The most populous county in Scotland since it contains most of Glasgow, Lanarkshire is situated in the central lowlands of the country. and was once the scene of several significant episodes in Scottish history. For instance, the famed Scottish nationalist William Wallace attacked the garrison at Lanark in 1297, while in 1568, Mary, Queen of Scots and her supporters were defeated in the Battle of Langside, in Lanarkshire, which led to her flight to England and eventual imprisonment. More recently, Lanarkshire being home to a number of coal seams meant that it thrived as an industrial mining centre.
Lanarkshire’s historic past is reflected in its fascinating sites, with the ancient remains of the Antonine Wall contrasting with more recent historic hotspots such as the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Mill and Village, New Lanark.
Here’s our pick of 8 of Lanarkshire”s best historic sites.
The Antonine Wall was a Roman defensive wall, approximately 3-4 metres high and 4-5 metres wide, and consisted of a stone base, a strong timber palisade fortified with turf, and a deep ditch. The Wall stretched for nearly 37 miles between the towns of Bo’ness on the Firth of Forth and Old Kilpatrick on the Firth of Clyde, at the neck (the Isthmus) of Scotland, along its central belt. The Antonine Wall mainly served a defensive function – it was a military zone with an estimated total force of 9,000 auxiliary and legionary soldiers, mostly there to offer protection from Caledonian tribes (such as the Damnonii) and bring some order to that troubled outpost of the empire, but the Wall may also have served as a customs station.
Today, remains of the Antonine Wall are visible along routes of various scenic walks. Sections of the wall can be seen in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth.
2. New Lanark
New Lanark is a former 18th century cotton spinning mill village situated on the banks of the Falls of Clyde. Alongside the mill itself is the Mill Village which was founded in 1785 with a focus on philanthropy, education and the welfare of the mill workers. It went on to become a model for industrial communities around the world throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
Between 1974 and 2006, the then-derelict mills were restored for both housing and as a major tourist attraction, and today house a village community of 65 households. Today, the mill is recognised as one of Scotland’s 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites of ‘outstanding universal value’, and welcomes over 400,000 visitors annually to the site. An award-winning visitor centre with information about the mill and the village’s former residents is highly informative. The site is also notable for producing its own organic wool and hydro-electricity, and making its own ice cream.
Chatelherault Country Park in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, is a country park that runs alongside the Avon, a tributary of the River Clyde. Its name is derived from the French town of Châtellerault, since the title the Duc de Châtellerault was granted to James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran in 1548 for his part in arranging the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots to the Dauphin of France.
The park is named after the former hunting lodge, a folly designed to be seen from the now-demolished Hamilton Palace. It was completed in 1734, and comprises of two buildings connected by a gateway in the form of four pavilions. Today, the park features 500 acres of countryside and woodland over 10 miles of routed pathways, and also has an adventure playground and picnic facilities.
Bothwell Castle is a stunning ruined medieval stronghold near Glasgow, that once bore witness to much conflict during the Scottish Wars of Independence. Today its atmospheric ruins may be explored, and are some of the most celebrated of their kind in Scotland. Begun in around 1242 by the aristocratic Moray family, Bothwell Castle was intended to be a large and imposing fort, with its main tower or ‘donjon’ offering a glimpse into their initial vision. Construction of Bothwell Castle had to be ceased in the late 13th century however, likely due to the impending Wars of Independence which broke out in 1296.
Today, Bothwell Castle is managed by Historic Environment Scotland, and visitors can explore its imposing ruins. The Moray’s 13th century ‘donjon’ still stands today, while in the prison tower the castle’s eery medieval cells can be viewed, offering a glimpse into what life may have been like for those imprisoned within Bothwell’s walls. The 14th century Chapel also survives from the days of the Black Douglas family along with their eminent great hall, undoubtedly once a hub of festivity. The surrounding area too provides a picturesque visit, with the River Clyde and a semi-natural woodland adjacent to the site.
5. Craignethan Castle
The early 16th-century Craignethan Castle is notable as one of the finest examples of early artillery defences. Built some time after 1529 by James Hamilton of Finnart, the illegitimate son of James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran, the castle was only enjoyed by Finnart for 10 years or so, before he fell from favour and was executed in 1540. His half-brother then became lord of Craignethan, and even harboured Mary, Queen of Scots there. In 1579, the castle was besieged and the Hamiltons fled into exile. The castle was then slighted so that it couldn’t be used as a military fortress again.
Today, the scenic ruins of the castle are open daily from spring to autumn, and on weekends in winter. A nearby nature trail that leads from the castle into the glen of Nethan Water is also popular.
6. David Livingstone Birthplace
The David Livingstone Birthplace Museum is a biographical museum in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, which is dedicated to the life and work of the missionary and explorer David Livingstone. The Category A-listed building often referred to as Shuttle Row was once a former textile mill building that housed 24 families, including Livingstone’s, and was the site of his birth in 1813.
Today, the collection there houses a broad range of material related to David Livingstone’s life, as well as his family and associates and the history of Blantyre Mills and Village more generally.
7. Crawford Castle
The ruined Crawford Castle is located on the north bank of the River Clyde, around half a mile north of Crawford. Archaeological excavations have indicated that a Roman fort, probably with a garrison of around 300, existed on the site between around 80 AD and 170 AD. In existence by 1175, the castle was once the administrative centre of the Barony of Crawford, at that time the largest and most influential barony, and also guarded the strategically important Mennock Pass from England into the Upper Clyde Valley.
Today, the ruins are freely accessible to the public, and form part of a scenic walk.
8. Cambusnethan Priory
Cambusnethan Priory, also known as Cambusnethan House, was designed by James Gillespie Graham in 1820. It is generally thought of as one of the best remaining examples of a Graham-built country house in the quasi-ecclesiastical style of the Gothic revival, and was built upon the earlier site of a manor house which burnt down in 1816. Originally built for the Lockharts of Lee from Castlehill, Auchenglen, it was later used as a hotel and restaurant, before eventually ceasing use in 1984.
Today, the building stands largely derelict and has fallen prey to vandalism and fire. Though it’s not accessible on the inside, the pretty ruin forms part of many popular walks in the area.