The Palace of Holyroodhouse <p class="copyright">Samot / Shutterstock</p>
The Palace of Holyroodhouse

It’s that time of year — or at least, it’s that time of the pandemic — when photos of Europeans going on vacation to Italy or the south of France take over social media.

It hurts only a little, especially as the borders to the EU remain closed to US tourists and a 14-day quarantine is mandated for those traveling to the UK. Many countries are keeping American travelers out because the outbreak is not considered contained in the US, with total reported cases approaching 5.5 million at last count — far more than any other country’s reported case total.

Luckily, a few English and Scottish castles were nice enough to “open” their doors so anyone (including US citizens) can virtually take the holiday we all very much need. And though we can’t actually sit in the gardens at Scotland’s Blair Castle or walk the rooms of the Queen’s Palace of Holyroodhouse — with a good internet connection, we can pretend that we’re right there.

Too bad no one has recreated this virtual experience for the beaches in Portofino (yet, anyway). 

Here’s how to access the online tour offerings for five stunning English castles that make for an ideal virtual-weekend escape.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland

<p class="copyright">dchadwick / . Getty Images</p>

Noted for being Queen Elizabeth II’s official residence in Scotland, the Palace of Holyroodhouse offers a free virtual tour of its Royal Dining Room, its Grand Stair, and its Morning Drawing Room. 

By touring the place and clicking the “I” icon that hovers over some objects in the rooms, people can learn more about this famous Edinburgh palace and its history.

For example, in the Morning Drawing Room, virtual visitors can learn about the cloisonné enamel copper incense burner, which was given to Queen Victoria in 1896 by Chinese Ambassador Li Hongzhang on behalf of the Emperor of China. The burner dates back to the second half of the 1700s.

Typically, the Palace of Holyroodhouse palace is open year-round to the public and even hosts garden parties. 

Access to Virtual Tours: HERE

Source: Royal UK

Blair Castle & Gardens in Perthshire, Scotland

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Located in Perthshire, Scotland, Blair Castle currently has free virtual tours of its gardens and a few of its rooms.

The castle is best known for being home to 19 generations of the Atholl Family, a prominent Scottish family whose members included politicians, entrepreneurs, agriculturists, scholars, and soldiers.

Each generation of the Atholl family has made its mark on the castle, and a tour of its grounds captures key moments in Scotland’s history. 

Access to Virtual Tour: HERE

Source: Blair Castle

Sissinghurst Castle in the Weald of Kent, England

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Located in Cranbrook, Kent, the Sissinghurst Castle offers numerous free tours of its gardens, courtyard, and libraries. It is part of the National Trust, a charity organization in the UK that seeks to preserve heritage monuments. 

In the 1930s, the castle underwent a massive transformation by writer Vita Sackville-West. Her husband, Sir Harold Nicolson, helped map out the garden rooms. The Sissinghurst Castle Gardens created by Sackville-West and her husband are among the country’s most famous gardens today.

Previously, in the 1700s, the castle was a prison, before it went on to house the women’s land army and later became a family home. The virtual tour of this castle also gives access to the top of its famous Tours, in which the entire 450-acre estate can be seen. 

Access Virtual Tour of Garden: HERE

Access Virtual Tour of Rose Garden: HERE

Access Virtual  Tour of Courtyard: HERE

Access Virtual Tour of Library: HERE

Source: National Trust

Buckingham Palace in London, England

<p class="copyright">Chris Jackson / Staff / Getty Images</p>

Perhaps the most famous palace in the world, many parts of Buckingham Palace can be virtually toured for free from the comfort of one’s home. 

The tours give access to the Grand Staircase, the White Drawing Room, the Throne Room, and the Blue Drawing Room. Located in the Westminster area of London, England, Buckingham is best known as the official London residence of Queen Elizabeth II.

Access All Virtual Tours: HERE

Source: Royal UK

Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England

<p class="copyright">Leon Neal / Staff / Getty Images</p>

Blenheim Palace, located in the Woodstock region of Oxfordshire, England, has been home to the Marlborough family for centuries. 

Through the palace’s website, visitors can book specialist virtual tours with Blenheim’s palace historian, Antonia Keaney.

Rich with history, people will be able to choose what type of experience they want to have and can dive into the storied background of the palace, including learning about Winston Churchill and his relation to the palace, what life was like at the palace during World War II, and the story behind the first Duchess of Marlborough who lived here.  

Each tour lasts about 45 minutes, and tickets can be purchased in advance.

Book Virtual Tour: HERE

Source: Blenheim Palace

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