One thing I have strived to do with my Scotland travel blog since the beginning is to shine a spotlight on the many villages, towns and regions that are often overlooked by visitors. Bo'ness is one of those places - just a short drive from Falkirk and easily reached from Edinburgh and Glasgow, it has some unusual attractions which make it an interesting place to spend a day or two.
The name Bo'ness is actually short for Borrowstounness which means the Burgh Town on the Ness. Located on the bank of the Firth of Forth, Bo'ness was once the second largest port in Scotland. Today the harbour is closed and the only activity is passing walkers and cyclists enjoying the views across to Fife on the waterfront trail.
The quiet town still retains some interesting old buildings including the yellow painted Dymock's Building, a merchant's house dating back to before 1650 pictured above, and The Hippodrome, a pre-art deco picture palace dating back to 1912 (see below).
Its location next to the Firth of Forth and only a mile from the sprawling Kinneil Estate means you can experience town attractions, coastal views and nature trails all in one day as you can see from my list of recommended things to do in Bo'ness listed below.
If you've not been before, I hope this blog encourages you to give Bo'ness a visit.
My recommended things to do in Bo'ness
Take a ride on the Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway
Who doesn't love a ride on a steam train? I know I do, but for now, a ride along the Bo'ness and Kinneil line remains on my bucket-list as I've only managed to tour the station so far. However, I have received rave reports from the lucky people I know that have enjoyed a steam train trip here so I have to recommend it.
Starring in many TV and film productions including Outlander, the railway is run by volunteers of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society which aims to preserve Scotland's railway heritage and restore railway equipment including historic locomotives.
Book a ticket for one of the regular 70 minute return trips between Bo'ness and Manuel stations on a steam train or heritage diesel train and take in the views as you travel along the Firth of Forth before heading inland towards the countryside. There are also special events held throughout the year and dogs are welcome on all standard journeys.
In 2022 the Museum of Scottish Railways will reopen after major renovation and I can't wait to check that out, hopefully combined with a train ride at long last! I'll be sure to update this blog when that happens.
View movie memorabilia at the Bo'ness Motor Museum
What a hidden gem this place is and I really feel that it should be renamed the Bo'ness Motor and Movie Museum as the movie memorabilia on display here is incredible. The unassuming exterior gives no clue to the astounding collection of exhibits that lies beyond within a Tardis of a building - quite appropriate as there is an actual Dr Who Tardis inside.
From Monsters Inc to Star Wars and Harry Potter to Only Fools and Horses, there are cars and memorabilia from a wide variety of well known movies. James Bond fans in particular will love it here as there is an extensive amount of Bond props. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the place is the fact almost everything you see is the collection of one man, owner Colin Anderson.
There is so much to take in that I'm sure I missed lots of cool stuff on my first visit which means I'll need to go back and have another look.
Catch a film at Scotland's oldest purpose-built cinema
I'm old enough to remember proper intimate cinemas with character before the era of bland (and overpriced!) modern multiplexes. Going to the pictures was a huge treat when I was young and I felt beyond sad when the smaller local picture halls I loved started closing down for good.
When I find a proper old-school cinema I tend to get very excited but it isn't just about nostalgia, a night out to a watch a movie in a beautifully designed building just feels that bit more special and glamorous.
Opened in 1912, The Hippodrome in Bo'ness is Scotland's oldest purpose built picture house and a rare example of pre-art deco cinema architecture - it brings glamour in spades! Although it boasts historic credentials, a 21st century technology makeover has allowed it to stay relevant so the people of Bo'ness don't miss out on the latest blockbusters.
If you're visiting the town, taking in a movie here is quite a memorable experience and I for one am glad that this hark back to the golden age of cinema has survived.
Discover the town's Roman history
This post is part of a paid partnership with Film on Forth, to try out their filming location itineraries and write about my experience.
I vividly remember sitting in the cinema watching Braveheart and leaving with the overwhelming urge to learn more of my country's history and explore the many places mentioned that were still a mystery to me. Before you start shouting about its gross historical inaccuracies and Irish backdrops, I'm well aware, but to this day I still love that movie and I'm not ashamed to admit it!
In more recent years I've joined the swelling rank of Outlander fans inspired to track down some of the atmospheric filming locations in Scotland that starred in the TV show. From Harry Potter to James Bond, the dramatic and characterful Scottish landscape has not only attracted countless film crews, but also fans, creating a growing industry centred around film tourism.
From my personal experience I know that destinations on screen can ignite a powerful desire to not only visit a place but also to find out more about it. Featured attractions are almost always even more interesting in real life than their fictional alter egos.
When I was invited to visit some of the Scottish filming locations less than an hour from Edinburgh and Glasgow, I jumped at the chance, especially as there were a few places that I had never been before.
Film on Forth is a project that encourages visitors to explore filming locations across West Lothian and neighbouring Falkirk through a range of self-guided itineraries. Many of the places have featured in Outlander, along with some other well known Scottish films.
You don't have to be a TV or movie buff to enjoy these places as they are all attractions in their own right, but if you are a fan, you'll definitely love seeing these screen stars for yourself.
