Places to Visit in Scotland
- New Lanark
It is perhaps surprising that a village of abandoned cotton mills and the homes of the former workers there should be a top tourist attraction, but New Lanark is certainly not in the mould of the "Dark Satanic Mills" of the Victorian age. For a start, they are in a deep wooded valley of the river Clyde and they were built at the end of the 18th century by a man who was as much a pioneer in social improvement as an industrialist.
David Dale> began as a textile merchant and became a respected, wealthy merchant. He then branched out to set up his mills in New Lanark (and in Blantyre and Catrine) using the power of the river to drive the machinery. The location had been selected with the help of Richard Arkwright, who had revolutionised the cotton industry with his "Spinning Jenny".
In addition, Dale had the revolutionary idea that happy, well-cared for workers would produce more. While his aim was not entirely altruistic (he was looking for bigger profits) he provided his workers with good housing, schools for the youngsters and an early form of co-operative shops where the workers could obtain goods at competitive prices. In time, it became the largest cotton-spinning establishment in Scotland. Dale's son-in-law, Robert Owen, developed the social experiment even further. His ideas were considered revolutionary then, but are now widely accepted in modern times.
The mills eventually fell silent in 1967 and it looked as though the community which had survived for so long would be demolished. But in 1974 the New Lanark Heritage Trust was set up to restore and refurbish the village. Houses were brought up to modern standard and became lived in again by tenants and owners but it was not until 1993 that restoration of the mills and the school began.
The character of the village has been maintained and visitors can now see a mill lade, engine house, machinery, a village shop, a cotton worker's house and David Dale's residence, all much as they were 200 years ago. A new audio-visual "Millennium Experience" takes visitors on a journey through time in a Disneyworld type ride, and shows what life was like in the early days of the mills, using local children to tell the story. There is now a modern hotel in the village but externally it is very much in keeping with the older buildings.
Of course, a considerable added attraction is the location beside the river Clyde. The Falls of Clyde Nature Reserve has been created and there are woodland paths to the Corra Linn Falls, the largest fall of water in Scotland and which can be spectacular when the river is in spate.
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