Linlithgow, a historic town located in West Lothian, Scotland, is steeped in rich history and culture. With its origins dating back to the 12th century, Linlithgow has played a significant role in shaping Scotland’s history. The town, which was once an important royal residence, is home to many iconic landmarks and attractions that are a testament to its fascinating past.

As a former royal burgh, Linlithgow has a long and distinguished history. The town’s most famous landmark is Linlithgow Palace, which was once a residence of the Scottish monarchs. Built in the 15th century, the palace is now a ruin, but it remains an impressive sight and a popular tourist attraction. Another notable landmark is St. Michael’s Church, which dates back to the 12th century and is one of the oldest churches in Scotland.

Despite its rich history, Linlithgow is also a modern and thriving town, with a vibrant community and a range of amenities. From its charming high street to its beautiful parks and gardens, there is plenty to see and do in this picturesque town. Whether you are a history buff or simply looking for a charming place to visit, Linlithgow is a town that is sure to captivate and inspire.

Origins and Early History

Linlithgow is a historic town located in West Lothian, Scotland. Its origins can be traced back to the 12th century when King David I founded a royal burgh at the site. The town’s name is derived from the Old English words “llyn” and “lithgow,” which mean “lake” and “grey hill” respectively.

Linlithgow Castle, which overlooks the town, was built in the 14th century and served as a residence for the Scottish monarchs. The castle was also the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1542. Today, the castle is a popular tourist attraction and is managed by Historic Environment Scotland.

The town’s location on a hill overlooking a lake made it an ideal defensive position, and it played an important role in Scottish history. During the Wars of Scottish Independence, Linlithgow was occupied by English forces, and the town was burned to the ground in 1424 by the forces of the Duke of Albany.

In addition to the castle, Linlithgow is also home to the beautiful Linlithgow Palace, which was built in the 15th century. The palace was used as a residence for the Scottish monarchs, and it was the birthplace of James V in 1512. Today, the palace is in ruins, but it remains a popular tourist attraction.

Linlithgow is also known for its beautiful park, which was created in the 17th century. The park covers over 200 acres and includes a loch, woodland, and open grassland. The park is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike and is home to a variety of wildlife, including swans, ducks, and herons.

The Royal Residence

Linlithgow Palace, located in the town of Linlithgow, served as the royal residence of the Scottish monarchs for over two centuries. The palace was a favourite residence of the Stewart kings, and it was here that James I, James IV, and James V were all born. Mary, Queen of Scots, also spent much of her childhood at the palace.

The Palace

The palace was built in the 15th century, during the reign of James I of Scotland. It was expanded by his successors, particularly James IV and James V. The palace was known for its grandeur and beauty, with its impressive Great Hall and ornate ceilings. However, it fell into disrepair after the Union of the Crowns in 1603, and it was eventually abandoned.

The Courtyard

The courtyard of the palace was an important part of the royal residence. It was here that the monarchs would greet their subjects and hold court. The courtyard was also used for jousting and other tournaments, as well as for other forms of entertainment. Today, visitors can still see the remains of the courtyard, including the walls and the gatehouse.

The Fountain

One of the most striking features of the palace was the courtyard fountain. The fountain was built in the 1530s, during the reign of James V. It was designed to be a symbol of the king’s power and authority, and it was decorated with his initials and his coat of arms. The fountain was also functional, providing water for the palace and the surrounding town.

Religious Significance

Linlithgow has a rich religious history, with several significant religious structures that have played a key role in shaping the town’s culture and traditions. The two most notable religious buildings in Linlithgow are St. Michael’s Church and The Priory.

St. Michael’s Church

St. Michael’s Church is a historic church that has been an important part of the Linlithgow community for over 900 years. The church, which is located in the heart of the town, is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture and is one of Scotland’s largest parish churches.

St. Michael’s Church has been a place of worship for generations of Linlithgow residents and has played a vital role in the town’s religious and cultural life. The church is still an active place of worship and is part of the Church of Scotland.

The Priory

The Priory is another important religious structure in Linlithgow, located just a short walk from St. Michael’s Church. The Priory was founded in the 12th century and was home to a community of Augustinian canons.

The Priory was an important religious and cultural centre in Linlithgow for many centuries and played a key role in the town’s development. Today, the remains of the Priory are a popular tourist attraction and provide visitors with a fascinating insight into Linlithgow’s religious and cultural history.

The Loch and the Peel

The Loch and the Peel are two significant features of Linlithgow’s history. The Loch, also known as Linlithgow Loch, is a freshwater loch located in the town centre. It was created during the last ice age and has played a vital role in the town’s development.

The Peel, a man-made island, was built in the middle of the Loch in the 14th century. It was used as a defensive structure and a residence for the Scottish monarchs. The Peel was accessed via a drawbridge, and it had a tower that served as a lookout point.

The Loch and the Peel were also home to several crannogs, which are artificial islands constructed by early inhabitants of Scotland. These crannogs were used as defensive structures and as a way to access the Loch for fishing and transportation.

Today, the Loch and the Peel are popular tourist attractions, with visitors enjoying boat rides on the Loch and exploring the ruins of the Peel. The Loch is also a popular spot for fishing, and it is home to a variety of fish, including pike, perch, and roach.

