Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Kirknewton Communications Monitoring Post

While hunting down a defunct Cold War site in West Lothian (well gone, demolished and lost) a few years ago, I took a tour of the surrounding area, just in case the OS Grid Ref was in error. Sometimes these can be a mile out, having been surveyed without the benefit of GPS. Having started off in Balerno, I ended up leaving the area along the road leading to Kirknewton, and noticed an airfield, complete with gliders in the air.

I was going to take a closer look, but after an initial sortie around the perimeter decided that this might not be the best of ideas, at least not while it was busy. Although an airfield is clearly a wide open space, the perimeter was dotted with MoD warning signs. Not knowing if they were current or not, it did look as if the people on the runway and at the buildings were in military dress of some sort, and discretion was called for, with a visit when things were quieter being the preferred option.

Circumstances changed, and a return trip never took place, although last year, a hunt around the web revealed it was indeed an ex-RAF airfield, and had also been taken over by the Americans after the war. Little else popped up then, and I forgot about it until deciding it might as well be mentioned as a Lost Airfield.

What a difference a year makes!

It now seem that Kirknewton was one of the earliest Cold War project undertaken in the 1950s to develop listening stations to monitor Soviet radio and radar transmissions, with the site and its personnel being a major secret at the time. Not only that, it seems the original Washington to Moscow Hot-Line was also routed through the area, with the Kirknewton base being responsible for its security.

That task lasted from 1952 until 1966, when the base was closed, but public records show that the Americans only handed the site back to the MoD in 1991, when it was described as a Contingency Hospital.

Read more on the RAF Kirknewton page.


Apr 7, 2007 - Posted by | Cold War | , , , , , ,


  1. I just published a fiction novel that mentions RAF Kirknewton. Try “The Scotland Spy” ISBN 0-595-47499-8 for a fun read. Abstract of the book is on line at or


    Comment by T.H. Henning | Nov 5, 2007

  2. Kirknewton is now used by 661 Volunteer Gliding School, giving cadets and teenagers experience flights in Grob Viking gliders. I spent some time as a staff cadet and had many flights from there in the early 90’s. Most of the original buildings are gone now except for the MT hanger.

    The site you are referring to is probably Kirknewton camp which was accross te road from the airfield to the west. It is now completely demolished and a gated housing estate occupies the site.


    Comment by C Cumming | Nov 26, 2007

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