West Lothian

The Cross, Linlithgow
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

The Cross, Linlithgow

An ancient and royal burgh of West Lothian, Linlithgow lies between the Union Canal, to the south, and the M9 motorway, to the north, at a strategic location 16 miles (26 km) west northwest of Edinburgh and the same distance southeast of Stirling. A Roman fort and later a castle occupied the site which was, for three centuries, an important centre for the Angles. Chartered by David I in the early 12th C., it was later the seat of a sheriffdom and developed important links with church and state during the Middle Ages, particularly from the 14th C. when it was re-chartered. These links and its commercial privileges contributed to Linlithgow's grandeur and important role in history, becoming one of Scotland's four leading burgh towns and a favourite of royalty. Linlithgow Palace, which replaced the fort in the 12th C., was rebuilt in the 15th C. by James I and later extended by James V whose daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, was born here in 1542. Adjacent is St. Michael's Parish Church, consecrated in 1242, rebuilt in 1424 after a fire, restored in the 1890s and topped by a striking timber and aluminium fleche in 1964.

Linlithgow's role declined after the Reformation and the Union of the Crowns. The palace was abandoned in 1746, having been destroyed by fire, but the town continued as a centre of industry. Linlithgow Academy was founded in 1894. A plaque on the High Street records that Scotland's first petrol pump was installed at a garage here in 1919. A prize-winning redevelopment of the town centre was the work of the architectural practice of Rowand Anderson, Kininmonth & Paul (1967) but sits completely incongruously next to historic buildings. However, Linlithgow remains a picturesque town; the National Trust for Scotland restored houses in the High Street and the palace is a popular attraction. The story of the Union Canal is told in the Linlithgow Canal Centre (opened 1977) and the history of the burgh is featured in a museum in Annet House (opened 1993). Linlithgow Loch is a bird sanctuary with facilities for canoeing, sailing, windsurfing and fishing. Linlithgow holds an annual festival of The Marches in June. Dating back to the 14th C., this relates to the town's status as a Royal Burgh and centres on the Provost and Deacons of the Town Guilds checking the boundaries of the common land. Today the festival still provides an important focus for the community and involves a procession, float parade, speeches, ceremonies and hospitality, all organised by the Court of The Deacons of the Ancient and Royal Burgh of Linlithgow, which was set up after the town lost its administrative status in 1975.

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