Falls of Clyde
New Lanark, Lanarkshire, Scotland
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Falls of Clyde (we're not talking about the ship here) were a series of three main waterfalls consisting of the Dundaff Linn, Cora Linn (pictured above), and the Bonnington Linn. All of these waterfalls were on the River Clyde suggesting they should be permanent and powerful. But it turned out that these waterfalls were merely my waterfalling excuse to check out what the UNESCO designation of the town of New Lanark was all about. For the moment I stepped foot into the strangely industrial yet historical-looking town from where the waterfall hike started, I got the sense that this place played a pretty critical role in not only Scotland's heritage but the world's heritage as well.
It turned out that the town of New Lanark (founded in 1785) was the result of a Utopian vision by Robert Owen, who modeled this industrial mill town to be free of crime, poverty, and misery while still producing textiles. At least that would explain why I saw numerous signs dedicated to Robert Owen himself. Under these humanitarian principles of fair work and living conditions (which were radical at the time), Owen managed to successfully carry out his form of benevolent industrialism in this town, and it apparently was said to be a key influence on how society should be run to the present day. In fact, I've read that many of his principles gave rise to things like garden cities as well as socio- and economic systems that are now widely accepted. So I guess given the significance of Owen's ideas and how they were literally applied here, that was ultimately what warranted the awarding of UNESCO World Heritage status.
As for the waterfalls themselves, I learned that this was also the site of Britain's first commercial hydroelectric power station in 1926 called the Bonnington Power Station. Given the hum of generators that I could hear as I was hiking past some of this infrastructure, it appeared that this power station was still in use to this day. Now while I have mixed feelings about sacrificing Nature in the name of "clean" hydropower, the historical role that both the River Clyde and New Lanark have played in the history of the world cannot be understated. And so it was with this perspective that I was better able to understand how such an industrial town was able to be recognized as a World Heritage site, which otherwise defied my preconceptions of what it meant to be UNESCO World Heritage in the first place.
The hike to all of the Falls of Clyde began from the public access car park (see directions
below) just up the hill from the actual town of New Lanark itself (where traffic access was limited unless you were working, living, or overnighting here). From there, I had to walk downhill on an established footpath that brought me right into the heart of New Lanark, where I followed the light purple badger signs that would ultimately lead me to the Falls of Clyde Visitor Centre, very close to Dundaff Linn, which was the first of the Falls of Clyde. Now it turned out that the actual trail itself was not from the visitor center, but a short distance up some steps towards a gate flanking some water channels.
The relatively flat trail pretty much followed the River Clyde upstream alongside a reservoir, then past some infrastructure supporting the Bonnington Power Station, before going uphill alongside some diversion pipes towards the viewpoints for Cora Linn - the second and most impressive of the Falls of Clyde. It took me about 30 minutes of walking from the visitor center to Cora Linn. The first views of the falls tended to be hampered by overgrowth and obstructions, but I found out that as I continued along the main trail, I was able to get a few more looks at the impressive multi-tiered waterfall from a higher vantage point without as many foliage obstructions getting in the way. It appeared that I had to be content with the distant views of the falls as I didn't see how it would be possible to get closer to Cora Linn itself. So it was pretty much relegated to a look-but-don't-touch waterfall.
Beyond Cora Linn, the trail then entered into a small gorge as it continued meandering alongside the River Clyde. After another 30 minutes beyond Cora Linn, I'd ultimately make it to the unsightly dam called the Bonnington Weir. This structure was what ultimately controlled the flow of the River Clyde, and from what I could see, it pretty much robbed the thunder from the Bonnington Linn, which was the last of the waterfalls I'd encounter on the River Clyde. The best viewpoints of this waterfall actually required me to cross over the weir, then hike briefly downstream towards a pair of overlooks. That was where I could see that the current flow of the falls was but a mere fraction of the spectacle I'm sure that would've been on display had the River Clyde be allowed to flow in full spate and the entire width of the bedrock would be under water.
This was my turnaround point as there was no way I could continue on the trail then cut right back to New Lanark across the River Clyde. I believe the next crossing of the River Clyde wouldn't be for another 3.5 miles anyways (though I'm sure there were more things to see in that direction). Thus, I can't comment more on what else was further on this side of the river since I didn't go past this point. When I eventually got back to New Lanark, I had a little more time to explore the town a bit, and that was where I got more direct views of Dundaff Linn as I was standing near an active waterwheel (Mill Number Four).
When I finished the uphill walk back to the car park, I ended up spending about 2.5 hours away from the car. Again, if Tahia and Julie had joined me on this excursion, I easily could have envisioned us spending at least 3 hours here.
