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Blackness Castle

Blackness, by Linlithgow

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This mighty fortification, jutting out into the Firth of Forth with its long and narrow design, has been described as ‘the ship that never sailed’. It owes much of its nautical shape to the many fortifications that were added to it during the 16th century, transforming it into one of the most secure fortresses of its time – part of its south-facing wall is 5.5 metres thick! Now a popular visitor attraction, the castle has served as a garrison, state prison and also featured in season one of Outlander and more recently in Outlaw King.

East Lothian

Edinburgh & The Lothians

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To the east of Edinburgh and within very easy reach of the city, you’ll find the craggy cliffs, golden beaches and rolling countryside of East Lothian, which also features in Mary Queen of Scots. Hemmed in by the Firth of Forth to the north and the Lammermuir Hills to the south, the history of the area is typified by the stronghold of Tantallon Castle as it rests formidably on cliffs above Seacliff Bay. The area is also very popular with golfers and must-visit attractions include the Scottish Seabird Centre, National Museum of Flight and Glenkinchie Distillery to name just a few. In the movie, North Beach in East Lothian features in the scene when Mary returns to Scotland from France.

Glen Coe

Glen Coe, Highlands

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Glen Coe is a valley full of myths, mystery and history and is one of Scotland's most iconic places. Located near Fort William in the west Highlands, this deep glen with its towering mountains and bristling sharp ridges was carved out by fire and ice centuries ago. Follow the Glen Coe Geotrail to learn more. The glen is no stranger to movie producers and directors too, having featured prominently in several Harry Potter films, James Bond's Skyfall and more recently in the Netflix epic Outlaw KingGlen Coe features in the movie in scenes showing Mary's armies marching and riding.

Glen Feshie

By Kincraig, Cairngorms

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Within the Cairngorms National Park you’ll find beautiful Glen Feshie – where remnants of the historic Great Caledonian Pine Forest of Scotland can be found. This is a spectacular area of mountain and moorland, with the ribbon of the River Feshie running through it. It’s also where Sir Edwin Landseer painted his renowned ‘Monarch of the Glen’ in 1851. Glen Feshie appears in the movie in scenes where Mary’s armies are marching and riding. The estate owners are committed to an ambitious 200-year rewilding project, which will enhance the already majestic landscape, nurture habitats and increase wildlife in the area.

Seacliff Beach

North Berwick, East Lothian

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With the ruins of Tantallon Castle perched above it, this delightful beach is a hidden gem, found near the East Lothian town of North Berwick. It’s ideal if you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy a relaxing family picnic. Seacliff is privately owned and there’s a small charge to access it, but it’s well worth a visit to discover what’s thought to be the UK’s smallest harbour, splendid views of the Bass Rock and Tantallon Castle. Seacliff Beach features in the movie when Mary and her ladies-in-waiting are on the rocky shore, looking out to sea and speaking to each other in French. Images courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Strathdon

Upper Donside

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Lying in Upper Donside, around 45 miles west of Aberdeen, Strathdon is a stunning and quiet part of Scotland and a superb place for spotting wildlife. It is an area steeped in history and you can learn more at Corgarff Castle with its fascinating star-shaped fortifications, and at Glenbuchat Castle. In the summer, you’ll see the Lonach Highlanders parade through Bellabeg, the main village in the area, as they make their way to the Lonach Gathering. In winter, there’s skiing and snowboarding on offer at The Lecht Ski Centre. Strathdon, and specifically Poldullie Bridge, features in the scene where the Queen is ambushed and includes the fight scene with cows blocking the bridge.

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow, West Lothian

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Linlithgow Palace dates from 1424, when Mary’s great-great-great grandfather, James I, commissioned work to begin after a fire destroyed the previous royal residence. Over the centuries the palace was expanded upon and improved by many Stuart royals, including Mary’s father, James V, who installed the beautiful central fountain in 1538 and relocated the entrance of the palace to the south side. It’s at this historic royal palace that Mary Stuart was born, on 8 December 1542.

