It doesn’t happen too often, but every once in a while I find myself with a free morning in Edinburgh. On mornings like these I like to get out of the city and explore somewhere new. Trains and buses take you pretty much anywhere you want to go that isn’t within easy walking distance, which is something I’m definitely going to miss a lot when we leave. Our trip to Linlithgow Palace occurred on one of these rare mornings when we didn’t have anything else planned.
The ruins of Linlithgow Palace sit in the town of Linlithgow, a short train ride away from Edinburgh. With a great history and free access to almost every corner of the palace, it makes for a great morning away from Edinburgh.
You’ll have to excuse the quality of photos presented in this blog post. I forgot my camera and had to use my phone to capture these moments.
Linlithgow Castle: home to Stewart kings and queens
The history of Linlithgow Palace dates all the way back to the 12th century when a royal manor existed on the site. By 1302 the construction of an English fort was begun, as Linlithgow sits on the supply routes between Edinburgh and Stirling Castles.
After a fire in 1424, King James I had a palace built as a residence for Scottish royalty. Over the next century Linlithgow Palace was added to by many monarchs, including James I, III, V and VI. It was a favored residence of Stewart kings and queens in the 15th and 16th centuries. You can see evidence of the different building periods around the palace to this day.
Scotland’s monarchs left Linlithgow Palace for England after 1603, and the palace was little used from that point onward. Perhaps the final great event that occurred here was when Bonnie Prince Charlie visited the palace in September of 1745 on his march south. Most of the palace was destroyed by a fire in 1746.
Linlithgow Palace’s most famous resident
Arguably the most famous resident of Linlithgow Palace was Mary Queen of Scots. Born here in December of 1542, she went on to be the Queen of Scotland from December 14, 1542 to July 24, 1567.
At just six days old Mary became Queen of Scotland when her father, King James V, died. Regents ruled Scotland in her place while she spent most of her childhood in France. In 1558 she married Francis, the Dauphin of France. Once Frances ascended the French throne, Mary became the queen consort of France. Mary returned to Leith in 1561 following the death of her husband. She married Lord Darnley in 1565; you can read about how that ended in my Craigmillar Castle post (here’s a hint, not well for him).
In 1567 Mary married James Hepburn, 4th Early of Bothwell, who was believed to orchestrated the murder of Lord Darnley. There was an uprising against the couple, and Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle. She was forced to abdicate her throne in favor of her son, James; after trying to unsuccessfully take it back, she fled to England and sought the protection of her cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England.
But Mary had previously claimed Elizabeth’s throne as her own and was believed to be the rightful queen by many English Catholics. Elizabeth viewed her as a threat and had her imprisoned. Mary was found guilty of plotting Elizabeth’s assassination and after eighteen and half years in custody she was beheaded.
A wonderful morning of exploring
We grabbed a train from Edinburgh Waverley which dropped us off right in Linlithgow on a cold and dreary morning. After we bought our tickets we walked into the courtyard, admiring the gorgeous fountain standing in the middle. From there we walked up and down each tower, stopping in bedchambers and receiving chambers. We saw both the upper and lower kitchens and the old entrance. There’s even a chapel to explore. I love poking around all of the old rooms!
My favorite room in the entire palace was the Great Hall. It’s one of the oldest parts of the palace. The Great Hall was used for three centuries for parties, feasts and even a session of Scottish Parliament once. I loved the large fireplaces sitting in the one wall.
As with a few other castles we’ve visited, you can explore almost all of Linlithgow Palace. Explore everywhere; the only places you can’t go are unsafe. You can climb to the top of Queen Margaret’s Tower and descend into the lower kitchens. Take your time exploring, get lost in all of the passageways. Always look up in castles, because you can probably see levels of rooms at one point or another.
We ended our trip to Linlithgow Palace by walking around the grounds. The palace sits on Loch Linlithgow, which creates a lovely atmosphere for a walk.
Getting to and from Linlithgow Palace from Edinburgh
Linlithgow Palace sits about 15 miles west of Edinburgh, and getting there is super easy! The train from Edinburgh will let you off right in the wee town of Linlithgow. From the train station it’s a quick five-minute walk along High Street before you veer off to the Palace.
With a train ticket return from Edinburgh costing £8.60 and admission costing £5.50 this makes for an easy and inexpensive day trip. Pack a lunch to enjoy on the lawn if it’s a nice day, or grab a quick lunch in town!
The next few weeks are going to be a little different in regard to posting. I’m in the middle of planning our Phase 2 which involved a lot more leg work on my end. Over the next few months we’ll be visiting over 20 cities, which is a lot of coordinating to do! So if my posting isn’t quite as regular while I’m figuring all of this out, I hope you’ll stick with me.I have some really great posts in the works about our trip to Paris! The time we spent there was as dreamy as I hoped! I also have quite a bit more to say about Scotland, including a few more places and some final thoughts on our summer here.