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.