Updated: Jan 13, 2019
With a couple of hours off work and the children needing to get out of the house, where can we go for a walk that the kids will enjoy, is not too far away but enough to be a trip?
Answer - Linlithgow Loch.
I am all for combining activities and killing two birds with the one stone, so for this outing not only can we walk, we can utilise our Historic Environment Scotland membership by taking in Linlithgow Palace too. Park in the Vennel car park off Linlithgow Cross, or if you are lucky you may find a space on Linlithgow High Street.
We decided on walk first, Palace visit second. So from the Palace entrance, go around the left side of the building and walk down to the edge of the loch. You can also take the steps directly out of the Vennel carpark if you're parked there. Turn left and follow the path around the loch in a clockwise direction.
The area surrounding the loch is known as Linlithgow Peel and comprises land which used to be the garden and grounds of the Palace of Linlithgow which has been added to over the years and is now maintained by Historic Environment Scotland.
There is a bridge at the far end (west end) of the loch - head over the bridge and veer right. Once on the other side of the loch you will get some great views of the Palace. Between April and August this section of path often has a number of nesting swans at the waterside so you are advised not to go too close or antagonise them as they can be aggressively protective of their young. The loch is home to a large number of water birds including the rare Great Crested Grebe.
Information boards along the way explain some interesting features of the loch, its geology, history and wildlife. There are remains in the loch of two small man-made islands dating back 2000 years, which had wooden homes built on them. They may have been constructed for defensive reasons or as a status symbol, but in either case building homes there would have been difficult and expensive. The loch itself was formed at the end of the ice age when a huge chunk of ice was left behind from the retreating glaciers that covered Scotland at that time.
Today, it is used for watersports including kayaking, canoeing and sailing with courses run by the Low Port Centre in Linlithgow.
When you come to a road beyond the east end of the loch, turn right and go through a kissing gate. We love these and everyone is made to kiss everyone to great shouts of derision and 'do we have to?' You then cross some sheep grazing land to another road which you will go along for around 100m, before turning right down an alleyway by a house to come back to the Palace grounds and a children's play area. You will also pass the jetty for the sailing dinghies that can often be seen out on the water along with wind surfers and swans.
The circuit is 2.3 miles, taking around an hour - depending on stops for throwing stones in the loch, discussing swans and some dawdling - so not too long but long enough to deserve a visit to the Palace.
The palace is actually in view for most of the walk. A large square sandstone shell, it was built by James I in 1424 following the ruin of the previous building by a fire. It became a popular palace for the Stewart family linking the route between Edinburgh and Stirling castles, and served as the nursery for Mary Queen of Scots. The palace fell into decline after 1603 when James VI moved the royal court to London, and in 1745 fire swept through the building leaving the ruin seen today. However, the fact that the Palace is in ruins adds added interest for my children who love running up and down the towers and trying to find all the nooks and crannies.
There are lots of cafes to choose from on Linlithgow High Street (all within easy walking distance) for you to fuel up on hot drinks and baked goodies, so this walk really does have it all.
Published in Konect September 2015
Author: Karen Murray