Linlithgow Loch is just off the M9 as it passes Linlithgow.
An easy walk of about 2.5 miles round a loch, with a ruined palace. As the walk is right by Linlithgow town, it is near shops, cafes and pubs.
For Satnav, the nearest postcode is EH49 7HL.
From Edinburgh, head north up the M9, then turn off for the A803 to Linlithgow. Follow this road right through the town until you see a right hand turn signposted 'A706, ST Ninians car park', just before the 'Willow Tree' pub. After maybe 100 yards, take the right turn into St Ninian's way, and you will find the car park at the end of the street.
Coming down the M9 from Stirling, turn off the motorway at juction 4, signposted 'Bathgate, Livingston', turn right under the motorway, then first left for Linlithgow on the A803. Follow this road into town until you come to a mini roundabout, then the turn off for the car park is second left.
Arguably the best car park for the loch is beside the palace. but it is pay and display. Other car parks are free. I use this one because it is free for 2 hours, quite large and is right beside the loch.
This walk is as simple as 'walk round the loch until you get back you where you started from'. You can see a map of this suggested route here However, a little detail is a good idea.
Head over to the loch from the car park, then turn right towards the palace. When we were there, swans were swimming by the loch, and you walk under pretty weeping willows. When you reach the palace, climb up the bank and take a look, and walk between the palace and the parish church and over past the palace barbican, then back to the loch.
The path now continues between the loch and a grassy area known as the Peel, then heads inland over a stream bridge.
Now you walk between some houses and a church until you reach the main road. Turn left and walk beside the road for about 100 yards, until you see a gateway on your left, where the footpath heads back to the loch again. Follow the path round until it reaches a minor road, where you take the footpath on the left.
Now follow the path round the north side of the loch, where you will see some excellent views of the palace over the water, and back round until you reach the car park.
Linlithgow Loch was formed at the end of the ice age, when a large block of ice became stuck and formed a 'kettle hole'. You will see two small islands on the loch, the Rickle near the palace and Cormorant Island near the eastern end of the loch. These are man made islands built about 2,500 years ago, timber roundhouses built on stilts called crannogs.
Linlithgow sat on the old road to the highlands, from Edinburgh to Stirling. The early Scottish kings had a royal manor house here, and during the wars of independence, Edward I took Linlithgow and built a fort here, with ditches, and stone and wooden walls, on the site of the Peel. The Scots retook the fort after Bannockburn. The legend says that a certain William Bunnock drove a hay cart into the fort and wedged it in the gateway. Eight warriors were hidden in the hay and they jumped out and overpowered the gate guards.
King David II improved the castle, but it was eventually destroyed by fire. James I then rebuilt the castle as a royal palace, though the existing barbican is older and may even date back to Edward's castle. Mary Queen of Scots was born in the palace, but it became neglected when James IV moved his court to London, and was eventually destroyed by fire.
All you see of Linlithgow as you drive along the M9, is an aluminium spire. This is on the western tower of St. Michael's Church, which sits next to the palace, and dates back to the 15th century. The aluminium spire replaced an earlier stone crown, like the one on St Giles cathedral in Edinburgh. It is meant to represent Christ's crown of thorns.
There is a legend that hundreds of years ago, a man committed some crime and was chained to a tree on an island in the loch, and left to starve to death. However he did not starve, so the townspeople kept watch and discovered that his dog, a black female greyhound, was swimming over the loch to him every night with food. The townspeople adopted the Black Bitch of Linlithgow as a symbol of loyalty and courage, and the town's coat of arms includes a black dog and an oak tree. One of Scotlands oldest pubs sits at the entrance to St Ninian's car park, and it was named the 'Black Bitch' 350 years ago, after the loyal dog.
Wind forward to 2022, and Greene King, the pub's owners, decided this name was offensive, and renamed it to 'The Willow Tree', despite opposition and petitions from locals, and opposition from West Lothian council. Now I must admit that the first time I drove past that pub and saw the name, I thought it was offensive, but once I learned the history and reason for the name, I changed my mind. I think it is a shame that much of our heritage has to be changed, just to satisfy virtue signallers.
This legend has two endings, and I guess we will never know which one is true. In one version, the townspeople were so impressed by the dog's loyalty, that they released his master. In the other version, the poor dog was chained beside her master and the pair of them left to die.
Poo bins available
Wheelchair accessible (part)
Historical buildings near the walk
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