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West Lothian

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea ©Ray Wilson Website

West Lothian is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland, and one of its historic counties. The county, which was also known as Linlithgowshire, was bounded by the Avon to the west and the Almond to the east; the modern council area occupies a smaller area, with land in the west given to Falkirk and land in the east given to Edinburgh following local government reforms in the late 20th century. It did however gain part of the Pentlands from Midlothian.

The area 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 18th and 19th centuries, which 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 Lothian after Edinburgh) is now Livingston.

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.

County Recorder

Stephen Welch

25 Douglas Road, Longniddry EH32 0LQ

01875 852802 or 07931 524963


Useful Reading

Where to Watch Birds in Scotland

Mike Madders and Julia Welstead - 297 pages, b/w illus, maps - Christopher Helm

ISBN: 071365693X

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Forums & Mailing Lists

Lothian Bird News

Mailing List

Lothian Birders On-Line (LoBoL) has now evolved into LothianBirdNews, a Yahoo! e-mail list for those interested in birds in Lothian, which informs peopleinterested in birds sightings, events to attend and other bird related news in and around the Lothians and south east Scotland.

Trip Reports


Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Fife & Lothian Bed and Breakfast Association


Find the right place to stay in Central Scotland - Quality Inspected B&Bs…


Scottish Ornithologists Club - Lothian Branch


Welcome to Lothian Birding - the website of the Lothian branch of the SOC. Compiled by branch members, this aims to provide you with news and information about Lothian's Bird Club, birds, birders and birding in the area - where and when to go, the best chance to see certain species and to keep you informed of what's going on with birds and other wildlife in the region. We hope that you find this site useful, and it encourages you to get involved in birding in the Lothians! Please help the website to evolve by sending in your ideas, comments and opinions. [Ian Thomson, 4 Craigielaw, Longniddry, E Lothian EH32 0PY 01875 870588 The branch's Club Nights are more informal than the main meetings. They are normally held in the Waterston Library, 21 Regent Terrace at 7.30 p.m. during the winter months. For further details of speakers and subjects and to check the dates please contact Ian Thomson on 01875 870588.]


Local Nature Reserves


Easter Inch Moss and Seafield Law Local Nature Reserve is an area of locally important natural heritage, managed by West Lothian Council in partnership with a Local Management Group. It was designated a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) in 2007. Harperrig Reservoir lies to the north of the Pentland Hills within the boundary of the Pentland Hills Regional Park. It is owned by City of Edinburgh Council and managed as part of the Water of Leith flood prevention scheme. Around the reservoir is intensively grazed neutral grassland, along with large areas of marshy grassland.

Other Links

Birding the Lothians


The Lothians, at some 749 square miles, lying on the south side of the Firth of Forth, has a rich diversity of habitats. These comprise mainly of upland moorland, woodland, reservoirs and an extensive coastline with four main estuaries….

Photographers & Artists

Eden Wildlife Photography


Photography at the cutting edge - passion for inspirational nature photography…