10 Things You Need To Know About Winchburgh

Last month WIL West Lothian launched its Winchbugh page with a news story about the development of Auldcathie Park. To celebrate, we are looking into Winchburgh’s fascinating history; here are 10 things you need to know about West Lothian’s fastest growing village.

#1 Ancient Village

Winchburgh has an ancient history which saw it first mentioned in records in 1189. The name probably comes from the Old English for “Winca’s Fort”, and suggests the village may have stood here since being founded by someone called Winca during the period of Anglian or Northumbrian dominance of the area in the 600s.

#2 Time Team welcome here!

There is no sign of Winca’s Fort today, nor of the village that stood here in 1314 when the English army that had been defeated at the Battle of Bannockburn and then their Scottish pursuers both passed through in the immediate aftermath of the battle.

#3 Winchburgh has two Castles – the first was Niddry.

Niddry Castle stands just a third of a mile south east of the edge of Winchburgh, though much of the area between them is covered by a huge oil shale bing, and by the Niddry Castle Golf Club.  Niddry Castle dates back to the 1400s and was a base of the Seton family, better known for their estates in East Lothian. The most famous resident, briefly, was Mary Queen of Scots, who stayed here on the night of 2nd May 1568 after her escape from Lochleven Castle. The castle was abandoned in the 1700s. Today, Niddry Castle is famous for its golf course which hit the headlines in 2007 in the case of a golfer who lost his eye on the golf course and successfully sued both the golfer and the golf club for hundreds of thousands of pounds.

#4 Winchburgh’s second castle is Duntarvie

The second castle near Winchburgh is Duntarvie Castle, which stands just under a mile north, and was built by the Durham family in the early 1600s. It is currently being restored and transformed into an events venue.

#5 The Union Canal cuts right through the village 

Quarrying began to take place to the east of Winchburgh in the 1790s, and in 1822 the Union Canal was built along a line that took it immediately to the west of the village. It cuts through the village just by the church forming a border that some locals joke marks the ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ between the New Village (West) and the Old Village (East).



#6 Winchburgh was the scene of a fatal rail accident

Winchburgh gained a railway station in 1842 when the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway was built, using deep cuttings to the north and south of the village and a tunnel running beneath the centre of it. On 13 October 1862, 15 people were killed when two trains collided head on in the cutting a mile and a half north east of Winchburgh.

#7 Winchburgh Junction

Winchburgh is even the name of a Billy Connolly acoustic track!

#8 Scotland’s first oil town

Image result for greendykes bing" In the 1860s oil shale began to be mined in the area, and in the 1870s an oil extraction plant was established to the south of Winchburgh. At the beginning of the 1900s a new extraction plant was built, known as the Niddrie Castle Oil Works. Its owners, the Oakbank Oil Company, built over 200 new cottages in Winchburgh to house the workers, and the oil works was linked by narrow gauge electric railway to a number of oil shale mines in the area. The Niddry Castle Oil Works was the last producer of oil from shale in Scotland when it closed in 1960.  

#9 Scotland’s Ayers Rock

Greendykes Bing in Winchburgh has been designated a ‘monument of national importance’ as one of the very few intact spent-shale bings left in central Scotland. The shale oil industry was locally important for about a century, and its pioneer, James Young, developed refining techniques still used in the oil industry. This bing, with its neighbour Faucheldean, gives striking evidence of the enormous volume of material processed in the extraction of oil from shale. In this case the operating company was the Broxburn Oil Co, active from the 1860s to c. 1940. Given its similarity to Uluru and its reddish hue, some locals refer to it as ‘Ayers Rock’.

#10 Billion Pound Village

A landmark deal worth £1 billion, one of the largest in the UK, is set to transform Winchburgh through massive investment in new schools, new homes and vital infrastructure. This will include: a number of new state-of-the-art schools; around 3,450 new homes, including over 700 affordable homes and more than 400 for social rent; a new M9 junction to open up prime employment land; a railway station; a 75 acre district park; and a marina. The new homes form part of a masterplan for the West Lothian site. Image: Contributed    

Top 10 Unique Experiences in Finland

Finland is a unique country in many ways. Its beautiful landscape and traditions attract millions of tourists every year. Finland is also home to some unique experience and events that make it an even more special place to visit.

#1 Ice Swimming

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Sampo, the world’s only icebreaker that operates specifically for tourism purposes, sails the Gulf of Bothnia along the stretches of the Finnish Lapland. After a respectable 30-year career as an icebreaker in the arctic seas, the vessel has been appointed a new, more captivating task – to serve as the base for ice adventurers. Whilst on board, you can even partake in ice swimming, floating in pack ice whilst wearing thermal survival suits. Extreme closeness to nature at its best!

#2 Wife Carrying Contest

The event started in the 19th century, when a robber named Herkko Ronkainen and his gang mates took the habit of stealing girls as well as food and other wares from the villages they raided. Nowadays, the tradition has turned into a full-fledged championship, held yearly in the village of Sonkajärvi, in the eastern part of the country. ‘Wives’ are carried down a 235 m track with obstacles; the winner receives the wife’s weight in beer.

#3 Northern Lights

The world-famous resort of Kakslauttanen has become a go-to destination for anyone wanting to see the Northern Lights. The two person glass igloos include a bed, a toilet and a unique view to fall asleep to. The igloos can be booked from 24th August until the end of April, and though the Northern Lights are not guaranteed, the best chance of seeing them us from November until February .

