Linlithgow Palace sits on a hill beside the small inland Linlithgow loch. The name Linlithgow means ‘the loch in the damp hollow’. If you’re interested in a little bit of history I’ve added this to the end of my post.
We’ve been to Historic Scotland‘s jousting event before, four years ago with my children. This time my sister, my 12 year old daughter and her friend came along too.
Watch a short video
A jousting we will go
There was a bit of chaos in my house when we were preparing to get ready. I didn’t have a clue what to wear. Normally I don’t worry too much about this, but I’d always wanted to wear a medieval style dress. I didn’t have a proper dress like this but did have a nice black and red mix it up dress that I bought online from Joe Browns. This would have been perfect and it was comfortable.
The look I got from my daughter when I tried on the dress (embarrassing mum) put me off a little. So summer clothes and sandals were next, but no, then heavy rain dropped from the sky. So it was back to comfy walking gear, preparing for more rain and mud. It ended up being a lovely day with only a few short showers! Sometimes you just can’t prepare for our Scottish weather.
Park and ride
We’re members of Historic Scotland so this day out didn’t cost us a penny. We only had the usual petrol and any food we bought of course. It’s really worth while being a member of Historic Scotland. With your membership you get free entry to attractions, daytime events, discounts and more.
There’s no parking at the Palace when large events are taking place. When we reached Linlithgow we drove to a car park at Oracle. From there we could park and ride for free to the Palace. We were all given a purple wrist band that would allow us to walk in without having to pay.
The bus dropped us off at the foot of the lane near the Palace. As we walked up I noticed that the stone wall had mounted plaques showing the succession to the throne. Starting from the bottom of the lane with our current Queen Elizabeth II all the way up to the arch to Mary Queen of Scots. The photos below show this in order of succession.
After a short walk we arrived at the arched entrance and showed our purple wrist bands. I looked up and seen these magnificent motifs. King James V added this archway in 1535. The heraldic motifs were created to declare his importance and his international allegiances.
When you walk through the archway you are immediately in awe of the architecture around you. The impressive St Michael’s church sits on the right and this is a place to explore in its own merit. Unfortunately we ran out of time and didn’t get to visit.
Right in front of us was this huge ruin called Linlithgow Palace, waiting for us to explore, but we also had the jousting area to visit too. It was difficult to decide what to do first as I knew we had a lot to cram in for a one day visit.
This is Scotland’s first statue of Mary Queen of Scots. She stands tall at seven feet and looks across to the Palace where she was born.
Stone carving competition
It was really nice to see this just outside the Palace.
This was Historic Environment Scotland‘s first ever stone carving competition. Stone masons and apprentices were challenged to carve something in the form of grotesque. I loved seeing all these carvings. You don’t see stone carving very often and I wish more of our new building had these.
A wander round the palace
We explored the Palace on arrival before the jousting started. Sadly we never got time to see it all, it’s huge inside!
The first impressive piece of architecture we saw was the fountain in the courtyard. The sculptures are so beautifully carved and detailed with most of them having been restored. It was created by James V around 1538. The fountain is still functional and water was running out of many mouths when we visited. It would have been painted in bright colours in its time, as would most of the rooms at the Palace.
It looks like this lady and gentleman are feeling quite sickly.
Even though the Palace is roofless and now a ruin, it’s the most impressive example of its time. It’s a huge maze of wonderful rooms, large and small, with many winding staircases leading you here and there.
We made our way up to the highest tower first. The spiral stairs seemed never-ending and it was busy with lots of people going up and down. It was quite crowded at the top and we could hardly move at some points. I started wondering if the tower would take all of our weight. I worry too much.
It’s a fair height and when I looked down I felt slightly dizzy. I’m not afraid of heights usually, but for some reason it was different today. It was probably my over imagination thinking too much about its sturdiness!
We walked a little further down to take more photos. The tower with the pointy spires is St Michael’s church that I mentioned earlier.
Enjoy some more photos of our Palace explorations.
Alan took this atmospheric photo of me sitting on the well in the dark lower kitchen. Spooky!
We could hear all the noise outside and missed some of the events, so decided to make our way back out.
Teenagers explore alone
My daughter and her friend wanted to explore on their own, as 12 and 13 years olds do. I said to my daughter to keep in touch with her mobile and if we couldn’t find each other to meet at the Mary Queen of Scots statue.
As we sat down to watch the jousting I noticed my new phone had run out of charge after only four hours. It must have been because of all the photos I was taking and apps running in the background. I started to panic as I had no way to get in touch with my daughter. Alan had her number in his phone, phew!
Then another problem, she didn’t have his number, so it would be a strange unknown number phoning. Guess what I said to my daughter that morning … don’t answer your phone if you don’t know the number! I eventually got in touch with her after a few texts convincing her I was her mum.
The jousting at last
As we explored the Palace first unfortunately we missed out on seeing a few shows. The first one was ‘A Royal Welcome and Call to Arms‘ where the King was looking for recruits and the kids could join his army. I could hear the kids from the Palace having fun. There was also a ‘Foot Tourney’ where the Sergeant-at-Arms conducted a display of arms and armour.
My sister and I put on our flower bands to get into the medieval jousting spirit. When the King appeared he shouted across to my sister “have her washed and brought to my chamber”. Kind of a nice compliment she thought apart from the washing part!
The pretty ladies and their horses paraded around the arena. The horses were so beautiful and didn’t seem to mind the noise of the crowd.
The gallant knights of the north were introduced to the crowd and cantered around the arena.
Meet Sir Antoine Le Grand, Chevalier D’Outremer ~ he is a fearless crusader who returned from the Holy Land over a year ago. The crowd cheered!
