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18 April 2024

The Romans return to Kinneil House!

Kinneil House welcomes visitors with weekly guided tours and a touring exhibition on the Antonine Wall

An information board is shown in the background and also a clothing display

After last year’s success in offering regular guided tours, the interiors of Kinneil House in Bo’ness are now open again for the summer season. Visitors can book guided tours run by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) every Saturday, and the surrounding 200-acre parkland and neighbouring free museum are open year-round.

The Friends of Kinneil volunteers are continuing to support HES with additional activities, including a free guided walk every Saturday at noon for visitors to discover some of the other historic features and many stories of Kinneil Estate.

Included in house tours this season is the temporary exhibition ‘Antonine Wall: Beyond Boundaries’, which is now in place at Kinneil House and will remain there until the end of the season. The exhibition tells the story of the Antonine Wall, one of Scotland’s six World Heritage sites, near which Kinneil House is built. The placename Kinneil means “head (or end) of the wall”, and the area is closely connected to the Antonine Wall and Scotland’s Roman legacy.

World Heritage Day (18 April) is an international celebration of heritage sites and monuments each year, with events and activities taking place globally to highlight the diverse heritage around us.

The Antonine Wall was the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire for 20 years and stretched from the Firth of Clyde to the Firth of Forth, leaving its mark on what today are Falkirk, Greater Glasgow, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, and North Lanarkshire. The Roman Emperor who ordered the wall’s construction, Antoninus Pius, never visited, but his project would change the lives of surrounding communities and leave a lasting footprint on the land.

This family-friendly exhibition explores the impact and influence that the Romans had on the Central Belt of Scotland through a collection of fascinating stories and replica objects. Craftspeople were commissioned to create replicas of rare and unusual Roman artefacts found along the Antonine Wall including a Roman wine barrel, an Iron Age ‘tartan’, and an African-style portable cooker.

Each object reveals stories of how individuals and communities over time have broken down barriers to create a space where they belong. Visitors to the exhibition can learn more about communities on the wall then and now, while also gaining access to Kinneil House’s outstanding interior decoration. The free outdoor walk run by the Friends of Kinneil takes visitors along a short stretch of the wall.

From 1323, the Kinneil lands belonged to the wealthy and influential Hamilton family, including James Hamilton, who was regent of Scotland from 1543 to 1554 and built the present house. Its rare 16th and 17th century wall paintings are considered among the finest of any house in Scotland and are one of the highlights for visitors.

Paul Rowlands, Roving Manager at HES, said:

"The guided tours at Kinneil House offer a unique experience and we’re thrilled to have this additional exhibition for our visitors to enjoy this season. Roman history forms such a significant part in the history of Falkirk, and with Kinneil House’s position along the Antonine Wall, it is exciting for us to be able to bring these two narratives even closer together.

Our thanks go out to the Antonine Wall World Heritage Site partners for making this exhibition possible, and to the Friends of Kinneil for their continued support."

Eileen Jackson, Chair of the Friends of Kinneil, said:

"We are delighted that HES are once again offering regular indoor tours and the added interest of the Roman exhibition at Kinneil House. Visitors are also invited to enjoy the free walk at noon on Saturdays with one of our volunteer guides.

“Kinneil has a rare richness of layers of history over 2,000 years. The parkland is not only literally at the ‘head of the Antonine Wall’, but also includes the ruined 12th century kirk and lost mediaeval village of Kinneil, and the 18th century workshop where James Watt tested his steam engine – another piece of world heritage.”

Stephen Balfour, Project Manager for the Rediscovering the Antonine Wall, said:

“We are delighted that Historic Environment Scotland have chosen to host the Beyond Boundaries exhibition in Kinneil House. Feedback from other venues has shown that the exhibition has proved popular with visitors and has encouraged them to learn more about the Romans in Scotland and to visit the wall itself.”

About the ‘Antonine Wall: Beyond Boundaries’ exhibition

The exhibition first launched in 2021 in Perth Museum as part of the ‘ROMANS: Edge of Empire’ exhibition and has since toured various locations along the Antonine Wall.

The exhibition was created as part of the Rediscovering the Antonine Wall Project, which ran from October 2019 to March 2023 and aimed to raise awareness of the Antonine Wall, both among local communities and with visitors. The project received funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Kelvin Valley & Falkirk LEADER Programme, five local authorities and Historic Environment Scotland.

The exhibition is included in the purchase of a ticket to a guided tour of Kinneil House. Tickets can be booked on the HES website.

The exhibition is on the second floor of Kinneil House. There is no lift in the building, and visitors access upper floors via a spiral staircase.

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES) 

  • We are the lead body for Scotland’s historic environment, a charity dedicated to the advancement of heritage, culture, education and environmental protection. It is at the forefront of researching and understanding the historic environment and addressing the impacts of climate change on its future, investigating and recording architectural and archaeological sites and landscapes across Scotland and caring for more than 300 properties of national importance. We are also the lead on delivering Scotland's strategy for the historic environment, Our Past, Our Future.
  • Historic Scotland, Scran, Canmore, The National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP), The Engine Shed, Stirling Castle, and Edinburgh Castle are sub-brands of HES.
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For further information, please contact:

Robin Kepple
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
07721 959 962