Scottish walks: The Falls of Clyde

The Falls of Clyde
The Falls of Clyde
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Although Rhona and the Mountain Hare had been there previously, this was another first for me – a visit to Cora Linn, Bonnington Linn, Dundaff Linn (and Stonebyres Linn), collectively known as the Falls of Clyde.

After weeks of rain, it would be difficult to believe that the Falls could ever be more dramatic and noisy than on our day. Day trips became a popular tourist pursuit with the arrival of the railway to Lanark in 1855.

We, too, arrived by train. There is a bus link from the station, but it is a pleasant downhill stroll to the Clyde and another attraction – the 18th-century cotton spinning village of New Lanark.

Founded in 1785 by David Dale, New Lanark gained international fame under the enlightened management of Robert Owen, Dale’s son-in-law, who initiated an innovative employee welfare programme and a community where education and social justice were pre-eminent.

More than 1,000 people (70 per cent of them children) worked in the village and the orphans were well-fed, clothed and educated.

Following the closure of the mills in 1967, the buildings were restored by the New Lanark Preservation Trust and New Lanark is now a World Heritage Site – open daily, adults £8.50. One of the most remarkable SYHA hostels in Scotland offers small rooms; ideal for families, school parties and groups.

The 1927 Lanark Hydro-Electric Scheme, the first hydro scheme for public supply, comprises two power stations, Stonebyres and Bonnington. The latter, with a head of 167ft, draws water from above the Cora Linn, but for five days between April and October is switched off such that the Falls can be seen to full effect. We were luckier than that.

Map Ordnance survey map 72, Upper Clyde Valley

Distance 7½ miles

Height 200m

Terrain Undulating waymarked paths and minor roads

Start point Lanark railway station

Time 4 hours

Nearest town Lanark

Refreshment spot Mill Café, New Lanark visitor centre

From the station, follow the signposted way to New Lanark car park. We went down High Street, left on South Vennel, then by Braxfield Road. A steep, stepped path offers the first-time visitor that wow factor in appreciating the full extent of the impressive tiers of mills and tenements. A well-marked path, much of it stepped, eases the circuit of the wooded picturesque ravine. Head upstream to reach a charming duckboard walkway fringing the river. Very slippery on our icy day, if this section is flooded, retrace steps and follow the diversion signs. Continue to Bonnington Power Station and two warning signs; there is a dangerous cliff face adjacent to the path, so keep to the path and, as the river is liable to sudden high water levels and flows, people are not allowed to cross the river bed. Impossible in any case on our day.

Pass Cora Linn, the highest fall with a drop of 84 feet, and painted by JMW Turner. Further upstream above Bonnington Linn is the crossing point to the west bank, not by the structurally unsafe early 19th-century iron footbridge but by the power station weir bridge, Ransomes & Rapier Ltd Ipswich 1925.

It is 3½ miles downstream to the next river crossing at Kirkfieldbank. Pass by superb viewpoints of Bonnington Linn to reach the ruins of 15th-century Corra Castle, a fortified tower house surrounded by sharp cliffs on three sides. Continue past New Lanark on the opposite bank, after which an old estate drive leads to Kirkfieldbank. Descend by road to the narrow 17th-century Clydesholm bridge, the oldest surviving Clyde crossing and the only way to cross the river at this point until 1959.

Immediately over the bridge, turn right by a cottage. Do not be put off by the cottage camera coverage. The gate leads to a river-side lane, a public right of way. On reaching water treatment works, a stepped path leads uphill to a Tarmac road, then a steady ascent to a sign on the right directing walkers down to New Lanark. However, we continued uphill, left up Friars Lane to West Port, then right up High Street to return to the station.