For a shorter walk try the popular 3.7 mile Falls of Clyde walk.
TERRAIN: Mix of surfaced paths, woodland trails and boardwalk. Lots of steps. Return section sometimes boggy.
Dog-friendly walk (beware cliffs)
Car parking available at New Lanark World Heritage Site (ML11 9DB). Closest train station is in Lanark, 2.7km away (there is a bus service from Lanark to New Lanark).
WALK REPORT: 10th October and 4th November 2021
Having walked the traditional “there and back” Falls of Clyde route many times in the past, I had been desperate to try out the full circular walk for ages. On 10th October 2021 I finally did so.
The first unexpected bonus was that the New Lanark outdoor market was on so mum and I had a nosey at the stalls before setting off on the walk. The pie stall caught my eye and I was really tempted to buy a couple of macaroni pies; they looked divine and I quite fancied the idea of eating one for lunch whilst looking over Corra Linn. I had a full packed lunch in my bag though so I decided against it in the end.
There had been a lot of rain in the days prior to going so I had high hopes that the river would be in spate and I’d see the falls in all their glory (which had never happened in all the times I’d visited previously). Alas it wasn’t the case. The lower falls are always noisy and full which lured us into a false sense of hope. As we climbed we could tell that we had picked another “normal” day. It is always a beautiful walk though, and normal in this case is actually pretty spectacular.
Fast forward almost exactly a month and I was back again. Why so soon?? Facebook! I’d seen photos that somebody posted in a walking group I follow on Facebook which suggested that the falls were in spate so I wasted no time and headed back on 4th November. What I saw that day was nothing short of breathtaking. The combination of autumn colours with the falls in full spate is just incredible. It felt so special to have finally experienced it. Where possible I’ve included photos below showing the difference between a “normal” day and a “rare full spate” day.
On reaching the weir at the top of the gorge it felt soooo good to continue on and explore a new route! It is only a little over 1.5 miles from New Lanark to the weir, so if you didn’t know better you’d expect to walk roughly the same distance down the other side to get back to the start. Not the case though – there is approx 5.5 miles left of the circular walk when you reach the weir! The reason for this is that there isn’t another bridge downstream until you reach Kirkfieldbank.
We were initially a little disappointed on our first attempt of the loop. Again it was because of a lack of water in the river. The weir was holding it all back! From the first viewpoint on the west side of the Clyde it looked like water hadn’t touched the rocks for quite some time: moss and fern and grass were growing on the rocks. It looked like an abandoned landscape; a place people used to come to visit but closed off for many years and nature was taking over. I guess the reality is that mankind took over with the construction of the weir controlling the flow of the Clyde downstream!
On my next visit a few weeks later it was a different scene altogether. I actually couldn’t believe the difference! As I moved downstream making a stop at each and every possible viewpoint, I was in awe of the power of the water, the noise, the beauty. I do wonder whether I have been spoiled now – I’m going to hope for this experience every time from now on!
Ok, ok so that’s the waterfalls, but what about the rest of the circular walk – what are the paths like? Is it worth doing?
Yes! For the first 4 miles or so expect scenic woodland trails and views of the river gorge you aren’t used to seeing. I commented to my mum that the walk from Kirkfieldbank up to the weir would be a fab walk in it’s own right.
The walk through Kirkfieldbank itself is on residential street pavements which wasn’t my favourite part of the walk but it was only a couple of hundred meters down to the bridge and then we were back out in the countryside.
We did get a bit confused just after the bridge crossing. The pre-plotted route on my mobile mapping app was telling me to go right, but that looked like it was taking us onto someone’s driveway. We went out onto the main road to see if there was another path we had missed but it didn’t appear to be the case so we opened the gate and nervously walked past the front door of the cottage. We soon realised that the road extended beyond the cottage and breathed a sigh of relief.
Whilst in Kirkfieldbank and around the bridge area we passed a family who seemed to be doing the same walk. The two young boys looked about ages with my two sons (8 and 10 at the time). I was impressed that they seemed to be not only managing it physically, but also be enjoying it. I remember thinking that I need to step up my game a bit with my two as they’d never manage a 7 miler without lots of moaning! But I am writing this almost exactly a year later and it is still the case that they would struggle so I haven’t done very well on that front….. Hmmm…
Castlebank Park was a pleasant surprise! I’d never heard of it before, but it was really very beautiful. I had a chuckle at the entrance where there was a gigantic South Lanarkshire Council sign setting out the rules for the park. I mean, who is going to stand and read all that? So therefore what is the point in displaying it all at the park entrance?? I’ve included a photo below for you, which has also been the subject of a popular Facebook post.
And just like that we were back in New Lanark!
My advice is to keep an eye on social media and as soon as you see that someone has been and experienced the falls in full spate, to get your boots on and go! Keep this circular walk for one of those rare full spate days and it will be a walk you’ll never forget. For “normal” days, stick to the regular Falls of Clyde walk which is 3.7 miles up and down the east side of the river and is stunning all year round.