Mary Queen of Scots Trail - Edinburgh and the Lothians
- 48 hours in Edinburgh
- 72 Hours in Edinburgh
- A day exploring Edinburgh’s free attractions
- A day exploring historic houses in Edinburgh and the Lothians
- A day exploring museums and galleries in Edinburgh
- A day exploring the castles of Edinburgh and the Lothians
- A day in the Lothians
- A day shopping in Edinburgh and the Lothians
- A great family day out in Edinburgh
- Edinburgh’s Royal attractions in one day
- Mary Queen of Scots Trail - Edinburgh and the Lothians
- Two days of local crafts - Edinburgh and the Lothians
Mary Queen of Scots is the most famous, most intriguing and most studied of all Scottish monarchs. Born in 1542, her short life was marred by love, betrayal and murder.
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Follow this trail around some of Scotland's finest castles and ruins, to discover where Mary lived, hid and died. While the trail highlights the range of attractions and things to see and do linked to her life, you may also want to check out our café stops along the way and travel options. In addition, discover more about the area she reigned and find out if you have Stewart ancestry.
1 Dumbarton Castle, Dumbarton – 4-star castle
Dumbarton Castle has the longest recorded history of any stronghold in the UK. It was the centre of the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde from the fifth century until 1018. Impressively situated on a volcanic rock overlooking the Firth of Clyde, Dumbarton was also an important royal refuge. The castle protected the infant Mary Queen of Scots for several months in 1548 before her safe removal to France.
2 Inchmahome Priory Lake Menteith, Nr Callander – 3-star historic attraction
Set on an island in the Lake of Menteith, Inchmahome Priory is an idyllically-situated Augustinian monastery dating from 1238. Much of the 13th century building still remains intact. Mary, Queen of Scots was brought here as a young girl for her own safety after the battle of Pinkie in 1547. The area has also long been associated with fairy lore and legends.
3 Stirling Castle Ballengeich Pass, Stirling – 5-star castle
One of Scotland’s grandest castles due to its imposing position and impressive architecture, Stirling Castle commands the countryside for many miles around and towers over some of the most important battlefields of Scotland’s past, including Bannockburn and Stirling Bridge. Mary, Queen of Scots was only 9 months old when she was crowned Queen of Scotland in the Chapel Royal in Stirling Castle on September 9, 1543.
4 Callendar House Falkirk – 4-star historic house
Built in the style of a French chateau and set in the splendid grounds of Callendar Park, Callendar House has long played a major role in Scotland's history. Mary, Queen of Scots spent much of her early life here.
5 Linlithgow Palace Linlithgow, West Lothian – 4-star historic attraction
Home to all the Stewart Kings and birthplace to one of the great tragic figures of history, Mary, Queen of Scots, Linlithgow Palace is one of the most atmospheric ruins in Scotland. The palace sits above a tranquil loch with fine views and it is easy to imagine how life was lived in such a fine building.
6 Lochleven Castle, Loch Leven – 4-star castle
Securely located on Castle Island in Loch Leven, this late 14th or early 15th century tower was the setting for the most traumatic year in the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. It was here in 1567 that she was imprisoned and forced to abdicate the throne before her dramatic escape a year later.
7 Falkland Palace Falkland, Fife – 4-star visitor attraction
Falkland Palace is an impressive Renaissance building set in the heart of the town at the foot of the Lomond Hills. Built by James IV and James V between 1450 and 1541 the palace was a country residence of the Stuart monarchs of Scotland for over 200 years. Lush green lawns, colourful herbaceous borders and many unusual shrubs and trees complete the setting for this memorable property. Mary, Queen of Scots favoured this palace as a place of retreat and leisure.
8 Scottish National Portrait Gallery Queen Street, Edinburgh – 4-star visitor attraction
At the impressive Scottish National Portrait Gallery, you can view an oil painting of Mary, Queen of Scots, done in the early 1600s.
9 Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh – 5-star castle
A majestic landmark, which dominates the capital city's skyline just as it has dominated Scotland's long and colourful history, Edinburgh Castle is the best known and most visited of our historic buildings. Perched on an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle offers stunning views over the city and it is the city’s most popular tourist attraction, as well as part of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site. Surrounded by mystery, it is believed the body of Mary’s son, James VI was found here behind the panelling in the room she gave birth in.
