Scotland has a long royal history and is still visited yearly by the British royal family. It is often overlooked by royal fans because London is the hub of all things royal, but Scotland has a lot of superb royal sights as well.
For the most part, Scotland’s royal sights tend to be quieter than the ones in London. This makes for a more enjoyable experience that allows you to really soak up the atmosphere rather than being rushed or crowded.
The downside of touring royal Scotland is that some of the sights require you to travel outside the main cities, so you may have to rent a car.
But on the plus side, 3 of the 6 sights on this list are in Edinburgh, so you’ll be able to see some of royal Scotland without having to rent a car. This is perfect for solo travellers or people with a limited time in Scotland.
Edinburgh Castle was the royal castle from the 12th Century until 1633. It was endured 26 sieges in its history. It is the most attached castle in Great Britain and one of the most attached in the entire world.
The castle has an interesting history that includes the Jacobite rising, the Scottish Wars of Independence, being a military barracks, and holding the Scottish crown jewels.
Edinburgh Castle is the most visited paid tourist attraction in Scotland. It is popular and gets extremely busy in the summer months.
The cost of admission ranges from £13.60 to £19.50 depending on what ticket you purchase, what time of year you go, and whether you purchase your ticket online in advance or not.
You should definitely purchase your ticket online in advance to save money and time. It is easy to do. There are ticket-printing machines outside the castle entrance that make it simple to get a paper copy of your ticket if you don’t have access to a printer.
You will be able to select an entrance time if you purchase tickets online. Tickets for the 9:30am slot need to be purchased the day in advance. All other time slots must be purchased no less than 90 minutes before the entry time. Being able to purchase tickets the same day makes it convenient for people who like to wing their trip and don’t plan everything in advance.
You should try to get a ticket for as early an entrance as possible. Edinburgh Castle gets busy, and the crowds will be quietest at the beginning of the day.
What to Do and See
There is plenty of things to do and see at Edinburgh Castle. You could easily spend an entire day at the castle, and most people spend half a day there.
Some of the highlights include a panoramic of Edinburgh, a pet cemetery, the Scottish Crown Jewels, tours of the dungeons, multiple military museums, James VI birth chamber, the royal apartments, and St. Margaret’s Chapel.
The Crown Jewels are by far the most popular thing to see at Edinburgh Castle. You should try to visit them early in the morning, at lunch when people are eating, or in the evening. There will be a long line to see them if you go outside these times (but it is still worth it!). The Scottish Crown Jewels are not as impressive as the Crown Jewels you can see in the Tower of London, but they are still worth seeing.
The Royal Aspect
Edinburgh Castle is by far the least royal sight on this list. It is more of a historical sight than it is a modern royal sight. However, there are still a number of royal things to see.
The castle has an immense royal history, so while it may not be a modern royal sight, it is still somewhere royal fans will want to visit. The highlights for royal fans visiting Edinburgh Castle are the Crown Jewels, the royal apartments, and James VI birth chamber.
Holyroodhouse Palace is at the opposite end of the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle. It is the modern royal palace in Edinburgh, and the Queen visits it every year.
Holyroodhouse Palace has been the principle residence for the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th Century. Inside you are able to visit the apartments of Mary Queen of Scots, which makes Holyrood Palace quite unique.
Admission to Holyroodhouse ranges from £8.60 to £15 depending on what ticket category you purchase. Students, seniors, youth, and people living with a disability receive a discount. Children under 5 receive free entrance!
You can purchase tickets to the palace online in advance. This helps save time in the queue. The line can get quite long at peak times, so pre-buying your ticket is a great option.
You receive an audioguide included in the price of admission. The audioguide is quite well done and is very information, so you should make sure to pick one up and use it.
The tour of Holyroodhouse is self-guided and self-paced. You can take as long as you want in each of the rooms, so you won’t feel rushed.
You can also purchase a combined ticket that allows you entrance to both Holyroodhouse Palace and the Queen’s Gallery. They are both located on the same property, so it is easy to go from one sight to the next. The Queen’s Gallery has a number of great exhibits throughout the year, so it is worth considering.
Insider Tip: Near the exit to Holyroodhouse Palace (and the Queen’s Gallery) you can ask to have your visit treated like a charitable donation. By doing this you will receive free re-enty to the Palace (and/or Queen’s Gallery depending on what ticket you purchased) for a year!
What to See and Do
You will be able to see all the palace highlights when you visit Holyroodhouse Palace. Visitors will learn about past and present history as well as important events that took place in the various rooms you are touring.
You will see the apartments of Mary Queen of Scots, the state rooms, the throne room, the great gallery that houses a number of famous pieces of art, and tour the gardens.
There is a lot to see and do, so you should budget half a day to tour the palace. The audioguide is lengthy, so expect to stand in each room for 5-10 minutes listening to its history.
The route you can walk through the palace is pre-determined, so you won’t be able to get away from the crowds if it is busy while you are there. You will want to visit the palace right when it opens or a few hours before it closes to beat the crowds.
