town and Royal Burgh in West Lothian, Scotland, UK

Linlithgow is a small town in The Lothians in central lowland Scotland, 20 miles west of Edinburgh. It's a commuter town for the city, with a population in 2020 of 12,840. Its main attraction is the ruined palace, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, overlooking the town and scenic loch.


Aluminium crown of St Michael's
"A great nuisance in this reign was the memorable Scottish queen, known as Mary Queen of Hearts on account of the large number of husbands which she obtained, eg Cardinale Ritzio, Boswell, and the King of France: most of these she easily blew up at Holywood."
- 1066 and all that, Sellar and Yeaman.

The town was founded as Lithgow, llaith cau, the damp hollow, and lynn llaith cau was the lake causing the dampness; eventually Linlithgow came to mean the town itself. It was astride the route from Edinburgh to Stirling, Perth and the Highlands so it became a stop-over and acquired a medieval palace. Mary Stuart was born at the palace in 1542 and just five days later became Queen of Scotland when her father James V died. The country was therefore ruled by regents and at age six Mary was sent to France for safety and to contract a dynastic marriage with the heir to the French throne.

The royal palace was little used after 1603 when power and patronage drained south to England, and it burned down in 1746. The town however grew with tanning, leatherwork and shoe-making. The canal and later the railway to Glasgow also came this way, swinging north of the hills to cross via Falkirk. It was the county town of West Lothian, but local government moved to Livingston when that new town was created in the 1960s. Linlithgow is now part of the commuter belt for Edinburgh but its Victorian High Street has mostly been preserved.

Civic firsts claimed by Linlithgow include Scotland's first murder by a gun in 1570, the first medical use of chloroform in 1837, and Scotland's first petrol pump in 1919.

Get in


By plane: Linlithgow is 11 miles west of Edinburgh Airport. There's no direct public transport, so the choice is:

  • Tram or bus to Haymarket Station (see Edinburgh#Get in), then train or Bus 38 to Linlithgow as below;
  • Hike a mile up the airport access road to Glasgow Road, go under the bridge to be on the correct side, look left for the steps up to the 38 bus stop.
  • Or just grab a taxi.

By train: trains run from Edinburgh every 20 min via Haymarket, taking 20 min to Linlithgow. These run 5AM-11:30PM and continue west to Glasgow Queen Street, the quickest in 30 min via Falkirk High, the slow trains taking an hour via Falkirk Grahamstoun (change here for Stirling) and Cumbernauld.

1 Linlithgow railway station is at the east end of High Street. It has a staffed ticket office and machines, a waiting room and toilets. There is step-free access to both platforms.

By road: Linlithgow is on the historic Edinburgh-Inverness-John O'Groats road, but this has been severed by airport expansion and downgraded to B9080 - only use it as a scenic route or by bike. Cyclists can also use the canal towpath, which links Edinburgh, Linlithgow, Falkirk and Glasgow. The M9 runs just north of town, with restricted junctions: from Edinburgh exit at jcn 3, from Stirling at jcn 4. From Glasgow follow M8 to Dechmont jcn 3 then zigzag north cross-country on Burnhouse Rd.

By bus: First Scotland East Bus 38 runs every 15 min from Edinburgh past the airport to Kirkliston and Linlithgow, taking an hour. It continues west to Falkirk, Larbert and Stirling, taking another 90 min. It runs daily 6-10:30PM.

Get around


Linlithgow is small enough to walk around. Town bus L1 loops round the town via the residential areas of Springfield, Braehead, Listloaning and Linlithgow Bridge. Prentice Westwood Bus 45 / 46 runs hourly to Bo'ness, orbits that town and Grangemouth then returns. Community Bus F49 runs every 3 hours or so between Linlithgow and Bo'ness via Blackness.

