village in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, UK

Abington is a small village in Clydesdale in southwest Scotland. It's about the first settlement you reach after crossing Beattock Summit on M74 towards Glasgow, prominently signposted for its service station and turn-off for Edinburgh. It's at the focal point of a series of streams rushing down from the moors to form the River Clyde, with a scatter of tiny villages, all historically in Lanarkshire. These are also described here and include Elvanfoot, Crawford, Leadhills, Wanlockhead and Douglas.

Get in edit

Map of Abington (Scotland)

Trains from England rush past non-stop. The nearest station with onward public transport is Hamilton. Bike-on-train is feasible from Lanark or Motherwell.

Stagecoach Bus X74 runs from Glasgow, taking an hour via Hamilton and Lesmahagow, and continuing from Abington to Moffat and Dumfries, hourly M-Sa and every two hours on Sunday.

Stagecoach Bus 101 runs from Edinburgh 3 or 4 times a day, taking 1 hr 40 min via Penicuik, West Linton and Biggar, and continuing to Moffat and Dumfries.

Megabus M11 runs twice a day from London Victoria, taking 9 hours via Birmingham, Manchester airport and city centre, Preston and Lancaster University. It continues to Glasgow but you can't use it for the short section from Abington.

1 Abington Services is the bus stop. It's accessible by non-motorway traffic on all routes.

By road from England or Glasgow follow M74 / A74(M). Use Exit 12 for Douglas, Exit 13 for Abington and Exit 14 for Elvanfoot, Leadhills and Wanlockhead. Beattock Summit at 1033 feet (315 m) elevation can be bleak and wintery, but this route is priority and stays open in all but the worst weather. Cyclists must use the former main road running alongside, now A702 / B7078.

By road from Edinburgh take A702 through Penicuik and Biggar. It's not a fast road but trying to use the motorways won't save any time.

The "Lang Whang" is the local name for the Edinburgh-Ayr road A70: a "whang" is a long bootlace, and it's a narrow road through the moors via Douglas. It's scenic in fine weather, bleak in winter (Robert Burns often traversed it and evidently saw it on the bleak days) and is sometimes snow-bound.

Get around edit

You need your own wheels to reach the sights of this scattered district.

See edit

  • 1 Crawford Castle is a scrappy ruin by the lane north of Crawford. A Roman fort with a garrison of maybe 300 stood here 80-170 AD. A motte-and-baily was built in early medieval times and converted to a stone castle in 1175. It was confiscated from the Earls of Angus in 1478 by James V, who used it as a hunting lodge while having an extramarital affair with the former keeper's daughter; he was doing much the same up and down Scotland. It later passed to the Earls of Douglas, who rebuilt it in 1633. By the 18th century it had become a farmhouse, then its stone was re-used for the present Crawford Castle Farm.
  • Crawford village was historically an overnight stop for the London-Edinburgh stagecoach, as the horses and drivers needed to rest after scaling Beattock. In that spirit, it nowadays has a truckers cafe. The stagecoach inn's reputation for being haunted was a forlorn modern attempt to attract coach parties, but these sonsie folk preferred eating chips at Abington Services to watching out for spectral figures, and the spooks vanished whence they came once the business folded.
  • 2 Douglas Castle is a serial fire victim, destroyed several times until all that stands is a corner tower from the version of 1703. The castle is first documented in 1288; it was captured by the English in 1307 but retaken by Sir James Douglas on behalf of Robert the Bruce, the garrison slain and heaped in the cellar, then the place was torched. Sir Walter Scott's novel Castle Dangerous fictionalises this era. The Douglases for a while enjoyed being on the winning side, and rebuilt in 1384. In the 15th century the family split, in paperback saga style, with the Black Douglases siding against the king in 1455 and getting the castle burned for their treachery. The Red Douglases were pro-king and able to rebuild from 1455. It was rebuilt yet again in 1703 but in 1755 everything burned down except one corner tower. The castle was replaced by a huge mansion, but they retained the corner tower as a picturesque garden "folly". This mansion descended to the Douglas-Home family (which included Sir Alec, the UK prime minister 1964-64), but it descended even further into the coal mines cut beneath it, and had to be demolished in 1938. So only the "folly" remains. You're free to stroll here 24 hours.
Wanlockhead beam engine
  • Douglas village is on A70, the Edinburgh to Ayr road, half a mile south of the castle. Dùbhghlas is Gaelic for "black stream" from the peaty waters and it was a mining and textile-milling village. St Bride's church is 13th century, now ruined; the Douglas nobility are buried here. A monument commemorates the 17th century Covenanter James Gavin; his ears were cut off with his own tailoring scissors for refusing to trim his religious beliefs and he was banished as a slave to the West Indies, though able to return in later life. Another commemorates the Cameronian Regiment, raised here in 1689 and disbanded in 1968. The Polish Memorial Garden recalls those troops camped here in 1940 before being deployed to coastal defence.
  • 3 Tinto is the prominent 2333-ft (711-m) hill seen to the north. Biggar (Scotland)#Do outlines the ascent paths.
  • 4 Leadhills is Britain's second highest village, at 1295 ft (395 m). It was a lead mining village, and its library created in 1741 is the country's oldest subscription library, with a surprising collection of antiquarian books. It's open May-Sept Sa Su 2-5PM, free. The nearby Curfew Bell, erected in 1770, rang the shift changes and sounded the alarm after accidents.
  • 5 Wanlockhead is Britain's highest village, at 1531 ft (467 m). It's on B797, a long climb out of the Clyde valley, just before Mennock Pass and the shorter steeper descent into the Nith valley. Lead and other metals (including gold) were mined here even in Roman times, but industrial mining and smelting got going in 1680. Robert Burns made two sightseeing visits around 1790. There are several old miners cottages, but the village museum remains closed in 2022.
  • Wanlockhead Beam Engine is in the stream valley just below the village. Installed around 1870, it was powered by water from the stream and drained water in buckets from the lead mines. With 2 or 3 cycles per minute, it lifted some 7000 litres per hour at zero energy cost, and "Bobbin' John" could be left unattended to work around the clock. It seems to have been a supplementary pump to drain unused parts of the mine, and prevent them flooding the active workings. Most such engines were converted to steam but this one continued until mining ceased in 1928. It's nowadays static, but there's a working model in the village museum.
  • Glen Crieff Mine another half mile down the valley northwest is now just a scar on the hillside with spoil heaps and old huts.
  • 6 Lowther Hills Radar Station is the giant golfball perched on a tee two miles south of Wanlockhead, as if waiting for Wotan to thwack it. It's an automated primary air traffic control station monitoring aircraft within 120 miles. It was installed in Sep 2022 and uses anti-clutter technology to screen out radar interference by wind turbines. That makes it possible to build wind farms on the Lowther Hills, previously unsafe with the earlier station on the busy transatlantic route.

