A royal burgh and the county town of West Lothian. The Palace of the Stewart kings, like St Michael's Kirk nearby, both replaced more ancient buildings on the same sites, yet are themselves very old. It was in the Palace of Linlithgow that Sir David Lyndsay's Satire of the Three Estatis was first performed in 1540 before James V; and earlier in St Michael's Church that Sir David probably staged the warning apparition, which, however, failed to persuade James IV not to set out upon the excursion which ended with his death on Flodden Field. Mary, Queen of Scots was born in Linlithgow Palace. The splendid building was burned by the carelessness of General Hawley's troops, fleeing from Prince Charles Edward Stewart's army on 3rd February 1746.
According to Dr William Wallace, Burns was made a freeman of Linlithgow on 16th November 1787. Wallace claimed that he burgess ticket had been preserved, and was worded: 'At Linlithgow, the 16th day of November, 1787 years, the which day, in the presence of James Andrew, Esquire, Provost of the Burgh of Linlithgow; William Napier, James Walton, Stephen Mitchell, John Gibson, bailies: and Robert Speedie, Dean of Guild, compeared Mr Robert Burns, Mossgiel Ayrshire, who was made and created Burgess and Guild Brother of the said Burgh, having given his oath of fidelity according to the form used theranent.'
Burns did not sign the burgess roll. The alleged date of the ticket is a little puzzling in that there is no independent evidence to show that Burns was in Linlithgow on that day.
Burns visited Linlithgow during his Highland tour, in company with Nicol. On the first day of the trip, Saturday 25th August 1787, Burns recorded: 'Linlithgow, the appearance of rude, decayed idle grandeur charmingly rural, retired situation the old rough royal palace a tolerably fine, but melancholy ruin sweetly situated on a small elevation on the brink of a Loch shown the room where the beautiful injured Mary Queen of Scots was born - a pretty good old Gothic Church the infamous stool of repentance standing, in the old Romish way, in a lofty situation.
'What a poor, pimping business is a Presbyterian place of worship, dirty, narrow, squalid, stuck in a corner of old Popish grandeur such as Linlithgow and much more, Melrose! ceremony and show, if judiciously thrown in, absolutely necessary for the bulk of mankind, both in religious and civil matters.'