22 Nov 2009

Revisiting Linlithgow

When I first moved to Scotland I lived in the quaint royal burgh of Linlithgow, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and in 2222, Scotty from Star Trek. (Although if you watch the recent film, you will note that actor Simon Pegg reinvented the character as a Glaswegian).

Linlithgow has everything: a charming high street, an ancient stone palace, stunning nature walks, an excellent chocolate shop that sells the best strawberry cremes around, and an award-winning, gorgeous pub with low ceilings and arched fireplaces. Placed centrally between Edinburgh and Glasgow, it’s an easy destination to add to a tour calendar and yet it leaves you feeling like you have been somewhere “off the map.”

The palace is the main thing most people visit, along with St. Michael’s Church with its bizarre and strangely beautiful aluminium spire. The palace sits atop a sloping green hill above Linlithgow Loch, where swans and ducks float past old men in small fishing boats. On a sunny day, especially in the late spring, it is an achingly romantic sight.
Dating from the 15th century, much of the palace was destroyed by fire in 1746, but you can still wander through the roofless ruin and imagine the previous splendour that would have dominated rooms like the great hall and the royal suites.
I think it a shame when I see tourists stopping only to visit the palace without taking in a little of the landscape. Even taking the time to walk around the St. Michael’s graveyard or the quiet enclosed rose garden just off the palace entrance drive, adds something extra. The best way to enrich your senses is to walk the trail that goes around the loch, as it offers amazing views of the palace from a distance. Should you need sustenance for the two-mile trek, you could always stop at the Golden Chip on the high street before leaving (wink).
If you have all day, and I hope you do, you can visit the Union Canal and take a leisurely boat trip to the Falkirk Wheel. Or you can walk a short distance along the canal until you get to the road that leads uphill to the entrance to Beecraigs Country Park, one of my favourite places in West Lothian. Although many enjoy the hike up to Cockleroy Hill for the views, I always preferred to stay among the trees, ducking off the trail at one beloved spot to gaze down at the farms below.
Since we are nearing the holidays, it is worth noting that if you happen to be visiting Scotland over Christmas, a journey to St. Michael’s for their Carols by Candlelight service in late December is well worth the trip.

Can’t get enough of Linlithgow? One photographer recently completed a year-long series of photos of Linlithgow Loch. They put my little happy snaps to shame and will definitely make you want to visit.

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