The New Lanark World Heritage Site sits within a beautiful valley, south east of Glasgow, in unimaginably picturesque surroundings.
It is home to a restored 18th century cotton mill village which tells the remarkable story of Robert Owen, his business and the lives of the people who worked for him.
After parking, you walk down the side of the valley, high above the mill village. Even from a distance, the stunning buildings and lush forest are a memorable sight.
The welcome at the entrance desk is warm and informative. You receive a map, guidance on where to go and a friendly smile. The tour is through a one-way system that begins in the Steam Engine House and takes you up to the 3D Annie McLeod Experience where you get a motorised pod tour with some impressive effects.
Onwards from the atmospheric ride and you get to the mill floor itself. The huge, noisy machines were based here, spinning cotton into useable spools for over a century.
It’s odd to think that, over 200 years ago, the third floor of this building had a floor full of machines making a hell of a racket for most of the day. While there’s no doubt that the workers here had a better life than most mill workers of the day, it was still a tough job with long days and testing working conditions.
Onwards and upwards to the roof garden. It’s the best view of the surrounding area yet. A lush, green forest surrounds you. You’ll not forget this beauty for a long time. (No, my photo does not do it justice.)
On 1 January 1800, Mr Owen travelled to Lanark to run the mill that he had just purchased. These were not particularly bright days for the working class, but Owen took gigantic steps to improve the quality of life for his workers and their families.
The mill village is a living testament to his ideology. Nowhere is this manifested more than in the school he built for the worker’s children. Today, the school building hosts exhibits, a clever 3d film looking at life in the mill, a classroom and a room dedicated to the people of New Lanark.
The class room gives a good idea of how much Robert Owen gave back to his workers and their family. Kids can dress in the uniform / tunics of the day and play with some old toys. No smartphones or tablets here!
An exhibition also details tales of New Lanark from the 20th century including the sacrifices made by many of the locals in the Great War.
You can also visit a typical mill workers house, the old shop and the house of Robert Owen himself.
This is an exceptional place. We’ve all been to places that recreate period lives but this is not a simulation. These are the actual houses, workplaces and schools of the people who lived and worked here.
The story of Robert Owen and his mill workers is told with such detail and passion that it stays with you long after you’ve left. Young children (our youngest are 4 and 5) got a lot of out of the visit too. You could see it all sinking in and them understanding that this used to be how people lived. I can recommend this place and look forward to going back again to this beautiful place.