Seacliff Beach, North Berwick, East Lothian
To the east of Edinburgh and within very easy reach of the city, lie the craggy cliffs, golden beaches and rolling countryside of East Lothian. Hemmed in by the Firth of Forth to the north and the Lammermuir Hills to the south, the history of the area is typified by the stronghold of of Tantallon Castle perched above the beautiful Seacliff Beach in North Berwick. Seacliff is privately owned and there’s a small charge to access it, but it is well worth a visit to discover what’s thought to be the UK’s smallest harbour with views of the Bass Rock. The beach also been featured in the recent Netflix release, Outlaw King, which stars Chris Pine.
The film: Seacliff can be seen in a scene featuring Mary and her ladies in waiting on a rocky shore, looking out to sea, speaking to one another in French.
Blackness Castle, West Lothian
This mighty fortification, jutting out into the Firth of Forth with its long and narrow design, has been described as ‘the ship that never sailed’. It owes much of its nautical shape to the many fortifications that were added to it during the 16th century, transforming it into one of the most secure fortresses of its time - part of its south-facing wall is 5.5 metres thick! Now a popular visitor attraction, the castle has served as a garrison, state prison and also featured in season one of Outlander as well as Outlaw King.
The film: The photogenic Cairngorms and Glen Coe are also featured in the film, as Mary and her army ride across Moorlands.
Explore the history of Mary, Queen of Scots, at any time at the following places:
Linlithgow Palace, lWest Lothian
These historic ruins, once a royal ‘pleasure palace’, surrounded by peaceful gardens and grounds, were also the birthplace of Mary Stuart. The site was first occupied as far back as Roman times, 2,000 years ago. There has been a royal residence here since at least the reign of David I (1124–53). He also founded the town that grew up around the royal residence. www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/linlithgow-palace
Mary spent the first few years of her life, from 27 July 1543, within the safe confines of this castle and in the hands of her guardian Lord Erskine, to February 1548, when she was moved to Dumbarton Castle and eventually shipped to France. It is here, in the Old Chapel, where she was crowned Queen of Scots on 9 September 1543, aged nine months. The ceremony consisted of the quick investiture of the child in the presence of the nobility. www.stirlingcastle.scot for more information.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
The painting of Mary, Queen of Scots, by an unknown artist, is said to give some clues as to her imprisonment and execution. Famed for her tall and elegant appearance, the captive yet dignified Mary seems to tower above those who look at her in the painting. She stands on a Turkish-style carpet and her pale and slightly weary features are set against a dark background, accentuated by her black velvet dress with its elaborate lace cuffs and a diaphanous cloak. www.nationalgalleries.org/visit/scottish-national-portrait-gallery
National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
The museum has a vast selection of objects associated with Mary. History fans can explore her dramatic story and separate out the facts from the myths that have built up over the centuries. Included in their selection of items is a harp, or clarsach, made in the 15th century and said to be to have been given by Mary, Queen of Scots to Beatrix Gardyne of Banchory, while on a hunting trip to Atholl, circa 1563. It is also said to have been adorned at one time with a gold portrait of Mary, which could be the real reason for its association with her. www.nms.ac.uk
Craignethan Castle, Blackwood, Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire
There are various stories of places in Scotland – and elsewhere in the UK – of places the ghost of Mary, Queen of Scots is said to haunt; Craignethan Castle (where Mary is said to have spent the night before the battle of Langside in 1568) has one of those stories. Visitors have reportedly seen a headless woman walking in the grounds, who some believe to be the Scottish Queen. www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/craignethan-castle/ .
Mary Queen of Scots Visitor Centre, Queen Street, Jedburgh, Scottish Borders
Located in a 16th century tower house in the centre of the historic town, the visitor centre reflects the proud association of the town with Mary who stayed there in 1566. The building was bought in 1927 by the town of Jedburgh as it had always been linked with Mary's stay on an official tour when she became seriously ill after riding to Hermitage Castle to visit Bothwell, her supposed lover. Each room has a different focus. The Rogues' Gallery introduces the individuals in the drama of Mary's life, whilst the Last Letter Room reveals Mary's final thoughts. www.scotborders.gov.uk