Situated on the east bank of the River Leven in West Dunbartonshire, opposite Alexandria and a mile (1.5 km) northeast of Renton, Bonhill is the oldest of the Vale of Leven villages which grew into a textile town known for bleaching and dyeing. Despite the decline of that industry, it grew rapidly again from the 1970s, with public housing built as part of the Glasgow Overspill project. Sometimes known as New Bonhill, this extension lies to the southeast of the original village and comprises the districts of Braehead, O'Hare, Ladyton, Nobleston, Pappert and Redburn.
Much of the old village has been demolished, although Bonhill Parish Church (1835) remains. It was well-known for its halfpenny toll bridge (1836) which was named the 'Bawbee Bridge'. Sir James Smollett, grandfather of the novelist Tobias Smollett, was granted the lands of Bonhill in 1660.