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The Romance of Linlithgow

An easy circuit of Linlithgow Loch and memories of a tragic queen.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 1hr

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Town streets and firm tracks

Landscape Romantic loch and bustling town centre

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 349 Falkirk, Cumbernauld & Livingston

Start/finish NT 001771

Dog friendliness Loch popular with dog walkers - keep on lead in town

Parking The Vennel car park by tourist information centre

Public toilets The Vennel off Linlithgow High Street

1 From the tourist information centre, turn right to walk along the High Street. You'll pass Annet House on your left, home of Linlithgow Museum, and should then turn left to walk up Lion Well Wynd. When you reach the top, turn right for a few paces and then bear left to cross the railway bridge. Turn left on the other side of the bridge and follow the road. You'll get good views over Linlithgow Palace from here. You'll eventually come to an area of grass on the right-hand side, and a 16th-century dovecote on the left. Bear right here for a few paces, then continue ahead and turn right to cross the bridge over the canal. Turn right again to visit the Canal Centre. There's a little museum here where you can see old photographs and artefacts associated with the Union Canal. You can take boat trips to visit the new Falkirk Wheel, which links the Union and Forth and Clyde canals.

2 Walk back over the bridge and turn right, then sharp left. Walk back on yourself for a few paces then turn right, downhill. Follow this road to walk under the railway bridge and past the station, which is on your right-hand side. Continue ahead to reach the High Street, then turn left and walk back to reach the tourist information centre on your right-hand side. From the Vennel car park by the town hall, walk down the steps at the far end and down to the loch. Turn right and follow the path - you'll soon see Linlithgow Palace on the right.
When you reach the children's play area, turn right over the little footbridge that leads away from the loch. Walk up the alleyway, then turn left when you reach the road. Walk until you see Barons Hill Avenue on the opposite side. Go through the wooden gate on your left, through a kissing gate and follow the path as it leads back to the loch. Follow the track as it winds round the loch, then go through another kissing gate to reach the road. Turn sharp left and follow the path as it continues round the loch.

3 Continue in the same direction (there are great views of the palace from here) with the loch on your left. Eventually you'll join a tarmac track and come to some houses on the right. Follow the path over another bridge. The path now continues around the loch, then takes you past a parking area on the right and past a fishing lodge. The landing stage is a good place to see the swans that live on the loch.

4 Walk past some modern houses on the right-hand side, and continue following the track until you see the arch. Turn right here and walk back up into the car park.

This easy walk - suitable for anyone and is particularly good for children - takes you to a hidden section of the Union Canal, around Linlithgow Loch, and past the romantic ruins of Linlithgow Palace - the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1542.

Mary inherited the Scottish throne when she was only one week old, after her father James V died a few weeks after facing defeat by the English at the Battle of Solway Moss. She is one of the great romantic figures in history and her life was as eventful, and tragic, as an opera. I mean, just listen to this? Sent to France at the age of six to be educated, she was married young to a French prince. Her husband became King, but died soon after.

Mary returned to Scotland, fluent in French and Latin - but having probably forgotten her native language. She was married again, this time to Lord Darnley, a vain and weak man. He was manipulated by her enemies into a frenzy of jealousy over her fondness for her secretary David Rizzio - who was murdered before her eyes in Holyroodhouse. Mary realised that she was their real target and escaped, with Darnley, to Dunbar.

She later conspired with the Earl of Bothwell to murder her husband. She then married Bothwell, was involved in a battle with her former husband's supporters and was imprisoned on the island of Loch Leven. Later she fled to England, where she was imprisoned by Elizabeth I, who saw her as a threat to the English throne. Eventually Mary was executed at Fotheringhay Castle in 1587, wearing a crimson velvet bodice.

What to look for

You will see plenty of swans on the loch. Once eaten at medieval banquets, the swan is now a protected species. However, they still suffer many losses each year, both from overhead power cables, which are a hazard in flight, and from lead poisoning caused when they swallow lead weights discarded by anglers. Swans mate for life and will grieve deeply when a mate dies. They're extremely territorial and will defend their nests and young vigorously.

Where to eat and drink

The tea room at the Canal Centre does home baking and ice creams and is open daily, 2-5pm, in July and August, and weekends from Easter to October. There's a coffee shop, The Coffee Neuk, next to the TIC, and Caffe La, next to Annet House, does baguettes, pizzas, salads and sandwiches.

While you're there

Not far from Linlithgow at Bo'ness is the Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway, a privately run steam railway. There's a lovely little restored station and several gleaming, restored locomotives and carriages. They run steam trips throughout the year.

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