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Let’s Go...to Lin­lith­gow

FEW would call the cor­ri­dor be­tween Glas­gow and Ed­in­burgh the most at­trac­tive part of Scot­land. One West Loth­ian town is in a dif­fer­ent class, how­ever, with its beau­ti­ful coun­try­side set­ting and im­por­tant role in the na­tion’s his­tory for the last half mil­len­nium.

Built around a me­dieval palace and com­plete with its own loch, Lin­lith­gow – mean­ing “lake in the damp hol­low” – has much to of­fer whether you’re spend­ing a day or a week­end.

Walk the at­mo­spheric cob­bled streets and you’ll be taken back in time to the days of Mary Queen of Scots. But you’ll dis­cover more mod­ern at­trac­tions too,

I would thor­oughly rec­om­mend a walk around the loch to blow the cob­webs away. It’s one of the largest nat­u­ral fresh­wa­ter lochs in the area and has un­par­al­leled views of the palace

in­clud­ing good food and some great in­de­pen­dent shops.

His­toric high­lights

The palace, or “Peel” as it is known, was con­structed in the 14th cen­tury by oc­cu­py­ing English forces, though a royal manor has ex­isted on the site since the 12th cen­tury.

A fire in 1424 wiped out much of the town, in­clud­ing the palace. James I started a re­build­ing process that would span at least two other Jame­ses, and Mary Queen of Scots was born there in 1542.

Charles Ed­ward Stu­art, Bon­nie Prince Char­lie, marched through the town on his road south in Septem­ber 1745, and the Duke of Cum­ber­land’s army gut­ted the “plea­sure palace” five months later, fol­low­ing the Ja­co­bite de­feat.

The Peel has been ac­tively con­served since the Vic­to­rian times and more re­cently has been used as a dra­matic back­drop for films, fash­ion shows and con­certs.

Cul­ture and tourism are now Lin­lith­gow’s big­gest ex­ports, with the town’s close prox­im­ity to Ed­in­burgh and friendly feel mak­ing it a pop­u­lar com­muter town.

What to do

Ex­plor­ing the Peel (his­tori­cen­vi­ron­ment.scot) is a must (look out for the foun­tain) and so, too, is a visit to the ad­ja­cent 15th-cen­tury St Michael’s parish church.

For more his­tor­i­cal con­text, pop into the nearby An­net House Mu­seum (an­net­house­mu­seum.org), which also has a beau­ti­ful and tran­quil gar­den.

Chris Mathe­son Dear rec­om­mends ex­plor­ing Scot­land’s in­dus­trial her­itage and tak­ing a trip doon the water on a nar­row­boat at the coun­try’s ded­i­cated canal mu­seum (lucs.org.uk), lo­cated near the rail­way sta­tion. Choose from a half-hour canal jour­ney through the town or a three-hour round trip to the Avon Aque­duct, and when you get back, cof­fee and cake await in the cafe. Only open at week­ends out­side of July and Au­gust.

If you’re trav­el­ling with a group and fancy get­ting a bit more ad­ven­tur­ous on the water, con­tact the Low Port Cen­tre (ac­tivewest­loth­ian.com), which of­fers sail­ing, ca­noe­ing and wind­surf­ing on the loch, as well as archery, moun­tain bik­ing and ori­en­teer­ing.

Su­san Knox vis­ited for the week­end re­cently. “I would thor­oughly rec­om­mend a walk around the loch to blow the cob­webs away,” she says. “One of the largest nat­u­ral fresh­wa­ter lochs in the area and un­par­al­leled views of the palace.”

Those who en­joy mix­ing vis­ual art and his­tory, mean­while, will want to visit Lin­lith­gow Burgh Halls, which cur­rently has an ex­hi­bi­tion by painter He­len Flock­hart, in­spired by Mary Queen of Scots. The nearby Line Gallery also has events and ex­hi­bi­tions through­out the year.

Party At The Palace wel­comes around 15,000 fans ev­ery Au­gust to one of the most fam­ily-friendly fes­ti­vals in the mu­sic cal­en­dar. This year’s event was head­lined by Texas and James. Lin­lith­gow Folk Fes­ti­val runs ev­ery Septem­ber, with gigs and open-mic nights through­out the year.

Where to eat

If it’s home bak­ing you are af­ter, Ste­wart San­di­son rec­om­mends The Gra­nary, on High Street. “The scones are ex­cep­tion­ally good, es­pe­cially the cheese scones – I sus­pect they have a lit­tle grain mus­tard in them,” he tells us. “The cakes are win­ning and imag­i­na­tive, too.”

