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A view of Bo'ness from a hill with a cemetery on the right, houses on the left and the Firth of Forth and Fife in the distance
A view over the town looking north towards the Firth of Forth
Bo'ness is east in the of the Falkirk council area, on the coast of the River Forth, in the Central Belt of mainland Scotland.
Bo'ness is east in the of the Falkirk council area, on the coast of the River Forth, in the Central Belt of mainland Scotland.
Area 2.3 sq mi (6.0 km2)
Population 14,840 (2020)
• Density 6,452/sq mi (2,491/km2)
OS grid reference NS998816
• Edinburgh 16.9 mi (27.2 km)
• London 343 mi (552 km)
Council area
Lieutenancy area
  • Stirling and Falkirk
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town BO'NESS
Postcode district EH51
Dialling code 01506
Police Central Scotland
Fire Central Scotland
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament
  • Linlithgow and
    East Falkirk
Scottish Parliament
  • Falkirk East
List of places
56°01′01″N 3°36′32″W / 56.01681°N 3.60891°W / 56.01681; -3.60891

Borrowstounness (commonly known as Bo'ness ( boh-NESS)) is a town and former burgh and seaport on the south bank of the Firth of Forth in the Central Lowlands of Scotland. Historically part of the county of West Lothian, it is a place within the Falkirk council area, 16.9 miles (27.2 km) north-west of Edinburgh and 6.7 miles (10.8 km) east of Falkirk. At the 2011 United Kingdom census, the population of the Bo'ness locality was 15,100.

Until the 20th century, Bo'ness was the site of various industrial activities, including coal mining, saltmaking and pottery production. With its location beside the Forth, the town and its harbour grew in importance during the industrial revolution and later continued to grow into the Victorian era. Since the late 20th century, deindustrialisation has changed the nature of the town, with the coal mine closing in 1982 and the waterfront area now being primarily used for leisure purposes. However, some industry remains in the town including an ironworks and a timberyard/sawmill beside the Forth. The centre of the town contains several listed buildings and is part of a conservation area. The town is the home of the Museum of Scottish Railways and also a regional motor museum.


The name Borrowstoun refers to a hamlet a short way inland from Borrowstounness. The suffix 'ness' (Norse for 'headland') serves to differentiate the larger town from the hamlet. The name itself is derived from the Old English Beornweardstun meaning 'Beornweard's town'. 'Beornweard' is itself an Old English name (from Beorn, 'warrior/man' or 'bear', and weard, 'warden, guardian, keeper'.)

This was later corrupted to Borrowstoun, Scots for 'town with a charter'.

The town's full name is rarely used, and is nowadays almost always contracted to Bo'ness.



Near infra-red kite aerial photo of Kinneil Roman Fortlet
Near infra-red kite aerial photo of Kinneil Roman Fortlet, Falkirk.

Bo'ness has important historical links to the Roman period and marks the eastern extent of the Antonine Wall which stretched from Bo'ness to Old Kilpatrick on the west coast of Scotland. The Antonine Wall was named as an extension to the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site by UNESCO in July 2007. A Roman fortlet can still be seen at Kinneil Estate.

Roman artifacts, some with inscriptions, have been found in the eastern part of the town at Carriden. A Roman fort called Veluniate, long since lost to history, once stood on the site now occupied by the grounds of Carriden House. Indeed, it is said that stones from the fort were used in the building of the mansion house.

Several artifacts have been uncovered over the years by the local farming community, including The Bridgeness Slab with many of them now on display in the Museum of Edinburgh. Other Roman sites have been identified at Muirhouses (known locally as 'The Murrays') and Kinglass on the south-east side of the town.

Kinneil House

Kinneil House is a historic house to the west of Bo'ness now in the care of Historic Scotland. It sits within a public park, which also incorporates a section of the Roman Antonine Wall. In the grounds of Kinneil House is the ruin of the small house where James Watt worked on his steam engine.

Kinneil was mentioned by Bede, who wrote that it was named Pennfahel ('Wall's end') in Pictish and Penneltun in Old English. It was also Pengwawl in old Welsh.