  • 1 Linlithgow Palace. Apr-Sep: daily 9:30AM-17:30PM; Oct-Mar: daily 10AM-4PM. Ruined but imposing medieval palace. A fort stood here in the 14th century but it and much of the town burned down. King James I rebuilt it, his successors continued to embellish it, and Mary Queen of Scots was born here in 1542. But it became neglected after the monarchy moved to England, part-collapsing in 1607: King James VI&I paid for repairs but didn't resume residence. Bonnie Prince Charlie briefly passed this way in 1745, excuse enough for the Duke of Cumberland to burn down whatever was left. Adult £8.    
  • The Peel originally meant the castle tower but now refers to the lakeside parkland around the ruins.
  • St Michael's Parish Church, Kirkgate EH49 4AL (next to palace), +44 1506 842188, . One of Scotland's finest medieval churches, completed in 1540. It fell into disrepair in the 19th century and the crown steeple (resembling St Giles, Edinburgh) had to be dismantled, but in 1964 an aluminium crown was installed. It remains in use as a Church of Scotland: it's not to be confused with St Michael's Roman Catholic church nearby, one of Pugin's Gothic creations completed in 1893.    
  • Linlithgow Museum, 93 High St EH49 7EZ, +44 1506 670677. F Sa 10AM-4PM, Su 1-4PM. Small museum of town life: local industries and features. The prolific Tam Dalyell's typewriter is among the historic artefacts, amazing it didn't melt in a white heat of keys. The nearby Annet House museum has closed. Free.
  • 2 Blackness Castle, Blackness EH49 7NH (3 miles northeast of Linlithgow). Daily: Apr-Sep 10AM-5PM, Oct-Mar 10AM-4PM. Blackness was the port for the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow, so the monarchs often travelled this way, and it needed to be stoutly defended. The 15th century castle looks like a stone ship about to sail out into the Firth of Forth. Good views of the Forth Bridges. Adult £7, conc £5.50, child £4.    
  • 3 House of the Binns (off A904 three miles east of town. Infrequent Bus F49). see NTS website. is an early 17th century mansion, now run by National Trust for Scotland, It was the home of Tam Dalyell (1932-2017), who coined the "West Lothian Question" on Scotland's position within the UK parliament. The house can be visited on guided tours booked through website only, but the extensive grounds remain free to enjoy, no dogs. The "binns" are the two small "bens" (hills) which the estate ranges over.    
  • See Livingston for Torphichen Preceptory, base of the medieval Knights Hospitaller, and Cairnpapple Hill Bronze Age burial chamber, both in the fields a couple of miles south of Linlithgow.
  • See Bo'ness for the heritage steam railway.
Blackness Castle
  • Linlithgow Loch is a good stroll for views of the palace. The path around it is mostly firm going but there are sometimes quaggy bits after rainfall. It's a freshwater loch, shallow, and stocked with rainbow trout. A couple of islets were probably crannogs, 5000-year old stilt-dwellings. The loch sometimes suffers from agricultural run-off, which promotes the growth of toxic algal blooms in early summer - don't let the dog plunge into any green mush.
  • Union Canal has a good towpath for walking or cycling. A mile west of town, this sweeps over the impressive Avon Aqueduct, 250 m long and 26 m above the river. The aqueduct, completed in 1821, uses an iron trough to carry the canal, enabling a more slender design than earlier masonry and clay structures. The canal continues west to Polmont then enters Falkirk by a long tunnel. Finally after 9 miles it descends to the Forth and Clyde Canal via locks, tunnels and the ingenious modern Falkirk Wheel.
Eastbound the canal has nothing so spectacular, but pleasant views towards the Pentland Hills, great when the autumn berries are out or there's frost on the hills, and a muddy dog in tow. The canal passes through Winchburgh, loops back to Broxburn, then continues west under the M8 then via Ratho to end at Edinburgh Lochrin Basin after 18 miles.
  • Boat trips sail the canal, usually just a 30-minute putter from the Canal Centre (south-side of the railway station) across the Avon Aqueduct and back. But the entire canal is navigable, as is the canal west from Falkirk to Glasgow. They need notice to open the locks and bridges: check the Scottish Canals website for current status. This includes a skipper's guide to all the locks, moorings and similar essentials.
  • 1 Beecraigs Country Park, EH49 6PL (a mile south of Linlithgow). Daily: Apr-Sep 9AM-7PM, Oct 9AM-5PM, Nov-Mar 10AM-4PM. A 370-hectare country park in the Bathgate hills above Linlithgow. Activities including archery, canoeing, kayaking, climbing, pioneering, orienteering, hillcraft and skiing. Beecraigs also hosts a deer farm, trout fishery, sawmill and campsite, see "Sleep". Park is free, activities charged.
  • Golf: Linlithgow GC is a mile southwest, Bridgend & District GC is 4 miles southeast, Kingsfield GC is 3 miles east and West Lothian GC is 3 miles north.
  • Deacon's Court is a street fair held in May.
  • Linlithgow Marches is a ceremony of "beating the bounds", with parades, floats, riders and general hoop-de-hoop - High Street is closed throughout, and it also takes in Blackness. It's held on the first Tuesday after the second Thursday in June.
  • Party at the Palace is a music festival in August.
  • Linlithgow Folk Festival and ceilidh is in September.
Tower by House of the Binns
  • Linlithgow High Street has many small independent shops and businesses.
  • There are supermarkets at both ends of town. East is Tesco Metro (M-Sa 7AM-10PM, Su 8AM-10PM) in the Regent Centre, and west is Sainsburys (daily 8AM-10PM) in Linlithgow Bridge.
  • The retail park in Linlithgow Bridge (near Sainsburys) has some large shops such as Argos and Aldi. The town's only filling station is here on Falkirk Road, open 24 hours.
  • High St offerings include Nero Pizza, Delhi's Winter, Mason Belles and Cafe Bar 1807.
  • Champany Inn, Linlithgow EH49 7LU (2 miles northeast of town, jcn A904 / A803), +44 1506 834532. Restaurant W-F noon-2PM & 4:30-10PM, Sa Su noon-10PM; Chop & Ale House M-Th noon-2PM & 6:30-10PM, F-Su noon-10PM. Michelin starred fine-dining restaurant (booking recommended), and the less formal but still highly-rated Chop & Ale House (no bookings, just turn up). Particularly proud of its beef, oysters are also a specialty, from their own rock pool. Also has 16 rooms.


