This easy walk takes you to a hidden section of the Union Canal, around Linlithgow Loch, and past the romantic ruins of Linlithgow Palace. The walk is suitable for anyone and is particularly good for children.
Birthplace of monarchs
Built by James I in 1424, splendid Linlithgow Palace was the birthplace of James V and, in 1542, of his daughter Mary, Queen of Scots. She was just one week old when her father died, soon after being defeated by the English at the Battle of Solway Moss.
Queen of tragedy
Mary is one of the great romantic figures of Scottish history, and her life was eventful and tragic. She was a pawn in the power politics of the 16th century. Her early marriage to the heir to the French throne was meant to seal the alliance between Scotland and France, but the prince died young.
Returning to Scotland, she was married again to her cousin Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley. Not long after fathering her son – the future James VI of Scotland (and later James I of England) – Darnley was blown up by gunpowder at his Edinburgh home. The finger of suspicion pointed at the Earl of Bothwell, Mary’s new favourite, who she married only three months after Darnley’s death.
The Scottish nobles – divided at the time into pro-English Protestant and French-backed Catholic factions – were outraged. In 1567, the more powerful Protestant faction rebelled. Mary’s small army met them at Carberry Hill but fled almost without a fight, as did Bothwell. Mary was imprisoned in the island castle of Loch Leven.
She escaped and raised an army, which was defeated at the Battle of Langside in 1568. She fled to England, appealing to her cousin Elizabeth I for sanctuary. Instead, Elizabeth – suspecting her of planning to take the throne of England, to which she had some claim – imprisoned her for the rest of her life. She was finally executed for treason at Fotheringhay Castle in 1587.
With your back to The Cross and the magnificent Linlithgow Burgh Halls, turn right to walk along The Vennel, a continuation of the High Street. You'll pass Annet House on your left, home of Linlithgow Museum, and should then turn left to walk up Lion Well Wynd. When you reach the top, turn right for a few paces and then bear left to cross the railway bridge. Turn left on the other side and follow the road. You'll get good views over Linlithgow Palace from here. You'll eventually come to an area of grass on the right-hand side, and a 16th-century dovecote on the left. Bear right here for a few paces, then continue ahead and turn right to cross the bridge over the canal. Turn right again to visit the Canal Centre (open Easter to October). There's a little museum here where you can see old photographs and artefacts associated with the Union Canal. You can also take boat trips to visit the Falkirk Wheel, which links the Union and Forth and Clyde canals.
Walk back over the bridge and turn right, then sharp left. Walk back on yourself for a few paces then turn right, downhill. Follow this road to walk under the railway bridge and past the station, which is on your right-hand side. Continue ahead to reach the High Street, then turn left and walk back to reach The Cross on your right-hand side. From the Vennel car park by the town hall, walk down the steps at the far end and down to the loch. Turn right and follow the path – you'll soon see Linlithgow Palace on the right.
Bear left across a wide, grassy park. When you reach the children's play area continue ahead, then turn right over the little footbridge that leads away from the loch. Walk up the alleyway, then turn left when you reach the road. Walk until you see Barons Hill Avenue on the opposite side.
Go through the wooden gate on your left, through a kissing gate and follow the path as it leads back to the loch. Follow the track as it winds round the loch, then go through another kissing gate to reach the road. Turn sharp left and follow the path as it continues round the loch. Continue in the same direction (there are great views of the palace from here), with the loch on your left.
Join a tarmac track and reach some houses on the right. Follow the path over a small wooden bridge. The path now continues around the loch, then takes you past a parking area on the right and past an anglers' clubhouse. The landing stage is a good place to see the swans that live on the loch. Walk past some modern houses on the right-hand side, and continue following the track until you reach a wall.
Turn right here and walk back up into the car park.
Town streets and firm tracks
Romantic loch and bustling town centre
Lead required in town, and around the loch between April and July
OS Explorer 349 Falkirk, Cumbernauld & Livingston
The Vennel car park by The Cross, and at the palace
The Vennel, off Linlithgow High Street
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.