I have now lived more than half of my life outside of Scotland, land of my birth and childhood. Based back in Europe, I have been travelling a lot recently, but more and more Scotland has been calling to me. I have become a tour guide in Copenhagen and have loved learning about the culture and history of Denmark. Now I want to spend more time in Scotland, there are so many castles to explore, hills to climb and tearooms to visit.
On our last trip home to Bonnie Scotland we visited Scone Palace, in the heart of Perthshire. Scone Palace was the home of the Stone of Destiny, or Coronation Stone, where all the Kings of Scotland were crowned. It was also the scene of a gruesome dinner party, think Game of Thrones ‘Red Wedding’. Nowadays, it hosts music festivals for the not so young, may have provided inspiration for J.K.Rowling and was a location for the Great British Bake-Off. It also has a rather fabulous tearoom!
We went home to the North East of Scotland for Easter. As it was a direct flight, we flew into Edinburgh rather than Aberdeen. We decided we would rather spend a few hours driving through the fabulous Scottish countryside, than sitting in airport lounges and racing between terminals. Passing through Edinburgh also gave me a chance to catch up with old University of Aberdeen friends. Another joy of being back in Europe.
I wrote about Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, in an earlier post. We have been in the city itself a lot recently so this time we contented ourselves with a morning walk in the Pentlands, the hills just outside the city limits.
It was still a little early in the year for the yellow broom and the purple heather, the soft colours that give the Scottish countryside a slight dreamlike quality, but the sheep were out in force
and the old Scottish dykes were glorious with moss.
Reception at Scone Palace
As we arrived at the Palace we were very lucky, and were greeted by a Scottish piper, dressed in Highland attire.
First class tearoom
However as you can see from the video (now sadly unavailable) it was also raining so we decided to go to the tearoom first and partake of a little refreshment, in the hope that the weather would have improved by the time we finished. It didn’t!
I have always loved tearooms, most Brits do. It was one of the things I found hardest about living in America, the lack of tearooms. In the U.K. every park, stately home and even garden center has a wee tearoom, generally with home-baked cakes. You can climb serious mountains in Scotland and find a small cafe at the end of the walk. Quite often it was the reason you went out in the first place. We are not talking full blown afternoon tea, although there is plenty of that fabulous tradition too, just a normal cup of tea or coffee and a wee treat to go with it. This frustration probably inspired me to start my own catering business in the States, and specialise in Afternoon Tea.
In my youth I used to joke that the perfect job would be visiting tearooms and cafes, rating them and then putting a book together. Now you have to remember my youth was a long time ago, before everyone and their dog started writing travel and food blogs.
Why am I rating Scone Palace tearoom so highly? Because of this
Is this a Scone or a Meringue?
The answer? No, you are right, it is a scone. Old Scottish joke, because the Scottish pronunciation of ‘Am I wrong’ is ‘a meringue’. Well, seeing both a scone and a meringue together on one tea-tray kept me laughing all morning. And it was not just any meringue, but the meringue of my childhood. Click on the highlight above to get recipes for both scones and meringues!
When I was six I used to go to ballet class every Tuesday after school.. First, I went to my granny’s house, and she would give me sixpence (told you I was old), that would be 21/2 pence or around 5 cents in today’s money. Then I would walk across town on my own, because that’s what you did, to my ballet class. On the way I would pass the local bakers and buy a lovely big meringue which I would eat whilst walking. I think that was the start of my love affair with meringues, a love affair which has continued to this day. Click on the links to take you to recipes for both scones and meringues.
History of Scone Palace ( and the Game of Thrones Connection)
The first true King of the Scots was Kenneth MacAlpin. Scotland, up until the 9th century, had been lands owned by a mix of Scots and Picts, invaded by the Vikings, occasionally attacked by the Angles and the Britons, the usual Middle Ages mayhem. MacAlpin, in true Game of Thrones fashion, united the country by inviting the Pictish King Drostan to a banquet at Scone Palace. I think we all know what happened next.
This story and a similar tale which took place at Edinburgh Castle provided the inspiration for George R.R. Martin’s Red Wedding, in a real ‘fact is stranger than fiction’ sort of way.
With the opposition taken care of, MacAlpin sat on the ‘Stone of Destiny’ and was crowned King of Scotland on ‘Caislean Credi’, or the ‘Hill of Credulity’, in the grounds of Scone Palace. Today the hill is known as Moot Hill.
All kings of Scotland, including Robert The Bruce and Macbeth, were crowned at Moot Hill. It was believed that no king had a right to reign as king of Scotland unless he had first been crowned at Scone upon the Stone of Scone or Stone of Destiny.
The Stone of Destiny
The Stone of Destiny, see the replica above, is the stuff of legends. It is also known as Jacob’s pillow, which appears in the Book of Genesis. The stone was said to have used as a pillow by Jacob and, after having a vision in his sleep, Jacob consecrated the stone to God. The revered stone is thought to have been brought to Scotland from Ireland. It was placed outside Scone Abbey and used for the coronation of Scottish Kings until the end of the 13th century, when it was stolen by the English King Edward.
King Edward took the stone back to Westminster Abbey and had it fitted into a wooden chair. The chair, known by the rather snappy title of “King Edward’s Chair”, has been used up until this day for all English Coronations. After the Act of the Union in 1603, the use of the Stone sanctified all British coronations, including that of the present Queen Elizabeth II (first of Scotland!).
Scottish Kings, however, continued to be crowned at Scone Palace despite the loss of the Stone of destiny. The last king to be crowned there was Charles II in 1651.
Four Scottish students stole The Stone from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950, breaking it into two pieces in the process. They took it back to Scotland, but finally left it at Arbroath Abbey from where it was taken back to Westminster Abbey. There is even a film all about the caper.
In 1996, the Stone was finally restored to the people of Scotland by the British Government. However, it was placed in Edinburgh Castle, where it can viewed together with the Scottish Royal Jewels, ready to be returned to London for the next coronation.
Scone Palace Today
The Scone Palace we visited was built around 1804. Both the Palace and the small Presbyterian Chapel on Moot Hill were restored in the Gothic style.
The present owner of Scone Palace is the 8th Earl of Mansfield. Lord Mansfield is also 13th Viscount Stormont and Lord Scone, 11th Lord Balvaird and Hereditary Keeper of Bruce’s Castle of Lochmaben.
As it was a wee bit dreich (wet) on the day we visited we skipped walking the extensive grounds. However, I was excited to learn that the Palace had hosted the famous White Tent for one season of ‘The Great British Bake-off’. It is regularly used as a filming location, and hosts events such as car shows and medieval reenactments.
I was especially excited to discover that Scone Palace has a music festival called Rewind for those of us stuck in the 80s. A chance to ‘glamp’, dine at the palace and watch bands from our youth. You can even rent part of the palace to stay in during your visit.
Finally, the J.K. Rowling connection?
J.K. Rowling lives in Edinburgh. In fact, we had passed some of her property when we were out walking in the Hills earlier that morning.
While visiting the Palace, we found references to Albus and Severus, two main characters in the fabulous Harry Potter books. However the big clue that J.K. may have been to Scone Palace was the white peacock we saw wandering in the Palace grounds. I am sure you all remember that Lucius Malfoy kept White Peacocks in his grounds. Just saying!
Getting to Scone Palace
From Edinburgh the easiest way to get to Scone Palace is by car. It is, however, possible to use public transport, it just takes a little longer.
Parking and entrance to the grounds is free, as is a visit to the tea room and the gift shop. For full opening times, click here