You may remember me whisking you off on a virtual tour of Falkirk last September. It was a fun trip, so we were delighted when Visit Falkirk invited us back to see more. This time, we’d spend a couple of days exploring Falkirk, Bo’ness and beyond.
Day 1 – exploring Falkirk, Bo’ness and beyond
The ship that never sailed – Blackness Castle
The first stop on our day one itinerary was a medieval fortress a short drive from home. Arriving in Blackness village, we walked along the shore of the Firth of Forth towards Blackness Castle. The castle was built in the 15th century as a residence for the powerful Crichton family. It later became a royal household, garrison and prison.
The castle is known as ‘the ship that never sailed’ as it looks like a boat when viewed from the sea.
If you’re not familiar with the castle, you’ll undoubtedly find the name funny. Blackness is actually pronounced Black ness, which is much less grim.
Scotland’s strangest building – The Pineapple
Our next itinerary stop wasn’t too far away.
The Pineapple is one of Scotland’s most unusual buildings. It was built in 1761 as a summer house for the Earl of Dunmore. At the time pineapples were rare and a real status symbol – like an 18th century version of the Rolex watch.
If wacky accommodation is your thing, you can rent The Pineapple as a holiday let.
You don’t need to stay there to visit though, as the grounds are open to the public. They’re lovely and peaceful.
Coffee and Cake time – Torwood Garden Centre
After making a couple of stops we were ready for coffee and cake. Dogs are welcome inside Torwood Garden Centre and their ‘Rousay’ coffee shop too.
Inside, we chose a sunny table by the window and ordered coffee and scones.
The cafe does afternoon tea for humans and their four-legged friends. The doggy version includes a freshly baked pupcake, treats and a toy. We were too early to partake, but the staff kindly presented the boy with a takeaway version. His happy wee face was priceless.
We let him have his pupcake for elevenses. I’d say he rated it 10/10. We gave the coffee and scones 10/10 too.
A behind the scenes tour of Falkirk Distillery
Next, our attention turned to whisky.
Falkirk Distillery isn’t open to the public yet, but we were lucky enough to be given a behind the scenes tour of the family-run distillery.
I LOVE the whisky making process and am fond of a wee dram too, so I was delighted. Mr G has the whisky fear, but loves distillery tours. The Wee White Dug loves anywhere biscuits are on offer, so we were three happy bunnies.
I don’t know what I expected a new, family-owned distillery to look like, but it was hugely impressive inside and no small-scale operation. We could easily have been touring one of the big name distilleries.
I’ll definitely be returning when Falkirk Distillery open their doors to the public next year. With tours, tastings, a shop and restaurant on site, I’ll be in heaven.
Exploring Bo’ness town centre
We left Falkirk Distillery and headed to Bo’ness for a wander in the town centre. There are some lovely old buildings in Bo’ness, including the Hippodrome Cinema. It was built in 1912 and is Scotland’s oldest surviving purpose-built cinema.
The John Muir Way long distance walking route, passes through the town. You can walk or cycle the route. You don’t even need to own a bike, as e-bikes can be hired from the town’s Union Street car park (and at numerous other locations in and around Bo’ness and Falkirk).
A steam train ride – Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway
We were a tad excited about our next itinerary stop at Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway. Who wouldn’t be excited about riding on a train that looks like Thomas the Tank Engine?
Bo’ness and Kinneil railway is run by a dedicated team of volunteers who are passionate about preserving a bygone age of travel.
We felt like intrepid explorers setting off to discover a whole new world, as we boarded the train and settled at our table.
The boy was beaming with happiness. He loves travelling, but has only been on a train once before, so they’re a novelty for him.
It was lovely watching the countryside slowly drift by, as we travelled along the track towards the end of the line. Every now and then we’d hear the iconic sound of the train’s whistle.
We made a short stop at Birkhill Station so ‘Thomas’ could be turned for our return journey to Bo’ness.
All too soon our trip was over and it was time to return to 2021.
