West Lothian

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea ©Ray Wilson Website
Birding West Lothian

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
Useful Reading

  • Where to Watch Birds in Scotland

    | By Mike Madders & Julia Welstead | Christopher Helm | 2002 | Paperback | 297 pages, b/w illustrations, maps | ISBN: 9780713656930 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Scottish Ornithologists Club - Lothian Branch

    Contact: Morag King, 7 Durham Terrace, Edinburgh, EH15 1QJ, tel 0131 258 4638, mobile 078104 15941

Abbreviations Key

  • CP Almondell & Calderwood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Left undeveloped and unspoilt, Calderwood is a complete contrast to Almondell. This natural woodland, located on a plateau bounded by the Linhouse and Murieston Waters, is home to a wealth of wildlife. Roe deer, fox, heron and woodpecker all make their homes here, while the many oak and hazel trees provide food for the squirrels and wood mice. For this reason Calderwood has been designated a SSSI.
  • CP Beecraigs

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    Beecraigs Country Park is a great place to visit. It caters for a wide range of leisure and recreational activities within its 370 hectares (913 acres) and can be discovered nestled high in the Bathgate Hills near the historic town of Linlithgow.
  • CP Polkemmet

    WebpageSatellite View
    Polkemmet Country Park is a popular 68 hectare (168 acre) visitor attraction near Whitburn. The Park offers beautiful woodland and riverside walks.
  • LNR (Designate) Harperrig Reservoir

    Management PlanSatellite View
    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.
  • LNR Easter Inch Moss and Seafield Law

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    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. The reserve gives people the chance to learn about and enjoy nature close to where they live as well as being a valuable green space to be enjoyed between two built up areas (Blackburn and Seafield).
  • SWT Addiewell Bing

    WebpageSatellite View
    To the north of West Calder lies this former oil-shale bing, which now supports valuable wildlife habitat, including woodland, scrub and flower-rich grassland. It is a good example of how a post-industrial site can be transformed into a haven for wildlife.
  • SWT Bogburn Flood Lagoons

    WebpageSatellite View
    Located in Bathgate, Bogburn Flood Lagoons consists of three open freshwater pools surrounded by marshy grassland and swamp. This environment is highly attractive to wildfowl, including shelducks. The area of semi-natural broadleaved woodland and grassland provides a refuge for breeding birds.
  • SWT Hermand Birchwood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Hermand Birchwood is an important area if birch woodland growing on the remnants of a raised bog. Blaeberry, heather and broad buckler fern grow in abundance on the woodland floor and the damp conditions favour mosses and lichens.
  • SWT Linhouse Glen

    WebpageSatellite View
    Situated south of Livingston, Linhouse Glen has a mixture of habitats, including heathland, native woodland on steep narrow slopes and species-rich grassland. The grassland provides cover and food for brown hares and birds such as skylark and reed bunting.
  • SWT Longridge Moss

    WebpageSatellite View
    Longridge Moss is an important lowland raised bog with a range of plants adapted to the wet, acidic conditions, including Sphagnum mosses, the insectivorous sundew and cotton grass. Snipe, curlew and skylark can be seen and brown hares glimpsed in the heather.
  • SWT Petershill

    WebpageSatellite View
    Petershill is located to the north east of Bathgate. It was a limestone quarry during the 18th Century and converted into a reservoir in the 19th Century, before being drained in 1986. It now includes areas of species-rich grassland, scrub and wetland, and is also an important geological site.
  • SWT Tailend Moss

    WebpageSatellite View
    Tailend Moss is a lowland raised bog composed of deep peat that has accumulated over thousands of years. It is an important site for damselflies, dragonflies and peatland plants, such as bog asphodel, cranberry and sundews.
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • Birding Lothian

    Sightings & News
    All the Recent Bird News & Images from Lothian. Regular updates. Locals please add @birdinglothian to your tweets.
  • Lothian Bird News

    Sightings & News
    Bird news from Lothians and adjacent areas of south-east Scotland
  • Lothian Young Birder

    ...formerly 'Aberdeenshire Young Birder'. The exploits of a Scottish young birder in Lothian, Clyde, Norfolk and wherever else he finds himself - I'm Joseph Nichols, an avid 19 year old Scottish birder and patcher that formerly lived in Aberdeen but now has bases in Edinburgh and Glasgow. I also bird in Norfolk as I have family stationed down there, where my local patch is Costessey House Private Estate. This is an area of private land around the cottage I stay in between Costessey and Drayton on the outskirts of Norwich.
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Dean Bricknell Photography

    Dean Bricknell Photography, Workshops - Tours - Tuition, A lifelong passion for inspirational wildlife & nature photography. Photographer of birds, wildlife and nature.

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