Author Archives: Friends of Kinneil

Free talk, ‘The Antonine Wall Distance Tablets’, by Geoff Bailey, 19 September

Come along to a free talk by Geoff Bailey in Bo’ness Library at 2pm on Thursday afternoon, 19 September, hosted by the Friends of Kinneil in association with Falkirk Community Trust as part of its Big Roman Week festival.


Geoff is an excellent speaker and historian, with unrivalled knowledge and experience over many years of our Roman heritage, as district archaeologist for the Falkirk area.

The Roman inscriptions marking the construction of the Antonine Wall are a most remarkable collection, unique to this frontier. They are very ornate and the iconography tells us a lot about Roman attitude to the frontier. They also inform us about the way in which the work on the linear frontier was divided up amongst the various legions and what they called it. But where were they set up and who was the intended audience?

Please note that although the main library (a heritage building) is on the ground floor and has good accessibility – the main meeting rooms, where the talk will take place, are up one flight of stairs on the first floor. There is no lift.

No booking needed, free event.

History of Kinneil Kirk, by Geoff Bailey

Kinneil is among the oldest known parishes in Scotland, long pre-dating Bo’ness.

It was referred to in the early 8th Century by the historian Bede, and is also associated with mediaeval accounts of the legend of the 6th-Century missionary, St Serf.

Kinneil may therefore have been a site of Christian worship for 1,500 years or more. The surviving ruin of Kinneil Kirk dates back to the 12th Century. The church was for many centuries a local landmark, and a beacon to shipping in the Firth of Forth.

Historian and district archaeologist Geoff Bailey has written an excellent short history of Kinneil Kirk, which was first produced for the Falkirk Local History Society.

Geoff has kindly agreed to us also making his booklet available here to the widest possible readership. Together with his history of the estate, and his wider archaeological research in the area, it will be an invaluable resource for all those interested in Kinneil’s exceptional history.

In 2014, Geoff and others undertook further excavations and preservation work at Kinneil Kirk as part of the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative, an account of which is available here. His history of the Kirk was then also published in print version by Falkirk Community Trust. Hard copies of this are available in Kinneil Museum.



Doors Open Day, 14 September, and start of Big Roman Week

Historic Kinneil House will be open for free guided tours on Saturday 14 September for Doors Open Day, and with additional Roman-themed activities marking the first day of Big Roman Week.


Free Kinneil House tours on 14 September run from 10am till 4pm, with the last admission at 3pm, and must be reserved online in advance of the tour date via Availability is limited, so book now to avoid disappointment. The Historic Environment Scotland (HES) booking page advises: “Please be aware that tour bookings are taken offline at midnight the day prior to the tour date. If the date you wish to book has no availability, please contact us and we will advise if an additional tour can be provided on that date. Please phone 0131 558 9326 or email”.

The ‘Roman Day’ aspect of the event is this year provided by the ‘Re-Discovering the Antonine Wall’ project (which is substantially funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund) team. Replica Roman tents will be on display outside the museum at Kinneil from 10am to 3pm to give an idea of what it was like for a Roman soldier to be on military campaign in Scotland.

Other Roman reproductions include a military flask, pottery and weapons. The organisers state, ‘This is your chance to handle a gladius – the short stabbing sword used by the legionaries – feel the weight. Experts will be on hand to put the objects into context and provide additional information’.

You can visit and enjoy the Roman activities even if not booked for a house tour.

Doors Open Days is Scotland’s largest free festival that celebrates heritage and the built environment. It offers free access to over a thousand venues across the country throughout September, every year. Co-ordinated nationally by the Scottish Civic Trust, it is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Big Roman Week, organised by Falkirk Community Trust, runs from 14 to 22 September and sees a broad range of events taking place across the area, celebrating the Roman heritage surrounding the Antonine Wall World Heritage Site, which extends across Central Scotland and includes Kinneil Estate. A copy of the full programme of events (pdf) is available here – including other events in Bo’ness, and a free guided walk from Kinneil to Polmont on Sunday 15 September.

The tours inside the house are operated by HES, with some of our own volunteer guides also in support. For any queries about the house tours please contact Historic Environment Scotland, or about Big Roman Week activities please contact Falkirk Community Trust.


Bo’ness Revival – Historic Hill Climb & Classic Car Event, 31 August/1 September

As if all its other layers of world-class heritage weren’t enough, Kinneil is also Scotland’s first true motor-racing venue! The spectacular Hill Climb event lives on, & it’s this weekend: find out more at the Bo’ness Revival web site (and/or Facebook page).