Filming Locations in West Lothian
Taking in the historic town of Linlithgow and views of the famous Forth Bridges, spend a day or two exploring the old and the new attractions of West Lothian.
Midhope Castle aka Lallybroch or Broch Tuarach is instantly recognisable to any fan of the Outlander TV series and is the holy grail among Scottish Outlander filming locations. You can't go into the castle but it is a 'must photograph' spot for any fan and an astute entrepreneur has designed these Lallybroch keys which make for a brilliant photo prop. You can buy them for £1 in an honesty box next to the castle and they make a fun souvenir to take home too, so you know I just had to have one!
Midhope Castle dates back to the 15th century but has been derelict since the 20th century. However, thanks to its TV fame and funds raised from the entrance fee, it is due to get a new lease of life with plans to restore the building, adding visitor accommodation and a new whisky distillery in the grounds.
The castle is located on the sprawling Hopetoun Estate and close to Hopetoun House which has also made several Outlander appearances so you might want to add a tour of the house to your itinerary if you have the time.
On a recent short break in the Falkirk area I was impressed by the many places I visited that welcomed dogs. I didn't have my own furry adventure buddy with me on this particular trip but I did think it would be a destination that I could take her to in the future and not feel like I was having to compromise on too many things that I wanted to see and do.
As a dog owner myself, I know how frustrating and time-consuming it can be having to research dog friendly options when I'm visiting somewhere so I thought it would be helpful if I put together this guide to the places that I came across that welcome dogs in the Falkirk area.
I'm sure there will be other options out there that I have missed and if you are a dog friendly business or know of a business that is definitely dog friendly in the Falkirk area, do drop me an e-mail and I'll add it to the list.
For those with furbabies, I hope you find this blog post helpful.
DOG FRIENDLY WALKS IN AND AROUND FALKIRK
From town parks to country estates and canal side strolls, there is a huge variety of walks around Falkirk where furry members of the family can enjoy a good leg stretch. It might surprise you to discover that Falkirk has been crowned Britain's best walking neighbourhood.
There are 383 miles of signposted and well-maintained paths so it would take me a while to list all the walking options but here are a few of my top picks with nice walking trails.
DOG FRIENDLY PLACES TO EAT & DRINK IN AND AROUND FALKIRK
I don't know about you but I don't really class places that make you sit outside as dog friendly, I mean, realistically, how often is the weather nice enough to dine al fresco in Scotland?!
From personal experience and feedback from other dog owners, the following places all allow your dog to join you inside for a drink or a meal so you will be made to feel welcome come rain or shine. Some even keep treats and water bowls for four-legged visitors which we all know is a way of bribing your dog to bring their owners back again!
DOG FRIENDLY ATTRACTIONS IN AND AROUND FALKIRK
It is always good to be able to add a bit of sightseeing when you're travelling with your dog and Falkirk has a few great options, including its most famous sites!
This post is part of a paid partnership with Visit Falkirk who invited me to explore the region and write about my experience.
If, like me, you are a bit guilty of only gravitating towards The Kelpies or The Falkirk Wheel on trips to the Falkirk area, you are missing out on much of the fascinating history and outdoor activities that the region has to offer.
Recently I spent 2 days expanding my horizons and explorations to include the historic heart of the town and the surrounding green spaces. I made many surprising discoveries along the way and my perception of Falkirk has drastically changed. For example, did you know that Falkirk won Britain's best walking neighbourhood award, partly due to having 383 miles of well-maintained and signposted paths? The number of walking and cycling options definitely came as a surprise to me.
Less than an hour from Glasgow and Edinburgh, it makes an ideal day trip from either city, although after reading this blog post I hope you might be inspired to spend a bit longer there. However, if you do only have one day, I've put together an itinerary that covers the best of Falkirk imho!
If you are planning a trip with your furry companion, you might want to check out my guide listing dog friendly things to do in Falkirk.
Here are my recommended things to do if you only have 1 day to explore Falkirk
STOP 1 - CALLENDAR HOUSE AND PARK
This is a superb starting point for any trip to the area as it reveals Falkirk's many historical layers and gives you a deeper appreciation of the places you will visit later in the day.
The exhibition at Callendar House was much bigger than I anticipated and I had only set an hour aside which is enough if you don't spend too long in each room, but if you have the time, you might want to add on another 30 minutes.
From medieval beginnings to Roman invasion and industrial expansion, every significant period of local history has a dedicated space - and the best thing? It is free to visit which is brilliant as it is a real gem. It feels more like a museum and there is lots and lots to see!
The exhibition is located inside Callendar House, a 14th century mansion house set in beautiful parkland. As you follow the displays, you also pass through the Georgian kitchen which might be familiar to Outlander fans as it was used as the Duke of Sandringham's House in Season 2.
Outlander Fan? Then you might also want to check out these local filming locations -
Visit the Film on Forth website for more film and TV locations in the area
When I absorbed as much history as I could handle, I grabbed a takeaway coffee from the shop and followed one of the paths around the park which gave me a nice morning boost before my next stop.
Discover more - In the park you will also find ornamental gardens, a small loch, a family mausoleum and sections of the Antonine Wall.
STOP 2 - FALKIRK TOWN CENTRE HERITAGE TRAIL
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