Falls of Clyde

New Lanark, Scotland, UK (Great Britain)

About Falls of Clyde


Hiking Distance: 4.5 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 2.5-3 hours

Date first visited: 2014-08-20
Date last visited: 2014-08-20

Waterfall Latitude: 55.65314
Waterfall Longitude: -3.77716

The Falls of Clyde (we’re not talking about the ship here) were a series of three waterfalls consisting of the Dundaff Linn, Cora Linn (pictured immediately above and below), and the Bonnington Linn.

All of these waterfalls were on the River Clyde suggesting they should be permanent and powerful.

Falls_of_Clyde_060_08202014 - Cora Linn - the most impressive of the Falls of Clyde
Cora Linn – the most impressive of the Falls of Clyde

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.

From 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.

New Lanark – A Utopian Experiment

It turned out that the town of New Lanark (founded in 1785) was the result of a Utopian vision by Robert Owen.

He 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.

Falls_of_Clyde_159_08202014 - Entering the town of New Lanark, which was a UNESCO World Heritage site
Entering the town of New Lanark, which was a UNESCO World Heritage site

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.

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, such accomplishments were ultimately what warranted the awarding of UNESCO World Heritage status to New Lanark.

Falls_of_Clyde_158_08202014 - Looking in the other direction towards more of the buildings of New Lanark
Looking in the other direction towards more of the buildings of New Lanark

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.

Falls_of_Clyde_131_08202014 - Looking back at the industrial buildings of New Lanark, which I initially thought was one of the most unlikely places to have a UNESCO World Heritage designation
Looking back at the industrial buildings of New Lanark, which I initially thought was one of the most unlikely places to have a UNESCO World Heritage designation

It otherwise defied my preconceptions of what it meant to be UNESCO World Heritage in the first place.

Experiencing the Falls of Clyde Waterfalls – Dundaff Linn and Cora Linn

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.

Traffic access to New Lanark was limited unless you were working, living, or overnighting here, which was why we had to park above the town.

From there, I had to walk downhill on an established footpath that brought me right into the heart of New Lanark.

Falls_of_Clyde_139_08202014 - Dundaff Linn was the first waterfall on the Clyde River, which was right in the town of New Lanark
Dundaff Linn was the first waterfall on the Clyde River, which was right in the town of New Lanark

I followed the light purple badger signs that would ultimately lead me to the Falls of Clyde Visitor Centre, which was very close to Dundaff Linn – 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.

Then, the trail went uphill alongside some diversion pipes towards the viewpoints for Cora Linn – the second and most impressive of the Falls of Clyde.

Falls_of_Clyde_031_08202014 - The flat trail following along a reservoir on the River Clyde en route to Cora Linn and Bonnington Linn
The flat trail following along a reservoir on the River Clyde en route to Cora Linn and Bonnington Linn

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.

However, 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.

This view didn’t have as many foliage obstructions getting in the way, but it appeared that I had to be content with the distant views of the falls.

Falls_of_Clyde_066_08202014 - Context of the view of Cora Linn from the lookout with the best vantage of it
Context of the view of Cora Linn from the lookout with the best vantage of it

That’s because I didn’t see how it would be possible to get closer to Cora Linn itself.

So Cora Linn was pretty much relegated to a look-but-don’t-touch waterfall.

Experiencing the Falls of Clyde Waterfalls – Bonnington Linn

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.

Falls_of_Clyde_084_08202014 - On the trail beyond Cora Linn towards the Bonnington Linn
On the trail beyond Cora Linn towards the Bonnington Linn

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.

Bonnington Linn 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.

Falls_of_Clyde_105_08202014 - Looking upstream at the mostly bare riverbed downstream of the dam at Bonnington Linn
Looking upstream at the mostly bare riverbed downstream of the dam at Bonnington Linn

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.

Falls_of_Clyde_115_08202014 - Looking upstream at the main drops of what is left of the Bonnington Linn, which was the uppermost of the Falls of Clyde near New Lanark
Looking upstream at the main drops of what is left of the Bonnington Linn, which was the uppermost of the Falls of Clyde near New Lanark

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.

