Linlithgow - the Loch and the Palace
The town of Linlithgow is another easily accessible place from Edinburgh via train which is worth the trip if you are looking to get out of the city for a day. With the palace, the birthplace of James V and Mary, Queen of Scots, and the picturesque loch being the star attractions.
On our first visit we followed another walk from our handy little Edinburgh and beyond book of walks which has helped us time and time again to discover new spots. The walk began at the train station and skirted the Union canal, another section of which we explored previously on a different walk from that same little book. On route to the loch (where the walk was taking us) we passed a 16th century doocot which looks very similar to the one at Dirleton castle. These beehive shaped doocots are common in Scotland but this is apparently the only one in West Lothian, originally standing in gardens, which were rather like allotments for the people of the town, belonging to the Barons Ross of Halkhead.
After a short walk through the town we arrived at Linlithgow loch and following the path around the waters edge made a lovely circular walk. Whilst parts of the loch path are slightly wilder than other sections the whole route is all very accessible and pretty level. The route also gives plenty of opportunity to get some great views towards the palace as well as spot some of the bird life that lives near the loch.
The loch is the largest natural freshwater one in Lothian and in its waters are two small islands which are believed to be the 5000 year old remains of two crannogs. A crannog is a partially or entirely artificial island built in lakes, rivers and estuarine waters in parts of Scotland, Wales and Ireland. They were used as dwellings from the European Neolithic Period right up to as late as the 17th / early 18th century in some cases. The loch was once famous for its brown trout as well but most of the fishing today is of stocked rainbow trout. I wonder if the man in my photo above who is almost waist deep in the water was fishing for trout.
We've visited Linlithgow twice now and on the second visit we went straight to the palace but you could easily do both the loch and the palace at the same time. The palace is now a ruin but was once one of the main residences of the monarchs of Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries and, as I mentioned previously, was the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots.
A royal manor existed on the site in the 12th century, replaced by a fortification known as 'the peel' from the old French 'pel' meaning 'stake' in the 14th century which was built by occupying English forces under Edward I. It was in the perfect place for securing the supply routes between Edinburgh castle and Stirling castle. Whilst nothing remains of the peel the name has lingered on being given to the parkland that surrounds the palace. A large fire destroyed part of the town of Linlithgow in 1424 and after that James I started the rebuilding of the palace as a grand residence for Scottish royalty where it then became the ideal base for royals to break their journeys between Edinburgh and Stirling castles. With the Union of the Crowns in 1603 and the royal court moving to London the palace fell into disuse and decline ending with a fire at the palace in 1746.
Despite the palace being semi ruined it's hard to deny that it still projects an incredible grandeur when you walk into its grounds. It really must have been a stunning place in its heyday. The views across the loch are gorgeous as are the views from the opposite bank of the loch towards the palace. We were lucky on our second visit as it was a lovely sunny winter's day which made the loch look super blue. If you go take the time too to visit the adjacent St Michael's church, you can see its unusual spire in the photos above. Just like so much of Scotland Linlithgow is a lovely little town to visit for walks, especially around the loch and to soak up some significant Scottish history.