The browser you are using is out of date and is no longer supported. To view and use this site correctly, please update your browser to the latest version.

Linlithgow Palace


The magnificent ruins of Linlithgow Palace are set in a park beside a loch.

Linlithgow Palace

Pleasure palace of the royal Stewarts

The majestic royal palace of the Stewarts at Linlithgow today lies roofless and ruined. Yet the visitor still feels a sense of awe on entering its gates. It was begun by James I in 1424, rising like a phoenix from the flames following a fire that devastated its predecessor. It became a truly elegant ‘pleasure palace’, and a welcome stopping-place for the royal family along the busy road linking Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle.

The Stewart queens especially liked its tranquillity and fresh air. The ancient palace served as the royal nursery for James V (born 1512), Mary Queen of Scots (born 1542) and Princess Elizabeth (born 1596), better known as ‘the Winter Queen’. But after 1603, when James VI moved the royal court to London following his coronation as James I of England, the palace fell quickly into decline. The end came ignominiously in January 1746, when a fire swept through the ghostly rooms.

An ancient site

Linlithgow Palace stands on a low green promontory overlooking a small inland loch. The name Linlithgow means ‘the loch in the damp hollow’. The location has a history of occupation reaching back at least to Roman times 2,000 years ago. David I (1124–53) was the first monarch to build a royal residence on the site. He also founded the town that sprang up in its shadow.

The peace of Linlithgow was shattered in 1296 when Edward I of England invaded Scotland. In 1302 the ‘Hammer of the Scots’ had a formidable defence built around the royal residence. He called it his ‘pele’ (from Old French pel, meaning ‘stake’). Nothing of Linlithgow Peel survives, but the word now describes the attractive parkland surrounding the later palace of the Stewarts.

Their Majesties’ palace

In 1424 a great fire swept through the town. The old palace was badly damaged. James I (1406–37) started to build anew. Over the course of the next century and more, his heirs completed the great task. The end result was a monumentally impressive quadrangular palace, with four ranges grouped around a central courtyard. At its centre stood James V’s wonderful fountain (1538). James I’s great hall dominated the east quarter, whilst the royal chapel and royal apartments added by James IV (1488–1513) graced the south and west quarters. The north quarter came crashing to the ground in 1607, and was rebuilt by James VI (1567–1625). Alas, that quarter probably housed the queen’s apartment, meaning that the room where Mary Queen of Scots was born in December 1542 no longer exists.

Events at Linlithgow Palace

<< October 2014 >>
M T W T F S S
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    

26 October 2014

John Lowrie Morrison: Westlight - Northeastlight

Duff House

Event information

Kinneil House - Free Open Days

Kinneil House

Event information

Music Through the Ages

Edinburgh Castle

Event information