This walking trail covers much of Linlithgow's heritage
Start off at the Visitor Information Centre or at Annet House, where you can pick up a booklet describing the trail.
By using the map and/or following the directions in italics, you should follow the route in order of the numbers. You can split the walk into easy sections as desired.
1. The Cross Well
The Cross, in which you are standing, is one of the finest civic spaces in Scotland − the focal point for the town’s annual Marches celebrations. The Cross Well in the centre was made in 1807 by a one-handed stonemason, as an exact replica of a previous well dating from 1535.
2. Carved Pediment
Looking west up the slope, you will see an old stone, dated 1675, set into the end of the modern building on the left. This came from the Golden Cross Tavern which once stood on this side of The Cross.
3. Cross House
The older white building at the north-west corner of The Cross dates from 1700. It contains a fine mid-18th-century plaster ceiling and now forms a suite of church meeting rooms.
4. Town House or Burgh Halls
To the right again, the imposing building with clocktower and forestair was for centuries Linlithgow’s municipal building. Replacing an earlier Tolbooth demolished in 1650 on the orders of Oliver Cromwell, it was built in 1668-70 by John Smith, reputedly based on original designs by John Mylne, Master Mason to Charles I and Charles II. Conversion into a high-quality community arts facility is under way.
Now proceed up the narrow street, the Kirkgate, between Cross House and the Burgh Halls. On the right, go through the archway under the back of the Burgh Halls, and, ahead you will see …
5. The ‘Green Man’
This 1911 bronze statue is of John Hope, the first Governor General of Australia, who became the first Marquess of Linlithgow in 1902.
Retrace your steps to the Kirkgate; turn right up to the Palace Gateway, noticing the plaques recording the royal line of succession on the right.
6. Palace Gateway
Dating from circa 1535, the gateway features four carved and painted panels representing the orders of knighthood borne by James V – the Golden Fleece, St Michael, the Garter and the Thistle.
7. St Michael’s Parish Church
Just inside the gate on the right is one of Britain’s finest parish churches. St Michael’s Church was consecrated in 1242, suffered a fire in 1424 and was rebuilt shortly afterwards in much its present form. It was stripped of its pre-Reformation imagery in 1559 and, in 1821, the tower lost its 15th-century stone crown – to be replaced in 1964 by today’s striking aluminium spire. Notable interior features include the pulpit, stained glass and the burgh war memorial. Open throughout the year. Guide book available.
8. Linlithgow Palace
Closing the view in front is Linlithgow Palace. A royal manor house was first established here in the 12th century. The present square building around its courtyard was started in 1424 for King James I and was completed over the next two centuries. James V was born here in 1512, as was Mary, Queen of Scots in 1542. The Palace was fortified and occupied during 1650–59 by Oliver Cromwell, was gutted by fire in 1746 after occupation by the Duke of Cumberland’s soldiers, and has remained roofless ever since. The property is in the care of Historic Scotland. Guide book available.
9. The Peel
The open parkland around the palace, known as The Peel, is one of only two Royal Parks in Scotland, the other being Holyrood Park in Edinburgh. The slope down to the loch on the left of the Palace was once occupied by orchards and beehives, while elsewhere archery was practised.
Pass the left side of the Palace to view Linlithgow Loch.
10. Linlithgow Loch and its Setting
Linlithgow Loch sits in the pre-glacial valley of the River Avon. It has been used for curling and bleaching; today it caters for fishing, sailing and bird-watching. Across the loch are the slopes of Airngath Hill, featuring Grange (a mansion of 1909) and a monument to Adrian Hope, killed in the Indian Mutiny.
Return to The Cross; turn left, viewing the buildings on the opposite side of the High Street.
11. Fire Mark
Between the first and second storey windows of 79 High Street is an early 19th century ‘fire mark’ which indicated to firemen that the building was covered by fire insurance provided by the Sun Fire Office.
