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Linlithgow Palace, Peel and Royal Park

A Scheduled Monument in Linlithgow, West Lothian

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Latitude: 55.9804 / 55°58'49"N

Longitude: -3.6002 / 3°36'0"W

OS Eastings: 300246

OS Northings: 677538

OS Grid: NT002775

Mapcode National: GBR 1S.W74K

Mapcode Global: WH5R2.NYT6

Entry Name: Linlithgow Palace, Peel and Royal Park

Scheduled Date: 21 June 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13099

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: burial ground, cemetery, graveyard; Secular: palace

Location: Linlithgow

County: West Lothian

Electoral Ward: Linlithgow

Traditional County: West Lothian


The monument comprises Linlithgow Palace and the core of the Royal Park, including Linlithgow Loch, the ground beneath St Michael's Church and the church burial ground. The palace was built between 1424 and 1624 and is the largest non-defensive royal residence in medieval Scotland. The monument includes the upstanding palace buildings, as well as earthworks and buried archaeological remains in the surrounding parkland that preserve evidence both for early occupation of the site and for activity contemporary with the palace. The monument lies immediately north of the medieval town of Linlithgow, between the town and Linlithgow Loch. The palace stands at 60m above sea level on a natural hill of glacial drift, giving it a commanding position overlooking the loch. The monument was last scheduled in 1994, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The main upstanding structure is a square-plan castle with a central courtyard and square corner towers. It measures 52m north-south by 51m transversely. The north range is five storeys high and the south, east and west ranges are three storeys high. The buildings have corbelled and crenellated parapets, but are roofless. They are constructed of cream sandstone rubble with ashlar dressings. The gatehouse, built around 1535, stands 40m to the south and has a single-storey pointed arch to the south elevation flanked by two polygonal towers. Archaeological evaluation of The Peel, between Town Bay and the Bell Burn, has demonstrated that this area contains much archaeological evidence, including building remains and deep midden deposits. The level part of The Peel, to the ENE of the palace, was reclaimed from the loch in the 19th century, but contains artefacts deposited into the former loch. Earthworks and buried archaeological features surrounding the palace may include the remains of early defences erected by Edward I and later fortifications built by Cromwell. A substantial ditch was partly excavated west of the Kirkgate in what is now the Manse garden, and a platform and terraces survive at the north side of the garden. The line of the ditch continues beneath the burial ground south of St Michael's church and the buried remains of a ditch are known east of the church. Two of the islands in Linlithgow Loch have been identified as crannogs and are likely to preserve evidence for prehistoric use of the site.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling includes the ground beneath St Michael's Church, but specifically excludes all parts of the present church building extending down to the base of the floor slabs, all service ducts, and all fittings and fixtures within the church. The scheduling specifically excludes all active burial lairs, the above-ground elements of all burial monuments of 19th-century or later date, and the churchyard walls. All walls and fences along the boundaries of the scheduled area are excluded from the scheduling to allow for their maintenance. The scheduling specifically excludes: the above-ground elements of all structures, fittings and street furniture built after 1950; the above-ground elements of the Lodge (custodian's house), the Park Rangers' Office building, the public conveniences 65m southeast of St Michael's Church, and all modern sheds and garages; the upper 300mm of all surfaced paths, roads and cobbling; and the above-ground elements of all boundary walls, fences, bridges, landing stages and piers to allow for their maintenance. The scheduling specifically excludes the top 600mm of ground east of the palace within the level area of The Peel that is bounded by four metalled paths (this area is defined by straight lines joining points NT 00295 77425, NT 00450 77410, NT 00380 77300 and NT 00265 77380).

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The Royal Park preserves evidence for over 2,000 years of human activity. The two crannogs within the loch are probably prehistoric in date and the loch shores have high potential for further prehistoric settlement remains. Finds of Roman pottery suggest the ground around the palace was an important focus in the Roman period. Mortaria sherds dating from the 2nd century AD were found alongside the rim of an amphora to the north of the palace; another amphora rim came from St Michael's Churchyard. Parch-marks visible on aerial photographs west of the palace may indicate enclosure ditches of Roman origin, suggesting potential for further discoveries from this period that could shed light on the origins of the site as a high status centre.

Historical sources suggest that a royal manor house and stone church were built at Linlithgow in the 12th century. The present church of St Michael, standing south of the palace, was begun in the reign of David I, although it was rebuilt and enlarged following a fire in 1424. There is excellent potential, evidenced by historical sources and by excavations at other important medieval Scottish churches, for the survival of medieval foundations and graves beneath its footprint and medieval graves in the burial ground. The graveyard may contain burials dating from the 12th century onwards, which could provide information on the population over a relatively long time period. They can enhance our knowledge of status and burial practice, and can also reveal evidence for health, diet, illness, cause of death, perhaps place of birth, and the types of activities people undertook during life. West of the palace, archaeological remains surviving just beneath the turf include ditches, pits and structural features, such as a rectangular stone setting. This may be the location of the royal manor, with James I's palace on the east edge of the high ground arguably avoiding other structures occupying the more central area of the hill. It is also possible that made-up ground in the escarpment north of the palace represents the site of a motte. Edward I overwintered at Linlithgow in 1301-2, repairing the manor and defending it with a palisade and ditch that incorporated the church as part of the defences, but also extended around the north side of the site. It is probable that these defences include a ditch running southwards to the south-east corner of the present graveyard, then westwards across the Kirkgate. Excavation west of Kirkgate in 1966-7 revealed a ditch 6.1m wide, backfilled in the 18th century, and, parallel to the ditch on the south, two phases of cobbles and alignments of stones, the latter interpreted as house footings perhaps of 13th- or 14th-century date. It is possible that this ditch formed part of the Edwardian defences, although it is smaller than the ditch referred to in documentary sources. Parch-marks west of the palace visible on aerial photographs suggest that the Edwardian ditch and palisade also crossed this area.

