I worked for many years in Fife and learned to pick out our West Lothian hills from the other side of the water. Easiest to recognise are, without a doubt, Cockleroi and Binny Craig. Now everybody knows Cockleroi, Linlithgow’s hill, with access from Beecraigs Country Park, and the Knock, Bathgate’s hill, and Cairnpapple, the Beaker People’s hill, but it never fails to surprise me how few people know where Binny Craig lies and how to get there.
There are three main approaches. From Linlithgow, walk out by Hiltly, Beecraigs Park and over Riccarton Hill to a signpost which reads ‘Public footpath to Ecclesmachan’. The way from Ecclesmachan is straightforward: follow the sign to Oatridge College. From the south, leave Uphall by the path opposite the entrance to Houston House Hotel and follow a clear path/field track to East Broadlaw on the little road between Ecclesmachan and West Binny.
Car parking is a problem if you are coming from further afield as the roads are narrow. The safest place to leave a car is on the north-south road between Oatridge and the West Binny-Wyndford road as this is about the only place to get it off-road. From near here, there is a stile taking you through the trees and you could just nip up and down. But you should make the effort to do the whole route.
Binny Craig is an excellent viewpoint. Cockleroi and the Knock and higher but Binny Craig is subtly different and offers the view from another angle. The hill has the classic crag and tail shape of a volcano, enhanced by quarrying last century. Recently, the quarry was temporarily reopened to allow the extraction of stone for repairs to the Scott Monument in Princes Street, Edinburgh.
Binny Craig is easily West Lothian’s steepest hill. I have watched rock climbers practising on the west side and if you, as a mere walker, go up the grassy east side to enjoy the view, please be careful as you come down, as the rock strata lie parallel to the surface and can become very slippery. Here is a short walk you might enjoy.
Having got to OS point 030735 on the road from Linlithgow to Dechmont, take the line of the wooden signpost by the roadside. The path runs between fences set a couple of metres apart and can be uneven and overgrown with gorse in parts. At the far side of the field, the burn runs in a steep little valley but a short distance to the right is a footbridge. (Beware! It is wood covered with mesh and gets slippery in wet weather!)
At the top of the steep opposite bank, a wicket gate in a clump of trees gives onto a path through a field. This becomes a track, to head east towards the farm college and can be muddy. But forget the mud and enjoy the wide prospect â€“ Ochiltree Castle in the foreground, the Forth, its bridges and islands beyond.
Go as far as the little pond where Hangingside used to be. There is a stile near the outflow and you could turn off here with the crag on your left and the pond on your right, or take the climb from this end.
But if you enjoy views as you walk, I would advise you to keep on to Oatridge Farm. Turn right to leave the farm by the south drive out to the West Binny Road. About 500m up this road, opposite East Broadlaw, there is a stile and a sign for Binny Craig. Another path between fences leads through fields to the south end of the hill. If you do not want to go to the top, keep well left and you will come to the path between the crag and the pond you saw earlier. A left turn towards Binny House (the former Sue Ryder home) will bring you to Binny Plants, a delightful nursery run by Billy Carruthers who is attempting to restore the grounds and walled garden of Binny House.