12. Waldie Tablet
Heading east, above the Four Marys pub on the opposite side of the High Street, is a plaque commemorating Dr David Waldie, a pioneer with James Young Simpson in the medical use of chloroform.
13. Victoria Hall
The enormous building on this side of the street, once boasting ornate turret features, was the Victoria Hall, completed in 1889.
14. Royal Bank of Scotland
Further along, on the same side as the Four Marys, the turreted building was built in 1859 for the Commercial Bank of Scotland.
15. Hamilton’s Land
Further along on the left, these rubble built 16th-century buildings, with their crow-stepped gables facing the street, are a picturesque survival of old Linlithgow that was restored by The National Trust for Scotland in 1958.
16. St Michael’s Well
On the opposite side is the wellhead of St Michael’s Well (sketch on right). A plinth, now devoid of its waterspout, supports an inscribed stone dated 1720, topped with a winged figure of St Michael and the town’s ‘Black Bitch’ coat-of-arms.
17. Star & Garter Hotel
Prominently situated at the end of the High Street on the opposite side is the black-and-white-painted Star & Garter Hotel, built in 1760 as a residence. For many years, the hotel was the base for the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire Hunt.
18. High and Low Ports
Marked on the roadway across the roundabout is the outline of the High and Low Ports, Linlithgow’s eastern town gates.
19. Low Port Primary School
A little beyond the road junction on the left, behind its front playing field, can be seen the former Linlithgow Academy building, now occupied by Low Port Primary School. Round towers above the entrances are prominent features of this 1902 building designed by J Graham Fairley.
An optional diversion, shown on the map, is to continue further ahead to see …
20. St Michael’s RC Church and Presbytery
These Gothic revival buildings dating from 1887 were designed by the renowned church architects, Pugin and Pugin.
Cross Blackness Road at the pelican crossing, retrace your steps along the opposite side past the Star & Garter Hotel, then proceed first left up to the station. Enter the station door, continue to the right through the subway and climb the stairs to emerge on the south platform.
21. Linlithgow Railway Station
Dating from 1842, this is one of the best-preserved original stations of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway Company. The eastbound waiting room features a large mural of the town’s annual Marches procession by Mary-Louise Coulouris, and the station is adorned with flowers, thanks to the Burgh Beautiful campaign and First ScotRail.
22. St Magdalene’s Distillery
If you go to the far (east) end of the platform, you can see ahead of you the near end of distillery buildings where production of single malt whisky ceased in 1983. The distillery was originally established at Bonnytoun in 1800 before moving to this site in 1834.
Leave the platform and exit through the car park to Back Station Road. Turn right and continue up the hill to the canal bridge.
23. Union Canal
Here is the Linlithgow basin of the Union Canal, opened in May 1822, closed in 1965, and restored to its former glory by the Lottery-funded Millennium Link project. Visit the Canal Museum and Tearoom, once the stables, or take a boat trip organised by the very active Linlithgow Union Canal Society.
24. Ross Doocot
On the opposite side of the canal basin are the Learmonth Gardens, giving a neat setting for the 16th century Ross Doocot, containing 370 nest boxes. Until the coming of the railway, this structure stood in one of the High Street back gardens or riggs.
From the Canal Basin, take the canal towpath westwards.
25. Rosemount Park
Across the canal on the left hand side is Rosemount Park, one of Linlithgow’s hidden gems, containing the fountainhead of the Cross Well. The spring was itself known as the Friars’ Well because it served the Carmelite Friary (which existed from 1401 until the Reformation) further up the hill.
26. Mrs Douglas’ Cottage School
The first stone cottage on the opposite bank, dating from 1826, once accommodated a girls only school with fees of two pence per week.
Just before the bridge over the canal, turn right downhill.
27. Former Ebenezer Chapel
The plaque set in gable end of the cottage on the right recalls the use of the building as a meeting house of the Evangelical Union from 1852.
Turn left into Royal Terrace.
