THE fable of Greyfriars Bobby, the famed Skye terrier who refused to leave his master’s grave in an Edinburgh kirkyard, has long charmed tourists and spawned countless films and books.

But West Lothian has a tale that can arguably best that. According to legend, a man was chained to an oak tree on an island in the middle of Linlithgow Loch, sentenced to starve to death. Each day his loyal black greyhound would swim across to him with food.

It is a story woven into the tapestry of Linlithgow’s heritage and the brave canine even features in the town’s coat of arms. In 2020 a statue depicting the heroic female dog was unveiled, and there is a 17th-century tavern, The Black Bitch, named in her honour.

However, plans announced last year to rename the 350-year-old hostelry as The Black Hound sparked outrage and protests from many Linlithgow residents who feel that the change of moniker would erode an important part of the town’s history, dating from the 13th century.

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Greene King, the UK’s biggest pub owner, has defended the decision, citing its stance as an “anti-racist organisation” and expressing concerns that the existing name could offend customers.

Three alternatives – The Wearie Drover, The Willow Tree and The Linlithgow Arms – have been proposed as the controversy rumbles on. To date, more than 11,000 people have signed a petition in protest.

Linlithgow Loch is a “kettle hole”, formed by retreating glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age, and the inspiration for the town’s name, which means “loch in the damp hollow”.

The Herald: The picturesque views across Linlithgow Loch in autumn. Picture: Julie Howden/NewsquestThe picturesque views across Linlithgow Loch in autumn. Picture: Julie Howden/Newsquest

It is the largest natural freshwater loch in West Lothian and designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, home to mallards, great crested grebes, coots, moorhens, tufted ducks and mute swans, as well as pochard, greylag geese and goldeneye during the winter.

The picturesque body of water has graced many a postcard and calendar page over the years, sitting resplendent in the foreground of Linlithgow Palace, birthplace of James V and Mary, Queen of Scots.

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In recent times, the palace and its surrounding parkland, known as the Peel, has served as a filming location for TV and movies, including Netflix’s big-budget Robert the Bruce biopic Outlaw King.

Walkers will enjoy the Linlithgow Loch Circular, a 2.4-mile (4km) loop trail offering views of two islets, Cormorant Island and the Rickle. These are the remains of ancient crannogs – timber roundhouses supported on pilings or stilts – built some 2,500 years ago.