Su­san rec­om­mends nearby Cafebar 1807 for a good lunch, adding: “With the lights dimmed, can­dles and wine on the ta­ble, it’s also an ideal night time venue with young and friendly staff – dog-friendly, too.”

For a pint of craft beer – or in­deed a nip of craft gin – Plat­form 3 next to the sta­tion has an ex­cel­lent choice.

Lo­cal in­sti­tu­tion the Black Bitch Tav­ern on West Port is re­puted to be one of the old­est pubs in Scot­land. It has a vast ar­ray of whiskies and a great rep­u­ta­tion for live mu­sic.

Where to stay

Lux­ury: Su­san en­joyed her stay at the Court Res­i­dence (courtres­i­dence.com), an apartho­tel which un­til fairly re­cently was the town’s work­ing court build­ing. “High qual­ity apart­ments with a very gen­er­ous break­fast sup­plied,” she says. “Ex­cel­lent hosts Jim and Hazel add a per­sonal touch and gave us a fan­tas­tic tour, in­clud­ing the old court room and judges’ li­brary.” Rooms from £107.

Com­fort­able: Right in the heart of the town is the Star And Garter (starandgarter­ho­tel.co.uk), which also has a lively restau­rant and bar. Rooms from £70.

Cosy: If you’re look­ing for a more in­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence, there’s a cute lit­tle stu­dio just min­utes from the sta­tion and High Street, which has sweet gar­den and lovely views. Sleeps three. From £60 per night. See Airbnb.co.uk for de­tails.

Where to shop

Purely Patch­work (pure­ly­patch­work.co.uk) on the High Street is one of

the best in­de­pen­dent sewing craft em­po­ri­ums in the land, with more than 1500 fab­rics, and hun­dreds of pat­terns and ac­ces­sories. The store also runs a wide range of work­shops and classes for those look­ing to try their hand at patch­work and needle­craft. From Oc­to­ber 20 to 27 you can ad­mire stu­dents’ work on the walls.

Res­i­dent Stu­art San­di­son is a big fan of book­shop Far From The Madding Crowd, also on the High Street. “We’re so lucky to have this mar­vel­lous award-win­ning store, which is run en­er­get­i­cally and en­thu­si­as­ti­cally,” he says. Nearby chil­drenswear bou­tique Lit­tle Beau Peep of­fer a friendly ser­vice and reg­u­lar sales, while cy­cle afi­ciona­dos will want to check out El­e­va­tion Cy­cles (el­e­va­tion­cy­cles.co.uk). As well as a range of adult and chil­dren’s bikes, there’s an im­pres­sive stock of hel­mets, shoes and bags. Bike ser­vices also of­fered.

Fa­mous faces

Mary Queen of Scots is Lin­lith­gow’s most fa­mous for­mer in­hab­i­tant, but her fa­ther James IV was also born there in 1512. He died fol­low­ing the Bat­tle of Sol­way Moss when she was six days old.

For­mer first min­is­ter Alex Sal­mond was born in the town and at­tended Lin­lith­gow Academy from 1966-72. He can trace his fam­ily’s lin­eage in Lin­lith­gow back to the mid-18th cen­tury.

A plaque in the An­net House mu­seum states that Scotty from Star Trek – full name Mont­gomery Scott – will be born there in 2222.

What to do nearby

Nestling in the Bath­gate Hills two miles out­side the town is pretty Beecraigs Coun­try Park. While you’re en­joy­ing the wood­land walks, look out for the red deer, High­land cows and North Ron­ald­say sheep herds. Camp­ing and fish­ing avail­able, and there’s a café and vis­i­tor cen­tre.

Ar­guably Scot­land’s great­est piece of pub­lic art, the Kelpies, are just 20 min­utes away by car. And it’s only an­other 20 min­utes to the Falkirk Wheel.

Known as “the ship that never sailed”, you might recog­nise 15th-cen­tury Black­ness Cas­tle, which sits on the banks of the Firth of Forth 15 min­utes from Lin­lith­gow, from Out­lander.

A walk up Cairn­pap­ple Hill out­side Bath­gate, a short drive away, of­fers stun­ning views across the Loth­i­ans to the Forth bridges and be­yond.

Left: Black­ness Cas­tle; the his­toric High Street; the old­est sur­viv­ing foun­tain in Bri­tain at Lin­lith­gow Palace

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