Bonnybridge is a large village in the heart of central Scotland located some three miles west of Falkirk, five miles north east of Cumbernauld and a mile and a half south east of Denny. Its centre has a sheltered location in the valley of the Bonny Water and, as the name implies, Bonnybridge grew around an early bridge over the river, which though it still flows through the village, is easy to overlook.
What is now known as Bonnybridge appears to have been home to a water powered mill at least as far back as the early 1600s, though there is no evidence of a bridge, or of the settlement named after the bridge, until the early 1700s. By 1750 there were five mills in the area, and four roads met at the bridge. In the 1770s and 1780s the Forth & Clyde Canal was built by John Smeaton to provide a link for seagoing vessels wanting to cross the country between the River Clyde and the River Forth. This passed along the side of the valley of the Bonny Water immediately to the south of Bonnybridge, and placed the village on what was at the time the country's best transport route.
The canal roughly followed the line of another major engineering project built across Scotland at a rather earlier date. The Antonine Wall is less well known than Hadrian's Wall. It comprised a 37 mile turf wall and ditch, and was built in AD142-3 during one of the Romans' several excursions into Scotland. Its line runs along the high ground to the south of Bonnybridge, passing some half a mile from the centre of the village. The best preserved stretch of the entire wall lies a mile south east of Bonnybridge, and includes the remains of Rough Castle Roman Fort.
With its canal link, Bonnybridge was well placed to benefit from the beginnings of the industrial revolution, but this was nothing to what happened once the railways arrived. In 1842 a station later known as Bonnybridge High opened for business a little to the south east of the village on the newly built Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway. Bonnybridge's central location meant it was on the lines of no fewer than four railways belonging to different companies by the 1870s, each of which opened a station in or close to the village. At the time Bonnybridge must have been the smallest settlement in the world to be able to boast four railway stations.
Early industries to set up in the village included paper mills and saw mills: then firebrick manufacturers, and these were followed by a brickworks, by iron foundries and by Smith & Wellstood, a company set up to produce very much in vogue (at the time) American-style "Columbian" coal fired cooking stoves. Bonnybridge's railway stations closed during the 1900s, with the last to go being the result of the "Beeching" cuts of the 1960s. In 1980, Bonnybridge was bypassed to the north by the M876, but the village remains an important node on what is now, by default, the secondary road network.
Bonnybridge's focal point remains the bridge over the Bonny Water and the rather more obvious roundabout in the foot of the valley. Up the hill to the west is Bonnyfield, which almost merges into Dennyloanhead, while on higher ground to the south, beyond the restored canal, is High Bonnybridge, once the heart of Bonnybridge's industry.
Near the roundabout is the attractive War Memorial Park: home, as you would expect, to the war memorial, as well as to a rather battered drinking fountain whose plaque reveals that it was placed here in 1935 by the Glasgow District of the "Royal Order of Ancient Shepherds". A little up the hill to the west are the Sunken Gardens, an attractive park created from what was originally the railway station.
Bonnybridge has one further claim to fame. Since a motorist first reported seeing something odd in 1992, the village has become known as the "UFO capital of Scotland": and some have claimed that it is the best place anywhere in the world to see UFOs, with, apparently, around 300 sightings a year.
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