Lunch – The Corbie Inn, Bo’ness
Our next stop was at The Corbie Inn in Bo’ness. It’d been a busy morning and we were looking forward to lunch.
It was a gorgeous afternoon, so we decided to eat in the beer garden.
Our ice cold drinks really hit the spot. The boy wasn’t forgotten either. He was offered water and biscuits and both were gratefully received.
We had Cajun chicken salad with fries and garlic bread for lunch. It was excellent.
We left, delighted to have found another fab dog friendly eatery close to home.
A visit to Kinneil Estate and Museum
Our last itinerary stop of the day, before it was time to relax was at Kinneil Estate and Museum. There’s loads to see and do on the estate.
We started at the museum which is housed in a 17th century stable building. Dogs aren’t allowed inside the museum, so we took it in turns to visit. The museum is small, but really interesting. It tells the story of the estate and local area and really brings the history to life.
After exploring the museum we wandered round the outside of Kinneil House. The house was the principal residence of the wealthy Hamilton family. It dates to the 16th and is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a white lady. It’s an amazing old building but a tad creepy, so definitely needs a ghost.
The estate is a history geek’s dream.
Behind Kinneil House is a tiny workshop which James Watt used to develop the improved steam engine.
There’s a Roman fortlet too, which is part of the Antonine Wall complex.
The gable end of a 12th century church can also be found on the estate, alongside some 17th century carved gravestones.
Dinner – MBK Canalside
After a busy day we were looking forward to relaxing over dinner. We had a table booked at MBK Canalside. Our first impression was good. The restaurant was really smart inside and the staff were lovely. After perusing the menu we decided to have a main course and desserts each.
I had a delicious chicken gnocchi dish, while Mr G chose the pie of the day (steak and black pudding). It came served with fluffy mash – his favourite. He gave it a big thumbs up.
For dessert I had banoffee pie with ice cream. It looked as pretty as a picture and tasted fantastic. Mr G had sticky toffee pudding with ice cream – another favourite and another hit.
Happy and full, we left MBK Canalside to check into our accommodation.
Accommodation – Ardtalla Guest House
Ardtalla Guest House is located in the village of Slammanan. It stands on an elevated spot, surrounded by gorgeous mature grounds.
In a previous life the house was a Victorian police station. Today, it’s the charming home of the equally charming Lord and Lady Westerlea. Lord Westerlea is Chief of Clan Paisley.
Ardtalla has been meticulously restored in keeping with the age and style of the building. It’s a fairytale house, where you immediately feel at home.
Our bedroom and bathroom had originally been police cells. They’d once have been cold, clinical rooms but had been transformed into a lovely, cosy guest suite.
After settling in, we were invited to join Lord and Lady Westerlea in their garden for wine and nibbles.
Wine, nibbles and good company = a wonderful evening. We spent hours chatting about history and storytelling. Before we knew it, it was midnight – time for bed.
Day 2 – exploring Falkirk, Bo’ness and beyond
Breakfast – Ardtalla Guest House
Breakfast the next morning was a delight. We arrived in the dining room to find a beautifully laid table. It’s not every day you’re served breakfast by a Lord and Lady.
We feasted on fresh fruit with yoghurt and granola, followed by poached eggs (laid by the resident hens), avocado and bacon on toast for me. Mr G had scrambled eggs and bacon on toast.
We absolutely loved our stay at Ardtalla. It’s a wonderful place. I highly recommend staying there, as I know you’ll be as charmed too.
Animal magic – Cloybank Estate
After a short drive we got back to exploring Falkirk, Bo’ness and beyond. Our first stop was the Cloybank Estate where we met Michelle.
Cloybank is a dog friendly activity centre with a rifle range, fishery, putting green and animal area. They have a tearoom and shop too.
Michelle gave us a tour, then introduced us to the beasties who live at Cloybank. We met sheep, chickens, Heilan’ coos, alpacas, a donkey and goats. I’m obsessed with goats. It’s usually impossible to tear me away from them.
