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Short Breaks from Bathgate

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Ever needed to just get away, but you can't go for too long? Please tell us about your short breaks away (e.g. day trips, road trips or weekend breaks), whether it be for ultimate relaxation, or to be active and practice hobbies you may have (fishing,

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      21.11.2002 15:50
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      "DREAMTHORP - a castle, a chapel, a lake, a straggling strip of grey houses, with a blue film of smoke over it all, lies embossed in emerald. Nothing could be more peaceful. Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine." So wrote Alexander Smith in an essay about Linlithgow, over a hundred years ago. Here's my update..... LINLITHGOW, 18 miles west of Edinburgh, is the county town of West Lothian and lies on the north side of the Bathgate Hills, about 5 miles from the town of Bathgate. For most visitors, Linlithgow means the royal palace overlooking the loch, the grassy parklands of the peel and the golden crown of thorns adorning St Michael's Church. But there is more to discover about this Royal and Ancient Burgh, as I hope to show. The palace, church and royal burgh privileges contributed to the town's prominence in Scottish history, and with its monopoly of trade from its port at Blackness, the town soon flourished. By the 15th and 16th centuries, Linlithgow had reached the zenith of its influence and prosperity. The union of the crowns in 1603 caused its decline into something of a backwater, apart from its role as a county town. These days it is a busy commuter town with a healthy electronics industry, and has been voted Scotland's 'tourist town of the year' twice. * ATTRACTIONS * LINLITHGOW PALACE was at one time an important royal residence and is now ruined but there's enough of it still standing for visitors to be able to get an idea of the grandeur of this, the favourite Stuart palace. It can be quite a confusing place to visit as there are a great many rooms and a maze of passageways but it all sits around a central courtyard, so that if you look out a window you should be able to see where you are. Historic Scotland, who administer the care of the building, provide a detailed guide book which is available at the palace. It is open
      to the public all year round. More: http://www.aboutscotland.com/linlith/gow.html Sitting beside the historic palace, St. MICHAEL'S CHURCH is one of the finest medieval churches in Scotland. The Church's aluminium spire, erected in 1964, replaced an open stone crown removed in 1821 because it was considered dangerous. The church was rebuilt following the fire of 1424, and during the Reformation in 1559 was cleansed of its Catholic idolatry. More: http://www.stmichaels-parish.org.uk ANNET HOUSE is a beautiful Georgian building which was built in the 18th century and nowadays houses an interesting museum which celebrates Linlithgow's past and present. There are displays, artifacts and an audio-visual display, which all bring the town's history and some of the characters from the past together very well. More: http://www.linlithgowstory.org.uk The town has always been on one of the major routes in Central Scotland and these days the M9 motorway runs right by it, as well as the Edinburgh/Falkirk/Glasgow railway. But before these transport links there was the canal. Running through the town, just behind the High Street, is the Union Canal, linking Edinburgh to the Forth & Clyde canal at Falkirk. THE CANAL MUSEUM is in the original canal stables and has displays, artifacts, photographs and an audio-visual presentation on the history of the canal and how it affected the town. Three boats operate for public cruising on the canal and there are some excellent walks along the towpath. More: http://www.lucs.org.uk There is an audio trail which takes you on a tour of the town, exploring its history, stories, personalities, industry, etc. Sony Walkmans are available from the Linlithgow Tourist Information Centre which is situated in the Burgh Hall, at the Cross. (The cross is not a cross but is in fact a Scottish term for a market-place) NEARBY ATTRACTION
      S * Beecraigs Country Park * This is a 1,000 acre county park which includes a reservoir - which was dug by German POWs during WW1 and is now a trout farm. There's also a deer farm, target and field archery courses, water sports, angling, orienteering, rock climbing, barbecue and picnic areas, trim-course, space net, woodland walks, camping and caravan site, restaurant and bar, information centre and view points. http://www.nts.org.uk/binns.html * Bo'ness and Kinniel Railway * At Bo'ness, The Scottish Railway Preservation Society has Scotland's largest collection of railway architecture. A visitor trail leads through the yard where locomotives, carriages and wagons, can be seen. A steam train travels along the southern shore of the Firth of Forth to Birkhill Fireclay Mine where fire bricks were manufactured which were used in foundries, smelters, refineries etc. A guided tour of the caverns of the mine reveals 300 million year old fossils. There are various special events here throughout the year. More: http://www.nts.org.uk/binns.html * Blackness Castle * This 15th century fortress, which gives the impression of a stone battleship, is situated at the edge of the River Forth in the peaceful little village of Blackness. In the past it saw violent struggles between the Douglas and Crichton families and was also used as a medieval state prison. More recently it was used as the setting for the film Hamlet starring Mel Gibson. More: http://www.aboutbritain.com/BlacknessCastle.htm * The House of the Binns * The House of the Binns was handed into the care of the National Trust for Scotland in 1944, but it remains the family home of the Dalyell family. (Tam Dalyell is the longest serving MP at Westminster)It is a beautifully furnished house which has been occupied for over 350 years. More: http://www.nts.org.uk/binns.html * H