A map of Borrowstounness from 1945
St Catharine's church - - 550087
St Catharine's Episcopal church
Bo'ness Hippodrome
Bo'ness Hippodrome

Bo'ness is now primarily a commuter town, with many of its residents travelling to work in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Falkirk. One of the main local sources of employment is the Ineos petrochemical facility (formerly BP) located in nearby Grangemouth.

Present-day attractions in the town include the Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway and the Birkhill Fireclay Mine. Kinneil House, built by the powerful Hamilton family in the 15th century, lies on the western edge of the town. In the grounds are a cottage where James Watt worked on his experimental steam engine and the steam cylinder of a Newcomen engine. The remains of an engine house are located in Kinningars Park, off Harbour Road.

Bo'ness has a single secondary school, Bo'ness Academy, and five primary schools: Kinneil, Deanburn, Bo'ness Public School, St Mary's, and the Grange School. There are a number of churches, including Bo'ness Old Kirk, Carriden Parish Church, St Andrew's Parish Church, Craigmailen United Free Church, St. Catharine's Episcopal Church, Bo'ness Apostolic Church, Bo'ness Baptist Church, The Bo'ness Salvation Army and St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church. On 25 October 2011 it was announced that the Rev Albert Bogle, minister at the town's St Andrew's Church, would be nominated to be Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for 2012.

As of 2011, consideration is being given to the possible renovation of the town's harbour.

Bo'ness is also home to the recently refurbished Hippodrome Cinema, which is the oldest picture house in Scotland. The building, along with many other buildings in Bo'ness, was designed by Matthew Steele, a local resident and architect. The Hippodrome was built in 1912.


Hippodrome, Bo'ness
Bo'ness Hippodrome

Ballantine Bo'ness Iron Company and Ballantine Engineering is an ironworks company in Bo’ness. The company was founded in 1856 and has produced ironworks for bridges in the UK, including the fascia panels of Westminster Bridge and North Bridge in Edinburgh. The company went into administration in 2013 but was revived with government support as ‘Ballantine Castings’ in 2014. In 2019, the company produced ironwork replacements for the roof of the Palace of Westminster and Elizabeth Tower. Other industry in the town includes Walker timberyard and sawmill which is located in Bo'ness beside the Forth on the Carriden Industrial Estate.

One of the main local sources of employment is the Ineos petrochemical facility (formerly BP) located in nearby Grangemouth.


Bo'ness is home to the football club Bo'ness United, and also to Bo'ness United Ladies and Bo'ness United Under 16s. A large fire damaged Bo’ness United's football ground in June 2019.

Bo'ness Academy has a rugby team. Bo'ness RFC has had its first ever rugby club established in September 2011. Bo'ness Cycling Club was reformed in 2010 as Velo Sport Bo'ness. Jim Smellie was 11 times Scottish Cycling Champion, and some of the trophies collected over the years can be viewed at Kinneil House Museum.

Bo'ness has also played an important role in British motorsport. Hillclimb events, including the first ever round of the British Hillclimb Championship and several thereafter, were held on a course on the Kinneil estate most years from 1932 until 1966. Since 2008, an annual Revival event for classic road-going and competition cars has been held on approximately the same course. Bo'ness Hill Climb is a hillclimbing course on the Kinneil Estate (site of the historic Kinneil House).


Bo'ness has a single secondary school, Bo'ness Academy. There are five primary schools: Kinneil, Deanburn, Bo'ness Public School, St Mary's, and the Grange School.

Notable people

  • George Baird, minister
  • John Begg, architect
  • Robert Burns (theologian), Scots Presbyterian became professor in Canada
  • Henry Cadell, geologist
  • George Denholm, Battle of Britain fighter pilot
  • George W. Easton, athlete
  • James Gardiner (British Army officer), redcoat
  • Jo Gibb, actor
  • Christine Grant, athletics director, University of Iowa
  • James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton
  • Margaret Kidd, advocate
  • Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall, children's writer
  • Michael Potter, minister and prisoner on the Bass Rock
  • James Brunton Stephens, Australian poet
  • Harcus Strachan, Canadian soldier, and winner of the Victoria Cross
  • William Young (1761–1847), Royal Navy
  • Charles Clough, a prominent geologist and mapmaker who was struck by a train to the south-west of Bo’ness; he subsequently died four days later in August 1916

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