Authorities

The Falls of Clyde reside in New Lanark in Lanarkshire, Scotland. It is administered by the New Lanark UNESCO World Heritage Site. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Falls_of_Clyde_001_08202014 - I followed these badger-like signs, which led me towards the Falls of Clyde Visitor Centre
Falls_of_Clyde_007_08202014 - Contextual view of New Lanark as we descended from the car park into the UNESCO World Heritage town
Falls_of_Clyde_009_08202014 - Continuing our descent into the town of New Lanark along a wide and paved walkway
Falls_of_Clyde_010_08202014 - Getting closer to the buildings of New Lanark as it became quite clear that I was entering a different place
Falls_of_Clyde_011_08202014 - Walking the town streets of New Lanark on my way to the visitor center
Falls_of_Clyde_012_08202014 - The signs then pointed me in this direction going past this building in New Lanark where the visitor center further was in the back
Falls_of_Clyde_017_08202014 - Right by the visitor center, I was able to peer over a fence towards this small waterfall called the Dundaff Linn.  This was the first of the Falls of Clyde
Falls_of_Clyde_018_08202014 - This was the area in front of the visitor center in the far side of New Lanark
Falls_of_Clyde_021_08202014 - This was the official start of the trail to the remaining Falls of Clyde, which left New Lanark and went into the bush
Falls_of_Clyde_023_08202014 - Looking back towards New Lanark from the start of the trail leading to Cora Linn and Bonnington Linn
Falls_of_Clyde_028_08202014 - Now the trail went through a more naturesque forest, which became even more dominated by Nature the further from New Lanark that we went
Falls_of_Clyde_030_08202014 - It didn't take long before the trail skirted alongside the reservoir showing that the River Clyde was being interfered with for industrial use
Falls_of_Clyde_032_08202014 - Along the way to the next waterfall (Cora Linn), I passed by this house which also had signs talking about a Mexican multinational quarry company (Cemex) threatening to destroy the Falls of Clyde
Falls_of_Clyde_035_08202014 - Passing by some generators, where I could hear the hum of the turbines and transformers working to turn water power into electricity
Falls_of_Clyde_039_08202014 - The trail continued to climb beyond the power infrastructure as it led up towards views of Cora Linn
Falls_of_Clyde_042_08202014 - Diversion pipes alongside the trail as I was getting closer to the Cora Linn
Falls_of_Clyde_047_08202014 - My first look at the impressive Cora Linn Waterfall
Falls_of_Clyde_072_08202014 - Looking right at the Cora Linn in long exposure from the most satisfying overlook
Falls_of_Clyde_073_08202014 - The trail continuing beyond the views of Cora Linn as it started heading towards Bonnington Linn
Falls_of_Clyde_074_08202014 - View of Cora Linn from further along the trail, which was now more off-center as the upper tier was starting to become concealed
Falls_of_Clyde_078_08202014 - Looking way downstream towards some buildings on the outskirts of New Lanark
Falls_of_Clyde_080_08202014 - The small gorge upstream of Cora Linn as the trail passed close by its brink
Falls_of_Clyde_082_08202014 - Hiking beneath power lines, as I'm sure the power produced here must go somewhere
Falls_of_Clyde_085_08202014 - Looking across the River Clyde at some gorge walls along the trail to Bonnington Linn
Falls_of_Clyde_087_08202014 - Looking further upstream along the River Clyde while hiking beyond Cora Linn
Falls_of_Clyde_088_08202014 - Looking upstream towards a smaller segment of a waterfall where the thicker segment on the left was the lower drop of Bonnington Linn
Falls_of_Clyde_092_08202014 - Context of the lower half of the Bonnington Linn with a different thinner segment to its right
Falls_of_Clyde_096_08202014 - I noticed this historically important bridge nearby the Bonnington Linn that now seems to be out of commission
Falls_of_Clyde_098_08202014 - Approaching the Bonnington Weir
Falls_of_Clyde_099_08202014 - Looking upstream from the Bonnington Weir, which locked up a very calm reservoir of the River Clyde
Falls_of_Clyde_102_08202014 - Now on the other side of the Bonnington Weir, where the trail continues alongside the opposite side of the River Clyde
Falls_of_Clyde_109_08202014 - Looking back towards the Bonnington Linn at a fraction of its former self thanks to the Bonnington Weir
Falls_of_Clyde_114_08202014 - Partial look at just the flowing part of the Bonnington Linn since the full width of the River Clyde no longer has water
Falls_of_Clyde_119_08202014 - Heading back across the Bonnington Weir after having had my fill of the Bonnington Linn
Falls_of_Clyde_120_08202014 - Looking downstream from the Bonnington Linn at the mostly diminished River Clyde
Falls_of_Clyde_123_08202014 - Back at the boardwalk flanking the reservoir near New Lanark
Falls_of_Clyde_126_08202014 - Making it back to the town of New Lanark
Falls_of_Clyde_127_08202014 - Contextual look of New Lanark as I returned to the town after my hike out to Bonnington Linn and back
Falls_of_Clyde_134_08202014 - Passing back through the UNESCO World Heritage town of New Lanark
Falls_of_Clyde_144_08202014 - Last look at the Dundaff Linn before starting to head up to the car park above New Lanark
Falls_of_Clyde_148_08202014 - A closer look at the waterwheel at Mill Number Four
Falls_of_Clyde_160_08202014 - Last contextual look over the town of New Lanark before almost returning to the car park
Falls_of_Clyde_163_08202014 - Looking in the other direction at the view from the walkway leading between the car park and New Lanark

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We went to the Falls of Clyde from the Gray Mare’s Tail near Moffat.

So we’ll describe this driving route first.

Driving from Moffat to New Lanark

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.

Falls_of_Clyde_003_08202014 - The free car park above the town of New Lanark. To get down there, you have to walk from here to get into town
The free car park above the town of New Lanark. To get down there, you have to walk from here to get into town

We then took the Braxfield Road for about 0.4 miles then kept right onto New Lanark Road.

Next, 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.

Driving from Edinburgh to New Lanark

Had we come from Edinburgh, we could have taken the A70 road for about 32 miles towards Hyndford Bridge.

Then, we’d turn right onto the A73 (Hyndford Road) and eventually head 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, we’d follow the A706 road south for 3.6 miles before turning left onto the A73 (Hyndford Road).

Finally, we’d quickly make a right turn onto Braxfield Road, and 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.

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.

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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Tagged with: new lanark, lanarkshire, unesco, scotland, uk, united kingdom, waterfall, clyde, bonnington linn, dundaff linn, cora linn, robert owen, utopian, bonnington, power station



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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