From New Lanark to the Falls of Clyde


New Lanark


7.25 miles (11.7kms)

476ft (145m)

About the walk

...I know that society may be formed so as to exist without crime, without poverty, with health greatly improved, with little, if any misery, and with intelligence and happiness increased a hundredfold...

Robert Owen, from a speech made in 1816

If you do this walk you'll get a glimpse of Utopia, for the planned industrial village of New Lanark was the embodiment of one man's vision of an ideal world. New Lanark was built as a cotton spinning centre in 1785 by David Dale and Richard Arkwright, and is so well preserved that it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It owes its fame to Dale's son-in-law, Robert Owen, who took over its management in 1798 and made it the focus of a revolutionary social experiment.

A forward-thinking pioneer

Owen was a very efficient businessman and ran a strict regime, monitoring wages, insisting on good timekeeping and dismissing employees for persistent drunkenness and theft. His methods made New Lanark extremely profitable. He was also a scrupulously fair employer, and New Lanark was no 'dark satanic mill'.

Owen believed in humane capitalism and felt that businesses were more successful if the workers were well treated. Unlike most industrialists of his day, he did not allow children under 10 to work in his mills, and indeed he established the world's first nursery school. He also ensured that all children received a rounded education: by the age of seven they were attending lessons on everything from history and geography to nature study and dancing. Education didn't end when children began working in the mills, for all his employees were encouraged to attend evening classes, lectures and dancing classes in the wonderfully named Institute for the Formation of Character. Owen also disapproved of the cruel treatment of his workers and refused to allow corporal punishment to be used as a form of discipline. His staff were provided with good housing, free medical care and a co-operative store.

Owen tried hard to persuade other industrialists to adopt his caring regime, but failed. Disillusioned, he sold New Lanark in 1825 and travelled to America. There he bought a settlement in Indiana which he named New Harmony. He intended to turn it into a Utopian community, freed from the strictures of 19th-century Britain. The experiment did not work as well as he had hoped and he returned to Britain in 1828, where he continued to campaign for workers' welfare, even leading a march protesting against the plight of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, six men who were transported for seven years for forming a trade union. 

Owen died in 1858. He never managed to create Utopia, but inspired several other model villages such as Saltaire, Port Sunlight and Bourneville, and influenced attitudes for years to come.



Walk directions

From the car park, walk downhill into the planned industrial village of New Lanark. Bear left and walk to the Scottish Wildlife Trust visitor centre. Turn up the stone steps on the left, following the signs to the Falls of Clyde. The path soon goes down some steps to reach the weir, where there's a lookout point.

Continue along the path. Pass Bonnington Power Station on your right, where it divides. Take the right-hand path, which takes you into woodland and up some steps. You'll soon come to Corra Linn waterfall, where there is another lookout point. The falls were immortalised in verse by William Wordsworth in 1802 and have provided inspiration to many artists, including J M W Turner.

The route continues to the right, signposted 'Bonnington Linn, 0.75 miles'. Go up some more steps and follow the track to go under a double line of pylons. Follow the path to reach the weir, cross it, then turn right into the Wildlife Reserve. 

After 100yds (91m), turn right off the track down a narrow path, which crosses a footbridge and then follows the river, rejoining the main path downstream. Bear right here to reach Corra Castle. Continue walking along by the river, cross a small footbridge, then follow the wide path through the woods. When you meet another path, turn off to the right.

Follow the path to pass houses on your left. At the road turn right, then right again to cross the old Clydesholme Bridge, which brings you into a cul de sac. Go through the gate on the right – it looks like someone's drive but it is, in fact, part of the Clyde Walkway.

Walk past the stables, then turn left through a gate to follow the path along the river. Beyond another gate, continue up some steps beside a water treatment plant and bear right along a tarmac lane. Follow the lane past some houses, then turn right down a driveway, then turn right again at a sign indicating the Clyde Walkway.

Your path zigzags down to the river. At the water's edge turn left, and follow the forest track back to New Lanark. You get some great views of the mills on the way. When the path meets the road turn right, then left at the church for the car park.

Additional information

Clear riverside tracks and forest paths, a few steep steps

Planned industrial village and some stunning waterfalls

Mostly off lead

OS Explorer 335 Lanark & Tinto Hills

Main car park above New Lanark

Visitor centre, when open

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About the area

Discover South Lanarkshire

South Lanarkshire offers some of Scotland’s best days out, with country parks, museums, activity centres, historic sites and walking trails to choose from. 

Many of the area’s museums are a window into the county’s industrial heritage, the biggest claim to fame being New Lanark. Glasgow philanthropist David Dale first developed a cotton manufacturing plant and settlement at New Lanark in 1786, harnessing the power of the River Clyde as it roars over spectacular waterfalls. His son-in-law Robert Owen purchased the village in 1799. A pioneer of social reform, over the next two decades he established a Utopian society here – a model community with improved conditions for the workers and their families, complete with a school (with the first day nursery and playground in the world, it’s claimed), institute for adult education and co-operative village store. The site has been restored and added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites for visitors to learn about its history. 

You should certainly muster your remaining energy for the walk upstream to the three waterfalls known as the Falls of Clyde. The deep gorge was inaccessible before David Dale saw the potential of the area, and the natural power that the water could provide.

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