The ruined Linlithgow palace sits in its own park beside a loch. Of particular note are the great hall (100 feet long) and its stone fireplace, the central courtyard, and the restored fountain. Both Mary Queen of Scots (1542) and James V (1512) were born at the palace. It was home to all the Stewart kings, each of whom renovated and remodelled it to suit their own needs.
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The site of the palace was originally that of a 12th century royal manor. Edward I made it into a more secure building adding palisades and ditches. The Scots took it back in the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. In 1424 it was devastated by a fire along with much of the town of Linlithgow; the new palace on view today was begun by James I in 1425. James IV took it a step further developing it into a courtyard palace with the royal apartments surrounding the courtyard. He added a chapel. James V changed the castle entrance to the south range. James VI added apartments and a long gallery to the north range.
Bonnie Prince Charlie was the last Stewart to stay here in 1745. The Duke of Cumberland and his army took the palace in 1746 on their way to fight the prince. A fire left to burn destroyed the roof and left only the shell of the palace.
The 158 moulded and carved stones on the five-metre high stone fountain were restored to their renaissance glory in 2005. Commissioned by James V c1538, it is thought to be the oldest surviving fountain in Britain. Water is pumped up through the half-ton crown on the top, and then runs gently into the first of three tiers of stone bowls. It flows out of eight spouts which are set into carved figures of mythical beasts including a griffin and a giant. It comes out of the second bowl through spouts from carved human heads. The Jacobites supposedly thought water was not good enough for Bonnie Prince Charlie and had the fountain flow with wine. The fountain was damaged in 1630, and again in 1746 during the fire.
Also in the town of Linlithgow is the church of St Michael, a 15th century Gothic building with later alterations. It is considered one of Scotlandís largest and finest medieval churches. It retains its original south porch with oriel window. The west end tower with spire was built in 1964.
The loch on which the palace sits is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its extensive wildfowl population. A well surfaced walkway around the loch gives good views of the abundant water birds including swans, ducks, and great crested and little grebes.
Linlithgow, Lothians, off the M9 on the A803
Tel. 0 1506 842896
Open: daily April-end Sep, 9:30am-5:30pm; Oct-March, daily, 10am-4pm; closed 25 and 26 Dec and 1 Jan
Historic Scotland property; picnic area; shop, tea and coffee; parking
To protect the fountain from damage it is turned on for brief occasions only.