The Palace of Holyroodhouse has its origins in the Abbey of Holyrood (now picturesque ruins), established in 1128 by David I. When Edinburgh was confirmed as the nation's capital, royal quarters were built adjacent to the abbey and have been gradually upgraded and renovated over the years. The building is still used by the Queen as an official residence. When she's elsewhere, parts of it are open to the public, with an audio tour detailing the history of a series of plush bedrooms, galleries and dining rooms.
The tour takes you back to 1566 when, six months pregnant, Mary, Queen of Scots watched as four Scottish noblemen murdered her secretary David Rizzio here, with the consent of Mary's husband, Lord Darnley. Some say Darnley wanted to kill the baby she was carrying (the future James I & VI), believing it not to be his. Darnley died soon after in deeply suspicious circumstances.
After Queen Victoria acquired the Balmoral estate, she began to use Holyroodhouse as a stop-off point on the long journey north. It was Victoria who extensively redecorated the building's then-drab walls with the paintings and tapestries that remain on view today, just a small part of the extensive Royal Collection housed here.
The intricate and ornate entrance to the Queen's Gallery adjacent to the palace leads most visitors to expect a grand, ornate and old-fashioned room; in fact, the interior is surprisingly contemporary. Made up of a series of flexible spaces, the gallery hosts exhibitions from the Royal Collection, with a focus on works from the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. There's also computer access to an e-Gallery, with interactive online exhibition catalogues and details of other works from the collection.