The Royal Aspect
Holyroodhouse Palace is seeping with royal history. It is perfect for people who are interested in modern royal history and being able to say they walked in the same place as the Queen.
The palace has a long royal history, so it is perfect for people who enjoy any aspect of royal history from the 16th Century onwards.
Holyroodhouse Palace is a unique British royal palace. It is one of the few active palaces in Scotland. It was often used as the gateway to the Highlands by members of the royal family in the past, so it has great stories to be shared with you.
The HMY Britannia is the sight of all sights for anybody that is interested in modern royal history or the Queen. HMY Britannia was originally supposed to be used by King George IV, but he passed away before it set sail.
After her father died, Queen Elizabeth II saw the construction of HMY Britannia to completion and decorated it in her personal style.
The yacht was in service from 1954 until 1997. During its career, HMY Britannia travelled more than 1 million nautical miles and was the vessel of multiple royal tours. (It is featured on The Crown as well when Prince Philip is on his tour in the second season).
The yacht is now permanently docked at Ocean Terminal in Edinburgh and open for the public to tour.
Ticket prices range from £8.70 to £16.50 and children under the age of 5 go free. You can purchase tickets online, or you can go to the ticket booth up to 7 days before you want to visit and get a ticket for any day.
While HMY Britannia is a popular sight, it normally doesn’t see the lines that Edinburgh Castle and Holyroodhouse Palace see. You should be able to purchase your ticket on the day of your visit without having much of a queue.
Your ticket gives you access to an audioguide. The audioguide is very well done and gives you lots of information, so it is worth using.
Just as with Holyroodhouse Palace, there is a pre-determined route you take while touring the yacht. You are able to walk through different levels and parts of the ship.
What to See and Do
There is a lot to see on HMY Britannia. You get to see where Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s bedrooms, the room Prince Charles and Princess Diana stayed while on their honeymoon, the dining room where banquets were held, and so much more!
You also get to see all the mechanical and practical elements of the ship. The engine room, the staff quarters, and the bridge are all included in your tour.
It is interesting to see how the staff lived versus how the royal family lived while on the yacht. There was a huge difference between their living conditions (unsurprisingly).
You are able to have tea or eat a meal on the yacht. The Royal Deck Tea Room gives you the opportunity to feel like a royal. There is a beautiful view from the tea room, and the food is delicious. It is a bit overpriced, but what else would you expect from a royal tourist sight?
Overall, you should budget 2-4 hours to tour HMY Britannia. The audioguide takes a long time to listen to, so it will take multiple hours to tour the entire yacht. The tour is self-paced, so you can linger on the top deck taking pictures and enjoying the view for as long as you want.
The Royal Aspect
There is no doubt that HMY Britannia is one of the most popular royal tourist attractions in Scotland. It has the most modern royal history of any other Scottish sight.
People who are fans of the current generation of the royal family will love this attraction. You learn so much about the royal history from just a few years ago. Even the most intense royal fans will walk away from HMY Britannia with new information.
Outside of Edinburgh
Balmoral is known as the Scottish home to the royal family. It was purchased by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. They renovated the castle to suit their tastes, and Balmoral quickly became their favourite place. After Prince Albert died, Queen Victoria continued to spend a lot of time at Balmoral.
The royal family still spends a large part of the summer at Balmoral. It is used every year by the Queen and other members of the royal family. Balmoral has a huge grounds, so it allows the family a lot of privacy while also letting them participate in outdoor activities.
Balmoral is located in the Scottish Highlands, so it is difficult to get to if you don’t have a car. There is a free parking on sight if you do drive, so that is a nice bonus.
Admission to Balmoral ranges from £6 to £11.50. You are able to purchase your tickets online in advance.
Your entrance tickets gives you access to the grounds as well as one room in the castle. You can only enter the one room in the castle, so you shouldn’t visit Balmoral if you want to see the castle rather than the grounds.
Balmoral is still worth a visit when you’re in Scotland. The grounds are beautiful, and you learn a lot about the royal family in the Victorian era.
You receive an audioguide that guides you through the estate grounds. You have to pay a £5 deposit for the audioguide, but you get the money back when you return it. The audioguide is incredibly helpful. The tour is through the grounds, so there isn’t an opportunity to put printed signs up explaining the sights. The audioguide fills that gap and is you sole source of information.
There is the option to take a free guided tour of the grounds. It only takes place once a week, and it is first come first serve. It often fills up quickly. If you want to partake in the tour, you will want to get to Balmoral as soon as it opens and sign up.
Balmoral is only open during certain months of the year. Normally it is open from April through July annually, but you should check the website to confirm dates. It would be horrible to show up at Balmoral on a day it is closed!
What to See and Do
There is a lot to see at Balmoral even though you don’t get to tour the castle. You get to visit the garden that feeds the royal family when they are in residence, the exhibits in the stables, and the largest room in the castle. You also get to walk through parts of the estate and take in the natural beauty.
