New Lanark

Yesterday I felt the need of an adventure involving tea, cakes, and a bit of Scottish heritage (I have to do this for my next book, it’s all work, work, work…) so I whisked my delightful assistant off to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of New Lanark, in South Lanarkshire (roughly central southern Scotland).

New Lanark is one of 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Scotland (the only other one I’ve seen is Edinburgh’s old and new towns, so I think I should make the effort to visit the rest). It consists of a small village and series of cotton mills that were built in 1786 by a Scottish businessman called David Dale. Β It sits low in a valley of the River Clyde, and was built there because of its situation next to the only waterfalls on the Clyde (water power being needed for running the mills).

The reason it’s now a World Heritage Site is due to the innovation and industry of David Dale’s son-in-law, Robert Owen. Owen was a social reformer ahead of his time, and came into partnership with Dale at New Lanark when he married Dale’s daughter.

This is the first glimpse you get of New Lanark if you park at the upper car park and walk down towards the village:

I don’t know if the bunting had been put up for the Jubilee, the Olympics, some other celebration, or if it’s always there, but in any case there were lots of brightly coloured little flags fluttering in the breeze:

Having travelled for more than 2.5 hours to get here, the cafe was calling our names loud and clear (I admit, we had stopped for refreshments en route, but it felt like a long time beforehand). Β The cafe was the sort you find in a large visitor centre, not terribly inspiring but providing much-needed refreshments to weary visitors. Having had previous refreshments (hot chocolate and biscotti for me, coffee and croissant for delightful assistant), we decided to share a sandwich and then have a cake each.

The sandwich selection was very carnivore-orientated, but we found a cream cheese and cucumber option that suited us both. I was absolutely desperate for tea by this time and was delighted to find that the tea was just the way I like it – strong, flavourful and Fairtrade:

My only complaint about the tea was that there was only enough for one cup each in the pot for two. However, that was remedied by ordering another pot, along with a coconut tart, a piece of Mars Bar slice and a small pot of grapes:

The cafe had been almost empty when we arrived:

But was very busy when we left, it being the lunchtime rush, and we were glad to get away from all the noise. Β It also meant that the exhibitions were nice and quiet for us while our fellow visitors noshed in the cafe.

The first bit we went to was an audio-visual display and we were taken round in little pods seating two people in each one. The pods were suspended from a track in the ceiling that took us slowly round the exhibition, with the voice of ghost child Annie McLeod telling us her story along the way. At the end of the ride I had my picture taken with Annie McLeod and two faceless ghosts:

At the moment, New Lanark is forming Chapter 2 of my book, and I intend to visit it again and see the bits we didn’t manage to get round (there’s a lot to see – too much for one visit, but thankfully the ticket allows you to revisit and see the things you missed before).

Since I haven’t seen it all yet I can’t be sure of my favourite bit of it, but certainly from my first visit the part I liked best was the roof garden on top of one of the mill buildings:

We spent a long time up in the roof garden, having it to ourselves for a while, and it was a welcome relief from the exhibitions. Unfortunately, I had quite a headache all day, and being up there at the treetops with the breeze and the sunshine coming out a little now and then, was blissful.

One of the features of New Lanark, at least that we found, was that it had a claustrophobic feel, due to its situation down in the valley. There is no doubt that it’s a fascinating and amazing place, and I’m looking forward to visiting again, but it was nice to get out of it after spending 3 hours there.

When we left the village and were walking back up to the car park, we saw a grassy path leading off entincingly above the valley, and felt an overwhelming urge to investigate:

It was beautiful, with very fresh air, an earthy smell and lots of wild foxgloves:

Looking down on New Lanark, I felt free up there amongst the trees:

Next time perhaps we’ll visit in a different season and see what else is growing along the enticing path.


49 thoughts on “New Lanark

  1. Oh I really enjoyed this post, Lorna! I’ve wanted to go to New Lanark for years and years. I’ll get there someday, but in the meantime this has transported me. It does look a bit claustrophobic, down in the valley. I believe they produce organic wool from their own sheep? The ghostly-girl tour guide sounds a bit spooky!

    The foxgloves are doing very well in this rainy, rainy summer. The ones in my garden are thriving and in the evening the tall white ones look like a small army. I love them and so do the bees.

    I’ve been enjoying re-reading your Tearoom Delights book (Perth, Dundee & Angus) and doing some more armchair travelling that way too… I see from the photo you do like your tea strong!

