The town of Scone is nestled beside the River Tay in the region of Perth, playing home to one of the most magnificent palaces and grounds that you can visit.
There may be plenty of Scottish history for the picking throughout the country, but Scone Palace has a special place in the hearts of Scots as the official place of crowning for Scottish kings since the 9th century, and once home of the Stone of Scone.
Strutting peacocks with vibrant tails, tartan mazes, gorgeous gardens, relics from ages gone by, and architectural mastery are just waiting for you to step into their wonderful and welcoming embrace.
In This Post
History of Scone Palace
From as early as the 7th century, Scone was the home of an early Christian church. In the 9th century, specifically 841 AD, the Stone of Destiny (which also became known as the Stone of Scone) was brought over from Dunstaffnage Castle in Argyll and Bute by Kenneth MacAlpine, the first king of Scotland as a united country.
He designated Scone as the capital, and as time went by, as many as 42 Scottish kings were crowned at this location, including Macbeth, King Charles II, and Robert the Bruce.
In 906 AD it became the site of the first Council or Parliament of Scotland when King Constantine II arranged an assembly with Bishop Cellach there. Scone became a place that held power as a religious centre within the Kingdom of Alba (this was the name used for early medieval Scotland), with coronations and parliamentary meetings taking place at Moot Hill.
In 1114 an Augustinian Priory was established beside Moot Hill by Alexander I, and in 1169 the priory was elevated to a significantly larger abbey worthy of Scone Palace. However, in 1559 Scone Abbey was damaged severely during the Scottish Reformation when a mob from Dundee attacked it.
Nothing remains of the abbey today except for some architectural detritus on the grounds, and the remaining estates on the property were granted to Lord Ruthven. His family rebuilt the Abbot’s palace from the demolished abbey as a residence. In 1600 the estate once again changed hands to the Murray family, who were dubbed the Earls of Mansfield from 1756.
The modern palace built from brilliant red sandstone in a Gothic Revival style with a castellated roof was completed in 1807. It was designed by William Atkinson to suit the tastes of the 3rd Earl of Mansfield. More work to the palace took place in 1842 in preparation for a royal visit from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
Scone Palace remains the family home of the Earls of Mansfield to this day. The 8th Earl is the most recent owner.
Things to Remember About Your Visit to Scone Palace
Here are a couple of things to bear in mind on your visit to the palace and gardens.
Scone Palace Opening Times
During the warmer months, the grounds and palace of Scone are open all week from 10 am to 5:30 pm with last entry at 4 pm. The food shop and coffee shop close at 4:30 pm each day.
Unfortunately, there are no Scone Palace winter opening times as it closes for the season from November until 28 March.
The Scone Palace grounds and gardens stay open a little longer until 16 December from 10 am to 3 pm, Thursday through to Saturday, and then the grounds close completely until 1 February.
Scone Palace Entry Fee
Admission to the palace and grounds for adults is £17.50, and children are £12.50 each. You can also purchase a family ticket for £55. If you are a Historic Houses member, entry is free.
From 1 November 2023 until 28 March 2024, the palace grounds will have free entry for all.
Although you can snap away to your heart’s content on the exterior grounds, no pictures are allowed inside the palace itself. Luckily, there’s plenty in the gardens to photograph (peacocks and deer sculptures are favourites).
How to Get to Scone Palace
Looking for an easy way to get to the palace and grounds? Here they are.
Ways to Get There Using a Car or Bicycle
Ways to Get There Using Public Transportation
The Perth Railway Station is only 3 miles from the palace, and there are plenty of taxis to take the 10-minute drive
Attractions at Scone Palace, Perth
Is it possible to have too many things to do in a place? Possibly, but at Scone Palace, they’re all worth packing into a fulfilling visit. This means you ideally want to set aside a few hours to fully enjoy the grounds and all they have to offer.
Wander Through the Palace
The crimson façade of the palace seems to match the bold colours indoors, with bright red carpets and walls imbuing a sense of royalty and adding to the rich experience.
There are plenty of furnishings, art collections, and family memorabilia to keep you entertained. You’ll even find a few items that belonged to Marie Antoinette that were bought by the 2nd Earl of Mansfield, possibly in honour of her 3-week visit to the palace.
You’ll also be able to spot the bedhangings that Mary Queen of Scots worked on while she was imprisoned at Loch Leven, and the bedroom and state rooms Queen Victoria where stayed in 1842 on her way to the Highlands.
Peruse Moot Hill
Moot Hill towers near Scone Palace, and has been a sanctified place where the Stone of Destiny once stood along with dozens of Scottish kings.
