New Lanark is an 18th Century mill village situated less than an hours drive from the Scottish cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Built alongside the picturesque River Clyde it’s one of Scotland’s six UNESCO World Heritage sites, boasting a popular visitor attraction and much more besides. It’s history is widely known thanks to the revolutionary Robert Owen who managed the mill during the early 1800’s. Whilst under Owen’s control the site transformed becoming a ‘model community’ unlike any seen before, earning New Lanark an international reputation thanks to the social and educational reforms he imposed. Showing a more humane and caring approach to mill management he ensured, amongst other things, that children younger than 10 were no longer allowed to work in the mill as well as creating the world’s first ever Infant School. These reforms introduced by Robert Owens helped to shape many of the modern policies we have today.
Fast forward and New Lanark has been given a new lease of life whilst still retaining the history that’s woven into it’s every stone. We recently visited for the first time and as we made our descent from the car park we were able to take in the sheer size of the site as well as the natural beauty that provides it’s stunning back drop – it really is breath taking.
After making our way through reception our first stop of the day was the Annie McLeod ride. Unsure what to expect we arrived and were promptly seated into hanging carriages with room for two adults each. Mr F and the little man went in the first and myself and Thing 2 took the second. As we entered the ride I did think that perhaps Mr F had drawn the short straw, it was rather dark and I worried that Leo who is only four might be scared. However soon enough I could hear him chattering away happily in front of us and I relaxed and enjoyed the ride.
The ride was around 10 minutes in length and told the story of Annie McLeod, a 10 year old mill worker at New Lanark. With a combination of clever projection and realistic displays it was a fantastic introduction to New Lanark and the history of the mill. Leo loved every second of it and learnt a few facts along the way which really seemed to stick in his head!
Next we visited Mill 3 where examples of historic working machinery which can be seen first-hand. Despite being a little reluctant at first due to the noise Leo enjoyed seeing the machines and feeling the wool which is produced there. Plenty of information about the mill and its history is dotted around the room, however the kids (& Mr F) may have enjoyed the slide the most! Next a short ride in the lift took us up to the roof top garden, beautiful even on an overcast day like on our visit, it gave us a fantastic vantage point to view not only the village but the Falls of Clyde in the distance. I really loved the plaques dotted around the garden with inspirational quotes from Robert Owen, they were a beautiful touch.
By this time bellies were starting to rumble after a morning’s travel and fun so we headed to The Mill Cafe where we devoured a delicious bowl of lentil soup followed by a homemade Lanark ice cream which got the thumbs up from Leo! We plumped for vanilla however there was a range of mouthwatering flavours to choose, although I’m not sure if the Irn Bru flavour would fall into that category!
Refuelled and ready to go we visited Robert Owens classroom which was a massive hit with the kids – mainly Leo who enjoyed dressing up and bossing us all about! We all enjoyed writing in charcoal on the ‘old fashioned’ slate boards and spent a long time indulging Leo’s inner teacher! During our visit the room opposite was hosting a visiting Geology exhibition called “Shaping The Landscape” which had a whole host of hands-on displays ideal for kids to fiddle and play with whilst subconsciously learning! In the same building we were told about a soft play/sensory room for under 7’s which was available at an additional cost – whilst we didn’t utilise this facility we did have a peek in and it looked great, especially if the weather was poor.
We then visited the workers cottage, Old Village Store and Robert Owen’s house. Recreated to reflect how they would have looked back in the 1800’s they give a realistic glimpse into the past. The Village Store was by far our favourite as the ‘produce’ could be touched in stark contrast to Robert Owen’s house which was filled with authentic antiques, making us rather nervous when looking round with a four year old – definitely one to enjoy without little ones especially as there is an audio commentary playing as you move from room to room which I only caught snippets of!
As the day of our visit wore on we were lucky to see a slight improvement in the weather which allowed Leo to take advantage of the large outdoor park area. With lots of different areas, including a stage where we were treated to Leo’s dance interpretation of George Ezra’s Paradise, it allowed him to get some fresh air and run off some energy. On a lovely sunny day it would be the perfect spot for a picnic.
Last, but by no means least we visited the on-site exhibition centre which regularly hosts touring collections (additional charges apply). During our visit is was hosting a textile exhibition called Picasso to Warhol, I have a real passion for Art History stemming from my time studying it at A-Level so this was right up my street. Although this particular exhibition is only at New Lanark until the end of April it was too good not to share and I have included a slideshow below of some of my favourite pieces.
I lied! Our last stop was actually the gift shop which can only be described as vast! It is filled to the brim with local products as well as the usual pens, pencils and nick knacks for the kids to spend their pocket money on.
When we arrived at New Lanark we didn’t know much about what was there and had no idea what to expect, however we all thoroughly enjoyed our day- Leo even teared up as we made our assent to the car park telling us he will “miss Lanark”. He has since spoken about Lanark most days and is already asking to return, testament to what a great day he had! Despite spending the day at New Lanark I felt we could easily have stayed a few more hours to explore the surrounding areas. We would have loved to take a walk up the the Falls of Clyde plus pay a visit to The Scottish Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre but we just didn’t have time during our visit. I will definitely return to New Lanark with the family in the future as I feel there is plenty more we could learn and discover – a highly recommended day out for the family offering something for all ages, two massive thumbs up from us!
We were gifted a family ticket in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are our own.
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