Image by Patrick Dieudonne Patrick Dieudonne
'So thanks to all at once and to each one, whom we invite to see us crowned at Scone.' This line from Macbeth indicates the importance of Scone (pronounced 'skoon') as the coronation place of Scottish monarchs. The original palace of 1580, laying claim to this historic site, was rebuilt in the early 19th century as a Georgian mansion of extreme elegance and luxury. The self-guided tour takes you through a succession of sumptuous rooms filled with fine French furniture and noble portraits.
Scone has belonged for centuries to the Murray family, earls of Mansfield, and many of the objects have a fascinating history attached to them (friendly guides are on hand to explain). Each room has comprehensive multilingual information; there are also panels relating histories of some of the Scottish kings crowned at Scone over the centuries. Outside, peacocks – each named after a monarch – shriek and strut around the magnificent grounds, which incorporate woods, a butterfly garden and a maze.
Ancient kings were crowned on Moot Hill, now topped by a chapel next to the palace. It's said that the hill was created by bootfuls of earth, brought by nobles attending the coronations as an acknowledgement of the king's rights over their lands, although it's more likely the site of an ancient motte-and-bailey castle. Here in 838 Kenneth MacAlpin became the first king of a united Scotland and brought to Scone the Stone of Destiny, on which Scottish kings were ceremonially invested. In 1296 Edward I of England carted this talisman off to Westminster Abbey, where it remained for 700 years before being returned to Scotland in 1997 (it now sits in Edinburgh Castle, but there are plans afoot to return it to Perth).
Scone Palace is 2 miles north of Perth; from the town centre, cross the bridge, turn left, and bear left along the footway beside the A93 until you reach the gates of the estate. From here, it's another half-mile to the palace (about 45 minutes' walk). Various buses from town stop here; the tourist office can advise.