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West Lothian
Wast Lowden
Lodainn an Iar
West Lothian in Scotland.svg
W Lothian council arms.png
Coat of arms
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country Scotland
Lieutenancy area West Lothian
Admin HQ Livingston
 • Body West Lothian Council
 • Total 165.1 sq mi (427.7 km2)
Area rank Ranked 20th
 • Total 182,140
 • Rank Ranked 9th
 • Density 1,102.97/sq mi (425.86/km2)
ONS code S12000040
ISO 3166 code GB-WLN
Largest town Livingston, West Lothian

West Lothian (Scots: Wast Lowden; Scottish Gaelic: Lodainn an Iar) is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland, and was one of its historic counties. The county, which was known as Linlithgowshire, was bounded geographically by the Avon to the west and the Almond to the east. The modern council area occupies a larger area than the historic county. It was reshaped following local government reforms in the late 20th century: some areas in the west were transferred to Falkirk; some areas in the east were transferred to Edinburgh; and some areas that had formerly been part of in Midlothian were added.

West Lothian lies on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth and is predominantly rural, though there were extensive coal, iron, and shale oil mining operations in the 19th and 20th centuries. These created distinctive red-spoil heaps (locally known as "bings") throughout the council area. The old county town was the royal burgh of Linlithgow, but the largest town (and the second largest town in the Lothian region after Edinburgh) is now Livingston. Other large towns in the county include Bathgate (a town with medieval origins that developed extensively during the industrial revolution) and the historic mining settlements of Armadale, Fauldhouse, Whitburn, West Calder, Uphall, and Broxburn.


The council area borders, in a clockwise direction, the council areas of Edinburgh, the Scottish Borders, North and South Lanarkshire, and Falkirk. The county bordered Midlothian (which then included Edinburgh), Lanarkshire, and Stirlingshire. Its eastern border with Midlothian was formed by the Briech Water, from its source until it reached the Almond, and it then followed the Almond to the Forth (except by Livingston, where Midlothian intruded about a mile past the Almond to include the hamlets of Howden, Craigshill, and Pumpherston). The southern border was mostly arbitrary, while the western border was formed first by the Drumtassie Burn and then by the Avon. It had an area of 120 sq. miles (310 km2), making it the third smallest of Scotland's 33 counties and smaller than the modern council area. Significant towns not included in the council area are the coastal burghs of Bo'ness and Queensferry and the town of Kirkliston.

Geologically, most of the area is underlaid by Carboniferous sedimentary rocks running in strips from north to south. The eastern and southern rocks are the oldest and least useful. Further west is a large field of shale oil, then sedimentary and basalt rocks supplying silica sand, and then coal.

The area rises from lowlands in the north to the Pentland Hills in the southeast, while the southwest is moorland. Two thirds of the land is agricultural, while a tenth is urban. Significant watercourses include the Almond and the Union Canal, while the main bodies of water are Linlithgow Loch and the various reservoirs in the Pentlands.


Linlithgow Palace from Cockleroy Hill
Linlithgow town and palace.

West Lothian was extensively settled in prehistoric times, and several ancient burial sites have been uncovered, such as at Cairnpapple Hill. There are remains of hillforts on Cockleroy, Peace Knowe, Bowden, Cairnpapple, and Binns Hills. The area was anciently inhabited by Britons of the tribe known as the Votadini or Gododdin. By 83 AD, southern Scotland had been conquered by Romans, who built a road from their fort at Cramond to the eastern end of the Antonine Wall, as well as forts in West Lothian (of which Castle Greg is a known example). The Romans withdrew roughly two centuries later, and the area was left to the Britons until the arrival of Anglo-Saxons in the fifth and sixth centuries, who brought Lothian under the rule of the Kingdom of Northumbria. In later centuries the region was regularly overrun by Gaelic-speaking Scots, and it became permanently part of the Kingdom of Scotland in the 11th century.

Scotland was split into sheriffdoms, what would later become counties, in the reign of David I. The first known reference to a sheriff of Linlithgow occurs in a charter dating from the reign of his successor Malcolm IV. For a time West Lothian became a constabulary, but it seems to have been made a sheriffdom again during the reign of James III.

