Scone Palace, Perth
Park - Address: Perth
2 reviews from the community
Review of "Scone Palace, Perth"
Have decided to wander back to the site for a bit - 2016 was a bit hectic!
On our holiday to Scotland a couple of weeks ago, one of the places my dad really wanted to see was Scone Palace so one of our days out was formed of a trip there. As a preamble, it was something of an effort to find - I don’t know whether we were approaching it from an angle that few visitors do but there seemed to be a distinct lack of signposts for the palace (an odd thing considering it is a visitor attraction connected with a famous stone) and we had a short detour into Scone itself before we got there.
Luckily we did find the palace eventually and found ourselves turning off the main road down a long drive that was quite winding and did make you feel like you were going to quite a secluded place. I can’t say I could hear any traffic noise when we finally did get to the car park, either.It was fairly busy, with lots of people of all ages (younger families as well as groups of adults) around as you might expect in August, thanks to the summer holidays but we didn’t have too much trouble parking and - quite impressively - the ticket booth was stationed some way from the house. There were different pricing options for grounds-only tickets and house-and-grounds tickets and, on the surface, £5.10 for an adult (£4.50 for students and OAPs, and £3.50 for children) does seem a little steep compared to £9.00 for adults, £7.90 for students/OAPs and £6.00 for children if you take in the palace as well (family tickets are charged at a flat fee of £26.00) but I quite liked the idea of there being some flexibility and the grounds - as I will soon describe - could account for a good hour of the visit by themselves.
Because of that, we actually spent maybe half an hour looking around the gardens, wandering up and down paths and trying to get an idea of our bearings before we even thought about going into the palace itself. Usefully, there were a couple of large weatherproof boards dotted around with “artist’s impression” style ground plans and I do remember that there was another map on one of the leaflets we got (although I kept losing it!) and here and there amongst the grounds were wooden signs with engraved arrows and lettering showing which direction each feature of interest was in. One of the first things I noticed outside the palace was one all-white peacock that was happily strutting around on the front lawn having its photograph taken (I’ve never seen a colourless peacock before and I suspect many people hadn’t, either).The peacock wasn’t alone, either, because - close to the ticket office - a fenced-off bit of the grass was providing a handful of small goats and a Highland calf or two with something of a barrier from the visitors, although it was definitely getting quite a bit of attention from visiting children and (even as a fully-grown, old-enough-to-vote adult) I rather liked the little goats, too.
As far as I could make out, there were no guided tours at Scone as there had been when we went to Glamis Castle. Instead, they had people posted in each room to answer questions which I thought was a brilliant idea. The very first room we went into was being supervised by a really knowledgeable lady who was obviously very well informed about all the relevent history (both in terms of general British history and also about events that concerned Scone Palace more directly) and she was more than happy to talk to us at length - in fact, I think we might have spent twenty to thirty minutes in that one room and learnt all about the recent owners of Scone Palace (the Earls of Mansfield, who are also linked up to the Viscounts of Stormont somehow - both of these titles came up when our in-room guide was talking to us, so I had to double-check the details online for this review!), their historical links to the Jacobites and the long history of the various family members going into the legal profession, so she certainly provided us with a good idea of who the owners were, how they made their money and how they remained so prominent. Saying that, other people visiting the palace when we were there seemed happier just to wander through the rooms looking at different furniture and artefacts and the guides didn’t try to force information on them if they didn’t want it. Photography wasn’t allowed inside the building - how I always manage to only find these things out as I walk in with a D-SLR camera round my neck, I’ll never know - but I compensated later by taking a lot of exterior shots.
Inside The Palace Walls . . .
Surprisingly, the palace that stands there today is only a couple of centuries old - it was rebuilt between 1808 and 1812, although the original palace was built in the sixteenth century. One thing that really caught my eye (because I do love scale models and I have no idea why - possibly because I never had a doll’s house as a child?) was a beautifully made model of the original palace as it would have looked in the 1500s - it was surprising just how different and more “Shakespearean” it seemed (although, of course, I suppose it would if it was built in his era).I think the best way to describe Scone Palace - in spite of its grand-sounding name, it’s really a building that you would look at and say, “It can’t be a palace, it’s too small!” - is as a sort of low-key stately home. When we went in, as with most historic houses, it was clearly stated that photography wasn’t permitted. (I forget whether it mentioned video or not, but I suspect the two would fall into the same category) I was amazed, though, how the interior had been arranged so that it captured the feeling of so many different eras inside. We probably only went into seven or eight rooms in total (excluding the shop and tea room, which I will return to later) and yet - unlike with Glamis Castle - I felt as though I’d seen quite a lot of the palace. With Glamis, I got the impression that the Strathmores would only permit certain parts of the building to be seen by the general public but Scone Palace seemed like a much smaller-scale building (although hardly “small” compared to your average three-bedroomed house!) and so it felt as though we’d seen as much as there was to be seen.
Some of the items on display were so eye-catching that you couldn’t help but look twice at them. One bedroom had various items dotted around it (and was probably about as big as the typical large lounge) including a child-sized sedan chair - I wasn’t quite sure why it had been made but I suspect it must have been like the eighteenth- or nineteeth-century equivalent of buying a child a toy pram or car to go around with. Towards the end of our exploration around the building, we came to a long gallery which appeared to house some eye-catchingly varnished vases . . . except they weren’t made of china, stone, glass or anything like that - they were papier-mache, and the man who was acting as guide in that room demonstrated just how light they were by moving backwards and forwards on his feet so that they rocked - and they did that quite readily! If I hadn’t known it was papier-mache, I’d have expected them to break and it was impossible to guess just by looking at them because the outside surface was so smooth and shiny thanks to the lacquer and varnish they’d been finished with that I don’t think I saw one tell-tale overlapping bit of paper or loose newspaper piece. (As you would if it was one of the remnants of my school projects!)