Meet Sir Archibald Douglas of Galloway ~ loyal and will pay no attention to danger! His ancestors fought with Robert the Bruce. The crowd cheered!
Meet Sir James Ramsay of Dalhousie ~ he has told many tales of his battles and likes to share them. The crowd cheered!
Meet Sir Checkmate Fitzpercy of Alnwick ~ descendent of Percy family of Northumberland. Possibly born out of wedlock ~ but don’t say that to him or else. The crowd booed! Yes, we all love a baddy!
Sir Checkmate performed the most amazing stunt. He balanced on two horses whilst trotting around the arena! He got some cheers for this and rightly so.
The jousting was fun and the actors were really interactive with the crowd. I didn’t take all of these photos as my phone died in the tournament, so Alan helped me out.
There was two jousting tournments during the day and in between we walked around the tents and visited the archery tournament.
Pride of the pikemen
After the jousting there was another show where the knights formed two sides, red and the blue. They fought in a melee until the last man was standing, who then unfortunately, in Game of Thrones style, was stabbed in the back by his very own squire. A bit of banter and fun all round.
Crafts, skills and living history camps
As well as the Palace and the jousting there were many tents to explore and activities you could watch or take part in.
These were some old artefacts that you could handle with white gloves only. I remember being told that the tiny leather shoe insole was one of many found in the moat at Caerlaverock Castle. It’s thought that the insole is either for a small lady’s foot or a child.
This knight’s tent was decorated as beautiful sleeping quarters with a four poster bed. Talk about glamping!
This group was making armour and turning wood.
Les Amis D’onno specialise in spectacular stunt riding and performing dogs. They’re based near Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders.
There were many other magnificent performers too that helped bring this reenactment together:
- Alba Adventure Company
- Carrick 800
- The Historic Saltire Society
- Living History Scotland Ltd
- Medieval Realm
- Rusty Bodkins
- Strathblane Falconry
- The Crafty Beggars
- Edinburgh Performers
What amazing an amazing team, great performance everyone!
There was still so much to see that we never got time for. So it looks like we’ll be back next year for the two days instead of one.
Everyone started to make their way home and all was quiet at Linlithgow again.
The beautiful swans and baby signets even came over to say hello.
Linlithgow Palace was a filming location for the fantastic TV show Outlander. Some of the corridors were used for the prison scenes where Jamie was imprisoned. It was also used as the prison entrance.
Visit Scotland has more information on Outlander filming locations so why not pop over for a visit! You can also join their new online community and find out more about Scotland from the friendly people who know her so well.
A little bit of history
Jousting back in the days was a sporting contest where two knights on horseback would charge towards each other with their lances. Other styles of combat were also tried. This was very popular in Scotland in the Middle Ages. Eglinton Country Park in Ayrshire was known for the scene of the great tournament in 1839 which was a magnificent recreation of the display. The tournament attracted thousands of visitors, one of which was the future Emperor of France – Napoleon III.
After a devastating fire of the previous Linlithgow, James I started the building of a new magnificent Palace for the royal Stewarts. Over the next 200 years, and the many Kings called James, the Palace was gradually built-up to be an impressive residence for courtly display and the presentation of royalty.
- James I (1424-37)
- James III (1460-88)
- James IV (1488-1513)
- James V (1513-42)
- James VI (1567-1625)
Sadly, in 1607 the Palace started to fall apart with the north range collapsing, but King James VI prompted the building of another suite. As you do.
Bonnie Prince Charlie from the royal Stewart dynasty, also know as the ‘the young pretender’, visited the Palace briefly in 1745. On Sunday 15 September the town of Linlithgow was crowded with people hoping to see the Bonnie Prince. He couldn’t stay long as he was travelling to Edinburgh to reclaim the capital. The beautiful fountain in the Palace poured red wine in his honour. I would imagine that the wine wouldn’t have been wasted!
In 1746 this stunning Palace was on fire again. The Bonnie Prince was heading for the Scottish Highlands but this time with a Hanoverian army behind him. On 31 January the prince’s cousin, William, Duke of Cumberland, arrived at Linlithgow with over 10,000 government troops.
The ‘red coats’ camped around the town and some set up camp at the Palace. On the morning they were leaving a fire started in the north range which was thought to have been deliberate. There was also other damage to the fountain and masonry around the Palace. The town’s people tried to rescue what they could with not much of it coming back to the Palace! I wonder where it went?
Royalty and important visitors
There’s a huge timeline of royalty and significant people who have visited or lived in the Palace. I’ve listed just a few of the many names that you might recognise from the history books:
- 1503 Margaret Tudor ~ married James IV. He gave her Linlithgow Palace as a wedding gift
- 1540 Mary of Guise ~ second wife of James V
- 1542 Mary Queen of Scots ~ born at the Palace on 8 December 1542 and becomes the succession to the throne at six days old
- 1650 Oliver Cromwell ~ takes the Palace as his own residence
- 1745 Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) ~ visits the Palace briefly
- 1746 William, Duke of Cumberland ~ occupies the Palace with thousands of Hanoverian troops
- 1787 Robert Burns ~ visits the Palace. ‘A fine but melancholy ruin’
Find out more about its history
Historic Scotland has a great souvenir guide that tells you so much more about the Palace and its history. Visit the Linlithgow Palace shop or Historic Scotland‘s website to order your own copy. If you’re a member you can get a discount too!
It was a great free day out and I would really recommend going next year. Historic Scotland usually arrange this on the first weekend in July, so keep your diary free!
Thanks for reading.
~ Dawn~Marie ~