Shale bing, Niddry. - - 45995
Niddry bing

In pre-industrial times West Lothian was almost entirely agricultural. In the way of heavy industry there was a silver mine at Cairnpapple, a cotton mill at Blackburn, paper mills at Linlithgow, and shallow coal mines around Bathgate and Whitburn. The county was radically changed by the Industrial Revolution, with the opening of deep-pit iron, coal, and shale oil mines, as well as foundries and brickworks. Many of the houses built for the expanding population were shoddy, necessitating the building of thousands of council houses in the latter part of the 20th century, especially at Livingston, which had historically been a minor village. The bings produced by the mining industry, 19 of which still stand in West Lothian, were at first considered blights, but now are thought of as monuments to Scotland's industrial past, and a representation of one appears on the council's coat of arms. Heavy industry declined after the Second World War, and the last shale oil mine closed in 1962.

Places of interest

See also the pages of the West Lothian Archaeological Trust

Mentions in popular culture

The West Lothian question, referring to whether Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish MPs should be allowed to vote on English laws, is so named because it was supposedly first raised by Tam Dalyell while he was MP for West Lothian.

Famous people from West Lothian include:

  • Susan Boyle, from Blackburn, a singer who achieved fame on the TV series Britain's Got Talent
  • Ian Colquhoun, from Livingston, author and actor
  • Dario Franchitti, from Whitburn, four-time Indy Car series champion, and three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500
  • Leon Jackson, from Whitburn, winner of The X Factor in 2007
  • James the Fifth, born at Linlithgow Palace, King of Scots
  • Mary, born at Linlithgow Palace, Queen of Scots
  • Paul di Resta, from Uphall, DTM race driver for Mercedes-Benz, and the cousin of Dario Franchitti
  • Alex Salmond, from Linlithgow, politician and former First Minister of Scotland
  • David Tennant, from Bathgate, actor
  • Sir Charles Wyville Thompson, from Linlithgow, biologist


Tesco Distribution Centre, Livingston, West Lothian
Tesco's Distribution Centre for Scotland and Northern Ireland between Livingston and Bathgate

West Lothian has a diverse economy and as of 2020 had approximately 4,500 businesses providing almost 72,000 jobs in the area. In 2014, West Lothian Council reported that the five largest employment sectors in the council area were healthcare, construction, retail, manufacturing, and business administration and support services. While historically, mining and shale oil production were key employers in the region, as of 2014 they only accounted for 0.7% of persons employed in West Lothian. The ten largest private employers in West Lothian are Sky UK, Tesco, Mitsubishi Electric, IQVIA (formerly Quintiles/Q2 Solutions), Asda, Morrisons, Johnson & Johnson, Schuh, Jabil and Shin-Etsu Europe. The two largest public sector employers in the county are West Lothian Council and NHS Scotland.

The Starlaw distillery is a Scotch whisky grain distillery at Bathgate that is owned by French drinks group La Martiniquaise. The distillery opened in 2010 and can produce 25 million litres annually and has 29 ageing warehouses (cellars) across 75 hectares at the distillery to allow for the maturation of over 600,000 barrels. Glenmorangie, the whisky distillers have offices and a bottling facility in Livingston that was opened in 2011.

West Lothian has several shopping centres, the largest of which are located in Livingston, including 'The Centre' (comprising more than 1,000,000 square foot of retail space) and Livingston Designer Outlet (the largest outlet mall in Scotland). The combined retail spaces of central Livingston form the largest indoor shopping location in Scotland and the 10th largest in the UK.

There are several large scale wind farms in West Lothian, predominantly in the south-west of the county, used to produce electricity across the region, including Pates Hill wind farm, Harburnhead wind farm, and Black Law wind farm.


Almondvale Stadium, Livingston
Almondvale Stadium, the home of Livingston F.C. in Livingston

West Lothian has dozens of professional and local level football teams playing across a variety of leagues (tiers) in the Scottish football league system. In the Scottish Premiership, Livingston F.C. who relocated to Livingston in 1995 to the Almondvale Stadium, represent the county. In the Lowland Football League other West Lothian Clubs play, including Blackburn United F.C., Broxburn Athletic F.C., and Linlithgow Rose F.C. West Lothian has numerous junior football clubs, some of whom, such as Bathgate Thistle F.C. (whose ground is at Creamery Park) play in the Scottish Junior Football Association.

