"Time may change me. But I can't trace time." David Bowie
Hare today but will it be gone tomorrow?
It had been many years since I had last visited New Lanark. My class would be dragged there kicking and screaming every year on a school outing. Sadly our teachers didn't ever bother to ask us where we had been the year before or they just didn't care. I have to admit that the place didn't do much for me back in the 80s. Certainly not after the second or third visit. Historical cotton mills only have so much attraction for pre pub boys. While very few things have changed here, a few things have changed a lot, none more than me.
Always walk clockwise, never anti-clockwise. This will prevent you being trampled to death by people with Nordic poles.
When my friend Nadia recently asked me to accompany her to New Lanark on a photography field trip, it took more than a little bit of arm twisting to get me on board. I probably wasn't the happiest camper on the short drive through the beautiful Clyde Valley.
Once we arrived, it wasn't long before some more pleasant memories of New Lanark began to come back to me. When I was a bairn, in an attempt to force me to go cold turkey on my Atari computer addiction, my mother and grandmother took me on a little day trip to see the Falls of Clyde.
Now when you arrive at the main car park, you are going to be tempted to wander through the visitor centre or relax and have some tea and cake at the New Lanark Mill Hotel. Fight the temptation. Within five minutes walk of the car park you will be face-to-face with the real stars of New Lanark. Trust me when I tell you that all the visitor attractions have been there since 1786, so I am pretty sure they will still be there after your refreshing constitutional. What's more, your sweet treats will taste all the better after a bit of exercise.
The walk takes three to four hours. For us it took closer to the full four hours because we were stopping to enjoy all the wonderful views. There are benches with images of local wildlife emblazoned across them strategically placed at some of the more picturesque spots. With some of the waterfalls you will be able to get so close that you can feel the spray of the ice cold water as it etches its way across the landscape. Others such as the larger and more powerful Corra Linn are viewed from a safe distance.
Depending on what time of year you are visiting, the falls will vary in ferocity. We visited during Scottish summer time so the limited rain fall (it only rains for a few hours each day in summer) meant the water was trickling rather than gushing. The falls are much more impressive in winter but then you will have to contend with the cold weather and muddy terrain. I would probably recommend visiting in better weather and then deciding from there if you are brave enough to come back in winter.
By the time you make it round the walking track you will no doubt be ravenous and keen to replenish all the calories you have just worked off. You can head over to the Mill One Restaurant for something more substantial or alternatively to the Falls Bar for that tea and cake you have been dreaming of all afternoon.
Once you have stoked the boilers, you are ready to begin the more relaxing part of your excursion. New Lanark was created during the industrial revolution and was home to more than 2000 workers before finally closing in 1968. At times, when being told about life there by the guides, it seems like a miserable existence. Luckily when the owner's son-in-law Robert Owen took control of the mill, he greatly improved the conditions, facilities and services for the workers and their families. This led to many social improvements including progressive education, factory reform and more humane working practices.
New Lanark also showed the rest of the world the way forward for urban planning. In 2001, New Lanark received UNESCO world heritage status. The site shows the signs of significant investment since this point. The visitor centre is now much more set up to entertain and educate children than when I was a young scallywag.
Take a gondola ride to the past.
You will have the opportunity to explore the various waterways that intertwine the settlement. They look lovely and tranquil now but you should remember that these were the lifeblood of the cotton mills that they powered. Despite the industrial nature of the community, you will soon understand why some of the locals still refer to this area as the "Venice of Scotland".
The Counting House.
Pay a visit to the Wool and Textile Shop. They no longer use the mill for cotton but they now produce some of Scotland's finest wool. For anyone interested in knitting there is nothing better than being able to see the wool you are fashioning a jumper out of being produced.
As you explore the shop and visitor centre, you will be able to see local craftsmen produce wool in almost exactly the same way they would have 200 years ago. A few health and safety changes aside, this is very much like going back in time. The onsite staff are more than happy to answer any questions you have. For them, working here is obviously more of a passion and calling rather than just a job. This all helps to add to the magic of New Lanark.
Your legs will no doubt by now be a bit tired. Your tummy is full and you have a bundle of Aran Tweed wool stuck under your oxter. Time to go home now and create that chunky knit sweater you have been threatening for years. You can leave safe in the thought that you can always come back on another day ,month, year or century and everything will be exactly the same.