28. Royal Terrace
This one-sided street contains an attractive composition of 19th-century stone houses − note in particular No. 6 with the central ox-eye window.
Cross the railway by the footbridge.
29. Lion Well Wynd
If you can see over the high wall in front, there is an excellent view down Lion Well Wynd, the steepest in Linlithgow, opened circa 1750.
Turn left into Union Road.
30. St John’s Evangelical Church
The church on the right was completed in 1840 as a congregational chapel, at a cost of around £750.
Facing the railway embankment further along are the prefabs of Hamilton Park, temporary houses built after World War II and later cunningly disguised as red-roofed bungalows by the former Linlithgow Town Council!
When you reach a main road (Preston Road), turn right, and, before turning right again to proceed back along the High Street to the starting point, look to the left.
32. West Port
The West Port, the western gateway to the Royal Burgh, was removed around 1800. The hostelries around this pleasing focal point are said to have been established for travellers shut out for the night. Note Katie Wearie’s Tree (the willow on the left) and the vernacular-inspired 1937 tenement behind you.
33. St Ninian’s Craigmailen Church
In the background is the elegant broach spire of St Ninian’s Craigmailen Church, dating from 1874.
34. West Port House
Continuing back along the High Street, you will soon see West Port House above a retaining wall created when the road was lowered two centuries years ago. A laird’s house dating from 1600, it was built by the Hamilton family.
35. New Well
Further along, at a street corner, the stone structure on the pavement is the New Well, an 18th-century example of the wellheads that once graced the High Street.
36. Morrison’s Shoe Shop
The shoe shop on the right is the last surviving business associated with Linlithgow’s once thriving leather and shoemaking industry.
37. Former Baird Hall
The lower, set-back building on the left, dating from 1863, has variously served as a Roman Catholic church, Roman Catholic school, and church hall for St Michael’s Parish Church before conversion to a house.
38. St Peter’s Episcopal Church
Designed by Dick, Peddie and Todd in Byzantine style, this architectural gem of 1928 is tucked behind the tenement facades on the right.
39. Annet House (Heritage Centre & Museum)
Shortly afterwards, also on the right, is Annet House, an 18th-century merchant’s house which is home to Linlithgow’s museum. Highlights include its restored back garden or rigg (with statue of Mary, Queen of Scots) and a Star Trek exhibition to reflect the fact that Linlithgow will be the future birthplace of Chief Engineer Scotty!
40. The Vennel
You won’t fail to notice the large and still-controversial 1967 redevelopment on the left – designed by Rowand Anderson Kininmonth and Paul and the cause of one of the worst losses of historic townscape in Scotland.
41. Shoemakers’ Land
Still opposite the Vennel flats, just before a higher 19th-century tenement, is Shoemakers’ Land bearing an elevated armorial plaque reflecting former ownership by the Shoemakers’ Guild and a vanished local industry.
42. Dog Well Wynd
The Dog Well has disappeared but the Football & Cricketers’ Arms at the corner has attractive stained-glass representations of footballers and cricketers on the front and an interesting, if rather indistinct, etched glass side window depicting a footballer.
43. Sheriff Courthouse
Further along the High Street is the Courthouse of 1863, built in Tudor style. On its front is a bronze relief commemorating the assassination of Regent Moray in the vicinity in 1570.
44. County Buildings
The next large building on the right is the County Buildings, once the seat of West Lothian County Council and since used as local authority offices. The impressive neo-Georgian buildings date from 1935. Note the bespoke lampposts, and particularly the Linlithgow provost’s lamp at the front.
This returns you to the starting point at The Cross.
This heritage trail was initiated by Linlithgow Civic Trust, Linlithgow Heritage Trust, Linlithgow Community Council and Pride & Passion Linlithgow. It was compiled by Ronald P A Smith with photographs by Calum L T Smith. A printed leaflet, funded by West Lothian Council, is available from Annet House and The Visitor Information Centre.