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Castles and palaces of Edinburgh's surrounds

Steeped in history that reaches back to the Dark Ages, the area around Edinburgh has been the scene of many strategic battles and hard-won political allegiances over the years. Today, the region is littered with historic monuments that tell the tale of the powerful families, bickering royalty and the banished faithful.

This packed day tour takes you to some of the most interesting castles and palaces surrounding Edinburgh, and offers an insight into the tumultuous politics of the region in former times and the lavish wealth and designs of the rich and powerful.

The private tour starts at your hotel where your driver-guide will pick you up and explain the itinerary for the day. This may change according to conditions or how busy places are, but the usual order of sites is as described here.

First, drive up Arthur’s Seat, one of the volcanic hills around the city, for a sweeping view over the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh and the surrounding villages and countryside if the weather is clear.

The next stop is Rosslyn Chapel, a spectacular 15th-century structure decorated inside and out with intricate carvings. It was used as a place of worship until the Scottish Reformation in the middle of the 16th century, when Roman Catholicism was abolished.

The chapel then fell into disrepair and was almost totally overgrown when Queen Victoria paid a visit in the mid-1800s and liked it so much that she ordered its restoration. The chapel has strong connections to the Knights Templar and the Masons and was made famous by the Hollywood film The Da Vinci Code.

From Rosslyn you travel to Linlithgow Palace, once a royal residence and a military base destroyed by fire in the mid-18th century. Throughout the building there are information boards to explain what each of the rooms and areas would have been used for. You can explore the maze-like interior and climb to the top of one of the towers for good views across the countryside. The palace was used in the filming of the popular television show Outlander.

Blackness Castle was also used as a filming location for Outlander due to its striking position on the shores of the Firth of Forth with the water lapping at its rocky foundations. It’s a rugged, craggy structure, very much function over form. The rooms within are empty but their use is explained on information boards throughout, and you can explore both within the castle building and out along its waterfront promontory.

Your final stop is Hopetoun House, a grand country manor which has been preserved because of its national historic and artistic significance. The exterior is imposing and certainly makes an impression as you approach up the curved driveway. Inside, rooms are sumptuous and well laid out, with well-labelled exhibits and informative in-room guides.

During the day you have time to stop for lunch (not included), and your driver can recommend some local places to eat based on your preferences. Once the tour is complete you'll be taken back to your hotel in Edinburgh.

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Audley Travel Country Specialist Emily

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