The beauty of Balmoral is in the nature, so taking the time to walk around and thoroughly enjoy the surrounding area is what makes this sight so special. You are able to walk along a river on the way back to the parking lot, and it is beautiful.
Balmoral is not a sight for people that want to see inside the castle and care more about the architecture and grandness of the building. But for people who are interested in Victorian history, nature, and the Scottish Highlands, Balmoral is the perfect place.
The Royal Aspect
Balmoral is the pinnacle of royal sights in Scotland for people who are interested in the Victoria era. It is such a special place because you know you are walking where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (along with every royal since their time) has walked.
The downside of Balmoral is that you aren’t able to tour the inside of the estate. This takes away a bit of the experience, but Balmoral has so much to offer that you don’t feel like you’re missing anything by not being able to tour the inside of the castle.
Overall, Balmoral has a nice mix of old and new royal history. It is a great tourist attraction for people who are Victorian era fans and modern fans. The informational guides at Balmoral do a good job of mixing information about the past and present. This makes for a well-rounded experience that any royal fan will enjoy.
Royal Lochnagar is a scotch distillery. It might seem like an odd choice for this list, but it actually has a very interesting royal history.
When Queen Victoria and Prince Albert moved into Balmoral, the owner of Lochnagar asked the royal couple if they would like to sample his scotch. Victoria and Albert toured the distillery the next day, loved it, and gave it a royal patronage. The name of the distillery then changed from Lochnagar to Royal Lochnagar. Royal Lochnagar has held its royal patronage ever since that first tour.
Royal Lochnagar is located a few minutes’ drive away from Balmoral, so it is easy to visit both sights in the same day.
Admission is £9. This includes a tour of the distillery and a sample at the end. You can pay extra to be able to sample two different scotches, but most people opt for the standard admission.
Tours of the distillery run every hour. You are able to book in advance if you have 4 or more people. You will have to either email or call them as you are unable to purchase tickets online. Their opening hours change, so you should refer to the website to ensure it is open when you want to visit. Oftentimes the last tour is at 4pm.
What to See and Do
This is a guided tour. It takes your through the distillery and gives you information about the malting process.
Royal Lochnagar is a small distillery that still does things the traditional way, so the tour will be different than any other distillery tour you’ve taken in the past.
The most interesting part of the tour, in my opinion, is learning about the environmental steps the distillery has taken. It is remarkable how much they are able to reuse throughout the malting process.
The Royal Aspect
This is definitely the least royal activity on this list, but is still has a royal background. You watch a video at the start of the tour about the royal link Royal Lochnagar has. It is also fun to try scotch that the royals still drink to this day!
St. Andrews is a small town in western Scotland. It is a short drive from Edinburgh and easy to access by car or train.
You probably already know that Prince William and Duchess Kate met while attending the University of St. Andrews. It is pretty fun to walk through this small town in Scotland and imagine William and Kate walking down the same road while falling in love.
St. Andrews is a town not a tourist sight, so there is no admission fee to walk through and explore it. You can, of course, pay to enter specific tourist sights like the castle and church ruins. The only real admission expense to visiting St. Andrews is the cost of transportation and a hotel if you stay in the city.
What to See and Do
St. Andrews, like many towns in Scotland, is pretty quiet. You can walk through the historical town centre and visit the golf course in a single day. There is also a castle, ruined church, museums, and a botanical garden you can visit.
You can easily spend 2 or 3 days wandering through St. Andrews and taking in the scenery. It is a pretty unique small town in Scotland because it has this royal history and golf history as well as a university, so there tends to be an interesting mix of tourists, golfers, and students.
The Royal Aspect
St. Andrews’ ties to William and Kate is what makes this an attractive city for royal fans. While there aren’t many overtly royal things to see, it is still pretty fun to walk through the town imaging William and Kate doing the same.
There is one coffee shop you can visit that opening declare that William and Kate went on a date there. The food is apparently pretty good, but I haven’t tried it to confirm that.
St. Andrews is a fun town to visit while in Scotland, and the ties to the royal family makes it even more fun! It is definitely worth visiting while you’re in Scotland.
Scotland is home to a number of interesting and unique royal sights. There a lot of royal sights to visit in Edinburgh, so you don’t have to rent a car and drive to get your fill of royalty while in Scotland.
However, if you have access to a car, it is worth it to go out and visit some of the more remote royal sights like Balmoral and Royal Lochnagar. They are worth the effort to get to, and they let you better understand a piece of royal history that you can’t find anywhere else.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made Scotland an important part of the United Kingdom to the royal family. They created a love for the country that the royal family continues to share to this day.
Scotland is a great country for hard-core royal fans that want to see royal sights outside London. It gives royal fans an intimate understanding of the royals’ lives that nowhere else can give them.
Scotland is a unique country, and it makes sense that the royal tourist sights in the country are unique as well. You won’t be disappointed if you take time out of your Scotland vacation to visit a number of the royal sights listed in this article. They won’t disappoint.