New Lanark is a beautifully restored 18th-century cotton mill village that borders the Falls of Clyde and is about an hour’s drive from Edinburgh and Glasgow. Founded by David Dale in 1785, the village became famous as a model industrial community under the enlightened management of Dale’s son-in-law, Robert Owen, a Welsh philanthropist and social reformer. Between 1800 and 1825, Owen transformed life in New Lanark with ideas and opportunities which were at least a hundred years ahead of their time. Child labour and corporal punishment were abolished, and villagers were provided with decent homes, schools and evening classes, free health care, and affordable food. Business flourished and New Lanark became an epitome of utopian socialism.
The New Lanark mills operated until 1968. After a period of neglect, the New Lanark Conservation Trust (now the New Lanark Trust) was founded in 1974 to prevent demolition of the village. With restoration work well underway,
New Lanark was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in December 2001. Now the village is a major tourist destination with 350,000 visitors per year and a resident population of around 200.
A full tour of the site takes no more than three hours during which time you can see a worker’s small, sparsely furnished house and pop into the village shop next door before moving on to Owen’s considerably more attractive house in the middle of the village. Here you can watch a video about his life and achievements. You can also visit New Lanark’s school and dress up as a pupil of the period (if you must). A big attraction is the roof garden on one of the mills, which has great views of the river Clyde. Created on 9,000 square feet of roof of the A Listed mill, it’s the largest of its kind in Scotland.
Highlights at the visitor centre include the Annie McLeod Experience dark ride, which features the ghost of mill girl Annie who tells a story about life in New Lanark in the 1820’s, and the Harmony in the Future film theatre show which takes you on memorable journey of discovery into the future. There is also an exhibition of ‘before and after’ images of New Lanark’s restoration.
New Lanark World Heritage Site, South Lanarkshire ML11 9DB. Tel: 01555 661345; www.newlanark.org