The West Lothian Sports Council represents a variety of sports clubs and organisations in West Lothian. Other sports teams in West Lothian include Linlithgow RFC, a Scottish Rugby Union club who play in East Regional League Division One, Livingston RFC, and the Edinburgh Monarchs, a Scottish Speedway team, based in Armadale who compete in the SGB Championship. Cricket is played at a local level at sites such as Boghall Cricket Club Ground in Linlithgow.

Swimming facilities are located across West Lothian in most of the towns and Swim West Lothian is an organisation, operating in partnership with West Lothian Council and Scottish Swimming that organises local swimming clubs, training and swimming galas.


West Lothian has 11 secondary schools, 12 special schools, 67 primary schools, and 60 nurseries. While West Lothian has no university, further and adult education facilities are provided at West Lothian College based in Livingston. The college has sports facilities, a library, a training restaurant for hospitality students, and a salon/spa. The college provides educational services to over 8,000 students a year and has 350 staff.

Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) has a campus in Livingston at Oatridge, near Ecclesmachan providing courses on subjects such as agriculture, veterinary medicine, conservation, horticulture, and landscaping.

West Lothian has 14 public libraries. A local and regional history library which includes items on the history of West Lothian and Linlithgowshire is located in Linlithgow.



The main trunk roads in West Lothian are:

Other principal A roads in West Lothian include the A71 road (which passes through the south of the county connecting settlements including Livingston, Polbeth, West Calder and Breich), the A899 and A705 in Livingston, and the A801 road which runs from east of Polmont to Whitburn.


Almond Valley Viaduct in West Lothian between Broxburn and Ratho

Several railway routes run through West Lothian. These include:

  • The North Clyde Line between Glasgow and Edinburgh via stations such as Livingston North, Bathgate, Armadale and Blackridge.
  • The Shotts Line between Glasgow and Edinburgh via stations such as Faulhouse, Breich, Addiewell, West Calder, Livingston South and Kirknewtown.
  • The Glasgow–Edinburgh via Falkirk line via Linlithgow railway station.

West Lothian has a number of former, disused and defunct railway lines, principally branch lines that originated in connection with oil, mineral and shale mining activities in the 19th century but were later closed as traffic diminished and industrial operations ceased.

Many of the railways in West Lothian use significant viaducts to cross rivers, ravines and other difficult terrain. One prominent example is the Almond Valley Viaduct built by railway engineer John Miller to carry the Glasgow–Edinburgh via Falkirk line and completed in 1842. The viaduct is 1.5 miles long with 36 masonry arches, is Category A listed and features as the logo of West Lothian Council.


West Lothian has no airport or airfields in current operation. The county has a few historic airfields, now defunct, including a temporary airfield that once existed in Bathgate. While the village of Kirknewtown is inside West Lothian, the nearby RAF Kirknewton airfield lies inside the boundary of Edinburgh. The nearest airport in operation to West Lothian is Edinburgh Airport.

Notable residents

Notable residents of West Lothian include monarchs and political figures including Mary Queen of Scots (born at Linlithgow Palace), King James the Fifth (born at Linlithgow Palace), Robin Cook (the Member of Parliament for Livingston from 1983 to 2005), Alex Salmond (from Linlithgow, the former First Minister of Scotland), and Sir Tom Dalyell (the Member of Parliament for Linlithgow from 1962 to 2005).

West Lothian sports personalities include Dario Franchitti (from Whitburn, four-time Indy Car series champion, and three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500), Paul di Resta (from Uphall, DTM race driver for Mercedes-Benz, and the cousin of Dario Franchitti), and Peter 'Snakebite' Wright (born in Livingston, PDC World darts champion).

Actors, musicians and entertainers include Susan Boyle (from Blackburn, a singer who achieved fame on the TV series Britain's Got Talent), Lewis Capaldi (a singer/songwriter from Whitburn and Bathgate), Ian Colquhoun (from Livingston, author and actor), Leon Jackson (from Whitburn, winner of The X Factor in 2007) and David Tennant (from Bathgate, actor)

Figures from industry and academia include John Fleming (from Bathgate, a naturalist, zoologist and geologist), Sir Charles Wyville Thompson (from Linlithgow, a natural historian and marine zoologist), and James Young Simpson (an obstetrician and significant figure in the history of medicine).

Images for kids

See also

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