St Michael's Parish Church

Linlithgow, West Lothian

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St Michael's is located beside Linlithgow Palace. In 1424 a devastating fire swept through Linlithgow destroying many buildings, including the church and the royal residence that preceded the palace. Successive Stewart kings donated revenue towards the restoration of St Michael’s and the work was completed in 1540, shortly before Mary’s birth in 1542. Visit the church to see the beautiful architecture and colourful stained-glass windows and learn about the further restorations that have been made over the centuries. Mary was baptised here in December 1542.

Stirling Castle

Stirling

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Stirling Castle played a prominent role in Mary’s life, both in her younger years and on her return from France. At just nine months old, Mary was crowned in Stirling Castle’s Chapel Royal following the death of her father, James V. She stayed in Stirling Castle for most of her first five years until 1548, when she was moved to Dumbarton Castle for her safety and then to France. After her return from France in 1561, Mary stayed at Stirling Castle on numerous occasions and in 1566 she threw a lavish christening ceremony there for her son, James VI. Mary was crowned in Stirling Castle on 9 September 1543, though she had acceded to the throne on 14 December 1542.

Inchmahome Priory

Port of Menteith, Stirlingshire

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Inchmahome Priory is a peaceful monastery located on an island in the Lake of Menteith. Founded in 1238 and still boasting much of the original 13th century building to this day, its isolated location lends itself perfectly for providing sanctuary. Mary, aged four, was brought here from Stirling for safety by her mother Mary of Guise, and spent three weeks hidden after the heavy Scottish defeat at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. Look for the boxwood bower that grows in the centre of the island that Mary is said to have planted. Mary and her mother sought sanctuary here in September 1547.

Dumbarton Castle

Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire

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Spectacularly sited, guarded by sheer volcanic cliffs and overlooking the River Clyde, Dumbarton Castle is a formidable medieval fortress. Conquer more than 500 steps to stand atop one of Scotland’s greatest strongholds. This iconic ‘Rock of the Clyde’ has a heritage as breathtaking as its views over the Clyde, Loch Lomond and Argyll. Dumbarton Castle provided a safe ‘gateway’ for Mary’s flight to France in July 1548. She next visited Dumbarton 13 years later, after her return to Scotland to begin her personal reign.

Inverness Castle

Inverness

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Sitting on the banks of the River Ness, Inverness Castle is the most prominent structure in the city. The castle you see today was built in the 1830s, although it sits on the same site as the original fortification, which dominated the medieval burgh. In its long and tempestuous history, Inverness Castle was set ablaze more than once and endured several sieges. When Mary arrived at the castle gates in September 1562, her entry was barred by Alexander Gordon, under the orders of the Earl of Huntly. Outraged, her supporters successfully laid siege to the castle and Alexander Gordon was hanged for treason. Visit the Castle Viewpoint to see the narrated drone footage that provides a birds-eye perspective of the city, climb the tower to find out more about the intriguing myths and legends associated with Inverness, and take in the spectacular 360 degree vista looking out across the Highland capital.

Please note due to the historic nature of the building there is no wheelchair access above the ground floor.

Falkland Palace

Falkland, Fife

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Step into a bygone world of luxurious splendour at the breathtaking ‘pleasure palace’ the Stuart kings built for themselves, where they could indulge in their favourite pastimes of falconry and hunting. Mary is said to have adored the place, as it reminded her so much of the French chateaux of her youth. Take in the magnificent Renaissance architecture and authentic period furnishings before venturing outside to see the beautifully restored grounds, including the oldest real tennis court in Britain. Mary was an enthusiastic tennis player and she would frequently scandalise her courtiers by defiantly wearing men’s breeches when playing. Mary spent many happy days here during the 1560s.

Whithorn

Whithorn, Dumfries & Galloway

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During 1563, Mary Queen of Scots went on a long tour of the south west of Scotland, in order to be seen by her subjects, to consume her food-rents and to visit the shrine of Scotland's first saint, Ninian of Whithorn. On the 11 August 1563, Mary visited Whithorn Priory, which housed the saint's shrine, famed for healing and miracles granted to pious pilgrims. Her grandfather James IV had visited Whithorn every year of his reign (1488 – 1513) and you can see the Stuart Coat of Arms above the Pend gateway to this day. Undertaking a pilgrimage was banned by the Protestant Reformation of 1560, however many, like Queen Mary, still practised Catholicism.

