The borders, highlands and islands are all well-visited by central belt dwellers looking for a weekend escape however there’s a hidden gem that’s worth exploring and that’s the Clyde Valley. Those making the short journey to this part of the world will find a wealth of history and no shortage of outdoor activities.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed in a pleasant hotel on the outskirts of Biggar called Tinto House.
Freshly spruced-up from a recent refurbishment the wooden-clad lounge entrance to the hotel was peppered with walking types taking advantage of the excellent walking routes nearby including the hotel’s namesake Tinto Hill.
After a quick check-in, we made our way up to our room via a spiralling staircase complete with a grand stain-glass window as a backdrop and a rather eclectic penny farthing bicycle pinned to the wall at the top of the steps.
Our room had a sinkable bed and was crisply decorated with a green-rich view out onto the hotels expansive grounds. The hotel’s breakfast room looks out onto the fields leading to Biggar and if you’re up early enough in the morning you can watch the birds and rabbits mingle in the hotel’s grounds while you enjoy breakfast.
Dinner during our stay was a very enjoyable steak pie which we devoured before retiring the hotel lounge, sinking into a comfortable sofa and enjoying a few malt whiskies for the hotel bar. Tinto House is a great base for exploring the Clyde Valley. A standard double room comes in at £138 per night.
WHAT TO DO
Walk around Biggar
The hotel we stayed was short drive from the market town of Biggar. You can spend a very pleasant afternoon meandering around the shops of what is now a rare beast in Scotland - a thriving High Street. Biggar’s main thoroughfare boasts a number of quality independent shops. Visit Townhead Cafe which was once voted the best place in Britain for fish and chips and then head to Cones & Candies for some outstanding ice cream.
New Lanark started life in 1786 as a humble cotton mill – one of hundreds opened across Scotland and the north of England in the late 18th century – but now enjoys a reputation as one of the world’s best known industrial heritage sites. The village was both a successful business and an epitome of utopian socialism. Eighteenth-century Scotland was an age of cruel mill bosses. New Lanark, however, offered fair wages, affordable food, free health care and education for all villagers. Corporal punishment and child labour were ruled out. Today it is a Word Heritage Site and offers guides tours which include the mill school, workers’ houses and you can also visit the house of the founder Robert Owen. A must-do is take a walk up to the Falls of Clyde and marvel at the brute force of the water that once powered the mill.
Tinto Hill offers a pleasant and not too challenging climb to the top. At 2,320 feet, it is no Munro, but it will give your legs a stretch and present a view of Lanarkshire rather different from its industrial heartland. The walk starts near Tinto Hill cafe which also a pleasant place to recharge with a coffee after your climb.
The Museum of Lead Mining
The tiny settlement of Wanlockhead, which is Scotland’s highest village at 1456 feet above sea level, saw a gold rush in the mid 17th century when the precious metal was discovered. In addition zinc, copper and silver were also discovered in the area, with the lead mining industry dominating Wanlockhead’s economic landscape - as well as it’s natural one - right up until the mid 1950s, when the last working mine ceased production. Today the village is home to The Museum of Lead Mining where you can go underground into the innards of a former mine and visit the former cottages of mineworkers. There is also a visitor centre with rocks, minerals, gold, mining and mining artefacts.
Southern Upland Way
It would take you around 16 days to walk to the full length of the Southern Upland Way but part of the route passes through the Clyde Valley so it worth exploring this part if you are in the area. The walk links Portpatrick in Dumfries and Galloway with Cockburnspath on Berwickshire’s North Sea coast and passes through Sanquhar, Wanlockhead, Traquair and Longformacus.