Historic Falkland Palace and village with landscaped gardens on a sunny summer day in Fife, Scotland, UK.

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Falkland Palace

Falkland Palace, a 16th-century country residence of the Stuart monarchs, is prettier and in many ways more impressive and interesting than the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. Mary, Queen of Scots, is said to have spent the happiest days of her life here ‘playing the country girl' in the surrounding woods and parks, and James V, James VI and Charles II all stayed here on various occasions. Don't miss the world's oldest surviving real tennis court, dating from 1539.

The palace was built between 1501 and 1541 to replace a castle dating from the 12th century; French and Scottish craftspeople were employed to create a masterpiece of Scottish Gothic architecture. The keeper's bedroom houses an extraordinary royal four-poster bed made for James VI in 1618, richly carved with figures of Faith, Hope, Justice and Prudence.

The Chapel Royal, an extravaganza of carved wood and painted ceilings, has been restored to its original glory (and still serves as a Roman Catholic place of worship), while the neighbouring hall is hung with prodigious 17th-century Flemish hunting tapestries. In the grounds, the real tennis court that was built in 1539 for James V is the oldest still in use anywhere in the world (the one at London's Hampton Court Palace was originally built in 1528 but was renovated for Charles II in the 17th century).

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