A couple of weeks ago we embarked on our very first overnight adventure as a family to the magnificent New Lanark World Heritage Site in South Lanarkshire. It’s not a part of Scotland we’ve travelled to before so we were really excited to explore a new area.
New Lanark is a 200 year old cotton mill village that has been beautifully restored and is now home to a whole host of attractions including the Annie McLeod Experience, a dark ride that tells the story of a ten year old mill worker. If you follow me on Facebook you will know that we had an absolute blast and there were even tears from Madeleine when we left!
We set off later than intended on the Friday, partly due to general faffing and partly due to the fact the dog knew we were leaving without him and flat out refused to come back in the house! The little sod gave us the run around for 20 minutes before we managed to catch him. Not a great start to a 3 hour journey but it gave the neighbours a laugh, if nothing else.
New Lanark is really well signposted from the motorway so we found it easily and parked at the visitor car park at the top of the hill. We were staying in the New Lanark Mill Hotel that night so we should really have driven straight down the hill and parked on site but I’m so glad we didn’t. The view as we walked round the corner and saw the village in all it’s glory was pretty damn impressive! Unfortunately I was too busy gawping at it to get a photo but I’m kind of glad; it would be a shame to spoil the moment for you if you decide to visit.
It was late afternoon so we headed straight for the Visitor Centre and the friendly receptionist talked us through what was available on site before directing us towards the Annie McLeod Experience. We sat the kids on our knees and the staff kindly took the pushchair to the end of the ride for us. Madeleine is a sensitive soul so I was a little worried she’d be scared by the darkness and the projection of Annie’s ghost appearing on the walls. She told me afterwards that she was a bit scared at first until I told her it was just like the telly! It turned out to be a great introduction to the heritage site and it’s fascinating history.
We had a quick look at the mill machinery before heading to the café for a cup of tea and a cheeky ice cream. It’s made on site and is absolutely delicious!
Once we had refuelled we checked in to the hotel which is in one of the old mills. There was a lovely big lobby with a piano which Madeleine made a beeline for; if she isn’t a musician when she grows up I’ll be very surprised!
Our room was a great size and contained a double bed plus a sofa bed & a cot that were both beautifully made up for the kids. Thomas headed straight for the telly remote and had Bargain Hunt blasting out before we’d even put the bags down! Madeleine was in the complimentary biscuits soon afterwards and then they entertained themselves by chasing each other through a little space under the sofa bed. It was tempting to leave them to it and collapse on the bed but we decided to check out the swimming pool and have a quick dip before dinner. The young lass in the leisure club reception was lovely and pointed us in the direction of the family changing room. We weren’t in the pool long as we were all starting to get a bit tired but it was nice & warm and the kids loved it.
The post-swim hunger was soon kicking in so we were all ready for a meal at the Mill One Restaurant by this point. The staff were brilliant with the kids and brought them pens & paper to keep them quiet while we perused the menu. I have to say it was a really difficult choice as it all sounded so good! I decided on the Goats Cheese Crotin followed by Cumberland Sausage with Parsley Mash. Both were very tasty but, for once, I think The Other Half may have out-ordered me with his West Coast Mussels in a Tandoori Cream Sauce and his Trio of Pork. The kids choices were great too and Madeleine chose a fruit salad to start with pizza as a main course for her and Thomas.
The food was absolutely delicious and despite the fact we had just stuffed ourselves with 2 courses we couldn’t resist indulging in dessert. Madeleine was very impressed with her chocolate ice cream and my Raspberry Cranachan Profiteroles were a thing of beauty. They tasted just as good as they looked, believe me!
Once we had summoned the energy to move from the table we let the kids potter in the room for a bit before bed. The day proved to be too much for The Other Half who had snuggled under the feather duvet and nodded off before either of the kids were settled! We’d planned on having a few games of cards once the kids were asleep but luckily I had also brought my book to keep me amused (The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz – a really good read!).