Wemyss Castle

By Kirkcaldy, Fife

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Occupying a clifftop site in a large, private estate on the southern shores of Fife, the construction of this castle dates to 1421. The picturesque character and structure of Wemyss Castle survives today, and the site has a long history of gardening. Although it’s a private estate, you can visit its walled gardens which are open to the public by prior appointment only. This is the location where Mary met her future husband, Lord Darnley, in February 1565. She went on to marry him in July of the same year. Images courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Palace of Holyroodhouse

Royal Mile, Edinburgh

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The Palace of Holyroodhouse was Mary’s main residence for five years from 1561 following her return from France. View the stunning rooms that have hosted royalty throughout the centuries, including Mary’s Apartments and Bedchamber, the latter being a very private room which has since been referred to as ‘the most famous room in Scotland’. In her Outer Chamber Mary received visitors, among others her famous foe Protestant clergyman John Knox, as well as her good friend and private secretary David Rizzio, who was stabbed in this room 56 times by a jealous Lord Darnley in March 1566; a stain on the floor visible to this day is said to be of his blood. Mary married Lord Darnley by Roman Catholic rites in her private chapel on 29 July 1565.

Huntingtower Castle

Mary Queen of Scots and her new husband, Lord Darnley, stayed at Huntingtower Castle whilst on their honeymoon (though it was known then as the Place of Ruthven). This was during the time of the Chaseabout Raid, when Mary’s half-brother – James Stewart, the 1st Earl of Moray – raised an unsuccessful rebellion against her. Visit the castle to learn about its curious construction – in the 1400s, two tower houses were built just 3 metres apart, before being joined to form one castle in the 1600s. You’ll also see a beautifully painted ceiling which dates from about 1540. Mary stayed here in mid-September 1565. Images courtesy of Historic Environment Scotland.

Dunbar Castle

Dunbar, East Lothian

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Once one of the mightiest fortresses in Scotland, what’s left of Dunbar Castle today is a fragment of this former stronghold. Yet, its stunning location overlooking Dunbar Harbour makes it quite a sight to behold. When visiting, however, it’s best viewed from a distance as access is restricted for safety reasons. The castle was a place of refuge for the Queen and Lord Darnley between 9-12 March 1566, after he murdered her private secretary David Rizzio and they escaped from the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Mary was also brought to Dunbar Castle on 24 April 1567 by the Earl of Bothwell after abducting her ‘for her safety’, when she was returning from Stirling to Edinburgh after visiting her son James. The two later returned to the castle after their marriage on 15 May 1567.

Edinburgh Castle

Castlehill, Edinburgh

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Set atop a jagged crag looms the brooding edifice of Edinburgh Castle. Dating back to the 11th century, and perhaps earlier, it originally served as a hunting lodge for King Malcolm Canmore. The castle has undergone many reconstructions throughout its history but fortunately the Royal Palace is still intact. Inside you will find one of the castle’s smallest but most significant rooms – The Birth Chamber or Mary Room. This is the miniscule bed-closet where the Queen gave birth to her only surviving child, James VI (and later James I of England) on 19 June 1566. According to records, on the night of the birth, the city celebrated by setting 500 bonfires.

Traquair House

Innerleithen, Scottish Borders

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During Mary Queen of Scots reign, the 4th Laird of Traquair, John Stuart, became Captain of the Queen’s Bodyguard. He invited Mary, along with her husband, Lord Darnley, and baby son James - later to become James VI, to stay at the house during a hunting expedition. Visit the house to see the room where Mary would have stayed, which is complete with the original bed and the cradle she would have used to rock James to sleep. As well as touring the house, you can also visit the chapel, gardens and brewery to learn about what life would have been like over the centuries. Mary stayed here in summer 1566.

