About a month ago my wife and I took a trip south to visit Scone Palace in the neighbouring county (to Aberdeenshire) of Perth and Kinross. The drive is quite a long one, at over two hours from Lickleyhead Castle, but if you are looking for something to do to break the journey as you travel up to us or back down, it could be the perfect place to stop, stroll and gaze in wonder.
First of all the pronunciation. Scone is pronounced /scohn/ in the south of England and /scon/ in the north and in most of Scotland. In Scone itself however people say /scoon/. However you say it, and please let me know if you hail from other parts of the world, nearly everyone agrees that the small round cakes that bear the name are delicious. This is doubly or perhaps triply the case if you eat them with jam and cream (although again controversy over order and whether butter should be added). All will be glad to know that the tea-room located in the old servant's quarters underneath the palace has a lot of scones and a good selection of different types. They also have a number of flavours of jam you can try on them, most of which were made using fruit from the estate. Sadly clotted cream is extra, but that is the way of the world. After sampling a couple of varieties I would give the Scone Palace scones a solid 7 out of 10, which might be surprising to some people given that this is the spiritual home of the scone. I will simply say that the scones there look very nice. We didn't have time, but it might be worth investigating tea-rooms in the village of Scone in the future to see if they can rise to defend the honour of their local fare.
Moving on to less pressing matters, the palace is clearly sign posted from the road. There follows a short journey at low speed down the driveway before you are forced to stop by a roadside ticket booth so as to purchase entry. Luckily the queue on the day we came was a short one. I can imagine a long queue of cars at the weekend waiting to gain entry. It doesn't seem an efficient way to do it, but maybe it is a temporary one while they set up an online system. Once you have paid parking is mainly to the right in a gravel car park.
After passing through the main gate we were immediately struck by the immaculately maintained grounds and by the peacocks/peahens. There were at least seven individuals that we saw strutting around including one magnificent white peacock with a big personality. The peacocks are free to roam where they will, but they rarely seem to stray too far from the main palace building, probably for fear of getting eaten by a fox. Their loud calls and beautiful feathers were a source of particular fascination for our 20 month old son who was torn between examining these birds and running away in fear when they got too close. The peacocks seem completely unafraid of humans. None of them behaved violently towards us and visitors with children need not worry.
There is no photography permitted in the palace itself, part of which remains the lived in home of the Earl of Mansfield and his family. Each room is as splendid as the next. Enormous paintings are mounted on the walls. Huge stuffed animals were another source of interest and fear for our son. Treasures of one kind or another were dotted casually around including fabric created by Mary Queen of Scots. The palace also has an audio-visual room that explains the history of the building and its place in Scottish history on a loop.
Directly across from the palace is a wonderfully decorated chapel building on a mound. This is the site that the Kings of Scotland would traditionally have come to to be crowned and the famous Stone of Destiny originally sat at the top. The chapel has ornate carvings inside and is well worth a few minutes to stand and marvel. Outside there is a sword in a stone, revealing I think a sense of humour on the part of the Earl or whoever manages the estate.
Otherwise of note is the hedge maze. We entered without a great deal of time to spare and nearly had cause rue our decision as we quickly got lost. This is not an easy maze! The hedges are thick and tall and the design very challenging. In the end we only escaped by retracing our steps and going out the same way we had come in. Only go in if you have a good hour or so before you have to leave the palace.
There are a few other things to see such as a children's play area, but time could also be spent wandering along the paths and among the gardens. The palace is well-staffed and well maintained, including the outside spaces, meaning the grounds are as much of a joy to behold as the palace itself.
A visit to Scone Palace requires at least three hours to be properly experienced, though you could spend most of the day. At £17.50 per adult it is not a cheap day out, but I think we got value for our money given the number of buildings and other attractions on display. I would recommend a visit to the palace. We may be back ourselves scoon ;)