#New Lanark Co-op

New Lanark’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is due to the legacy left by Robert Owen and David Dale and their pioneering socialist ideals of the 19th century that provided the cotton mill workers, particularly women and children, with proper working and welfare conditions.

David Dale was already a successful businessman when he built the mills at New Lanark in 1777. He was born the son of a grocer in the Ayrshire town of Stewarton in 1739, and having served a weaving apprenticeship in Paisley, he set up a yarn importing business in 1763.

In 1799 Dale’s daughter Caroline married Robert Owen, who subsequently bought the New Lanark mills in 1800 from Dale for £60,000. Robert Owen was born in the small market town of Newtown in Wales in 1771 and his raison d’etre throughout his life was to improve the health, education, and rights of the working class.

Along with his father-in-law, Owen was one of the founders of the cooperative and socialist movements of the early 19th centuries.

During his 25 successful years running New Lanark, Owen created a model community where children under ten couldn’t work in the mills, free medical care was provided, as was a comprehensive education system for both children and adults.

Many of the original buildings are open to the public and a visit can be combined with a walk along the River Clyde to the spectacular Falls of Clyde, formed by Bonnington, Corra, Dundaff and Stonebyres waterfalls. The highest is the spectacular 28 metre high Corra Linn, which was painted by the celebrated artist JMW Turner in 1802.

Peregrine falcon and red squirrels may also be seen en route. During autumn the colours radiating from the beech and birch trees are exquisite whilst in spring wildflowers, such as bluebell and wild garlic, provide a riot of colour and smells.

Also above the banks of the Clyde at New Lanark is Corra Castle. Built around the 15th century it was perfectly positioned for defensive purposes as it faced the edge of a sheer cliff. It is alleged that Mary, Queen of Scots slept at Corra Castle after the Battle of Langside but, like most accounts of Mary’s whereabouts at certain points of her life, the story remains unsubstantiated.

At the bottom of the gorge there used to be a cornmill and a dungeon, which is now home to Daubenton’s, natterer’s and whiskered bats. It is thought the castle is used as a maternity roost for the bats between March and October.

New Lanark
New Lanark
Corra Linn
Corra Linn

#Govan and its Elder Statesman

Govan is one of the most historic districts of Glasgow. Standing on the south bank of the River Clyde Govan grew as an agricultural and fishing village and then as a centre for weaving.

However it was shipbuilding that catapulted Govan to the forefront of heavy industry. At its peak, before World War 1, shipbuilding directly employed a staggering 70,000 workers in 19 yards in and around Govan.

One such shipyard was Fairfield’s. In its heyday Fairfield’s was the centre of shipbuilding on the Clyde after Robert Napier had grown it from a small shipbuilding yard in 1841 into a world-class operation. He also trained future shipbuilders including John Elder and William Pearce.

A fine statue of John Elder stands in Elder Park, named after Isabella Elder after she created the park in memory of her husband. When John Elder died in 1869 Isabella used her wealth and status for the benefit of the wider community, including the building of Elder Park Library.

Within Elder Park stands a magnificent statue of John Elder and another of Isabella. Other notable landmarks include the old Linthouse Farmhouse. This is all that remains of Fairfield Farm, which Elder Park was built on. Also standing here is the old Italian portico that used to be the entrance porch of Fairfield Mansion, which was built on the Linthouse estate in 1791.

Perhaps the finest building in Govan is Govan Parish Church. This stands on the site of a 6th century church that was established by St Constantine. It is thought that Govan was once the administrative and ecclesiastical centre of the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde. There were several churches built here before the present day Sir Robert Rowand Anderson designed building was opened in 1888.

However it is what has been unearthed in the churchyard that is of incredible significance – these include five hogbacked, carved tombstones, of Viking influence, and The Govan Sarcophagus, an ornate sandstone coffin. They are now on display inside the Govan Parish Church. Over the last 150 years a total of 47 carved stones have been recorded here, dating from the 9th to the 11th century and 31 survive today.

Govan has gone under some major redevelopment in recent years, including the creation of the Clyde Walkway. A stroll along here grants superb views of the Riverside Museum (which can be reached by ferry from Govan) and along the River Clyde to Stobcross Quay.

Also here on the Clyde stand the historic Graving Dry Docks, built between 1869 and 1898 and Stag Street. Here there used to be the Highland Lane, once a fordable crossing for the drovers who had driven their cattle from the Highlands. Here they would cross the Clyde and continue to the great trysts at Falkirk or south into England.

Govan Old Parish Church
Govan Old Parish Church
The Riverside Museum and the Glenlee from Govan
The Riverside Museum and the Glenlee from Govan

#Edinburgh A Monumental Place

Like Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill was formed through volcanic activity some 340 million years ago and then gouged by glaciers during the Ice Age, leaving this little hill standing proud at just over 100 metres in height.

In 1724 the town council of Edinburgh established Calton Hill as one of Britain’s public parks and it is now part of Edinburgh’s Old and New Town Heritage Site. As well as being a popular location for Edinburgh’s Festival and Hogmanay celebrations Calton Hill is the site of the annual spring fire festival of Beltane on the last day of April where a procession makes its way across the summit.

Due to lack of funds the National Monument was never completed but it dominates the summit of Calton Hill. It was inspired by the Parthenon in Athens and built in 1822 as a memorial to the Scots soldiers who died in the Napoleonic Wars. The architects were Charles Robert Cockerell and William Henry Playfair.

Also designed by Playfair was the Playfair Monument, which was built for his uncle, John Playfair who played a major role in establishing the City Observatory as well as being the Chair of Mathematics and Chair of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh University.

The City Observatory stands next to the Playfair Monument and is actually three buildings – the Old Observatory was built in 1776, work on the New Observatory began in 1818, whilst the City Observatory, with its distinctive green dome, opened in 1895.

William Playfair also designed The Dugald Stewart in the style of a Grecian Temple. Stewart was a philosopher who, like John Playfair, was Chair of Mathematics and Chair of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh University. Stewart also first compared Edinburgh with Athens, which in turn led Edinburgh becoming known as the ‘Athens of the North’.

The final memorial is the 100-foot high Nelson Monument, which was erected in 1807, two years after Admiral Horatio Nelson’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Edinburgh from Calton Hill
Edinburgh from Calton Hill

The National Monument of Scotland
The National Monument of Scotland