Do edit

Leadhills & Wanlockhead Railway
  • Leadhills & Wanlockhead Railway is a 2 ft / 610 mm gauge diesel-hauled railway between the villages. It's been laid over the track bed of the former branch line to the mines, which was standard gauge and closed in the 1930s. Trains run May-Oct on Sundays 11AM-4PM.
  • The Southern Upland Way is a coast-to-coast hiking route crossing this region. Eastbound the route ascends from Sanquhar (on A76, with railway station) to Wanlockhead, over Lowther Hills by the radar station to Dalveen on A702, Daer Reservoir Dam, Beattock Summit then down to Beattock village (on A74(M), but with more facilities at Moffat).
  • Golf courses are at Douglas Water on A70 northeast of Uddington, and Leadhills GC (9 holes) in that village.
  • Lowther Hills ski centre is the imaginative name for the slopes below the radar station at Wanlockhead. Lowther Hills Ski Club[dead link] have in bygone years run a small ski-tow here, but that's not been possible for some years, the equipment is elderly and unreliable, and the club is likely to fold in 2023.

Buy edit

  • Abington Services have 24 hour fuel, but most other facilities close overnight.
  • Abington general store is in the village half a mile south of the service station. It's open M-Sa 8AM-7PM, Su 9AM-1PM.

Eat edit

  • Abington Services has fast food (not 24 hours) from Burger King, Starbucks, Good Breakfast, Chopstix Noodle Bar and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. There's nothing in Abington village.
  • Crawford pub and truckers cafe Heatherghyll is open M-F 8AM-11PM, Sa 8AM-1:30PM.
  • Douglas has Douglas Deli, Spice of Life, Crossburn Kitchen in the filling station, and a bakery - this gets good reviews and is open Th F 6AM-3PM, Sa Su 8AM-3PM.
  • 1 Colebrooke Arms, 7 Main St, Crawfordjohn ML12 6SS, +44 7903 186426. Th F 4PM-midnight, Sa Su noon-midnight. It's worth driving the extra couple of miles from the M74 junction to have a good pub meal here instead of service station fast food.

Drink edit

Lowther Hills radar station
  • Douglas Crosskeys Inn is open daily noon-midnight.
  • Wanlockhead Inn is open Su, Tu-Th noon-10PM, F Sa noon-11PM and incorporates Lola Rose Brewery.
  • Biggar Gin is distilled in Lamington midway between Abington and Biggar.

Sleep edit

  • Days Inn, Abington Services ML12 6RG (J13 of M74), +44 1864 502782. Basic hotel for a stop-over, dog-friendly, cleaning erratic. Double (room only) £35.
  • 1 Mount View Caravan Park, Station Rd, Abington ML12 6RW, +44 1864 502808. Clean camping and caravan site, they also have two glamping pods. Tent £18, hook-up £30.
  • Abington Hotel near the caravan park continues to advertise but fell derelict in 2018.
  • Hopetoun Arms, 37 Main St, Leadhills ML12 6XP (B797), +44 1659 74234. Cosy trad hotel in the old mining village. B&B double £110.

Stay safe edit

"A most melancholy accident happened in the lead mines belonging to Messrs Horner, Hurst, and Co. Leadhills, on the forenoon of the 1st inst. occasioned by the air being rendered impure from the smoke of a fire engine, placed about one hundred feet underground."
- Caledonian Mercury report of 6 March 1817

The climate in winter is no worse than miserable, so the main hazards are man-made, especially traffic.

Connect edit

As of Dec 2022, Abington and its main approach roads have 4G from all UK carriers, but there is variable coverage of the other villages and side roads. 5G has not reached this area.

Go next edit

  • New Lanark is a remarkably well-preserved 18th century mill village.
  • West through the valley is Ayrshire, and Alloway near Ayr is the birthplace of the poet Robert Burns.
  • Northeast is the market town of Biggar, and the Tweed valley.
  • Dumfries to the south is where Robert Burns spent his last years.
Routes through Abington
GlasgowLesmahagow  NW   SE  LockerbieManchester
Ayr ← Cumnock ←  W   NE  LanarkEdinburgh

This rural area travel guide to Abington is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.