Mining in this area started in the early 1700s and a weir was built here and a two mile lade dug out with a dam to hold back the huge artificial body of water. The power from the water drove three mines and nine mills in its heyday and even though the industry came to a stop in the 1920s and the water and the surrounding countryside was turned into a wildlife haven, there is still a good mix of nature and Scotland's industrial history to see on a walk around it.
As such, an afternoon here is nothing if not educational; setting off from the car park at the southern end, you pass the weir before getting to the first wildlife hide. On sunny Sundays you aren't likely to see the shyest of creatures, because of the fishermen, walkers and bikers passing by, but it is still great fun to go in with kids and peep through the hatches. We spotted swans and ducks, which might have been disappointing to the adults but Lizzie and Archie, aged 10 and seven were thrilled to spy on them.
The walk around the whole lake is about three miles which is a perfect length for our kids and certainly manageable by much younger ones, depending on their stamina. It certainly helps that the landscape constantly changes to keep their interest, and the path leads through a farmyard, past little beaches and bogs and over countless bridges. Towards the end of the walk there is a beautiful sunken garden, formed from the remains of an open cast mine and a great place for hide and seek. There are even fossils here from the time the whole area was under the sea.
For really tiny tots, the bottom end of the water is tarmacked so a buggy or pram can access the shorter distance to feed the ducks, and there is a small visitor centre which explores the wildlife of the area and is very much geared towards younger visitors.
For more information, visit www.clacksweb.org.uk/visiting/gartmorndam
This article was first published in the Scotsman, Saturday April 10, 2010