Occupied since at least the 12th century, and renowned as a favourite haunt of Scotland’s Stewart kings, Falkland Palace lies at the foot of the Lomond Hills just outside the Fife town with which it shares a name. The earliest known building to occupy the site was a simple hunting lodge, and it was followed by a 13th century castle built by the MacDuffs. The castle was razed in 1337 though it was habitable again by 1342, and by the late 15th century the building had been acquired by the crown and the process had begun by which it would be transformed into a renaissance palace to match almost any in Europe.

The inspiration was the great French chateaux of the time such as the sumptuous royal palace at Fontainebleau near Paris, and the main driver of the project was James IV. From 1497 until his death in 1513 he set about transforming the place, bringing in orange trees for the gardens and skilled stonemasons to work on the building, stocking the surrounding park land with deer and wild boar, and importing cultural treats such as lute players from Italy and an un-named African drummer.

James V extended the buildings and it was him we have to thanks for one of its most famous additions: the real tennis court. It's known as the Sport of Kings and for good reason: Henry VIII was a noted adherent, and there were courts at Hampton Court by 1529. The ones at Falkland Palace were completed by 1541 and are still used today by the Falkland Palace Royal Tennis Club.

Mary Queen of Scots was another royal who was fond of the palace, though its history isn’t all bucolic splendour and architectural finery: as part of his machinations against James VI, the duplicitous Earl of Bothwell tried to capture the king at Falkland on the morning of June 28, 1592. He and his men were eventually repulsed and several of them were eventually hanged in Edinburgh.

Both Charles I and Charles II visited Falkland Place but after the Union of the Crowns the palace gradually fell into disrepair – until the late 19th century, that is, when the Marquess of Bute embarked on a 20 year restoration project. This resulted in the building of a glass house and the planting of an avenue of lime trees. In the 1940s, celebrated designer Percy Cane redesigned the gardens and they’re now almost as big a draw as the palace itself. The gardens are currently (Wednesday to Sunday only), and the building itself will re-open on May 27.

What to watch

Unsurprisingly, Falkland Palace is one of the many Scottish historical sites used on the television series Outlander. It features in the penultimate episode of the second series.