The upstanding palace buildings display a complex development sequence spanning two centuries. James I began work on the palace in 1424 following a fire reported to have destroyed the royal manor, parish church and much of the burgh. The first phase of work saw construction of what was originally a hall block and entrance, built over massive cellars on the east side of the hill. The elevated entrance and orientation of the access are significant because they show how the palace was designed to impress and make the most of its location. Most of the south range and part of the west range date from the reign of James III, while the north end of the west range, the chapel in the south range and its galleried courtyard façade were all added by James IV. His remodelling gave the palace its predominant architectural character, the façade of the south range borrowing from the English perpendicular. The original north range collapsed in 1607 and the present structure, added between 1618 and 1624, has a remarkable courtyard façade with central turnpike. The upstanding structures preserve fragile and delicate features that can tell us about the form and use of the buildings, for example in the north range.

We know little about the ancillary buildings, gardens and orchards that surrounded the main courtyard structures. However, archaeological evaluations and other small-scale interventions have demonstrated that buried archaeological remains have high potential to enhance our understanding of the context of the palace and contain abundant evidence for the economy of the palace and the lives of those who occupied the buildings. Immediately north of the palace, archaeological remains including deep midden and construction deposits contemporary with the palace lie within 0.1m of the present ground surface. Around 60m further north, significant buried features include the basal parts of deep ditches and the foundations of a building. Trenches cut through Bow Butts showed that these linear banks clearly predate the harbour embankment. Immediately east of the palace, midden deposits lie just below the topsoil in the vicinity of the palace's former east doorway. On the flat terrace east of St Michael's Church, the foundations of a small building lie immediately below the turf above the slope down to The Peel. The flat area of The Peel comprises land reclaimed from the loch, probably in the first half of the 19th century, but the silts beneath contain artefacts washed or thrown into the loch. The gently sloping fringes of the area represent the shore of the medieval loch and the buried deposits contain medieval and post-medieval finds washed down from the promontory. A significant proportion of the Royal Park remains parkland today. The relationship between the palace and Royal Park can readily be appreciated and understood today and is an important component in the significance of the monument.

Cromwell occupied the palace during his attempts to take Stirling from the Scots army in the mid 17th century. He fortified the palace by building a stone wall, which probably followed Edward I's ditch and palisade line. Researchers have suggested the defences would have comprised earthworks as well as a wall, potentially accounting for some of the earthworks east of the palace. Further south-east, the remains of a large ditch are buried 0.6m below ground level about 20m from the edge of the terrace. Researchers interpret this as part of Cromwell's occupation of the promontory and suggest that, south of St Michael's Church, the ditch turns to run westwards through the graveyard. Additional Cromwellian defences may lie north of the palace. Cromwell's wall was taken down in 1663.

Earthworks and buried archaeological remains can also tell us about later park and garden features. Those south-west of the palace reflect landscaping conducted around 1771, when the Palace Keeper closed Watergate Lane and laid out gardens there. The original formation of several terraces may date to this time, though some may have been modified during the 19th century. Elsewhere, on the loch shore, there is potential for features such as jetties and fish traps or for the remains of industries such as tanning.

Contextual characteristics

The strikingly simple symmetrical pattern of the courtyard buildings was unique in medieval Scotland. It may have been influenced by late 14th-century fortified manor houses in north-east England and was later echoed by Edinburgh's 17th-century Heriot's Hospital. There is high potential to compare the palace buildings with other royal palaces that also enjoy good levels of survival. Falkland Palace in Fife was built by the Stuart kings as a royal hunting seat and is broadly contemporary with Linlithgow. Like Linlithgow, Falkland Palace also replaced an earlier castle. It was the product of two main building programmes, conducted from 1500-1513 and from 1537-1541, and boasts the earliest coherently designed Renaissance façade in Britain, built by French master masons. The surviving south and east ranges can support detailed comparison with the standing remains at Linlithgow. Dunfermline Palace also dates from the 16th century and the Palace of Holyrood House, remodelled in the 1670s, incorporates the early 16th-century Great Tower and main quadrangle. Together, these very important buildings combine to tell us much about the late medieval transition from fortified castle to stately home.

Associative characteristics

The site is associated with several important historical figures including Edward I, the Scottish monarchs James I, James III, James IV, James V and James VI, and Oliver Cromwell. Mary Queen of Scots was born in the palace, possibly in the lost north range, and Charles Edward Stuart visited in 1745, although he chose not to stay the night but to camp outside the burgh with his army. In 1746, government troops were stationed in the palace and, on their departure on 1 February, it burnt down.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular of medieval royal palaces. The standing structure is one of the most important late medieval buildings in Scotland and the most impressive medieval palace. As such, it played a key role in the operation of late medieval kingship in Scotland. However, the site also retains varied and well-preserved buried archaeology that can enhance our understanding of the origins of St Michael's Church, the economy of the palace and the functions of the ancillary buildings that surrounded and serviced the main courtyard. Buried deposits can also tell us about the early royal centre of the 12th to 14th centuries and about Cromwell's refortification of the 17th century. Archaeologists have investigated a relatively small part of the site and there is high potential for future discoveries. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand Scotland's royal palaces and their role in the promotion of kingship.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the Palace as NT07NW 09. The WoSAS SMR reference is 18156.


Laing, L R, 1967 'Excavations at Linlithgow Palace, West Lothian, 1966-7', PSAS, 99, 111-147.
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Linlithgow Palace, Peel & Park
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Related Designations

Designation TypeListed Building (C)StatusDesignated

Designation TypeListed Building (A)StatusRemoved

Designation TypeListed Building (A)StatusRemoved

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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