Political and Social Developments

Linlithgow has a rich political and social history, with many developments taking place over the years. One of the most significant political events in the town’s history was the establishment of a parliamentary constituency in 1708, which remained in place until the 1832 Reform Act. The town also had a provost and burgh council, which governed the town and oversaw local affairs.

In the 18th century, Linlithgow became an important centre for trade and commerce, and the burgh council played a key role in promoting economic growth. The treasurer was responsible for managing the town’s finances and ensuring that funds were allocated appropriately. The council also oversaw the construction of the burgh halls, which were used for a variety of civic and social events.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, Linlithgow continued to develop socially and politically. The town saw the establishment of a number of social clubs and societies, including a literary society and a choral society. The burgh council also played a role in promoting social welfare, and oversaw the construction of a number of public amenities, including parks and public baths.

In more recent times, Linlithgow has continued to evolve, with new developments and initiatives aimed at promoting economic growth and social welfare. The town has a vibrant community spirit, and a range of local organisations and initiatives continue to play an important role in shaping its future.

Notable Events and Figures

Linlithgow has a rich history, with many notable events and figures that have shaped the town’s past. From royalty to revolutionaries, Linlithgow has seen it all.

One of the most famous figures associated with Linlithgow is Mary, Queen of Scots. She was born in Linlithgow Palace in 1542, and the palace remains one of the town’s most popular tourist attractions. Mary’s turbulent life and tragic end have made her a popular subject for historians and writers.

Another notable figure from Linlithgow’s past is James Stewart, who was born in the town in 1635. Stewart was a prominent figure in the Scottish Enlightenment, and his work as a philosopher and mathematician has had a lasting impact on Western thought.

During the English Civil War, Linlithgow was the site of a major battle between the forces of Oliver Cromwell and the Royalists. The town was heavily damaged in the fighting, and many of its historic buildings were destroyed.

Linlithgow also played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence, with Robert the Bruce capturing the town in 1313. The town remained an important military stronghold throughout the medieval period.

In more recent times, Linlithgow has been visited by Queen Elizabeth II on several occasions. The town has also seen its share of tragedy, including a murder in 2001 and a firearm incident in 2010.

Despite these challenges, Linlithgow remains a vibrant and thriving community, with a rich history that continues to inspire and captivate visitors from around the world.

Decline and Destruction

Linlithgow’s decline began in the late 16th century, following the Battle of Flodden in 1513. The town was in a state of disrepair, and its population dwindled as people moved to other more prosperous areas. In 1526, a fire broke out, destroying much of the town, including the palace.

The town was rebuilt, but it was never the same. The palace was restored, but it was no longer the royal residence. Instead, it was used as a courthouse and a prison. The town continued to decline, and by the 18th century, it was a shadow of its former self.

In 1746, during the Jacobite rebellion, Linlithgow was burned down by the retreating Jacobite army. The town was left in ruins, and it took many years to rebuild. The palace was restored once again, but it was no longer used for any official functions.

Today, Linlithgow is a small town with a rich history. Visitors can still see the ruins of the town’s past, including the palace and the church. The town’s decline and destruction serve as a reminder of the fragility of human settlements and the importance of preserving our heritage.

Modern Linlithgow

Industry and Economy

Linlithgow’s economy has diversified over the years, with a mix of industries contributing to the local economy. The town is part of the wider West Lothian area, which has a strong presence in the oil and gas industry, as well as a growing tech sector.

The town itself has a mix of independent shops and larger chain stores, with the High Street being the main shopping area. There is also a weekly market held in the town, which attracts visitors from the surrounding area.

Transport and Infrastructure

Linlithgow is well-connected to the rest of Scotland, with easy access to both Edinburgh and Glasgow. The town is located just off the M9 motorway, which connects it to both cities.

In addition to road connections, Linlithgow is also connected to the Union Canal, which runs through the town. The canal was once used to transport goods to and from Edinburgh and Glasgow, and is now a popular spot for leisure activities such as walking and cycling.

The town also has a railway station, with regular services to both Edinburgh and Glasgow.


Linlithgow has a population of around 15,000 people, with a mix of age groups and backgrounds. The town has seen some growth in recent years, particularly in the North Quarter area.

Despite this growth, the town has managed to maintain its historic charm, with many of the older buildings and landmarks still standing.

Cultural Heritage and Traditions

Linlithgow has a rich cultural heritage and traditions that are still celebrated to this day. The town is steeped in history, with evidence of settlement dating back to the 15th century.

One of the most notable cultural traditions in Linlithgow is the Marches. This annual event sees the town’s boundaries marked out and celebrated with a procession and other festivities. The Marches have been a tradition in Linlithgow since the 16th century and are an important part of the town’s identity.

Another important aspect of Linlithgow’s cultural heritage is the Gaelic language. Although not widely spoken in the town today, Gaelic has played a significant role in the history of Scotland and continues to be celebrated through music and dance.

The town’s charter, granted by King James I in 1425, is also an important part of Linlithgow’s cultural heritage. The charter granted the town the right to hold markets and fairs, which helped to establish Linlithgow as an important trading centre in Scotland.

Today, the markets are still an important part of the town’s economy and cultural heritage. The weekly market, held every Tuesday, is a popular event where locals and visitors can buy fresh produce and other goods.