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The UNESCO town of New Lanark was the real claim to fame of the area as the Falls of Clyde Waterfalls were really a waterfallers excuse to explore and learn more about the place
New Lanark was about a 60- to 90-minute drive southwest of Edinburgh, which itself was a tremendous mix of charm, Medieval history, atmosphere, and energy
Roughly 28 miles northwest of New Lanark was Glasgow, which had its own energetic vibe and sense of charm; perhaps best exemplified by its Style Mile (Buchanan Street) to answer Edinburgh's Royal Mile
Roughly 45 miles north of New Lanark was Stirling, which was famous for both its old town as well as the Stirling Castle
The large public car park for the Falls of Clyde and New Lanark
I followed these badger-like signs, which led me towards the Falls of Clyde Visitor Centre
Descending into the town of New Lanark
Getting closer to the buildings of New Lanark as it became quite clear that I was entering a different place
Walking the town streets of New Lanark on my way to the visitor center
The signs then pointed me in this direction going past this building where the visitor center was further in the back
Right by the visitor center, I was able to peer over a fence towards this small waterfall called the Dundaff Linn
This was the area in front of the visitor center
This was the official start of the trail to the remaining Falls of Clyde
Looking back towards New Lanark from the start of the trail
Now the trail went through a more naturesque forest
It didn't take long before the trail skirted alongside the reservoir showing that the River Clyde was being interfered with for industrial use
Along the way to the next waterfall, I passed by this house which also had signs talking about a Mexican multinational quarry company (Cemex) threatening to destroy the Falls of Clyde
Passing by some generators, where I could hear the hum of the turbines and transformers working to turn water power into electricity
The trail continued to climb beyond the power infrastructure as it led up towards views of Cora Linn
Diversion pipes alongside the trail
My first look at the impressive Cora Linn Waterfall
Contextual view of Cora Linn
The trail continuing beyond the views of Cora Linn
View of Cora Linn from further along the trail
The small gorge upstream of Cora Linn
Hiking beneath power lines, as I'm sure the power produced here must go somewhere
I noticed there was some infrastructure for other trails, but they were closed. I wondered if this was where the peregrine falcon spotting would be had it been the right season
Looking further upstream along the River Clyde while hiking beyond Cora Linn
I didn't know it at the time, but the falls on the left was actually the lower tier of Bonnington Linn
I noticed this historically important bridge that now seems to be out of commission
Approaching the Bonnington Weir
Looking upstream from the Bonnington Weir
Now on the other side of the Bonnington Weir, where the trail continues alongside the opposite side of the River Clyde
Looking upstream past some cascades towards the Bonnington Weir
Looking back towards the Bonnington Linn at a fraction of its former self thanks to the Bonnington Weir
Heading back across the Bonnington Weir
Back at the boardwalk flanking the reservoir
Back inside the town of New Lanark
Distant view of Dundaff Linn
A closer look at the waterwheel at Mill Number Four
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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS
Sweep of the most impressive of the Falls of Clyde
Inspecting the uppermost tiers of the Falls of Clyde from two different vantage points
Distant view of the lowest of the Falls of Clyde before checking out a mill within the UNESCO town of New Lanark
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We went to the Falls of Clyde from the Gray Mare's Tail
. So we'll describe this driving route first. From the Gray Mare's Tail, we drove west on the A708 road towards Moffat
, then continued on the A701 road towards the A74 motorway, which we took for about 27 miles. We then exited at the A70, heading northeast for about 7.5 miles towards Hyndford Bridge. Then, we turned left to go onto the Hyndford Road (A73) through the town of Lanark
before turning left onto the narrower Braxfield Road (at this point, we were following the brown signs for New Lanark).
We then took the Braxfield Road for about 0.4 miles then kept right onto New Lanark Road, where we continued following the signs towards a roundabout (telling us to take the first exit on the left), which eventually led us to the large public car park at the end of the spur road that appeared to be free. Overall, this drive took us a little over an hour to cover the 48 miles.
Had we come from Edinburgh
, we could have taken the A70 road for about 32 miles towards Hyndford Bridge, then turning right onto the A73 (Hyndford Road) and eventually towards Braxfield Road as described above. Or, we could have taken the A70 road for about 28 miles, then continued heading west on the A721 for another 1.5 miles towards the A706 road turning left. Then, following the A706 road south for 3.6 miles before turning left onto the A73 (Hyndford Road) before quickly making a right turn onto Braxfield Road. The rest of the way would also be as described above.
The latter approach going in the opposite direction was the way we went to get to Edinburgh
from New Lanark, and it took us about 90 minutes (with traffic) to do that drive, which covered some 34 miles. Perhaps the nearest metropolis to New Lanark was Glasgow
, which was 28 miles or under an hour drive to the northeast.
As for additional context, Edinburgh
was 46 miles (about an hour drive) east of Glasgow
and 156 miles (over 3 hours drive) south of Inverness
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For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.
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MAP OF THE FALLS
Click here for the full World of Waterfalls map
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For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.
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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES
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