A popular day trip from Edinburgh, just 15km from the city center, the majestic ruins of Linlithgow Palace hold a special place in Scotland’s history, serving as a royal residence for Scottish monarchs throughout the 15th and 16th centuries.
The magnificent former Royal palace was erected by James I in 1424 on the site of a former castle and served as a popular stopping-place for royals passing between Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle. Additionally employed as a royal nursery, the palace was famously the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots in 1542, as well as James V in 1512 and Princess Elizabeth ‘the Winter Queen’ in 1596. Local legend hints that the ruined palace is still home to one of the Royals – the ghost of Mary of Guise, mother of Mary Queen of Scots, allegedly haunts its halls.
Linlithgow Palace underwent a number of renovations during its heyday, before being abandoned in 1603 and later gutted by fire in 1746. Rediscovered and partly restored in the early 19th century, the palace remains are now preserved as a tourist attraction and, along with the adjacent 15th century Church of St Michael, tops the list of Scotland’s most impressive medieval buildings.
Today, Linlithgow is a shell of its former self – a roofless ruin that nonetheless maintains its awe-inspiring grandeur and striking façade. Despite its state of disrepair many of the palace’s most attractive features still remain including the three-tiered fountain dominating the central courtyard and a series of elegant Oriel windows offering a glimpse into the former royal bedchambers. Inside, the grand Great Hall still demands the most attention with its huge fireplace and in the Royal Chapel, rows of stone-sculpted statues depict angelic musicians.
The vast complex is a labyrinth of apartments, passageways and stairwells, so you’re visiting without a guide, be sure to pick up a guidebook at the entrance, produced by Historic Scotland who maintain the building. Touring the Linlithgow Palace grounds – an expanse of parkland, encircling the Linlithgow Loch and known as the ‘Peel’ – is another popular pastime, with a circular wildlife trail tracing the banks of the loch.