SCOTLAND has many hidden corners – sometimes called "secrets", but often with information boards next to them. Nevertheless, they can be fascinating and give an insight into a rich history not always taught in classrooms,. One such place is Kinneil House, just outside Bo'ness, which played a central part in the development of the steam engine.
Between 1769 and 1770, in a cottage behind the imposing house, James Watt worked on an engine to pump water from mines With his backer Dr John Roebuck, who had founded the Carron Ironworks and lived in Kinneil House at the time, Watt put a prototype to the test under a cloak of secrecy. However, the tests proved problematic and Roebuck went bankrupt. Watt left to work in Birmingham, where his invention proved its worth.
This walk takes you round the outside of the house to Watt's now derelict cottage before continuing over parkland to yet more historical sites. First are the ruins of Kinneil Church, centre of a thriving community until the late 17th century, when everyone moved to the new town of Bo'ness.
After this, the walk takes in the Antonine Wall, the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire in the second century, stretching from Bo'ness to Old Kilpatrick, on the Clyde. There was a fortlet here, but little of it remains today. An information board and stakes in the ground help you imagine what it would have looked like. Today it sits on raised ground, surrounded by a field, in turn bordered by pine woods.
The route then takes you past ponds and up into the woodland, offering a chance to stretch your legs before returning to the main house and drive. The path is muddy in places, so boots are a good idea.
Distance 2 miles. Height climbed 100ft. Time 1-1 hours. Map OS Landranger 65. Parking Heading from Linlithgow, turn left off the A706 just after the Bo'ness sign, down Crawfield Road. The road bends right and drops down a hill, where you go left, following a sign for Kinneil Estate. Park in front of Kinneil Museum – on the right at the end of the drive for the main house.
In summary Go to the right side of the museum and follow a sign for Kinneil House Antonine Wall. After passing round the back of the house go right, over a footbridge above a gorge containing Gil Burn and turn right on the other side.
A path above the gorge leads a short way to the ruins of Kinneil Church. Once past these, go left for a few yards to reach a bench where you go right. Walk along a grass path by a large field to enter woods and, on reaching a pond, go right around its edge. On reaching a beech hedge, go left, diagonally across the field, to reach the ruins of a Roman fortlet. If looking at the information board, go slightly to the left to reach a path going further left.
Go up some steps, then right, around another pond. At a fork in the path, go left to continue round the pond's edge. On the other side you reach a broader path in a forestry plantation, go left. Ignore a path going left, and another on the right, and continue up to a crossroads at a clearing in the trees, where you go left.
On reaching a track at the edge of the trees, go right to reach a car park. On the other side, follow a path on the left down to the footbridge behind Kinneil House. Go through a gap in the wall just to the right of the house and walk round to the front. Then, follow the main drive to a road where you go left to return to the parking area.
Refreshments There is nothing in or around the house but there are many options in Bo'ness and Linlithgow. For a great location and good food, try the Bonsyde House Hotel up on the hill between the two towns. Go left at the top of the hill after driving out of Bo'ness and it is a little way past West Lothian Golf Club.
While you are in the area At the Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway (01506 822298, www.srps.org.uk), you can take a trip on a real steam train and explore engines and carriages from a bygone era up to more modern times. There's also a caf.
Kinneil House (www.kinneil.wordpress.com) will open on a few selected days.
• This article was first published in Scotland on Sunday, March 14, 2010