It was only when I got to Queen Street that I realised there were engineering works. I was bound for Edinburgh, bound for an adventure, and the train would only take me to Linlithgow. I had the option of the slow train via Airdrie but I took the executive decision, for the sake of my sanity, to go to Linlithgow instead and make my way from there. On the way I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and cover Linlithgow for Intercity while I waited for my alternative transport to arrive.
Linlithgow is a Royal Burgh, known as being the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots, James V and Alex Salmond. I know Linlithgow very well. My primary school took us there a few years in a row and I was there a fair bit as a kid. As an adult I tend to be there a few times a year and my visits tend to end up in the Palace and around the Peel, the park that surrounds the Palace. Sadly I didn’t have much time so the Palace wasn’t an option this time. What I could do, however, was walk the route I associate with Linlithgow and I left the station and followed the steady trickle of people heading down the hill to the rail replacement bus. I didn’t get on the bus, instead I walked along the historic High Street, stopping by a statue of St. Michael, and then by a plaque marking the site of Scotland’s very first petrol pump, installed in 1919. The Riding of the Marshes was imminent (it happened on Tuesday) and the traditional proclamation hung in a shop window, surrounded by suitably noble-looking meerkat toys. As you do. Bunting hung over the street, a familiar sight in every Scottish town celebrating a Gala Day in the summer time.
I stopped by the fountain and looked at the rather fine Burgh Halls, which used to house a Tourist Information Centre and is now a community building. The fountain is quite similar to the one in the Palace, if a little less elaborate, the Mercat Cross and centre of the burgh. According to Canmore, the Cross Well is a replica of an earlier one built in 1620. The replica was erected in 1807 so it isn’t exactly an IKEA knockoff. I had my usual good look then walked up the hill. I had been looking around more than usual and I had noticed how prominent the spire of St. Michael’s Church was from the High Street.
To my right as I walked up the hill was a chronology of British monarchs from Mary, Queen of Scots to the present. I was walking the wrong way, back in time so first came the present monarch, noted as Elizabeth II even though she is only the first by that fine name to have ruled in Scotland. What was less controversial was the rather fine archway featuring the crests of the four orders of chivalry that James V was a member of, the Orders of the Garter, Thistle, Golden Fleece and St. Michael. Above stood the 1960s-vintage crown of thorns spire of St. Michael’s Church. I’ve always quite liked it but I read it was very controversial when it was first put up. It’s quite unusual but it strangely fits with the older church and the 500-year-old Palace across the way.
I came through the archway and found myself outside the Palace. Even though the Palace is prominent from the train, it isn’t in the town itself and you only see it when you’re up to it. It is a handsome structure, fairly complete minus a roof, and it is probably my favourite Historic Environment Scotland property, because of my personal history with the place as well as the actual past. I only looked for a moment then turned my gaze back down the hill and headed away. It had been a brief but immensely historical walk in one of my favourite places in Scotland, an unexpected joy only possible because I hadn’t checked that there were engineering works. Sometimes the best adventures happen when we mess up.