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A Revolutionary Utopia at New Lanark

A rustic walk from a model industrial community.

Distance 6 miles (9.7km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 476ft (145m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Clear riverside tracks and forest paths, a few steep steps

Landscape Planned industrial town and some stunning waterfalls

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 335 Lanark & Tinto Hills

Start/finish NS 883426

Dog friendliness Mostly off lead

Parking Main car park above New Lanark

Public toilets Visitor centre, when open

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1 From the car park, walk downhill into New Lanark. Bear left and walk to the Scottish Wildlife Trust centre. Turn up the stone steps on the left, following the signs to the Falls of Clyde. The path soon goes down some steps to reach the weir, where there's a lookout point.

2 Continue along the path. You'll pass Bonnington Power Station on your right, where it divides. Take the right-hand path, which begins to climb and takes you into woodland and up some steps. You'll soon come to Corra Linn waterfall, with another lookout point.

3 Your path continues to the right, signposted 'Bonnington Linn, ¾ miles'. Go up some more steps and follow the track to go under a double line of pylons. You'll pass an area that is often fenced to protect breeding peregrines. Follow the path to reach the large new bridge, cross it, then turn right into the Falls of Clyde Wildlife Reserve.

4 Walk through the reserve, turn right at a crossing and over a small bridge. Pass underneath the double line of pylons again, then bear right at the gate to reach Corra Castle. Continue walking by the river, cross a small footbridge, then follow the wide path through the woods. When you meet another path, turn right.

5 Follow the path to pass houses on your left. At the road turn right (take care, no pavement), then right again to cross the old bridge, which brings you into a cul de sac. Go through the gate on the right - it looks like someone's drive but is signed 'Clyde Walkway'.

6 Walk past the stables to the river. Go through a metal gate to a water treatment works, up the steps beside it, then pass a stile on your left. Continue on the main track, following the signs for the Clyde Walkway. Pass a house on the right and follow the path leading down to the right (there's a broken fingerpost there).

7 Your path zig-zags down to the river. At the water's edge turn left, cross a footbridge and follow the forest track. Go down some steps, close to the river again, then up more steps and over a bridge. Follow the path to the road, turn right and into New Lanark. Turn left at the church for the car park.

'I know that society may be formed so as to exist without crime, without poverty, with health greatly improved, with little, if any misery, and with intelligence and happiness increased a hundredfold' - Robert Owen, from a speech made in 1816

If you do this walk you'll get a glimpse of Utopia, for the planned industrial village of New Lanark was the embodiment of one man's vision of an ideal world. New Lanark was built as a cotton spinning centre in 1785 by David Dale and Richard Arkwright, and is so well preserved that it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It owes its fame to Dale's son-in-law, Robert Owen, who took over its management in 1798 and made it the focus of a revolutionary social experiment.

Owen was an efficient businessman and ran a strict regime, monitoring wages, insisting on good time keeping and dismissing employees for persistent drunkenness and theft. His methods made New Lanark extremely profitable. He was also extremely fair and this was no 'dark satanic mill'.

Owen believed in humane capitalism and felt that businesses were more successful if the workers were well treated. Unlike most industrialists of his day, he did not allow children under ten to work in his mills, and established the world's first nursery school. He also ensured that all children received a rounded education: by the age of seven they were attending lessons on everything from history and geography to nature study and dancing. Education didn't end when children began working in the mills, for all his employees were encouraged to attend evening classes, lectures and dancing classes in the wonderfully named Institute for the Formation of Character. Owen also disapproved of the cruel treatment of his workers and refused to allow corporal punishment to be used as a form of discipline. His staff were provided with good housing, free medical care and their own co-operative store.

Owen tried hard to persuade other industrialists to adopt his caring regime, but failed to do so. Disillusioned, he sold New Lanark in 1825 and travelled to America where he bought a settlement in Indiania, which he named New Harmony. He intended to turn it into a Utopian community, freed from the strictures of 19th-century Britain. The experiment did not work as well as he hoped and he returned to Britain in 1828, where he continued to campaign for workes' welfare, even leading a march protesting against the plight of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, six men who were transported for seven years for forming a trade union. Owen died in 1858. He never managed to create Utopia, but inspired several other model villages such as Saltaire, Port Sunlight and Bournville and influenced attitudes for years to come.

While you're there

The ruins of Corra Castle are home to a colony of natterer's bats. These medium-sized bats are found throughout Britain. In winter they tend to hibernate in caves and mines, while during the summer they prefer to roost in old stone buildings and barns. Their limbs have a slight pink tinge, giving rise to their nickname - the 'red-armed bat'.

What to look for

Peregrines nest near the Corra Linn falls from April to June and high-powered telescopes have been set up to allow you to view their nest without disturbing the birds. They are a protected species, with only around 800 pairs in Scotland, and are sadly threatened by egg collectors, shooting and poisoning.

Where to eat and drink

There's a self service café in the village where you can get baked potatoes, sandwiches, cakes and hot drinks. On fine days you can buy ice creams from a kiosk in the village.

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