Crossing Avon Aqueduct
  • Star and Garter Hotel, 1 High Street EH49 7AB. Next to the railway station, the building dates back to 1759, and was converted into a pub in the 1840s. Has good food and accommodation, and the Folk Club have live music sessions.
  • The Four Marys, 65-67 High Street EH49 7ED. Daily noon-11PM. Belhaven pub, named for the four ladies-in-waiting to MQOS. Friendly, slick service, wide range of ales and spirits - and no TV! They have a cask ale festival here on the last weekend of May and Oct.
  • Others dotted along High Street and open daily 10AM-11PM or later are Platform 3, The Crown Arms, Linlithgow Tap, West Port Hotel and the Willow Tree, which in 2021 was prevailed upon to change its name from "The Black Bitch".
  • Linlithgow Distillery makes gin. The town's St Magdalene whisky distillery closed in 1983.


  • B&Bs in town centre include Star & Garter, Court Residence, Palace View and West Port Hotel.
  • Beecraigs Camping & Caravan Site, Beecraigs EH49 6PL (within Beecraigs Country Park), +44 1506 284516. Open all year, with camping, glamping in Little Lodges, and 26 hard-standing pitches for tourers. 2-person tent £17, caravan £25-30.
  • 1 Arden Country House, Belsyde Country Estate EH49 6QE (A706 two miles southwest of town), +44 1506 670172, . Upscale hotel set in rolling farmland. Also with self-catering. B&B double £100.

Stay safe

The palace by night

Linlithgow is a small town and is safe, there are no rough areas, but swerve clear of the pubs at closing time.



Linlithgow and its surrounds have 4G from all UK carriers. As of March 2022, 5G has not reached town.

Go next


Routes through Linlithgow
StirlingPolmont  NW   SE  Edinburgh

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