At odds with the weather forecast, it was one of those black and white days on a visit to Bo`ness, which, as every schoolboy should know, is a shortened version of Borrowstounness, the Burgh Town on the Ness, the nose of land jutting into the Forth.
The overnight fall of snow, allied to the low grey cloud above the cold waters of the Forth, made the day feel colder than it really was. Nevertheless, when Annie and the Mountain Maid and Hare met me at the Bo`ness and Kinneil Railway centre, there was a cheery feel to the day. Special festive season steam train outings that day were fully booked by families with young children, and the station coffee shop was full to bursting.
Bo`ness station is built on a landscaped site previously occupied by railway sidings, timber yards and coal mines….and parking presents no problem. Opened in 1981, the railway is operated by the Scottish Railway Preservation Society and since 2010 the line continues to Manuel which provides a connection with the BR Edinburgh –Glasgow main line. “Offering a nostalgic day reliving the romantic days of steam”, the centre is open weekends April to October and daily July to August. For further information on the complete timetable, phone 01506-822298. Do the following walk now, but return when the centre is open.
Despite the Fife coastline being hidden to view, we had a most pleasant 3 hour outing to Kinneil Nature Reserve, then on to Kinneil House. Use the metal footbridge to cross the railway, then go round the east side of Bo`ness harbour to reach the excellent Bo`ness foreshore path which would give a new route for the motorised scooters of the Forth & Tay Disabled Ramblers Group.
A walk around the harbour gives a hint of the town`s rich industrial past, indeed Bo`ness in its heydey ranked the second largest port after Leith. Decline followed the collapse of the tobacco trade and completion of the Forth and Clyde canal. Continue west by the Forth towards the site of the former Kinneil Colliery, closed in 1983 and now the man-made Kinneil Nature Reserve, formed from excavated material from the colliery. Turn right for the circular anti-clockwise walk around the reserve, before returning to the railway line and a level crossing, still marked as a station on my 1997 map.
Go through the metal gates and turn right, parallel to the railway, then curve left towards a parking area. Go up Snab Lane, cross the main road, and straight up the wooded lane on the other side to reach the A993. Cross to the west side of the road, then turn sharp right where signposted on the long straight driveway to Kinneil House.
Pass the museum (it tells the story of the Kinneil estate from Roman times to the present day) and continue by the stone pillars to the big house, once the country home of the dukes of Hamilton and saved from demolition in the 1930s by the rediscovery of its remarkable wall paintings. Hours can be spent exploring the estate parkland and its interesting aspects. A side wall gateway leads to a bridge above a deep ravine. Follow the path on the far bank to go past the ruins of the 12th-century Kinneil church. An anti-clockwise route round the open parkland, traversed by the Antonine Wall, leads to a Roman fortlet and two ponds. National Cycle Route 76 traverses the grounds.
The Factfile assumes retracing steps. However, on return to the A993, we turned right on Wotherspoon Drive, also signposted the cycle route, to enter a park. We followed higher roads before turning left down Providence Brae to reach the interesting old town centre. Look out for the Hippodrome, Scotland`s first purpose-built cinema, opened in 1912 and now recently restored.
Map: Ordnance Survey map 65, Falkirk & Linlithgow
Distance: 7 miles
Terrain: Good pathways
Start Point: Bo`ness railway station car park, map ref 003817
Time: 3 hours
Refreshment spot: Bo`ness railway station coffee shop