Mary Queen of Scots Trail

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.

Follow this trail around some of Scotland's finest castles and ruins, to discover where Mary lived, hid and died. Spanning several regions across Scotland, this itinerary will let you explore a wide range of attractions and things to see and do that were linked to her fascinating life.

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Looking north across the Firth of Clyde to Dumbarton Castle

Dumbarton Castle

Attraction

Dumbarton Castle is located in the ancient capital of Scotland and is spectacularly sited on a volcanic rock overlooking the River Clyde. The castle protected the infant Mary Queen of Scots for several months in 1548 before her safe removal to France.

An aerial view over Inchmahome Island, Lake of Menteith

Inchmahome Priory

Attraction

Set on an island in the Lake of Menteith, Inchmahome Priory is an idyllically-situated Augustinian monastery dating from 1238. Mary Queen of Scots was brought here as a young girl for her own safety after the battle of Pinkie in 1547.

A view from the battlements of Stirling Castle towards the floodlit James IV's Arch, in Stirling

Stirling Castle

Attraction

One of Scotland’s grandest castles due to its imposing position and impressive architecture. 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.

Callendar House

Callendar House

Attraction

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.

View across Linlithgow Loch and the palace

Linlithgow Palace

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.

Looking towards Lochleven Castle on Castle Island

Lochleven Castle

Attraction

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.

Looking up towards Falkland Palace

Falkland Palace

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, Mary Queen of Scots favoured this palace as a place of retreat and leisure.

Looking across a road to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Attraction

At the impressive Scottish National Portrait Gallery, you can view an oil painting of Mary Queen of Scots, created in the early 1600s.

Edinburgh Castle and the Ross Fountain, Princes Street Gardens

Edinburgh Castle

Attraction

Perched on an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle offers stunning views over the city. 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.

Looking over gardens to the the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Palace of Holyroodhouse

Attraction

Mary Queen of Scots spent most of her turbulent life in the Palace of Holyroodhouse. She married two of her husbands in the abbey and her private secretary, David Rizzio, was murdered in her personal rooms.

The main hall in the National Museum of Scotland

National Museum of Scotland

Attraction

Discover the epic story of Mary Queen of Scots and explore the vast collections of the National Museum of Scotland. This is one of the top 20 most visited museums and galleries in the world and is home to over 20,000 fascinating facts.

Sunshine on the ruin of Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Attraction

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 which led to the murder of Mary's second husband, Lord Darnley.

Looking across towards the exterior of Borthwick Castle

Borthwick Castle

Attraction

Mary Queen of Scots sought sanctuary here in 1567 when she learned the Scottish nobles planned to capture her. She escaped through a window in the Great Hall dressed as a pageboy.

Crichton Castle

Crichton Castle

Attraction

Crichton Castle is a large and sophisticated castle built in a commanding position in a tranquil valley of the River Tyne. Mary Queen of Scots spent several nights at Crichton Castle for the marriage of her half brother.

The exterior of Lennoxlove House at dusk, East Lothian

Lennoxlove House

Attraction

Originally known as Lethington, it was the home of William Maitland (1525-73), Mary Queen of Scots' Secretary of State. Amongst the Lennoxlove collection is a silver casket and sapphire ring belonging to Mary Queen of Scots, as well as her death mask.

Charter at John Gray Centre by permission of East Lothian Council Archive Service

John Gray Centre

Attraction

The John Gray Centre is a new and exciting heritage and library venue. The centre holds several records relating to Mary Queen of Scots, including charters with her signature and seal.

Looking onto the exterior of Hailes Castle

Hailes Castle

Attraction

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.

A view across the sea from Tantallon Castle

Tantallon Castle

Attraction

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. Mary Queen of Scots stayed at Tantallon in 1566.

Traquair House (open to the public from April to November) in Innerleithen, Scottish Borders

Traquair House

Attraction

Set in the Scottish Borders, Traquair is the oldest inhabited house in Scotland. The 4th Laird of Traquair, John Stuart, became Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard to Mary, Queen of Scots and she visited the house in 1566 with her infant son James.

Looking over a colourful flower border to Mary, Queen of Scots House, Jedburgh

Mary, Queen of Scots House

Attraction

This 16th century towerhouse is now a museum and visitor centre detailing the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. Queen Mary stayed in Jedburgh in 1566 on an official tour of Scotland.