The next morning we were reluctant to get out of bed as we were so cosy but we had a full day planned so were quickly washed, dressed and en route to the breakfast buffet. We are a family of foodies so there was much jostling for position as we checked out the impressive spread of cereal, pastries, juices and smoothies. We ordered a Full Scottish Breakfast for The Other Half and poached eggs for myself which were very tasty, although the eggs were a tiny bit overcooked for my liking. Again, there was a great selection of healthy options for those of us that try to avoid sugary cereals and the staff were super helpful.
As we left the restaurant a member of the kitchen staff stopped to talk to Madeleine. In fact, there were a number of occasions when we bumped into members of hotel staff in the lift or the corridor and each time we were struck by how friendly and chatty they were.
First on the agenda for Saturday was another trip to the leisure complex for a swim and a play in the bubble pool. We managed to take turns to get a bit of time in the sauna & steam room, too. I could quite happily have spent the whole morning in the watermelon scented steam room with it’s comfy spaceship-esque seats. I certainly felt like I was in another world for a blissful few minutes until The Maddie Monster found me!
Next up we headed to the old schoolhouse to see where Annie McLeod and her friends had had their lessons. Before seeing the classroom we watched a short film in the theatre called Harmony in the Future which explores the ideas of the mill boss Robert Owens and how they shaped the future. He was a pretty amazing man by all accounts and his passion for education & fair living conditions shaped much of what we know today.
Seeing Annie’s story the previous day made it much easier for Madeleine to relate to the historic school room and she enjoyed seeing where the children had their lessons and where they had played & danced. She also wanted to know why they don’t have a pet crocodile at nursery… I must suggest that to her teacher.
In the next room was an exhibition dedicated to the men of New Lanark who fought in the war. There’s an awful lot of names listed on the war memorial; it must have been a huge blow to such a small and tightknit community.
There is also an interactive soft play area downstairs which you can enjoy for an extra fee but Madeleine was keen to go on the Annie McLeod Experience again so we walked back up to the Visitor Centre, past the old steam engine and over the glass walkway to Mill 3. Unfortunately for me the ride prompted lots of questions from my deep-thinking four year old so most of the ride was spent trying to explain why Annie wasn’t here now, why she was dead and “but how does she eat though, Mummy?”.
Thankfully I was saved any more questions by the noise of the mill machinery in the next room. It was fascinating to see it in action and imagine the kids crawling underneath for ten hours a day. It’s now used to make New Lanark Wool which can be bought in the Mill Shop. I was very tempted but I have a project list as long as my arm so I resisted the urge on this occasion and distracted myself with a bit of hopscotch instead!
The lift to the roof garden is at the end of the mill so we took a ride up to the top to check out the views. Madeleine soon homed in on “the stage” and we were treated to an extraordinarily long, freestyle rendition of Let it Go. If only she would. The garden is beautifully maintained and despite the fact it was a dull day we enjoyed the views over the village and the Clyde.
It was soon lunchtime so we took up residence in the café and topped up our bellies which were still pretty full from breakfast, to be honest! I was then let loose in the rather impressive shop which is extremely well stocked with some fabulous Scottish brands as well as favourites like Joules, Yoshi and Powder.
I love a good gift shop and it would have been nice to wander round child-free but my little whinge-bags were having none of it so I just bought a couple of birthday gifts and we reluctantly made our way to the car to prepare for the journey home.
There was so much we hadn’t had chance to see – the village shop, Robert Owens house, the millworkers cottage – but I can safely say we will be going back to New Lanark later in the summer to continue exploring this fascinating place. Madeleine was so upset to leave and two weeks on is still talking about how much she loved “the garden on the roof” and “Annie on the walls”.
Luckily New Lanark are hosting some great events this year including the huge Lego exhibition Brick City which sounds like it will be just as much fun for the adults as for the kids! 2017 is also Visit Scotland’s year of History, Heritage and Archaeology (#HHA2017) and I can’t think of a better place to celebrate it than at New Lanark.