The 2019 event celebrates the 60th anniversary of Jim Clark at Bo’ness in 1959.

This year, Historic Scotland will also open the magnificent Kinneil House to racegoers (event ticket-holders) from 1-4pm on Sunday, 1 September – visitors will be able to speak to Historic Scotland guides, and to some of our own volunteers, inside the house to learn more of its history (no set tour times, open access subject to limited numbers at any one time).


Join The Friends of Kinneil – now only £3! Meet us at Volunteer Fayre, 29 August, to find out more

The membership subscription to join The Friends of Kinneil is now just £3/year, or £5 for couples/families!

Following our recent AGM, it was agreed to introduce these new, reduced rates so as to make membership of the award-winning heritage charity as accessible as possible to the widest number of people.

Are you interested in the fantastic history and heritage of the local area? Would you like to show your support for our objectives to see further development of Kinneil House, Museum, Estate and Nature Reserve – and the surrounding area? Do you enjoy meeting people, volunteering and have skills which could be helpful to us? Are you a newcomer to Bo’ness, or established resident, and keen to become involved in a friendly and enthusiastic group which in 2016 won a Scottish Heritage Angel Award for our commitment to heritage volunteering?

  • Discover 2,000 years of history
  • Explore local and world heritage
  • Support conservation activities
  • Enjoy open days and social events
  • Help fundraising and development.

Then please join us! You’ll find all the details of how to join, and an application form, on our ‘Friends’ page. A group/corporate subscription is also available at £25/year.

If you’d first like to find out more and talk to some of our existing members, why not come along to the free Bo’ness Volunteer Fayre this Thursday, 2-8pm, in Bo’ness Town Hall? You’ll also be able to talk to many other groups carrying out a range of fantastic activities across the town. You can find all the details on the poster below. Or just contact us by e-mail or telephone, or come to another of our events – we’d be happy to tell you more about the benefits of membership.

Groups such as ours could not continue and succeed without all the amazing efforts of the people who support and help us, and we rely on a wide range of skills to do this – read our ‘Volunteering’ page for examples. Most of all we need support and enthusiasm. so please join us, or simply make a donation, even if you’re not able to contribute volunteering time – we understand everyone’s other commitments.

We hope to see some of you very soon!

Volunteer Fair August 2019

Free James Watt film show, Bo’ness Library, Friday 23 August 7pm – plus exhibition

Head along to a free film showing at Bo’ness Library on Friday evening, organised by Falkirk Libraries – part of the James Watt Bicentenary weekend and celebrating the life and work of the Scottish inventor, engineer and scientist.

A series of films will be shown on the night, including a short film about Watt’s cottage workshop at Kinneil Estate. There will also be vintage films from Scotland’s Moving Image Archive.

Bo’ness Library is also hosting a display on James Watt which will run until mid-September. There is currently another small James Watt display at the Museum of Scottish Railways, also in Bo’ness.

Admission to the exhibition and film show are free of charge. No need to book. Please note that the film will take place in the library’s community room, which is up one flight of stairs. There is no lift.

For more information about all this weekend’s Watt-themed events across the country, check out the special web site. There are also free Watt-themed family activities at Kinneil Estate on Sunday afternoon, as well as free tours inside Kinneil House (booking essential) on Friday and Sunday from 10am – see our previous posts.


Historic Kinneil House open for free guided tours on 23 & 25 August


Historic Kinneil House will be open for free guided tours this Friday and Sunday – 23 & 25 August.

Tours run from 10am till 4pm, with the last admission at 3pm, and must be reserved online in advance of the tour date via . Availability is limited, so book now to avoid disappointment. The Historic Environment Scotland (HES) booking page advises: “Please be aware that tour bookings are taken offline at midnight the day prior to the tour date. If the date you wish to book has no availability, please contact us and we will advise if an additional tour can be provided on that date. Please phone 0131 558 9326 or email”

On Sunday 25 August from 1pm to 4pm, also join the free special family-friendly activities taking place in the grounds surrounding the house to mark the Bicentenary of the death of James Watt. Please see our separate post for further details of this event, organised by the Great Place Falkirk team. No need to book these activities – just turn up! It is only if you wish a tour inside the house as well, that you need to book as above.

The tours inside the house are operated by HES, with some of our own volunteer guides also in support.

For any queries about the house tours please contact Historic Environment Scotland, or about the ‘Watt a Day!’ James Watt event in the park please contact Great Place Falkirk.

