First of all it is not said as the baked variety but pronounced as “Scoon” and it is on this site that the Kings of Scotland were crowned. The first being Kenneth Macalpin in around 840AD. We had wanted to visit this Palace just outside Perth since we first came to Scotland and today was the day. £12 each gave us entry to the Palace, the gardens and maze. Yet again, a bargain day out especially if you love places steeped in history. It is also the only place we have ever seen a white peacock. Often mistaken for an albino peacock they are in fact the same as the blue peacock just slightly genetically different.
There are differing stores to be told about the Palace and the Stone so each needs to be told separately.
The Palace sits above the River Tay and overlooks the routes north to the Highlands and east through Strathmore to the coast. The palace is one the site of the former Scone Abbey or Priory (built around 1100) but the building seen today dates back to 1807 when the whole building was remodelled. It is the private residence of the Earl of Mansfield so only certain rooms are open to the public. There is a self guided tour around some of the rooms including the Dining Room, the Long Gallery where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert witnessed a curling demonstration on the polished wooden floor in 1842, and Queen Victoria‘s suite of rooms prepared for her stay at Scone. There are also a couple of gift shops and a coffee shop.
In some ways the interesting bits are outside the palace. On a raised area of ground known as Moot Hill stands a small chapel which is used as a family mausoleum.
Moot Hills are gathering places and there seems to be a variety of explanations as to here the named Moot comes from. Some say moot comes from Motte as in a Motte and Bailey Castle but a more romantic suggestion is that it comes from the word boot. In a time when it was a long a dangerous journey for future Kings to travel and visit every corner of Scotland to pass laws and be acknowledge as King. So the heads of the various clans travelled to Scone and brought soil of their home area in their boots. They emptied the soil onto the hill. Could this be where the name came from?
The Stone of Destiny
Otherwise known as The Stone of Scone. Loving a conspiracy story as I, the whole story was right up my street. The Stone has been used from coronations since 840 AD in Scotland. In 1296 Edward I of England invaded Scotland and moved the stone to London. There, at Westminster Abbey in 1307 he had a special throne called the Coronation Chair built so the stone fitted under it. A symbolic move to show that Kings of England would also be crowned as Kings of Scotland simultaneously and there it stayed until Christmas Day 1950 when, shock horror, it was stolen. Well I suppose I should say retrieved. Some would say that the English were the original thieves back in 1296.
The unbelievable story goes that four students from Glasgow to London. After a brief meeting in a tea shop they decided to make an immediate attempt to remove the stone from Westminster Abbey. One of them hid under a trolley in the Abbey but was caught by a security man. He was questioned then freed. The following day they did a bit more research on the shifts for the security men and then, in the middle of the night, three of the men, entered the chapel. They removed the stone and it broke into two pieces. They dragged the larger piece on a coat down the altar steps and the other smaller piece was taken out to their waiting car. The larger piece of stone was hidden in a field in Kent and the smaller piece taken to Rugby. When it was discovered that the Stone was missing, the border between Scotland and England was closed, the first time this had happened in over four hundred years.
Two weeks later, the friends retrieved both pieces of stone and brought them to Glasgow for a stonemason to mend. After a tip-off, one year later the Stone was found by the police in Arbroath Abbey and returned to Westminster Abbey. The friends confessed their crime but for sensitive political reasons were never prosecuted. The Stone was reset in the Coronation Chair for the crowning of the Queen one year later. In 1996, the British Government moved the Stone to Edinburgh Castle for safe-keeping on the condition that it be returned to Westminster for any future coronations. Some would say that this is the end of the story but there is one more twist in the tale.
There is some controversy over whether the Scots managed to hide the original Stone of Destiny before Edward I arrived and produce a replica. Descriptions of the Stone differ which add to this theory as well as the fact that geologists have proved that the stone that Edward I removed was quarried locally to Scone, whereas the original Stone was transported from Egypt. So is the one at Edinburgh Castle just a replica? Is the original one buried under the car park at Scone Palace? We will never know but here is a replica (of a replica?)
Scone and New Scone
There were a couple of walks around the parkland, kitchen gardens, etc of the estate. We decided to follow the Earl’s Walk which was about a 40 minute walk. It took us past an archway which was the original entrance to the Palace. The problem for the Earls was that the archway, which was only around 300 metres from the front of the palace, was the original main road through the village of Scone. Back in 1805 the Earl wanted more privacy so what did he do? Of course, he demolished the whole village and moved it 2km away from his view.
The only visible reminders of the original village are the cemetery and the Mercat Cross (Market Cross).
The final point on our walk was the maze. It is in the shape of a star, the family emblem, and was planted in 1991 with a mixture of copper and green beech to resemble the Earl of Mansfield‘s family tartan. In the centre is a statue of a water nymph. Jonno being smart took a few minutes to look at the layout on a board before we entered and literally took us straight to the centre without making one wrong turn. Clever clogs.
We had a great day out at the crowning place of Kings. One last gem I found was when we went to the coffee shop which is in the original servants’ dining room. There was another cafe next door which is obviously opened up during their busier months or when they have coach parties which is obviously the former kitchen for the palace. The cooking range which was probably used when Queen Victoria stayed was absolutely huge and I don’t think I would want to try and cook for a party of a hundred or so on it….. well maybe I could master beans on toast!