two floors being used for official and state events. The third floor is private and reserved for the royal family (notice the drawn curtains in the photo). Swords, shields, and beautiful artworks and portraits line the halls as you work your way through the State Apartments. Guides in full Scottish plaid are on hand to answer any questions but you'll have to listen carefully to decipher their charming brogue. Two red velvet and gold trimmed chairs sit roped off in the Throne Room, have your kiddos ask a guide what the initials embroidered on the thrones stand for.

Mary Queen of Scots spent much of her turbulent life at Holyrood Palace and you can climb the narrow and steep spiral stone staircase to tour her chambers. The little C&Gs got a real feel for castle living and decided they would not want to make that trek on a nightly basis. Her chambers are filled with displays of her personal effects and the kids audio tour gave a nice story of her history.

The Mary Queen of Scots chambers is the end of the tour inside the palace and you'll continue outside in the ruins of the old Holyrood Abbey. Built in 1128, parts of the old walls of the Abbey are still standing. The boys told us the legend (via their audio tour) of King David I who was thrown from his horse while out hunting in the woods in 1126. A crucifix appeared in the air above a charging stag, distracting the stag and saving the life of the King. The Abbey was built on that site and have the kiddos search out the old stone plaque that commemorates the event.

There aren't many options for lunch (or cocktails) down at the bottom of the Royal Mile but the Café at the Palace in the courtyard has some good options. They have special kids lunch boxes with a choice of sandwich, fruit, and special treat which we made the little C&Gs finish before they could run across the courtyard to the gift shop.

Soups, salads, and sandwiches feature locally grown produce and the baked goods are especially delicious. They do offer an afternoon champagne tea, but I'll wait for my invitation from the Queen. I'd rather be sipping bubbly on a red velvet tufted chair inside the gates rather than outside the gates. Cheers and happy birthday to my beloved Liz!

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