‘Watt a Day!’ free family event at Kinneil Estate on 25 August

Come along to free family activities in Kinneil Estate from 1-4pm on Sunday 25 August, organised by the Great Place Falkirk project team to celebrate the life and work of the great Scottish engineer James Watt – who was working secretly with Dr John Roebuck at Kinneil exactly 250 years ago on the development of Watt’s most famous invention – the condensing steam engine.

‘Watt a Day!’ will be one of various events taking place across the country to commemorate the Bicentenary of James Watt’s death on 25 August 1819. For information on the range of Bicentenary events, check out the special James Watt 2019 web site.

The magnificent Kinneil House will also be opened for free guided tours on both 23 and 25 August by Historic Scotland in partnership with the Friends of Kinneil. The house tours run from 10am, before the Watt events begin, until 4pm (last entry 3pm) and must be booked in advance through Historic Environment Scotland’s web site at . Please note that tour availability is limited so book early to avoid disappointment, but if tours are fully booked, families can still enjoy all the free Watt activities on Sunday afternoon, as well as visit Kinneil Museum (open free, daily except Tuesdays, 12.30-4pm) and the rest of historic Kinneil Estate.

For any queries please contact either Great Place Falkirk or Historic Environment Scotland respectively.


Historic Environment Scotland commit to increase access to Kinneil House

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has expressed commitment to increasing access and improving the visitor experience at Kinneil House, as they publicise further details of the forthcoming series of free open dates at Kinneil House, supported by the Friends of Kinneil and Falkirk Community Trust. Read the full story and check out the dates on HES’s news pages. Tours must be pre-booked online through the ‘What’s On’ page of Historic Environment Scotland’s web site.



See inside Kinneil House on March 23

kinneilhouse-boness-exterioraa.jpgHistory fans can get a peek inside historic Kinneil House, Bo’ness, on Saturday, March 23, 2019.

The Friends of Kinneil charity has teamed up with Historic Environment Scotland to run free tours inside the mansion, which dates back to the 16th century.

Tours will run from noon to 4 p.m., with the last admission at 3.30 p.m.

All tours will run from Kinneil Museum. You’ll be allocated a timed tour on the day, on a first-come, first served basis. Normally tours run every 15 to 20 minutes.

Please note, for safety reasons, there are restrictions on the number of people we can accommodate on each tour – and children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

The event is being run to support the Hippodrome Silent Film Festival, which is running in Bo’ness over the same weekend. 

Vintage silent movies of the Bo’ness Fair will also be on show in the museum through the afternoon.

Keep visiting this site and our social media feeds on Facebook and Twitter for updates.


Inside Kinneil House – Arbour Room


HOW: Book a timed tour of the House by visiting Kinneil Museum – the red-roofed building in front of the big mansion – on the day of the open day. Tours normally run every 15 minutes from noon, leaving from the museum and walking the short distance into the House. Last admission to the mansion is 3.30 p.m. Volunteer guides will be on hand to take the tours and to answer any questions. Additional volunteers are in the museum to help you. The Museum opens early around noon on open days (normally it opens at 12.30 p.m.).

COST: Admission to the House and the Museum is free of charge. Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult.

ADVANCE TICKETS: Currently tour tickets are only available on the day from the museum. You can’t book tickets in advance or online. Numbers on each tour are limited for health and safety reasons.

ACCESS: The House is around 500 years old in parts – and doesn’t have a lift. Everyone can get access to the oldest section, the Tower House (albeit just to a platform inside the tower). For the Palace section, you have to go down a few stairs to reach the ground floor. There is also one flight of stairs up to the star attractions, the painted rooms. There are two further flights of stairs to displays on the top floor …. Neighbouring Kinneil Museum also has stairs; however, there is a ramped access to the ground floor and an accessible toilet. The Museum also has an iPad with images of rooms inside Kinneil House …. Key paths around the Estate are also accessible using wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

PARKING: In front of the House and museum. If in doubt, ask one of the volunteers across the site.

PHOTOGRAPHY: No flash photography is allowed in the painted rooms at Kinneil.

REFRESHMENTS: A stall selling drinks and sweet treats is normally operational during open days. If you want a meal, you can find cafes and restaurants around Bo’ness. (Sorry – but you can’t take food or drinks into Kinneil House itself!)

OTHER THINGS TO SEE: The museum offers displays and maps about the surrounding Estate, which also boasts a Roman fortlet, the ruins of a medieval church and a cottage workshop used by inventor James Watt.

DIRECTIONS: The postcode is EH51 0PR.

QUERIES: Ask volunteers at the event, or email the Friends: 


The event on March 23, supports the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema, taking place at the historic Hippodrome Cinema and other venues around Bo’ness.

Download the festival brochure

Hippfest brochure