      opetoun House * Set in 100 acres of beautiful parkland this is said to be Scotland's finest stately home. This Adam mansion is the residence of the Marquess of Linlithgow. Much of the original furniture can still be seen. Hopetoun has nature trails, deer parks, gardens, exhibitions, family museum, restaurant and picnic areas. More: http://www.hopetounhouse.com * Cairnpapple Hill * Just south of the town, in the Bathgate hills, this henge and cairn was in use for 1000 years from around 3000BC. Although these hills are not very high, the views open up to such an extent that you can see almost all Central Scotland from east to west. It is open to the public. More: http://www.ancient-scotland.co.uk/cairnpapple.html * ACCOMMODATION * There are no big hotels in the town but many of the pubs have rooms and there are a few B&B's. Falkirk, just 6-7 miles along the motorway, has all the major chains and rooms to suit all budgets. The following website has hotels within 5 miles of the town: http://www.travel-hotels-europe.com/lothian-and-borders-hotels/linlithgow-hote ls-1.htm * FOOD and DRINK * Linlithgow is a typical medieval Scottish burgh, with a long High St which lends itself well to a pub crawl. Starting at the West Port, (where the west gate in the old town wall used to be) there is the imaginatively titled West Port Tavern, and immediately next door is The Black Bitch Tavern. Both are good pubs which also serve food. further along are The Swan Tavern, The Crown Arms and the Football & Cricketers Arms. These pubs do a more basic menu. At the cross are the Auld Hole I'Th'wa and The Four Marys. These are probably the best pubs in town with the 4 M's being particularly good. The food here is excellent with both bar meals and a very good restaurant, and they are famous locally for the range and quality of their beers. To
      wards the Low Port there is The Red Lion which is situated in one of the oldest buildings in the town, and at the East Port is the Star and Garter Hotel. There are several other pubs and bars but I have only listed those which, in my opinion are the better ones. There are numerous small cafes, tea-shops, snack-bars, restaurants and take-away food shops all along the High St. One establishment that deserves a mention is the Champany Inn. Just outside the town, this building used to stable the horses of Mary, Queen of Scots and is now a very upmarket bar and restaurant with 16 bedrooms. I haven't been here for years but it was top-class then and from what I've heard, it's even better now. More: http://www.champany.com/restaurant.htm * SHOPPING * As you would expect, there are plenty of gift shops but the town is not overrun with tackiness. There are a good deal of art & craft type shops and a number of antique merchants. No big department stores, but enough shopping to keep you occupied and Falkirk has all the major chains and department stores. * Some Facts about the Town * The inhabitants of Linlithgow, or as it is pronounced locally - Lithgae, are known as the Black Bitches. This is in honour of a black greyhound who swam across the loch to carry food to his master who had been chained to a tree on an island and sentenced to starve to death. Like many Scottish Border towns, Linlithgow celebrates the Riding of the Marches - THE MAIRCHES is on the first Tuesday after the second Thursday in June. This is an ancient custom whereby the Provost, magistrates, councillors and craft guilds of the town ride around inspecting the boundaries of the burgh. It begins at 5am with processions and marching bands and the festivities continue well into the night. It is quite an experience. The Marches is a holiday in Linlithgow and everything shuts down (apar
      t from the pubs which open early for the occasion), and it is strictly adhered to by the locals. The town is also home to the first documented murder by a gun in Scotland (if not the world). In 1570, James Stewart, Earl of Moray, was gunned down in the High St., just west of the cross. Moray was Regent for the infant James VI after Mary, Queen of Scots was banished and imprisoned in England. Moray had protestant sympathies and was assassinated by James Hamilton, a follower of Mary and the Catholic cause. Hamilton escaped to France where he became a paid assassin. The Four Marys pub (named after Mary, QoS's ladys-in-waiting who were all named Mary - I bet that was confusing), has a plaque on the wall commemorating the building's former use as a chemist's shop. This is where David Waldie produced the first sample of chloroform which he sent to his friend from nearby Bathgate - Sir James Young Simpson - who developed its anaesthetic properties. Thanks for reading ©proxam2002

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