Bo’ness, Scotland

Scottish sunshine is a rare thing, beautiful but unpredictable. So planning a surprise 30th anniversary BBQ in Bo’ness, West Lothian was always going to be a risk. Planning and organising has been harder than expected as our usual, trusty choice of the Richmond Hotel fell through being almost fully booked. With a 5 room requirement to accommodate 3 generations of extended family, a frantic response generated a search finding for Bo’ness farm B&B.

This wasn’t too disappointing as although the Richmond have a great bar and are dog and child friendly, our last visit involved sleeping through a constant alarm and trying to get the attention of feuding staff to be able to pay and leave. They do pretty marvellous breakfasts, unfortunately they are to background music Maroon 5 of whom they have been avid supporters for many years and should really find a more upbeat replacement.

As it turned out, Bo’Mains working arable farm was literally just around the corner from my grandparent’s house and impressively maintained:

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The Kilt, we were informed, attracted too much unwanted attention from guests. We spent nearly 20 minutes being informed of all manner of different things as we were followed up and into the bedroom. As with the rest of the original property, the bedroom was heavily adorned with detail. Whilst there was a cosiness to the intricate precision, family photos that continued from the hallway to the bedroom were a little peculiar. We had a photograph of a young girl watching over the bed from the headboard – later to find she was one of many spuriously displayed in random locations. Aside from the young stranger in the room we had a wonderful view across the lawn, across the rolling hills of West Lothian. Having discussed the Richmond with Martin he rightly said “This is the real Scotland”. Indeed I was grateful that my boyfriends’ first visit could incorporate some of Scotland’s scenery away from the motorway.

I was a little less grateful, however, for wardrobe bathroom. Not to knock the idea, the area which has clearly been recycled wardrobe space has been done so with ingenuity. It would have just been a little more private if there was a heavier door installed which would allow me to spend a penny without seeing by other half in the reflection of the inside of the mirror as he tried to locate the light switch. There was essentially nothing to diminish the travel of noise and whilst a short stay was sufferable I was on the verge of asking said other half to wait on the landing while I used the loo.

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Heading out to Bo’ness there were surprises all round as not only were my grandparents truly surprised to be welcoming the biggest family turn out for decades but they had also prepared a flamboyant turnout for my mums’ 50th birthday. This was all in keeping with the neighbourhood display for the Bo’ness fair in which the town is kitted out with bunting and decoration to celebrate the defining of the borders. The day itself involves a marching band walking the outline of Bo’ness and children in fancy dress attending the encompassing fair that envelops the town. At night time the atmosphere is a little more drink infused and profanic, with parents dressed as fairytale creatures and suchlike this is a sight I would very much have liked to have seen.

Nonetheless, with two children and a dog to chase after there was plenty to keep us occupied. A particular source of entertainment for the family was the party trick my Lexie dog pulled during the cutting of mum’s 50th birthday cake – having just boasted about how much she’s conformed over the years, rejecting wild rebellion for the safety and security of family and domestication, I was mortified to find she took centre stage in the living-room for a pee! Not even her usual territorial dribble that she’d carefully distributed around the neighbours front gardens, a full blown ‘when’s it ever going to end’ swimming-pool of pee! I was gutted. And many pictures of me on cleaning duty ensued. Furthermore, during family photos she took the opportunity to steal some cake off the tray and popped a balloon in my 2 year old cousins’s face. Disaster! Just what I needed, my cousin (said childs’ dad) had brought his wife to meet the whole family for the first time and my dog makes her child cry. Howl, even, which is terrible for the most smiley baby in the world.

Mis-haps aside I was delighted that all was forgiven and my cousins gave me a full picture run down of what to expect in Vegas in four days – it’s going to be phenomenal. We managed to deliver a full BBQ, combined with the dinner prepared before the surprise by my grandparents and had a short respite period whilst some of the family ventured out for a meal.

Waking up in the B&B the following day was surprisingly easy and may have had something to do with the TV turning itself on. Meeting the others (family and strangers also staying at the hotel) we were seated around a big table for breakfast. Accustomed to the B&B practices of ‘Three in a bed’ I was pretty ok with having breakfast brought to me, although this didn’t suit everyone and there was no real mention of the ‘V’ word at any point. The scenery was pretty awesome from the breakfast table and the kids were able to run freely around the establishment. A young girl lives there who was able to direct the children of our family into all sorts of mischief, however the numerous ornaments, photo-frames and trinkets dotted around ensured we all kept a keen eye on their antics.

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We came to the conclusion that Martin and the lady (who I believe may be his wife) were actually the same person as the two were never seen at the same time. The coffee pots cased a little cuffuffel however breakfast was tasty and my b/f was even given second helpings due to non-attendance of one of our party. Loud unguarded comments of one of ours earned herself a little name-calling however compared to the embarrassment of my mum showing everyone pictures of me and Jon asleep in the back of the van this was easily forgotten. On the downside the ‘did you sleep ok’? mantra received mixed responses – it appears your chances of a restful night are greatly increased if you sleep in the newer part of the establishment. The toss-up between choosing Richmond or Bo’Mains is a tough one – personally I’m for the farm but this isn’t reflected throughout the whole group. At £40 per night pp or £35pp for those sharing it’s pretty good value for money but a vehicle is necessary. (As is, probably, a good reason to choose Bo’ness)! There is free Wi-Fi availalbe however it doesn’t appear to be on automatically which could cost you an hour or so in conversation for making the request in the first place…

Linlithgow isn’t far and the castle there is beautiful if not a little windy with a cosy and friendly tea house that serves plenty of cake. The lakes are something quite special and if you catch a snowy month the views can be breathtaking – but wrap up warm, if you’re from the south ‘snow day’ is something much more bitter than how we know it!

Falkirk is a little further and bigger and is essentially a shopping centre – if you’re going to travel at all I’d strongly suggest cutting the middle town and going straight for Edinburgh which is stunning. Travel advise is probably best left out of my blog for this city as I’m only partially acquainted, however there is a wonderful National art gallery which is mostly fine arts and of course Edinborough Castle. I’m reliably informed that there are stairs everywhere which can be a struggle for buggies etc but worth the effort.

Travel to Edinburgh is also easy by plane. To hire a car is pretty much essential if you are travelling as far out as Bo’ness but be aware that the hire firm is around 10 minutes away by foot from the airport. Our relatives had issues with keys and had to make this journey several times which sounds pretty frustrating, although I imagine this is primarily bad luck as opposed to the Status Quo. We opted for the road which is around 8 hours from Sunny Stratford, London.

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As I’m not concluding anything in particular I have no overall summary for you – if you are going to Bo’ness then there should be plenty of info here although I’m open to answering questions if I know the answer, so please feel free to post. On a final note, the below is a Chevrolet that we have just passed on our trip home:

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Oohh and this one:

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