Scone Palace was originally the site of an early Christian church, and later an Augustinian priory. In the 12th century, Scone Priory was granted abbey status and as a result an Abbot’s residence – an Abbot’s Palace – was constructed. It is for this reason that the current structure retains the name “Palace”. Scone Abbey was severely damaged in 1559 during the Scottish Reformation after a mob whipped up by the famous reformer, John Knox, came to Scone from Dundee. The Earls of Gowrie had brief ownership of the Palace thereafter. However, following the Gowrie Conspiracy in 1600, the Earls of Mansfield were granted ownership by King James IV of Scotland. The Palace is the home of the Earls of Mansfield to this day. In 1802, David William Murray, 3rd Earl of Mansfield, commissioned William Atkinson to extend the Palace, recasting the late 16th-century Palace in the Georgian Gothic style in red sandstone with a castellated roof.
The moment that you enter the Palace you can feel that it remains a home. This makes the Palace a living household, not just a stately home pickled in aspic. We were lucky to find that the guides in each room were free and eager to talk to us about not only the treasures in the room but anecdotes of Murray family history. This, and the fact that not every treasure was in pristine condition; some were awaiting restoration once the family budget allowed amplified our sense that the Palace was much more than a sterile museum. Our favourite treasures were the large collection of European porcelain and a fabulous collection of papier mache objets d’art, made mostly by the Martin family in 18th century for the King of France.
Moot Hill, adjacent to the Palace, has been the site of the coronation of Kings of Scotland for 800 years until 1651. Today a small Presbyterian chapel is at its top. Like the Palace, it was restored in Gothic style around 1804. A replica of the Stone of Scone sits nearby, marking the site of the original.
The grounds of the Palace are also well worth a visit. The unique Murray Star Maze, designed by the world renowned Maze designer Adrian Fisher, is Perthshire’s only maze. Designed in the shape of the five pointed star that features in the Murray family crest, the maze comprises 2000 beech trees, half copper and half green, planted in a way to create a unique tartan effect. Nearby the David Douglas Pavillion, made of Douglas Fir contains information about David Douglas, some of his fellow Scottish tree planters and the Pinetum itself. David Douglas was born in the village of Scone in 1799 and worked as a gardener at the Palace for seven years. Douglas went on to become an explorer and a great plant hunter.
We really enjoyed our visit to Scone Palace and hope that you will too.