This time, it was the boy who was obsessed. Not with the goats though. It was alpacas George, Bruno and Rocky he fell in love with. He couldn’t take his eyes off them and refused to leave when we tried to move on. They seemed to like him too.
Lunch – 4 Coo Wynd, Falkirk
After leaving Cloybank, we drove to Falkirk town centre for lunch at 4 Coo Wynd.
4 Coo Wynd is a cute cafe with a fab breakfast and lunch menu. We hummed and hawed over various menu options, before ordering raspberry milkshakes and a soup and sandwich combo each.
The milkshakes were amazing, the sandwiches good and the soup a perfect lentil. It tasted like the soup my Nana used to make. Praise indeed, as she was the queen of soup making.
A history & heritage tour of Falkirk town centre
After lunch, we met up with Janice from Falkirk Delivers for a history and heritage tour of Falkirk town centre.
Janice was a brilliant guide, really knowledgable and easy company. After five minutes, it felt like we’d know her for ages.
One of the tour highlights was visiting the grave of Sir John de Graeme, who was William Wallace’s right hand man. Sir John died at the Battle of Falkirk in July 1298.
In addition to hearing about Falkirk’s historic closes and market place, we learned that John Logie Baird had given an early demonstration of the television in Falkirk. We also learned that the town was the birthplace of Scotland’s other national drink – Irn Bru.
My favourite stop, beside the medieval knight was at the Tattie Kirk. An octagonal church hidden down a lane. The Kirk’s name is thought to come from either the fact it was built on a potato field, or that the minister was paid in potatoes. I so hope it’s the latter. I could just imagine the minister asking his wife what they were having for dinner and her replying “tatties”. His response would surely have been “please, nae mair tatties”.
The Falkirk Tunnel
We squeezed in another stop before it was time for a break. The Falkirk Tunnel is an incredible 636 metres long. It’s dark, damp and creepy inside.
The notorious duo Burke and Hare helped to build the Union Canal, which passes through the tunnel. That was before they embarked on a less back-breaking career as murderers.
Ice cream time – The Milk Barn
After lurking in a tunnel, it was time to seek out light and happiness. We found it at The Milk Barn – an ice cream parlour in a pretty rural setting.
It was really busy when we arrived, and when we tasted the ice cream we instantly knew why. It was deeeeeeelious.
They did doggy ice cream too, so the boy was able to partake in an afternoon treat.
Mr G and I tried two flavours of ice cream each. I had Smurf (which tasted like bubblegum) and Turkish delight. Mr G had Scottish tablet and raspberry ripple. All four were winners, we’d chosen well.
More animal magic – Muiravonside Country Park
Our time exploring Falkirk, Bo’ness and beyond was drawing to a close, but we had one last itinerary stop to tick off before heading home. Muiravonside Country Park is huge and there’s loads to see and do there. You can walk, cycle and look for hidden history – it’s everywhere. As fun as that all sounded, we were there to meet Simon for a tour of Newparks Farm, which is located inside the country park.
More animals – what a perfect end to our itinerary.
Simon was brilliant. His knowledge of the animals and love for them really shone through. They seemed to adore him too. We met Clydesdale horses, Shetland ponies, donkeys, Heilan’ coos, sheep, goats, pigs, chicken, geese and more.
Some of animals had been rescued and as Simon shared their history, I could feel myself welling up. They all looked so happy now.
Once again, the boy was in his element. He loved all of the animals, but one particular sheep caught his eye and lots of gazing followed.
He was less enamoured when he met the resident turkey. It stared at him and he freaked out. It was his first turkey encounter and he’s probably hoping his last.
I loved all of the beasties we met at Newparks Farm, but took a particular shine to a beautiful silver sebright cockerel with the most incredible markings. They looked like an intricate ink drawing. He was handsome and he knew it.
And there ended our fabulous two day itinerary. I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring Falkirk, Bo’ness and beyond with me. If you’re planning a trip to Scotland, make sure you bookmark this post, as I know you’ll love this area every bit as much as we do.
Our accommodation, food and experiences were provided on a complimentary basis, however all opinions are my own.
Until next time …