Tag Archive | tourism

Walking in Queen Mary’s Footsteps: Palaces and Castles

Welcome to “Summer in Scotland,” our month-long celebration of Scotland and in particular the Scotland known and loved by its most famous queen, Mary Stuart, better known simply as “Mary Queen of Scots.”

Across Queen Mary’s forty-four years she lived in France, reigned in Scotland, and died in England. Though not all of the places she guested at, lived at, and/or worked from still exist (notably Fotheringhay Castle where she was executed in 1587), these six palaces and castles are not only still standing, but they are open to the public for you to visit this summer.

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace (West Lothian, Scotland)

Built as a retreat from court life at Edinburgh Castle by the Stewarts, the peace and quiet of Linlithgow makes it the perfect getaway for royals and modern visitors alike. Overlooking Loch Linlithgow, there is scenic beauty and waterfowl aplenty to melt away whatever stress comes your way. No wonder it was the Stewarts preferred place to give birth and is Queen Mary Stuart’s birth place.

Open year round except on 25 December, 26 December, 1 January, and 2 January. Tickets start at £7.20 and are available at https://tickets.historic-scotland.gov.uk/webstore/shop/viewItems.aspx?cg=TKTS&c=WSLOTHIANS.

Chateau Blois 1

Château Blois (Loire Valley, France)

Located in the Loire Valley about halfway between Orléans and Tours, Chateau Blois was 15th and 16th century France’s preferred royal residence.  Here Queen Mary and Prince François spent countless weeks in the year at court.  Later, in 1617, it became home to Marie de Medici’s court in exile. Along with her came her very loyal chief advisor, Armand-Jean du Plessis, better known as Cardinal Richelieu (see “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu”).

Open year-round, tickets start at €12. Go to http://en.chateaudeblois.fr/EvenementChateauVisite/2040-prepare-your-visit.htm for details and tourism package options.

Chateau Chambord

Château de Chambord (Loire Valley, France)

Favoured by Queen Mary’s father-in-law Henri II and designed in part by Leonardo da Vinci, Chambord is an architectural masterpiece that takes you into the mind of its creator.  Features a unique double-helix staircase designed by da Vinci so that no one going up can meet anyone going down on it.

Open year-round except on 25 December and 1 January, you can stroll the outside grounds for free. Tickets to visit the castle and private gardens start at €14,50.  Go to https://www.chambord.org/en/plan-your-visit/opening-hours/ for more information.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle (Edinburgh, Scotland)

At the heart of Queen Mary’s reign stands Edinburgh Castle which, appropriately, dominates the Edinburgh skyline.  Situated on a cliff high above the rest of the city, it is easy to see why King David I (son of Margaret of Wessex and brother to Empress Matilda of England) chose the site for his castle. Queen Mary and her parliament ruled from here and on 19 June 1566 she gave birth to King James VI in the same bedroom you can visit today. Queen Mary herself made several improvements to the castle which intially she found dark and cold compared to the airy grandeur of the French court, adding wall-coverings and art to warm both body and soul, especially in winter.

Open year-round except on 25th and 26th December. Tickets start at £17.50 if you purchase your tickets online or £19.50 if you purchase at the gate.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle (Stirling, Scotland)

Built in 1107, Stirling Castle is one of the historically most significant landmarks in Scotland’s long pursuit of freedom and independence from English conquest. William Wallace and Andrew Moray famously fought the Battle of Stirling Bridge near here in 1297 to retake the castle from England. Robert the Bruce’s 1314 victory at Bannockburn likewise returned it to Scotland. In 1503, King James IV built its Great Hall. Queen Mary held her baptism service for her son James (VI) here in 1566. When it was James VI’s turn to baptise his son Henry in 1594, he also held the baptism and its celebrations at Stirling Castle.

Open year-round except on 25th and 26th December.  Tickets start at £15 if you purchase online or £16 at the gate.

Lochleven Castle

Lochleven Castle (Kinross, Scotland)

Built in the 14th Century, Queen Mary guested at Lochleven before its tower turned into her prison in 1567.  This is where she miscarried or aborted James Hepburn’s baby, and where she abdicated her throne in favour of her son James.

Open 1 April to 31 October. Closed from 1 November to 31 March. Access by boat only. Tickets start at £9.00 which includes boat fare. Go to https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/lochleven-castle/prices-and-opening-times/ to purchase advance tickets (strongly recommended).

 

Wherever your summer takes you, I hope you will spend part of it with Queen Mary Stuart and will make “Mary Queen of the Scots: the Forgotten Reign” your first and best introduction to Scotland’s most tragic and famous queen. Available at your favourite bookstore world-wide in English, Chinese, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and Italian. See http//www.laurelarockefeller.com for complete links to all editions.

The 3 Best Walking Tours for Your Vacation/staycation

May 23rd, 2012

One of the advantages of living in six states across my adult life is the amount of travel it’s allowed me to pursue. In total, I have traveled through, over, or in over 22 states and seen both the Atlantic Ocean (in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts) and Pacific Ocean (in California). With my bachelors in psychology and history, I favor historical sites and tours and enjoy the exercise of walking tours in particular. Here are three of my favorite walking tours I’ve personally taken:

The Battle for New York tour (New York City). Spanning Brooklyn, Manhattan, and beyond, this walking tour by Barnet Schecter is found in his book “The Battle for New York” is a combination step-by- step walking tour and guide to New York City’s role in the American War for Independence (the better term for “the American Revolution” since the war was a civil war between Americans even more than it was a conflict between the Crown and the Patriots). Look for the walking tour online at http://www.thebattlefornewyork.com/walking_tour.php or just buy Barnet’s book at your favorite book retailer. Cost of the book is around $30 for hardcover. The cost of the tour itself is just what you spend in bus/subway fare for the sections of this comprehensive “revolutionary” war experience, making it an economical New York City vacation option.

Honorable mention: Big Onion Tours features a very good walking tour of Revolutionary WarManhattan for $18 per person along with dozens of other New York City historical and neighborhood walking tours also available. See http://www.bigonion.com for more information.

The Freedom Trail (Boston). A costumed guided tour of Boston’s most significant “revolutionary” war sites, the Freedom Trail is an exploration of Boston’s 17th and 18th century history and its role in the War for Independence. The classic tour is the “Walk into History Tour” which departs on the hour from Boston Commons (see schedule athttp://www.thefreedomtrail.org/tickets/tours.html). Tickets currently range from $11 for adults to $5 for children and are purchased on a per person basis. Tours last about 50 minutes.

Allegany-Portage Railroad Museum (Gallitzin, PA). Pennsylvania is famous for its railroads and its role in the evolution of transportation in the United States. Among its most famous railroads was the Allegany-Portage line which ran from Hollidaysburg in Blair County to Johnstown in Cambria County. From 1834 to 1854 the Allegeny-Portage served as a vital rail link connecting the water route between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg which only ran in two sections: Pittsburgh to Johnstown and Hollidaysburg to Harrisburg. Covering 1249 acres and run by the National Park Service, visitors enjoy a free self-guided walking tour using their cell phones and typing in the location code along each stop. Don’t feel like walking all day? Check out the park’s history museum for just $4 per person (http://www.nps.gov/alpo/index.htm).