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. 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). 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. 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.
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