#4 World Sauna Championships

The World Sauna Championships were an annual endurance contest held in Heinola, Finland, from 1999 to 2010. They originated from unofficial sauna-sitting competitions that resulted in a ban from a swimming hall in Heinola. The Championships were first held in 1999 and grew to feature contestants from over 20 countries. Sauna bathing at extreme conditions is a severe health risk: all competitors competed at their own risk, and had to sign a form agreeing not to take legal action against the organizers. Notably, the Finnish Sauna Society strongly opposed the event. After the death of one finalist and near-death of another during the 2010 championship, the organizers announced that they would not hold another event. This followed an announcement by prosecutors in March that the organizing committee would not be charged for negligence, as their investigation revealed that the contestant who died may have used painkillers and ointments that were forbidden by the organizers. There is a slim chance the event may be resurrected if it can be proved it can be held in a safe manner.

#5 Mobile Phone Throwing

Mobile phone throwing is an international sport that started in Finland in the year 2000. It’s a sport in which participants throw mobile phones and are judged on distance or technique. World record holder is Tom Philipp Reinhardt from Germany with a throw of 136,75m.

#6 Air Guitar Championship

The winner of the 2017 World Air Guitar Championship has been crowned… he is Matt “Airistotle” Burns. The pretend guitarist successfully defended his title at the 22nd Air Guitar World Championships in Finland. He defended his title by expertly shredding a non-existent guitar. The competition began as a joke but has become an annual celebration running for 22 years. “Airistotle”, who is from the US, held off competition from 15 competitors from around the world. A heavy metal version of I Will Survive helped Burns take the title. “People think that we’re saying that we’re talented musicians by playing air guitar,” Burns said after lifting a real trophy guitar. “That’s not the case, we’re just here having a good time.” The aim of the Air Guitar World Championships is to bring about world peace with zero guitars. The official website says: “Wars would end, climate change stop and all bad things disappear, if all the people in the world played the Air Guitar.” Inspired by the guitar God that is “Airistotle” fancy picking up an invisible guitar and entering next year’s tournament?

#7 Visit the Moomins

The cuddly Moomin trolls are so synonymous with Finland, they have even been featured on the side of a Finnair plane. This is a Moomin-based theme park designed for the Moomins’ littlest fans. Situated on the island of Kailo beside the town of Naantali, near Turku in Western Finland – on an archipelago facing into the Baltic Sea – Moomin World, or Muumimaailma in Finnish, is probably the most immersive Moomin experience a child (or a grown-up) will experience: rather than packing the island full of rides, like Disneyworld, the folk at Moomin World have simply recreated whole chunks of the Moomins’ world for you to explore. The main attraction is the blueberry-coloured Moomin House, but you can also visit Hemulen’s yellow house, Moominmamma’s Kitchen, the Fire Station, Snufkin’s Camp, the Hattifatteners’ Cave, Moominpappa’s boar and more – and you’re likely to run into actual Moomins while you’re at it. The World isn’t open all year, but when it is, it holds special Winter and Summer themed events – there’s skating and dog-sledding scheduled for the cold weather, and a themes such as ‘Fairytime’ for the summer. Not cheap, but well worth a visit for Moomin fans young and old.

#8 See some unusual statues

As far as micturating statuary goes, Manneken Pis in Brussels has been the gold standard for an astonishing 400 years. However, Helsinki introduced a charming new entrant a couple years ago that is less whimsical little kid peeing happily, and more chagrined adult who did not intend for you to see this. Standing 8.5 meters tall and sporting a surprised expression and an amiable blush, Bad Bad Boy was first unveiled in August 2014 in Helsinki’s East Harbour. Part of the Mutatis Mutandis exhibition of the work of artist Tommi Toija produced by Amos Anderson Art Museum, the statue original stood adjacent to ferry terminals and waterfront tourist amusements. After the show closed in October 2016, the statue was moved to a permanent home in the city’s West Harbour, just outside the building housing the Helsinki Computer and Game Console Museum. Some photo angles might make it look like the statue is now being used to water a landscaped area, but don’t worry: It’s just pissing on the sidewalk.

#9 Mosquito swatting Championship

Anyone who has visited Finland in the summer will know that the air is thick with thirsty bloodsucking mosquitos. Mozzies and midges are at their most annoying in the northern part of the country, especially in forested areas near water (99% of Northern Finland!). The Finns, being a practical bunch, turned the necessary into fun, and organized a yearly mosquito-swatting competition in the northern town of Pelkosenniemi. The one who swats the highest number of mosquitoes in 5 minutes wins. Presently, the record stands at 21. Could you do better? Then head to Pelkosenniemi next year!

#10 Swamp Soccer World Championships

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For decades, the top Finnish cross-country skiers have been practicing their basic level of fitness at the swamp during the summer, and that is where the idea of combining the swamp and the world’s most popular sport, football, came from in 1998 in Hyrynsalmi. The rest is history… Swamp Soccer was born. The first competition in 1998 involved 13 teams and since 2000, the battle for the title of world champion has taken place in Vuorisuo. Competitions are attended by nearly 300 teams, more than 4,000 players from 10 different countries. The Ukkohalla ski & sport resort acts as a place of accommodation for the players, and hosts the Swamp Rock event during the games. The games are played on fields that are the size of 30 x 60 m. There are 20 fields in Vuorisuo, and during the competition nearly 1,000 games are played. The amount of players on the pitch includes the goalkeeper and 5 field players (1+5). The number of substitute players is not restricted, and substitutions are made on the fly. Playing time is 2 x 10 minutes. World Championship titles are solved in 6 different series: mixed, women’s hobby, women’s competition, men’s hobby, men’s competition, business. In addition, the Swamp Adventure series is a playful swamp adventure, that includes task points in the swamp in addition to the games. Vuorisuo is located in Hyrynsalmi and during the games it has a non-stop transportation from Ukkohalla for players and spectators. In addition to the 20 fields, the swamp has; a games office, swamp restaurant, swamp fair and of course women’s and men’s saunas.