Situated on the road between Edinburgh and Stirling, Linlithgow has been occupied since Roman times. A Royal residence was established there no later than the twelfth century and in 1301 Edward I of England built Linlithgow Castle. However, the impressive structure seen today was started by James I in 1425. Known as Linlithgow Palace, it was regularly updated by his successors.
Linlithgow is located on the road between Edinburgh and Stirling, a route which has been an important means of movement throughout the region for thousands of years. In the mid-second century AD the Romans built the Antonine Wall just three miles to the north and the connecting military road, Dere Street, was extended from England, through Linlithgow, on to Perthshire. The road remained the main route north throughout the medieval period and, as Edinburgh increased in importance, Linlithgow became a regular stopping point for Scottish monarchs. A Royal residence, perhaps a small castle or fortified manor house, was established on the site no later than 1143 when a charter was sealed there by David I. A small town emerged around this facility including a stone built church.
The strategic location of Linlithgow meant it was used as a logistical base by the English during the First War of Scottish Independence. Edward I had camped his army at Burgh Muir, just to the east of Linlithgow, in 1298 on his way to defeat William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk (1298). He clearly spotted the potential of the site for he commissioned his chief engineer, Master James of St George, to construct a fortress on the site. James had previously devised and built the great concentric castles of North Wales (perhaps most notably at Caernarfon, Conwy and Beaumaris) but the English King was bankrupt from years of military expeditions in France and Wales and could no longer afford such elaborate constructions. Accordingly the new castle at Linlithgow, as well as another fortification at Selkirk, were timber constructions. Work started in 1301 and continued until 1303.
Linlithgow Castle occupied a promontory of land projecting into the loch. The earth and timber defences enclosed both the original Scottish fortification (which was demolished) and the town church (which was converted into a storeroom). A great ditch was constructed to separate the fortress from the town. The new castle soon proved its worth when it was used to provide materials to support Edward I's siege of Stirling Castle in 1304. Records note 21 wagon-loads worth of timber, lead and trebuchet ammunition being sent from Linlithgow to the Stirling siege works. However, the death of Edward I in 1307 saw the start of a slow reversal in English fortunes as the rebellion of Robert the Bruce gained traction. He systematically reduced English held fortifications and in 1313 seized Linlithgow Castle by subterfuge. He sent a hay merchant, William Bunnock, to the castle who was duly admitted into the site. However, when his cart was blocking the gates, he released the horses and Bruce's men stormed the castle. The garrison was massacred and the structure burnt. The following year, the Scottish won a decisive victory at the Battle of Bannockburn.
Linlithgow Castle was rebuilt no later than 1343 when David II held court at the site. It remained in use throughout the rest of the fourteenth century but in 1424 was gutted by an accidental fire that started in the town but engulfed the castle. James I, who had spent many years as a prisoner of the English, seized the opportunity to rebuild the castle into a Royal Palace that would reflect his authority. Work started in 1425 with construction of the East Range and a small South Range. These incorporated the Great Hall, Royal accommodation and the kitchens. It looked out upon a courtyard that was probably enclosed by a barmkin and may also have incorporated parts of the old castle that had survived the fire.
James I was assassinated in 1437 and his young successor, James II, took little interest in the palace other than using it as a depot for his artillery train. However, James III continued his grandfather's work and extended the South Range and added a West Range which incorporated a substantial tower. James died before he completed his vision but the work was continued by his successor, James IV, who built the North Range effectively creating the quadrangular palace seen today. He also added the barbican, probably more for cosmetic reasons rather than defence, on the north-east corner. He made regular use of the palace and his son, the future James V, was born at Linlithgow in 1512. Likewise his heir, Mary (later Mary, Queen of Scots), was born at the palace in 1542.
In 1603 Elizabeth I of England died and James VI of Scotland became King of both countries. He immediately moved south and spent the next 14 years in England. This led to a lack of care and maintenance of Linlithgow Palace and in 1607 the North Range collapsed. It remained in this state until 1617 when James VI made his next, and last, visit to Scotland. He ordered the North Range to be rebuilt with work starting the following year. The new structure differed significantly from its predecessor; a gallery was included as well as accommodation for members of the court. James VI never saw his new creation and his son, Charles I, only visited for one day in 1633.
In 1650 an English army under the command of Oliver Cromwell invaded Scotland in order to overthrow Charles II who had claimed the throne following the execution of his father. Cromwell defeated Scottish forces at the Battle of Dunbar (1650) and thereafter moved to occupy the Scottish central belt. Linlithgow was occupied by Cromwell's troops and used as a supply base. The site was hastily modified into a defendable location and artillery was installed. Parts of the structure were demolished to give the guns a clear line of fire. The Cromwellian modifications were removed following the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660.
Linlithgow Palace was embroiled in the events surrounding the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. In September 1745 it was briefly visited by Prince Charles Stuart who was advancing towards Edinburgh with his rebel army. He subsequently marched south and invaded England but was forced to turn back at Derby. He was pursued north by loyalist forces and on 31 January 1746 a Government army under William, Duke of Cumberland camped at Linlithgow. On their departure, either through accident or deliberate arson, the palace was gutted by fire. It was never restored.
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Linlithgow Palace is a major tourist attraction. The extensive remains predominantly date from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Linlithgow Palace. The name Linlithgow derives from Gaelic and translates as ‘the loch in the damp hollow’. The palace was built on the same site as the earlier Royal fortified manor and the castle of Edward I. St Michael's church pre-dated the palace and was incorporated within the defences of the English castle but was rebuilt in 1540. The palace itself was started in 1425 and evolved from a singular range in the first half of the fifteenth century to a quadrangular structure by 1513.
East Range. The East Range was built by James I in 1425 and was the first part of the palace constructed.
Barbican. The barbican was added by James IV both as a defensive measure and to buttress the main building.
North Range. The North Range was built by James VI from 1618 onwards to replace an earlier structure which had collapsed.
West Range. Constructed by James IV, the West Range was paired with a new North Range which effectively completed the quadrangular Palace.
South Range. James III built the South Range demolishing any remains of the earlier castle in the process. The work included the substantial South-West Tower (nearest to the camera).
James V. During his reign, James V added the New Gatehouse in the South Range and the elaborate fountain in the courtyard.
Linlithgow Loch. The palace was built on a promontory of land jutting out into Linlithgow Loch. The water feature not only enhanced the defences of the site but would have provided both fresh water and a food source for the site.