An important river of east-central Scotland, the Almond rises on the eastern flank of the Cant Hills, a mile (1.5 km) north of Shotts in North Lanarkshire. From there, it flows past Harthill and then through West Lothian, which represents the majority of its catchment.
The river flows east past Whitburn and on through Blackburn before being joined by the Breich Water near Seafield. It then continues through the old village and new town of Livingston before meeting the Linhouse Water, another main tributary, at Mid Calder. By this stage the river is flowing in a steep-sided gorge. Flowing northeast, the Almond is crossed by the Union Canal on a sizeable aqueduct, and then by the M8 motorway, before entering the City of Edinburgh. Just to the north of Newbridge, the M9 motorway crosses the river, which flows onwards to Kirkliston and then alongside Edinburgh Airport, under the Cramond Brig and Barnton, before draining into the Firth of Forth at Cramond which marks the end of its 28 mile (45 km) course.
The Almondell and Calder Wood Country Park forms a notable recreational resource centred on the river to the east of Livingston.
The river has long been subject to pollution, from the bleaching of flax in the 18th C., oil shale and coal mining in the 19th and 20th centuries, together making it one of Scotland’s most polluted rivers. From the late 20th C., the river has been subject to an integrated management plan with the aim of improving the water quality.