By Christine Lavelle & Clare Carswell
The roof of the hotel collapsed shortly after 9am sending flame shooting into the morning air as the High Street was choked with thick smoke.
Initial reports suggest the fire may have been caused by an electrical fault in a heater in the first floor laundry room.
But the blaze quickly took hold of the rest of the building, and local residents looked on as smoke billowed out of every window.
Hotel owner John Bartlett – is believed to be out of the country on holiday and it is not yet known if he has been made aware.
A sizeable crowd of onlookers gasped when the roof crashed in as fire-fighters tried to douse the inferno at the building adjacent to the town’s train station.
Others counted themselves lucky to have escaped in time.
Guest Douglas Barr, 51, from Cheshire, was staying at the hotel while on business and said he was awoken by the smoke alarm.
He said: “It kept going on and off and at first I didn’t think much of it.
“But when the lights went out and I started to smell smoke I knew it was quite serious.
“I didn’t panic, I put on my trousers and in my haste I ended up with odd shoes on, but there was nothing obstructing me from getting out so I stayed sensible.
“There were four of us staying at the hotel, I often stay there when I’m in this area because it has a nice friendly atmosphere.
“Everyone was fine, just a little shaken.
“The fire started in the laundry room on the first floor and I was in room 10, diagonally above it.
“I’ve just stood watching for ages, at one point they smashed all the windows and flames came burning out.
“The firefighters were inside for a while but came out because it was too hot.
“I found my car keys and wallet in my trouser pocket so I am fairly lucky.”
Built in about 1759, the Star and Garter was a large imposing Georgian style building, steeped in history, and just a short stroll from the historic Linlithgow Palace.
Originally a family home, the building was turned into a public house in the 1840s and throughout its history has had strong links to the community.
It celebrated its 250th birthday last year, and was a notable landmark in the town, known locally as ‘The Star’.
But by 10am fire chiefs declared the building “completely destroyed”.
Peter Heath, area manager for Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue, said: “This is a huge loss for the local community but what we must keep in mind is that no one was hurt.
“This fire has caused significant damage to the building, which is in effect completely destroyed.
“We had sixty firefighters battling against the blaze, with support from our neighbouring service Central Scotland.
“The conditions inside were very serious and we had to withdraw our officers and tackle the blaze from outside.
“In total we had eight fire engines here and two others from our Major Incident Unit.
“I must reiterate the point that this was a very serious fire and we are very lucky everyone managed to get out unhurt.”
The hotel has a three star rating from Visit Scotland and is where Linlithgow’s branch of the Tartan Army was formed.
The Linlithgowshire Bowling Association was inaugurated at a meeting at the hotel in 1882 (In 1999 it was renamed West Lothian Bowling Association) and in the late 60s locals decided to resurrect the Rugby Club which had initially set up in the 1920s.
Linlithgow Rugby Club was also re-started in the back room of ‘The Star’ in 1970.
Fire crews expected to remain at the scene for some time on dampening down duties.
West Lothian Council were also anticipated to carry out an assessment of the structure.