As lore has it, the lords of the land put soil from their own grounds into their boots and came to Scone to swear loyalty to their king technically upon the earth of their own land.
They then deposited the soil in a heap, which formed Moot Hill, where the crowning place was established. As a result, Moot Hill is sometimes referred to as “Boot Hill” in a quirky nod to its fabled origins and symbolic significance.
Stroll About the Gardens
Once, the town of Scone surrounded the palace, but it was demolished for the sake of botanical beauty. New Scone was built nearby so that the palace could enjoy extensive grounds worthy of its status.
The extravagant and vast gardens of the palace are a wonder to behold and an utter delight to explore. Verdant lawns spread out from the palace, with shady trees and flower beds dotted throughout.
When the palace was enlarged in 1803, the gardens were given a contemporary makeover as well. The pinetum was begun in 1848, and the collection of Douglas Fir trees from seeds brought from America in 1824 added to the garden’s beauty. Don’t forget to look out for the gorgeous peacocks strutting about and the fabulous fountains!
Visit the Replica Stone of Destiny
While this is the historical home of the Stone of Destiny, the original red sandstone block was removed in 1296 by Edward I and taken to England, specifically Westminster Abbey. It was eventually returned to Scotland in 1996 but now resides at Edinburgh Castle.
So the stone at Scone Palace may not be the real thing, but the replica still signifies all the history the original carried. It was believed that no Scottish king had the right to rule unless they had undergone their inauguration at this sacred crowning place.
It was placed on Moot Hill, but the current replica is next to the small chapel on the grounds. You can even sit on it and snap a pseudo-royal selfie for your Instagram feed.
Stop by the Chapel
Yes, the same small chapel was just mentioned. It’s a delightful 17th-century gem dedicated to the very first Lord Scone, Sir David Murray, with a stunning and intricately detailed white and gold sculpture to admire. It was completed by Maximilian Colt, the Flemish artist.
Get Lost in the Murray Maze
When you visit Scone Palace, a must is to stop by the tartan-coloured Murray Star Maze. Its green and copper beech trees numbering 2,000 were planted in the exact pattern of a heraldic Murray Starin the pattern of the Murray family tartan, and it’s a true delight to test your navigating skills and see if you can make your way around the maze.
It was designed by Adrian Fisher, and the parallel lines that taper to dramatic points in replication of the Mansfield family crest are a feat of botanical engineering. If you simply want to skip to the middle, a short direct route will lead you to the fountain there.
Pop By the Gift Shop and Scone Palace Cafe
In the basement of Scone Palace are treasures of another sort. Here you can pick up some special mementoes of your visit to the Palace, with golden whiskeys, biscuits, and other trinkets on offer, and then stop for some lunch and a warming cuppa at the coffee shop. You can even buy some birdseed there to feed the wandering peacocks afterwards.
Go on a Guided Tour
If you’re dying for some more historical tidbits from those in the know, then perhaps a guided tour is just the thing for you. You’ll learn things even Google might not know about from the knowledgeable guides, although it will cost you a tad more to enjoy this experience.
If you’re already indoors and superbly curious about something, though, you can ask any of the lingering guides to tell you about it and they’ll happily oblige.
Catch One of the Scone Palace Events
There’s always something going on at Scone Palace, and their events can be pretty diverse, catering to many interests and experiences. Whether it’s a falconry display, a live music show, a craft expo, or a pottery exhibition, there’s something that’s bound to appeal to you if you want to experience more than just the grounds. Keep an eye on the palace’s official website for their list of scheduled events so you don’t miss out.
Tips and Advice to Have a Fulfilling Trip
- Scone Palace is dog-friendly, so bring along your four-legged friend for the ultimate walkies around the grounds. Just keep them away from the peacocks.
- There are many things to see and experience at this location, so plan to spend an afternoon or morning soaking it all in.
Interesting Facts about Scone Palace
James Francis Edward Stuart, also known as the “Old Pretender,” was ensconced within the palace for 3 weeks during the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745 when his son, Bonnie Prince Charlie, came to visit him.
The 2nd Earl of Mansfield was a good friend of Marie Antoinette, having met her as a child in Vienna and later in France as the wife of King Louis XVI. She even commissioned several writing desks from one of the most expensive and elaborate furniture makers of her time and gifted one to the Earl. This Marquetry Table takes a position of pride amongst the French furniture of Scone.
If you’re the outdoorsy type, why not spend a night at Scone Palace camping on the grounds? There’s a dedicated campsite with some glamping options available, as well as showers and flushing toilets, Wi-Fi, a designated dog walk, and disabled facilities. The pitches vary from grass only with no electric, grass with electric, hardstanding with electric, and ready camp tents.