Linlithgow Palace: a guide to visiting the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots

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Just the name, Linlithgow Palace, conjures up images of Scottish Royalty and the rich history of the country. In actual fact the palace now stands as a ruin and possibly doesn’t quite fit a classic Scottish castle image! (I always think it looks a little harsh as a building and not like some fairytale castles in the country)

It’s still an incredibly impressive ruin though so if you’re based in central Scotland, Edinburgh or Glasgow I highly recommend a trip.

Linlithgow Palace is an amazing piece of Scotland’s history and well worth a visit if you can. It’s one of my tips for castles to visit near Edinburgh too and doable as a day trip by car and by public transport.

View of the exterior of Linlithgow Palace near Edinburgh

Current closure of Linlithgow Palace: As of October 2022 the palace is closed due to masonry inspections. Please check their official site before setting off to see if open. If closed, you can still visit the gatehouse and grounds so can get a nice view of the palace from the outside.

Where is Linlithgow Palace in Scotland?

Linlithgow Palace is situated on the banks of a small loch in the town of Linlithgow. It’s around 20 miles west of Edinburgh and about midway between the capital and Falkirk (of Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel fame – we visited them on the same day and it’s very close – definitely good ones to combine)

About Linlithgow Palace – a short history

Linlithgow Palace is often cited as the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots but its history goes back even further.

The area around the palace was used as a Royal manor from the 12th century and begun to be more fortified once it was occupied by the English in the early 1300s (before they were beaten at Bannockburn in 1314, but after the Battle of Stirling in 1297 – think Braveheart time!). It was an important route, being part way between Stirling and Edinburgh castles so it made sense for that.

The palace as it is now was begun in 1424 after the town was destroyed by fire. James I set out to build a palace rather than a castle and it was to be a residence for the royalty.

It was used as such through the 15th and 16th centuries and its most famous occupant was Mary, Queen of Scots. She was born in Linlithgow Palace in 1542 and lived there for a while and visited as an adult too.

The palace begun to fall in to disrepair after the union of the crowns when royalty stayed in England rather than Scotland but was visited by Bonnie Prince Charlie on his march south. It suffered an accidental fire not long afterwards as some army soldiers set it alight by leaving torches on straw!

If you’re interested in Mary, Queen of Scots then I also recommend visiting Holyrood Palace at the end of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and also Jedburgh if you fancy a trip to the borders.

Impressive and decorative fountain inside Linlithgow Palace

Can you go inside Linlithgow Palace?

Yes! When the palace is open you can visit inside and even climb inside the walls to the very top to get amazing views of the loch and surrounding areas.

One interesting part of the palace is the water fountain which is thought to have been added by James V. Its even said to have sometimes flowed with wine!

Climb the walls and be treated with a view over Linlithgow Loch

Is Linlithgow Palace in Outlander?

Yes! Eagle eyed viewers will spot that some of the Wentworth Prison scenes from the tv series was in actual fact filmed at Linlithgow Palace.

The Outlander effect has definitely put the palace on the map more recently with lots of people adding it onto their itineraries to tick off the tv show’s filming locations.

Are dogs allowed?

The whole area is dog friendly and dogs are even allowed inside the palace and the courtyard area. You can’t take dogs up any stairs though – it just wouldn’t be safe!

There’s a lot of outside space to walk dogs too if yours are a little energetic and you can walk all round the loch. You’ll need to keep them on a lead though.

How much does Linlithgow Palace cost?

Entrance to the palace costs:

  • £7.20 for adults
  • £4.30 for children
  • £5.40 for concessions

When we visited we used the Historic Explorer Pass which allows you entry to a number of Historic Scotland sites for one fee. It made a lot of sense for us since we were also visiting some of the abbeys in the Scottish Borders too.

It’s worth checking out if you’re planning on a few sites and is quite reasonably priced. See more details here.

How to get there

Car

Coming to visit Linlithgow Palace by car is really easy. It’s located just off junction 3 of the M9 motorway and is well signposted – look out for the brown signs.

There’s a large car park next to the palace which we found was adequate when we visited. I imagine it might get a little busier in high season though. There are a number of car parks in the area should you want to explore the town as well.

Public Transport

If you’re looking to get here from Glasgow or Edinburgh by public transport then the train is probably best option as Linlithgow train station is on the Glasgow to Edinburgh line! It takes 25 mins from Edinburgh and around 35 mins from Glasgow and there’s a number of options through the day.

Cost of getting to Linlithgow Palace by train:

  • From Edinburgh – £6.10 single or from £7.30 for off peak day returns
  • From Glasgow – £11.90 single or from £10.70 for off peak day returns

The train station in Linlithgow is very close to the Palace – about a 6 minute walk (0.3 miles) according to Google Maps!

For train times and to book tickets I always use Trainline which is a really easy to use website. You can check up to date times and prices as well as booking.

Tours

There are a couple of tours around that will incorporate a trip to Linlithgow Palace amongst some other sight seeing in Central Scotland. Mostly they are focussed on Outlander sites so if that takes your fancy this is a good way to see some.

Tours are a really good way to see a lot when you don’t have your own transport and don’t fancy navigating trains.

If you’re interested in a guided tour, check this one out:

Book your Scotland Vacation:

Check flights: Skyscanner
Book Car Rental: DiscoverCars
Book hotels: Booking.com
Book Vacation Rentals: VRBO.com

And don’t forget to pick up a guide book!

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Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for 10 of those. She loves to help people explore her favourite places in Scotland, England and beyond. She cannot stay away from historical sites.

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