Scottish local government district (1975-1996), part of Strathclyde region

Clydesdale is a region in the southwest of Scotland. It encompasses the catchment and upper course of the River Clyde, and roughly corresponds to four of the local government districts of South Lanarkshire, which in 2019 had a combined population of about 62,000. The name is usually used, as here, to contrast the rural and upland reaches of the Clyde with "Clydeside" the industrial and urban lower river valley towards Glasgow.

Towns and villages edit

Most visitors arrive from the south, crossing Beattock Summit by train or A74(M) to descend into the Clyde valley.
  • 1 Abington   is little more than a motorway service station, but is near the old mining villages of Leadhills and Wanlockhead.
  • 2 Biggar is a small market town with a gasworks museum and a puppet theatre.
  • 3 Lanark is the former county town of Lanarkshire.
  • New Lanark two miles south of Lanark is a   UNESCO World Heritage Site, with an 18th century mill village.
  • 4 Carstairs is a village northeast of Lanark, best known for its state mental hospital.
  • 5 Lesmahagow has the scrappy remains of a priory. It's by the motorway and you might change buses here.
  • 6 Carluke marks the start of the industrial corridor towards Glasgow.

Understand edit

It's straightforward to travel from Glasgow or Edinburgh into the upper Clyde valley, and from Carlisle north as far as Beattock village, but then the Southern Uplands form a barrier, a steep sandstone ridge. Even the Romans had a road across, but it was a weary place to traverse in bad weather, tugging your pack-horse. This cramped trade with Glasgow, which was fast-growing with transatlantic business: the mail coaches were at risk of being swallowed up by potholes. Then Thomas Telford built a new road over Beattock Summit, completed in 1825, which later became the route of A74 then the motorway. From 1848 the railway also crossed.

From about 1500 to 1620 alluvial gold was panned from the streams at Leadhills and Wanlockhead, then the vein was exhausted. Later ages however mined lead, zinc, copper and silver, until the end of the Napoleonic wars made imports cheaper. The mines became unprofitable and eventually closed, leaving the miners cottages and machinery abandoned up in the lonely hills. Meanwhile the fast-descending Clyde and its tributaries powered water mills for textiles: best-preserved is the 18th century mill village of New Lanark. Some enterprises became steam-powered but this far up the Clyde valley never had the heavy smokestack industries and urban growth seen downstream. It remains today a swirl of green fields and dark moors seen through a rain-streaked car or train window as travellers hurry on towards the big cities.

18th and 19th century lowland life needed big strong horses for agriculture and haulage: smaller beasts such as the Shetland pony worked well in Highland terrain but weren't as suitable for lowland use. In the 18th century local mares were crossed with Flemish stallions, then in the 19th century with Shire draught horses, to produce the Clydesdale breed. Thousands were exported world-wide, and many served in the First World War, looking like elephants in their gas masks. After 1918 agriculture and road transport mechanised so the breed declined in number and quality. They've found a new role as show horses, drawing carriages in parades, and to that end have been bred taller yet lighter and unashamedly more handsome than the original Clydesdales.

Get in edit

Clydesdales once powered lowland haulage
"Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb. The gradient's against her, but she's on time.
"Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder shovelling white steam over her shoulder...."
- Night Mail 1936

By plane then renting a car, Edinburgh Airport has the edge over Glasgow, as it has more flights, and is west of the city so you reach Clydesdale within the hour.

Trains run from Glasgow Central every 30 min via Motherwell, Wishaw and Carluke to Lanark; from Edinburgh or England change at Motherwell. Trains run every couple of hours from Edinburgh to Carstairs then Motherwell and Glasgow Central. The Caledonian Lowland Sleeper from London Euston also calls at Carstairs, where it divides for Edinburgh or Glasgow.

By bus: Stuarts Coaches Bus 240X / 241X runs hourly M-Sa from Glasgow via Wishaw and Carluke to Lanark.

Stagecoach Bus X74 runs from Glasgow via Hamilton, Lesmahagow and Moffat to Dumfries, hourly M-Sa and every two hours Sunday.

Stuarts Coaches Bus 30 / 31 runs 3 or 4 times M-Sa from Lanark to Thankerton, Symington, Abington, Crawford, Leadhills and Wanlockhead.

Stuarts Coaches Bus 91 runs hourly M-Sa from Lanark via Symington to Biggar. Whitelaws Coach 258 runs every couple of hours M-Sa from Lanark via Kirkmuirhill to Lesmahagow.

Stagecoach West Scotland Bus 101 / 102 runs from Edinburgh to Biggar via Penicuik, hourly M-Sa, only four on Sunday. Four buses M-Sa and two on Sunday continue to Dumfries via Abington, Moffat and Beattock.

Get around edit

You need a car. The valley roads are busy and not much fun for cycling.

See edit

New Lanark Mills
  • New Lanark is the standout attraction. This 18th- to 19th-century mill village became a grand social experiment.
  • Wanlockhead above Abington is Britain's highest village. It had lead mines, and you can see its zero-energy beam engine and miners' cottages.
  • Biggar has a gasworks from the days before North Sea gas, when domestic heating gas was produced from coal.
  • Castles at Crawford and Douglas near Abington are well-ruined but have lurid histories.
  • Nature reserves flank the Clyde near Lanark, where the terrain is too steep for farming and the ancient woodland has been preserved.

Do edit

  • Clyde Walkway and cycle track runs along the Clyde for 40 miles from Glasgow Partick via Cambuslang, Strathclyde Country Park, Cardies Bridge and Crossford to New Lanark.
  • Tinto is a prominent 711 m (2333 ft) hill near Biggar. From the north there's an easy, well-worn path from the A73 near Thankerton; from the south it's a steep scramble from Wiston.
  • Southern Upland Way is a coast-to-coast walking trail which crosses the south of this region, from Sanquhar to Wanlockhead and Beattock Summit.
  • Horse riding: there's a centre at Lanark, and others.

Eat edit

Tinto across the fields
  • Many visitors content themselves with fast food at Abington M74 service station. But by driving an extra two miles, you can enjoy a much better pub lunch at Colebrooke Arms.
  • Biggar and Lanark have several eating places earning good reviews.

Drink edit

  • Wanlockhead Inn is Britain's highest pub and has a micro-brewery.
  • Lanark the former county town has the largest collection of pubs.
  • Broughton Ales and Biggar Gin are produced near Biggar. The Wee Farm at Forth near Carstairs makes vodka and gin.

Sleep edit

"In the farm she passes no one wakes, but a jug in a bedroom gently shakes."
- Night Mail canters down Clydesdale before dawn.
  • For a place with character, it's either New Lanark Mill, or Cornhill Castle near Biggar.

Go next edit

"Letters of thanks, letters from banks, letters of joy from girl and boy . . . "
- Night Mail supplies the morning postal delivery in Glasgow.
  • Glasgow northwest deserves a few days to explore, don't just rush through on the way to the Highlands.
  • Edinburgh northeast is a must-see.
  • Ayrshire lies west. Admirers of Burns should head for Ayr, while Ardrossan has ferries for the Isle of Arran.
  • Roads south cross Beattock towards Carlisle and the Lake District, or branch southwest to Dumfries.

This region travel guide to Clydesdale is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.