THE John Muir Way stretches from the naturalist’s birthplace of Dunbar all the way to Helensburgh, from where, in 1849, the father of National Parks set off with his family for North America at the age of 11.
The long-distance route can be completed in sections and one of these passes the picturesque Royal Burgh of Linlithgow with its Loch and Palace. The Loch and Palace are not actually on the route but you can adapt it a bit to include them and take in a little known stretch of the River Avon with another detour.
All round, it is a great winter stroll for the family, with the chance to include a bit of history.
DISTANCE 6 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 200ft.
TIME 2 to 3 hours.
MAP OS Landranger 65.
PARK There is parking if you are visiting Linlithgow Palace, and also behind and to the left of The Cross in the centre of the town (marked by a large fountain on the side of the High Street).
IN SUMMARY Go up to Linlithgow Palace and walk round to the left to reach the other side. Drop down a path to meet another one running above the loch, where you go left. (For a longer walk you can go all the way round the loch by going right – following signs for a short road section.)
After turning left in front of the palace, follow the path down to a gate from where you follow the loch’s edge round to the right. At the far end, after crossing a footbridge, go left to reach a main road, which you cross.
On the other side, go down a minor road (Mill Lade), into trees. The road leads through a wood then bends right. As the road then starts to bend to the left to reach a house, drop down a path to the right to reach a modern housing estate, where you go left to follow a road out of the estate.
At the end of the road, go right to follow another road, which crosses over the M9 motorway. After dropping down, the road turns right but you should go straight ahead, following a sign for “Fisher’s Brae to Bo’ness”, past a bench and through a small metal gate.
A path then climbs up to a minor road and a stone cottage. Go left here (actually more straight on) and after only a short way, follow the road to the left – instead of going straight on, past a metal barrier.
The road drops down, eventually passing two cottages and then a farm. A small bridge takes you over the River Avon before the road turns right and then bears left.
Just before the road passes below the M9, go left through a metal kissing gate with a sign for the River Avon Heritage Trail. After passing an industrial site you reach a kissing gate – go left, down a path which turns right after about 30 yards, to follow the River Avon, upstream, past relatively newly-planted trees.
At the end of the newer trees the path goes through a wooden kissing gate and follows the edge of a field. After passing below the M9 the route bears right, uphill. Go through a series of kissing gates, keeping left until the path levels out and reaches a main road. Go left here to walk back into Linlithgow, all the way to the centre of the town and the start of the walk.
REFRESH There is a good choice to suit all tastes in Linlithgow.
WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA Linlithgow Palace, cared for by Historic Scotland, is the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. (www.historic-scotland.gov.uk).