It’s probably fair to point out that Scone Palace is not that big inside (particularly in the corridors which couldn’t have been more than 4-5 feet wide). This doesn’t sound like a big problem until you get quite a few visitors in (it was reasonably busy) and then I started to find that although I didn’t feel exactly rushed, it was best to keep moving so the corridor didn’t get congested. The difficulty was, whoever was in charge of Scone Palace had done a fantastic job of creating about twelve or fourteen long poster-type display boards which were mounted on either side of the corridor walls and gave lots of written information about various aspects of Scottish history (including Mary,Queen of Scots, Macbeth and other prominent people) which were worth reading carefully. I think it would be easy to do this on less busy days but at times with a lot of visitors around (even though I’m a fast reader) there wasn’t a lot of space to linger.I was quite surprised, however, just how many modern photographs of the family were on display in this corridor. A framed family tree was on one wall leading right up to the current generation and their children, but there must have been five or six other displays of assorted photographs and some newspaper clippings relating to family events (weddings, christenings and even royal visits going back to the late nineteeth century - one part of one wall held a mounted, immaculately polished garden spade which the Queen Mother used to plant a tree there at some point . . . although I thought it looked incredibly clean!). I must admit that one visitor-orientated feature which didn’t make much impact on me was the short video that was playing in one of the rooms - I think this was more to do with the fact that it was played on a loop, people were free to walk in and out as they wanted to and that a couple of people managed to keep a conversation going all the way through the video than any deficiency in the video’s content, plus I was feeling a bit claustrophobic by then after being in the corridor. It was also pretty easy to spot when a room wasn’t open to the public - although the doors were open, the lights were off and the rooms looked dark so you knew there probably wasn’t anything to be seen.
For small visitors, there is apparently an I Spy activity you can make use of but as we didn't have any children with us, I can't comment on how good or bad it was. I think the house might be manageable for children and they'd probably like the animals but walking round the entire grounds probably would be too much for them.
With Big Palaces Come . . . Dining Halls?
There should have been at least two options for eating at Scone Palace - one was the Old Kitchen Restaurant which looked like it could cater on quite a scale but was in darkness with no food being served (I have since noticed on the Scone Palace website that this room appears to be “available for booked lunches or other booked refreshments” so perhaps that explains it?) so we ate in the Old Servants’ Hall Coffee Shop, which I thought had a quite nicely understated mediaeval feel to it - it seemed like a historic setting but the ambience wasn’t “in your face”. The room was quite narrow (like the main body of the building, I suspect that it wasn’t designed with dozens of visitors from the year 2010 in mind!) and the food was more of a ready-to-go style (sandwiches, scones, drinks, cakes, crisps etc) arranged in fridges so you could walk along the assortment like you would in a canteen, pay at the end and then help yourself to sugar, cutlery, napkins and other similar things. My dad and I had normal scones (normal aside of the fact that they were huge) with butter and raspberry jam (which was lovely and quite runny!) but my mum managed to spot the last scone with cream in the fridge section so she shared some of the cream with me. I think at peak times it would have felt quite cluttered in there but, by the time we ate, it was around 3pm so it wasn’t too busy.
Out In The Open Air
The maze had me utterly baffled. I think perhaps my dad had the right idea as he declined to go in and waited for Mum and I outside. You enter it through a gate and, just above it, a raised viewing platform can be seen (I assume this is for the benefit of parents wanting to keep an eye on their children) but oddly enough we never found our way to the viewing platform itself - obviously there’s more than one way around it. An even stranger thing that puzzled me when we approached the maze was that there were two gates (one marked “Entrance” and one marked “Exit”) yet people were leaving via the Entrance gate . . . until, that is, we were in the maze, I decided I had a sense where I was going and we came out of the “Entrance” gate! It’s quite tall - the hedges that formed the walls were at least as tall as me (so, 5ft+) so it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to let children in unattended if they weren’t very old.Other parts of the grounds were really well signposted - there were wooden signs with arrows pointing in whichever direction all over the grounds. Like at Glamis Castle, the grounds featured something called a pinetum (so I've looked it up - it means "a collection of coniferous trees") and the land spread over such a wide area it was easy to feel like you were in another place all together! Another feature worth looking for is the David Douglas Pavilion, a little canopy like a gazebo that is allegedly made from wood from the Douglas Fir (a tree planted by Scone-born gardener and explorer David Douglas, who died very young on an exploratory expedition around the world, according to what I remember from the information boards in the pavilion.
Finally, up on a hill facing the main palace, is a little chapel-like building called Scone Abbey. You can't go inside it as the interior is largely sectioned off but you can look through the partition at it, and outside the Abbey is a replica of the actual Stone of Scone, whichObviously, although there is a huge amount to see in the grounds, how much you can get out of them is bound to depend on the weather as it could be a bit off-putting to walk round it in damp weather, but on a nice day, Scone Palace is the kind of place I think you could make a full day's excursion out of.
Scone Palace is open from 9.30am until 5.00pm (last admission time) between 1 Apr and 31 Oct 2010, although the grounds remain open until 5.45pm. You can get "grounds only" family season tickets for varying prices and these entitle the holder to additional admission discounts at Blair Castle and Glamis Castle.
The Scone Palace website identifies the closest railway to the palace as Perth (3 miles), and adds that buses running towards the palace leave from South Street, Kinnoul Street or the Bus Station in Perth. The closest airport is Edinburgh (40 miles away) and the palace grounds have space to store bicycles, although personally I didn't notice any - however we did arrive by car.
Product Information : Scone Palace, Perth
Manufacturer's product descriptionPark - Address: Perth
Listed on Ciao since: 18/05/2010