Brush up on local history at Kinneil

Ease: Easy, suitable for families and children although can be muddy underfoot at points
Length: 1.7km
Duration: 30 mins – 1 hour
Map: Download the map here

Make Time: This walk along National Cycle Route 76 is a great opportunity to think about the things you enjoy and take a moment to appreciate them. It might be the beautiful Scottish countryside, the fun of watching the wildlife or just enjoy the sun on your face (we hope!).

For this challenge, head outside with family and friends or take this challenge on solo. Either way, by the end you’ll be well on your way to ‘expert’ status. Keep an eye out below for some fun facts and tricky questions!


Start in the woodland car park off Provost Road. Mind the mud, it’s historically authentic but still slippy.

Once you pass round the big metal gate head uphill to the left. After a hundred metres you’ll find two gateposts in the middle of nowhere.

Fun fact: When the Big House was lived in by the Hamilton family, the grounds were landscaped and this gate marked a crossing point over the haha. Haha’s are a hidden ditch which acts in the same way as a fence or wall does to keep sheep and deer out of the gardens whilst preserving the uninterrupted view of the landscape beyond. Look right and you’ll see the remains of the ditch through the trees. The trees weren’t there when the haha was built.

Head back down the hill and turn left on the big track.

As you turn a bend in the track, keep your eyes peeled on the younger trees to the right hand side of the path. There’s a massive metal bowl lying in the grass! This is part of the type of steam engine apparatus James Watt would have used while he was experimenting to improve the condensing steam engine.

Walk another 100m and you’ll see a clearing on the right hand side of the track and some posts in the middle of the grass. Head that way, you’re about to come face to face with a World Class part of history…. You’re now standing in a Roman Fortlet.

Fun fact: Before Scotland was even called Scotland, the Romans invaded from Europe and worked their way up through our island conquering the natives. They built a wall in England called Hadrian’s Wall and then pushed further north and built the Antonine Wall right here where you are. The soldiers who guarded this section of the wall lived here in the fortlet. They didn’t stay long, it actually took longer to build the wall than they spent using it as a defence! Read the interpretation board to find out all about the fortlet and the Romans.

Question 1. How many men were in the fortlet and what did they do? (Answers at bottom of page)

Walk through the fort and head off to the right where you’ll see a hedge meeting the tree line. Turn right and walk round the pond on the little path. Give the ducks a wave if they are paddling around. You’ll come out at a cross roads after the wee bridge. Turn right there.

Coming out of the trees you’ll spot the end wall of Kinneil Kirk, the only remaining part of the building. Look up and you’ll see the two holes where two bells would have hung.

Across from the church is a new metal sculpture called The Beacon. It celebrates Kinneil Kirk’s role in the past as a navigation aid for ships coming into Bo’ness Harbour of the Forth. If you look at the silhouette of the beacon it mirrors the architectural shapes of the kirk. There’s lots of info both on the beacon structure itself and on the board at the other side of the church.

Before you head to the church interpretation board, have a look at the gravestones around the church. They are very old and you’ll be able to see symbols on some of them which aren’t generally put on headstones nowadays.

Fun fact: Gravestones used to reflect the job a person had done, you’ll be able to find symbols relating to seafaring as the church was popular with sailors but there are other symbols too. If you find other symbols which intrigue you can look online to find their meanings here

Carry on through the graves to the church interpretation board.

Question 2.– Which Saint was one of the bells in the church’s double belfry dedicated to?

Question 3. - What was the Laird’s loft used for?

Carry on round the path to the bridge and cross it. Immediately on the other side is a roofless building which gets called James Watt’s cottage. He probably didn’t actually work there but he did conduct experiments there to improve the steam engine!

Question 4. – What civil engineering projects did James Watt work on locally?

Looming over the cottage is Kinneil house. Come back next year when the house will be open limited weekends for special tours. Pass through the gap in the wall and come out at the front of the house.

Question 5. – What type of stories are depicted in the painted rooms in Kinneil House

As you walk away from the house on the main drive you will spot an orchard on the left.

Fun fact: When the Duke of Hamilton lived here having an orchard would have been a status symbol and creating new apple varieties was all the rage.

Question 6. Can you find out what the fruit was worth in 1696?

This new orchard is planted as a timeline with new apple varieties near the house and older ones at the house end. It’s not just apples which have been planted, look at the larger info board and find out what else is growing here.

Question 7 - How many girls names are contained in the fruit varieties?


You’ve probably been out for an hour or so now, walking round the site and finding out about local history. If you’ve done the whole route you’ve gone 1.7km, well done! Making exercise a regular part of your day is a great way to improve your health and fitness. There are some other great walks in Bo’ness like this one here, you can also find out more about Kinneil Local Nature Reserve here.

You can get a really in depth look at the history of Kinneil here or join the Friends of Kinneil and get involved in protecting and restoring the site.

PS. Not all the history on site has left visible remains, early next year a new heritage trail will be installed on site with interpretation boards showing how things would have looked in the past.

If you’re looking for more inspiration or resources we have gathered some information on what’s available in our libraries, check out our list here.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this activity and we look forward to seeing your photo’s using #FitForLifeFalkirk on our social media channels, if you have any additional feedback on our activities please email us at

1. Thirty men acting like customs officials.
2. St Catharine.
3. It was a private space for the Hamilton family in the church )
4. The Bo’ness Canal
5. Biblical Stories
6. The fruit was estimated to be worth £20
7. Girls names are Victoria, Katy, Hazel, June and Beth

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