A day in Linlithgow

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October 5th 2013
Published: October 11th 2013
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Now, where might you say is Linlithgow? Well, initially we had the same thought as we had difficulty finding it on the atlas as it is amidst a jumble of other towns between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Actually it is a quiet town just off the M9 and closer to Edinburgh than Glasgow.

It is also the home to Linlithgow Castle where Mary Queen of Scots was born. So the town has a very strong Scottish heritage.

The weather this morning actually looks reasonably promising with scattered clouds and peeks of sunshine although the temperature is still not going to get above the mid teens .Even with the drop in temperatures since we arrived in the UK we have found that the places we have stayed in have been well insulated and warm.

As promised we got to lie in this morning as the family don’t get up early on the weekend although we didn’t wake up until nearly 8am anyway.

So after a leisurely breakfast we headed out late morning for a walk around the local loch and a visit to the castle which was built in 1424 by James the 1st of Scotland and like many of these structures had been added to over the subsequent years of its use.

Out on the loch there were a number of locals in their rowboats fishing for their dinner tonight. The loch is kept stocked of fish as the inflow of water was just from small springs and a couple of very small streams.

The castle today is basically just a shell with its outside and some interior walls but its floors missing. You can still however climb up circular stairs to a great advantage point out over the loch to the surrounding countryside, from one of the turrets.

Next to the castle is the 15th century St Michaels church at which Alan and Alison are parishioners and Alan is an elder. Their daughter Debbie was married to Paul there 4 years ago. The interior was a great example of a medieval church with a varied history including being used as a barn during Cromwell days.

The town has a coat of arms that depicts a black dog (bitch) against an oak tree and the ‘locals’ are known as ‘black bitches’ .There are a couple of stories that have carried through to today as to how the coat of arms came about, the favourite being that a dog used to swim to the island in the middle of the loch to take food to his master who was chained to a tree and had been sentenced to starve to death. When the dog was found out, he too was chained to a tree and suffered the same fate as his master. The dog was later recognised for his loyalty and bravery and the locals used him as a symbol for their coat of arms. There is even a pub, reputed to be Scotland’s oldest surviving, called The Black Bitch.

Back home we had lunch and then took an afternoon rest before setting out to scale a local trail to the top of a hill with 360 degree views east to The Firth of Forth and Edinburgh and west to the Isle of Arran which you could just make out in the hazy conditions. The north view wasn’t as great as this was where the major industrial plants that are at Grangemouth in the Forth Valley are located and they looked like a blot on the landscape. To the south was green, peaceful rolling farmland.

Alan and Alison also took us down to their ‘local beach’ on the Firth of Forth and although there was a small sandy beach it wasn’t really the sort of place you would want to swim, even if the water was warm enough, as the industrial plants were not that far away.

We had an early dinner of venison stew and got ourselves ready for the second Saturday night in succession for some musical entertainment. Alan was taking part in a variety concert being staged by the church we had been into earlier in the day to raise funds to rewire the church.

It was an enjoyable evening with some excellent performances including one from a 10 year old girl with an enchanting name of Chiara Macdougall, who sang the Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah so beautifully.

We weren’t so late to bed and with a long day of driving ahead tomorrow as we head back south of the border, it was probably just as well.

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