First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Descending a steep cobbled road in the shadowy gorge of the upper River Clyde, we found ourselves overshadowed by a mass of tremendously bulky, multi-storeyed, many-windowed buildings. At first sight these dark sandstone ranks give off the air of a prison or a barracks, or a particularly grim reformatory.
In fact, New Lanark was the 18th century’s most utopian industrial settlement. The workers in these gigantic cotton mills were well treated and well looked after by the standard of the age. In time, the trade union and co-operative movements both had their birth in the ‘workers’ paradise’ of New Lanark.
These days New Lanark is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, beautifully maintained and laid out for visitors. It’s thrilling to hear the rumble of the cascades and see the amber-coloured sluicing of the Clyde – enthralling sounds and sights that drew us away up a stepped path and on above the falls.
A last look back at the many-windowed mill walls towering over their river bend, and a turn of the sheer-sided gorge shut the spectacle away. Leafless hazel, birch and oak trees trailed beards of lichen that overhung the water, whose grey glassy pools and runs were broken by the jagged plates of its bed of old red sandstone.
The path undulated like a rollercoaster, up on a high ledge one minute, the next down on a boardwalk alongside the river. Blackbirds and great tits gave out their alarm calls as we passed. Bonnington power station loomed up, incongruous in its size and bulk down here in the wild gorge where Corra Linn waterfall came sluicing over its giant rock step. Another stretch of path precariously near the cliff edge, and we were skirting the twin cascade of Bonnington Linn to cross the Clyde by way of a mighty weir beyond.
The return path along the opposite bank ran through the woods to pass the ivy-smothered tower of medieval Corra Castle, leaning at the lip of Corra Linn in an impossibly romantic attitude. William Wordsworth did proper justice to the scene in ‘Composed at Cora Linn’ * (1814):
‘Land of the Vale! astounding Flood;
The dullest leaf in this thick wood
Quakes – conscious of thy power;
The caves reply with hollow moan;
And vibrates to its central stone
Yon time-cemented Tower!’
*Wordsworth spelt it like this, with one ‘r’
Start: New Lanark Visitor Centre, New Lanark ML11 9DB (OS ref NS 881425)
Getting there: Train to Lanark; bus service 135 to New Lanark.
Road: New Lanark is signed from A73 in Lanark (M74, Jct 9 or 10)
Walk (7 miles, moderate, OS Explorer 335): From New Lanark, follow ‘Falls of Clyde’ signs upriver. From Bonnington power station (884417) follow ‘Bonnington Linn’. Above Bonnington Linn, right across weir bridge (885407). On far side, right (‘viewpoint’ waymarks), keeping to path along edge of gorge. Beyond power station follow ‘Kirkfieldbank’. At Kirkfieldbank (869436), right along Kirkfield Road; on left bend, right across Clydesholm Bridge (869439). Right along A72; in 150m, right down access road (870440). At treatment works gate, left up steps (871438, ‘Clyde Walkway’/CW). At top of rise (873438), right along St Patrick’s Road (lane). Just past Rubishaw house, right into Castlebank Park (876435, CW). In 100m, right (‘CW to New Lanark’). Follow CW through woods to New Lanark Road (877429); right to New Lanark.
Conditions: Many steps; some steep, unguarded cliff edges; muddy tracks
Lunch: Mill Café, New Lanark
Accommodation: New Lanark Mill Hotel, Lanark ML11 9DB (01555-667200, newlanarkhotel.co.uk)