10 Palace of Holyroodhouse Edinburgh
Founded as a monastery in 1128, the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh is The Queen's official residence in Scotland. Situated at the end of the Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is closely associated with Scotland's turbulent past. Mary, Queen of Scots spent most of her turbulent life in the Palace. She married two of her husbands in the Abbey and her private secretary, David Rizzio, was murdered in her personal rooms by a group led by her husband, Lord Darnley, who believed she was having an affair with Rizzio.
11 Craigmillar Castle Edinburgh – 4-star castle
Built around 1400, this well preserved medieval castle lies 3 miles south east of Edinburgh city centre. In 1566, Mary Queen of Scots sought the peace and quiet of Craigmillar after the murder of her private secretary. It was here in that same year that the famous "bond" was signed between the Earl of Bothwell and other noblemen, which led to the murder of Mary's second husband, Lord Darnley.
12 Newbattle Abbey Edinburgh
Newbattle Abbey is a working college situated in the outskirts of Edinburgh on the banks of the River Esk. A stunning chapel houses a font which was used to baptise Mary, Queen of Scots, at Linlithgow Palace in 1542. The engravings are of people related to Mary and her time. They include: the Royal Arms of Scotland, Marie of Guise, second wife of James V and mother of Mary; and James Haswell, Abbot of Newbattle at the time of Mary's baptism. The font was dug up in the grounds of nearby Mavisbank House in 1873.
13 Borthwick Castle Middleton, Midlothian
Built in 1430 by the first Lord Borthwick, Borthwick Castle was built as a stronghold capable of withstanding attack from invaders, particularly the English. Mary Queen of Scots enjoyed the hospitality of the Sixth Lord Borthwick on many occasions, including her honeymoon. She sought sanctuary here in 1567 when she learned the Scottish nobles planned to capture her – and escaped through a window in the Great Hall dressed as a pageboy.
14 Crichton Castle Pathhead, Midlothian – 4-star castle
Crichton Castle is a large and sophisticated castle built in a commanding position in a tranquil valley of the River Tyne. Built between the 14th and 16th centuries, the courtyard includes a spectacular façade of faceted stonework in Italian style. Mary, Queen of Scots spent several nights at Crichton Castle for the marriage of her half brother.
15 Lennoxlove House, Haddington, East Lothian
For over 700 years, Lennoxlove House has been a major feature of the East Lothian landscape. Set within a walled estate of 460 acres, its parkland offers a spectacular setting for this 14th century historically significant House. Originally known as Lethington, it was the home of William Maitland (1525-73), Mary Queen of Scots Secretary of State. Amongst the Lennoxlove collection includes a silver casket and sapphire ring belonging to Mary, Queen of Scots, as well as her death mask. Unveiled in 2007, was a 16th century bed, reputedly slept in by the Queen herself.
16 John Gray Centre, Haddington, East Lothian
The John Gray Centre is a new and exciting heritage and library venue. It is home to the branch library, East Lothian's archives and a museum and exhibition space which tells the story of the area from its earliest settlers to present day communities. The centre holds several records relating to Mary Queen of Scots, including charters with her signature and seal.
17 Hailes Castle Nr East Linton, East Lothian
Located on the south bank of the River Tyne, Hailes Castle is an extensive ruin dating from the 13th century and is thought to contain some of the oldest standing stonework in Scotland. Mary, Queen of Scots stayed here on many occasions throughout her life.
18 Tantallon Castle Nr North Berwick, East Lothian – 4-star castle
A formidable stronghold set atop cliffs on the Firth of Forth, Tantallon Castle was the seat of the Douglas Earls of Angus, one of the most powerful baronial families in Scotland. Tantallon served as a noble fortification for more than three centuries and endured frequent sieges. Mary Queen of Scots stayed at Tantallon in 1566.
19 Dunbar Castle Dunbar, East Lothian
Dunbar Castle is a 12th century stone keep and courtyard fortress, built by the Cospatrick family. This once impregnable castle, is now sadly an impressive ruin. Mary, Queen of Scots visited here several times and was also abducted and taken here, where Lord Bothwell forced himself upon her and made her marry him in 1567. The site is freely accessible in daylight hours.
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Edinburgh and the Lothians sits on the eastern side of Scotland's central belt, in the heart of the country.