Jedburgh

Jedburgh, Scottish Borders

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The town of Jedburgh is where one of the most dramatic episodes in Mary’s life unfolded. From here she raced 30 miles on horseback to see her future third husband, the Earl of Bothwell, who had purportedly been wounded in a duel in October 1566. On the return journey she fell gravely ill after falling from her horse into a mire. At Jedburgh she was taken in by the Kerr family to convalesce at one of their properties. You can visit one of the possible locations at Mary, Queen of Scots House, a former Kerr residence and a museum brimming with artefacts connected to Mary.

Hermitage Castle

Newcastleton, Scottish Borders

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Grey and foreboding, Hermitage Castle is a stark reminder of a turbulent time when the Anglo-Scots border was beset by invading armies and reivers – bands of marauding English and Scottish outlaws and mercenaries. James Hepburn, Mary’s future third husband and the 4th Earl of Bothwell, was a keeper of the castle. It is said upon being confined here following a violent skirmish with a notorious reiver, Mary raced through the borders on 15 October 1566 to be with him, as he recovered from his injuries… or so the story goes. Some historians maintain she was on her way to discuss matters of state.

Craigmillar Castle

Edinburgh

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Located just three miles from Edinburgh city centre, Craigmillar is often referred to as the city’s ‘other castle’. It may be a ruin now but it is a fascinating place to explore. Built in the 15th century as a retreat situated just beyond the old city walls, Mary convalesced here in November 1566 following the birth of her son James VI. During her stay, a pact known as the ‘Craigmillar Bond’ was hatched by faithful nobles – allegedly without her knowledge – to assassinate her husband Lord Darnley. In the centre of the courtyard grow two yew trees said to have been planted in Mary’s honour during her stay.

Holyrood Abbey

Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

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These romantic 12th-century ruins built by King David I can be found adjacent to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. All that remains today of the once famous abbey church is the ruined and roofless nave. During Mary’s childhood reign, it was damaged by invading English armies during the ‘Rough Wooing’. Walk in royal footsteps and take in the west front of the rebuilt abbey church, one of the most impressive Gothic facades anywhere in Scotland. It is believed to be where Queen Mary married Lord Bothwell on 15 May 1567 to Protestant rites, which proved deeply unpopular with 26 Scottish lords. Images courtesy of Historic Environment Scotland.

Battle of Carberry Hill

Musselburgh, East Lothian

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To the east of Edinburgh near Musselburgh, this scenic hill was the setting of the Battle of Carberry Hill, the confrontation that marked the end of Mary’s rule in Scotland and the beginning of her years in captivity. On 15 June 1567, following the murder of Lord Darnley and her subsequent marriage to the unpopular Earl of Bothwell, Mary was confronted by 26 ‘confederate lords’ who opposed her new marriage and raised an army against her. She gave herself up on the provision that Bothwell could leave freely and go into exile. Take a walk through the woodlands to the commemorative stone at Queen Mary’s Mount. Images courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Loch Leven Castle

Kinross, Perthshire

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Following her surrender at Carberry Hill, Mary was taken to Loch Leven Castle where she was imprisoned for a year and a half. Located on an island in the middle of Loch Leven, the castle is where, on 24 July 1567, Mary was forced to abdicate in favour of her young son, James VI. During her time there she also tragically miscarried twins, who are thought to have been fathered by the Earl of Bothwell, her third husband. In May 1568, Mary managed to escape, though within weeks her forces were defeated at the Battle of Langside and she fled into exile in England. Images courtesy of Historic Environment Scotland.

Dundrennan Abbey

Kirkcudbright, Dumfries & Galloway

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After her escape from Loch Leven Castle in 1568, Mary Queen of Scots mustered her remaining forces. At the Battle of Langside, which took place near Glasgow, her army was defeated by the troops of her half-brother, James Stewart, the 1st Earl of Moray, who was acting as regent to her son, James VI. Following the defeat, Mary fled south to England to seek the protection of her cousin Elizabeth I. On 16 May 1568, she spent her final night in Scotland at Dundrennan Abbey near Kirkcudbright, before crossing the border the next day to begin her long exile and captivity in England.

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