Greenock Cut was built in 1825 to carry water from Loch Thom and supply the residents and mills of Greenock with fresh water. The wide-open spaces and clean air of The Cut sits in sharp contrast to the industrial heritage of Greenock below. A tunnel now carries the water to Greenock but the legacy of Greenock Cut (now an Ancient Monument and a central ingredient of Clyde Muirshiel Park) is a superb 6.5 mile circular walk passing by 23 beautiful stone bridges and two bothies that provided basic accommodation for the workers when Greenock Cut was built. Add to this wonderful wildlife, and some of the best views in Southern Scotland (the Cowal Peninsula, the River Clyde, Arran, and the Arrochar Alps are all clearly visible) and you have a scenically and historically inspiring walk.
Loch Thom, and the smaller Compensation Reservoir, supplied water for the Greenock Cut aqueduct, which was designed by the engineer Robert Thom between 1825-27. Thom was born in the Ayrshire village of Tarbolton in 1774 and was educated in Glasgow. He quickly gained a reputation as a hydraulic engineer, and these skills led to his greatest legacy, the Greenock Cut. Water was drawn from Loch Thom then Compensation Reservoir from where the aqueduct carried clean water for 2¼ miles down to Greenock, for the town’s residents and to power the mills.
Greenock translates from the Gaelic Grianaig meaning the Sunny Hillock, possibly relating to a time when Greenock wasn’t an industrial heartland, and second only to Glasgow as a centre for shipbuilding. The River Clyde has been key to the development of Greenock – as far back as the 14th century it was a small fishing village. By the early 1600’s a pier had been built on the river with shipbuilding consequently employing many of the locals. One of the Clyde’s most famous yards, Scotts, was established in Greenock in 1711 where ships were built for an incredible 277 years. As well as shipbuilding sugar refining played a prominent role in Greenock’s prosperity during the 1800’s with 14 refineries processing sugar from the Caribbean. The town’s prosperity of that time is still reflected in some of Greenock’s outstanding building’s including Custom House and Victoria Tower.