Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Scone Palace

I must have been quick off my mark when I camped at Perth Racecourse last month. Tent pack and two cups of tea into the morning and I still arrived at Scone (that's pronounced Scoon) Palace in time for opening at half past nine. Even better, I was nattering to the chap at the ticket booth and he gave me a discount because the campsite ground belongs to the same estate as the palace.

Scone Palace was originally an abbey but came a cropper in the Reformation in 1959, when a riotous mob set out from Dundee to pillage and burn it, despite calls from John Knox himself for them not to. The lands were given to the Ruthven family in 1580 but they were caught up in a conspiracy against King James VI so their tenancy was very short. In 1600 the king gave the lands and palace to the Murray family (who have been the Earls of Mansfield since 1776), who still own it to this day. The building as it appears today was remodelled, rebuilt by the sounds of it, under the stewardship of the 3rd Earl of Manfield in the early 19th century.

There is much to see inside the palace, some superb portraits, sculpture and in particular a huge collection of ivory statuettes. Well worth a visit but I'm afraid I'm unable to find any pictures from the net to show you.

The history of the building as a palace and of the Earls of Mansfield is interesting but the real significance of Scone dates back to when it was a abbey and further back through Scottish history to before Scotland existed. The Picts set up their capital at Scone and it was in the 7th century while the area was still in Pictland the the abbey was established here. 

Today a small chapel stands on a hillock known as Moot hill - a moot is a meeting or gathering. The hill is also sometimes known as Boot hill. Once a new king would have to travel the lands to accept the homage of his lords but this could be dangerous and time consuming. Instead the lords would come to him and each of them would carry some of the earth from his area with him in his boots, so the king would officially have greeted each lord on his own ground. Thus the hillock could have been made up of the earth from all over Scotland.

In 843 Kenneth Macalpin defeated the Picts and became ruler of what is most of modern Scotland - he is generally regarded as the first king of Scotland. He brought with him what came to be known as the Stone of Scone or the Stone of Destiny. It is reputed to be the stone on which Jacob laid his head when he had his dreams (Genesis chapter 28). From Kenneth Macalpin onwards every king of Scotland was crowned on the stone until Edward I of England stole it in 1292. There after every king of England and latterly Britain was crowned on the stone. On Christmas day 1950 a group of Scottish students broke into Westminster Abbey and took the stone back to Scotland, breaking it in the process, although it was shortly recovered. The stone was eventually returned to Scotland in 1996 and it now resided in Edinburgh Castle. Kings of Scotland continued to be crowned here after the loss of the stone, most famously Robert the Bruce.

A replica of the stone now sits on Moot Hill. It is likely that the stone that sits in Edinburgh Castle is also a replica. The Monks at Scone may have switched the stone and fobbed Edward I off with a fake back in 1292. What we currently have is certainly about the size of a building block at the time. It's likely that Edward was given an old weathered brick instead (a rejected one at that, which may be why it broke in two in 1950 - although being 800 years old probably didn't help). Just to help the story along, geologists have identified that it looks awfully like sandstone quarried near Scone. Now, what happened to the real stone? Nobody knows and it's not been seen since 1292.

Two wickerwork deer have been placed on the hill.

When I was there, they were having some work done to an arch in the grounds.....

Because back in September 2010 a workman's van completely misjudged the height of the arch. Since my visit the work has been finished and the arch reopened. Here's a little film from the BBC about it.

There's no better way to set of a huge lawn then by getting some peacocks.

Though not on the lawn, highland cows always take a good picture.

A maze in the grounds, how could I resist.

That's the centre with a fountain in it over there.


I got out. It really wasn't that difficult. There was a map at the entrance which I had a good study at before I went in or else I may still have been in there. Here's a few shots from around the grounds to finish of with.


Dave Wenning said...

Wonderful place, beautiful photos. No mention of the biscuits we eat hot with butter and strawberry jam. Are those also "scoons?" Or is that just an American term? When I saw your title, my mouth watered.

Sandy's witterings said...

Ah Dave, we may have entered a great world of confusion between what we all call scones, biscuits and cookies on either side of the pond. Sounds like you have the correct idea. It's one of these (this one comes from a sunny afternoon in Chippenham a few years ago)

Not pronounce Scoon - that's just for the palace. Most of us pronounce it "Scawn" (as in lawn) but the posher might pronounce the "o" as you would in "tone". It's a temporary problem as everyone pronounces "empty plate" pretty much the same everywhere.

Poppy (aka Val) said...

Sandy, between us we are finding some good places aren't we?? Thank you for sharing this, I would love to visit here one day :) I love Highland Cattle, they have such wonderful faces and all that wonderful fur!! Amazing photos as always :) You cheated on that maze, we went into the one at Hever with no help! But we did know the 'formula' so we had no problem either.Great blog :)

Jenny Woolf said...

Fabulous looking place. I particularly like the hedge with the fountain in, because of the colours as much as anything. The first picture of the highland cow gave me a turn though, it looked to me at first like a disembodied head. I suppose REALLY it was photographed face-on! :)

Ruthie Redden said...

So glad to see they are fixing the arch, when we last visited it had just been knocked down the week before! Love that maze, the colours are fab. Do they still have the albino peacock too?

The Glebe Blog said...

That guy in the van must have been motoring to cause all that damage Sandy.
Excellent history lesson and great pictures of the beasts.
I've also heard the story of the Stone of Destiny. I remember a Perthshire farmer back in the 60's I think claiming it was in one of his fields. Trouble is I can't find any reference to it ?

Sandy's witterings said...

Val, I suspect I probably did cheat in the maze - I even took a picture of the map in case I got lost (though I didn't use it)

Jenny, I cam assure you the first Highland cow was complete - I'm sure I would have noticed otherwise.

Ruthie, they do indeed still have the white peacock. It was too busy bing hand fed by some kids to worry about looking photogenic for me.

Jim, it certainly isn't a 2 mph accident. Not quite you're tale Jim, but near the bottom of this chunky article is a story about a Perthshire farm worker finding the stone 200 years ago

Shundo said...

I"m going tho have to steal that 'empty plate' line off you , Sandy - though scones here are an entirely different contraption, that we tend to eat for breakfast... not that I'm complaining, mind.
Looks like the van came a bit of a cropper too.