    • I had been wanting to visit for years too, Christine, so it was nice to fulfil the ambition and I’m delighted to be able to share it with you. You’re quite right about the wool, it’s a big thing in the gift shop and I thought of you when I saw it all; I imagined you would have a field day in there! The ghost guide was a bit spooky and it seemed to me an unusual approach to take, but nevertheless it was very effective. I’m very chuffed that you’re still reading my little book! The tea in this picture looks very strong, and it was, but it wasn’t stewed (I can’t abide stewed tea), I think they must have used a good quality teabag, which was a pleasant surprise. Foxgloves make me feel I’m on holiday!

  2. oh Lorna, I love New Lanark! thanks for this great post. my husband and i lived near Lanark back in the 80’s and i remember visiting there. i think it was closed or being renovated when we went so we didn’t see inside except for peeking in the windows. it’s lovely to hear about how it is now.

    • I’m so glad to have been able to bring back happy memories! We took tea in Lanark after visiting this place and it seems a nice little town, I’d like to have another wander there some time. If you have time during another visit over here you might like to go round New Lanark Visitor Centre, although I know you already have a lot to pack in!

  3. I want to ride around in that pod suspended for the ceiling–how fun. But the roof garden was my favorite bit. I love a good roof garden. There’s something about them that makes me feel like I’m in a classic movie. :0)

    • That’s an interesting angle Lucinda, I hadn’t thought of myself as being in a classic movie! It was lovely though, most relaxing, and the pod was an interesting experience.

  4. Quite a few things to love about this historic site. I thought the bunting looked quite festive and welcoming! As for the tea & cakes, (always a yes from me!) I was in awe of that fantastic rooftop garden. How very fortunate that you and your assistant could revel in its beauty uninterrupted!

    Ps gorgeous grassy paths too πŸ™‚

    • Very true Alice, we were lucky to get the garden to ourselves, that was a special treat. I was cheered by the bunting, it really stood out nicely against the stonework, I hope they keep it there. And of course, tea and cakes are pretty much an essential part of any outing, in my book. πŸ™‚

  5. Wonderful post, Lorna! I think I was most impressed by the rooftop gardens and the mars bar slice. The foxgloves seemed to be waving farewell, and that final photo was a lovely send-off.
    You look quite comfortable in your outfit of the past, by the way. πŸ˜‰

    • Thank you Annie. I don’t like to be negative about these things, but the coconut tart was slightly disappointing. It was nice and coconuty but it was unfortunately a bit tasteless. The jam was some sort of synthetic spread I reckon, not proper fruit-filled jam. My mum makes little tarts like this that are much better, but then she uses her own homemade jam, and that’s maybe the difference. I must admit that it was moist, however, and slipped down well with my tasty tea.

    • Thank you Linda, foxgloves always cheer me up, especially when there are bees in the flowers (there were on this occasion but they were in and out too quickly for me to snap them), The Mars Bar cake does indeed have real Mars Bars in it, it’s a very popular traybake over here.

  6. What a stunning place, the roof top garden is beautiful as are the foxgloves, I haven’t seen them for a while. I think I can taste that coconut tart as I write this! πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Eleenie, foxgloves often surprise me when I see them. I know I like them but each year when they come out they ‘wow’ me all over again . A coconut tart is a splendid thing!

  7. That path looks like an escape route from the mills. I wonder if the mill workers took their Sunday afternoon strolls along it to escape from the claustrophobia below. It’s important that these relics of our industrial past are preserved and it looks like this is a fine example.

    And the foxgloves are beautiful!

    P.S. It’s really good that your ticket allows for return trips

    • I wondered about that too Finn, I hope they did get the chance to escape the mills for a bit. I believe they worked 6 days a week, so perhaps they scarpered uphill on their day off to enjoy the space and greenery. Robert Owen was very big on the environment as well as the industry, and wanted people to enjoy where they lived, in decent accommodation in good surroundings, so I think he’d have encouraged the workers to enjoy the woods above the mills. I thought it was excellent that the ticket allowed for return trips. I would go back anyway, but that gives me increased motivation.

  8. I’m glad that you made it down there, and in good weather! It’s a lovely place but I agree about the ‘claustrophobic’ valley situation. I was staggered by the size and scale of the mill buildings when we first visited. You discovered some parts of it that we didn’t explore – definitely worth a second visit.

    • I’m interested to hear that you also found it claustrophobic, because I did wonder if it was just me and my headache (although my delightful assistant also felt it very closed in and slightly oppressive). It is on a big scale, isn’t it? I had seen pictures and heard about it quite a bit before I went, but I think I was also surprised by the extent of it. As you say, definitely worth a second visit.

  9. I’m not sure if it was New lanark or Stirling castle . my mother has a picture of a ghostly girl figure hovering over, what I can only say was a huge weaving machine. really old with bobbings of wool . the girl has a white gown & white cloth tied bonnet on .. the picture is very clear, the girl looks quite young . I’ve never been to new lanark & my mum still has this picture . the girl stands out but ghostly .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s