A short drive south-west of Edinburgh takes you through rolling hills and agricultural landscapes, nestled in which you can find New Lanark, one of Scotland's six UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
It showcases a particular aspect of Scotland's industrial heritage, and as such is worth a visit to glimpse an alternative to the more immediately readily recognised aspects of Scottish history - such as the Jacobites, Mary, Queen of Scots, or the Highland Clearances...
So here's my brief introduction to this intriguing, accessible and important heritage site.
New Lanark became a vital part of Scotland's journey through the Industrial Revolution, a period roughly spanning the years 1760 to 1840.
In this time the mechanisation of manufacturing, farming and commercial processes - which had previously required significant numbers of hand labourers - saw the transformation of the UK's urban and rural areas, as factories and mills grew up to harness the new forms of power which allowed business to boom.
The town of New Lanark was initially established in 1785, to provide housing and accommodation for the workers at the new cotton mill which had been set up by David Dale on the edge of the River Clyde. At its mouth in Glasgow the Clyde would become one of the UK's most important trading ports and shipyards, but further inland the water was a valuable power source, harnessed by developers like Richard Arkwright, who had invented a device which could spin raw cotton into usable fibres, using the power of water.
By the 1790s Dale had around 1,400 people working in the mills at New Lanark, producing cloth and fibre that could be exported across the UK and abroad - it was big business, and Dale became wealthy from expanding his business interests with other mills across Scotland. Workers at New Lanark would work 13-hour days.
Despite how this sounds today, quality of life at New Lanark was considered to be better than at many other industrial centres around the UK at that time, and the welfare of children in particular was something that was noted - it was this aspect of life at New Lanark which would come to the fore when Dale sold the site to his son-in-law Robert Own in 1799.
Owen was renowned as a businessman and entrepreneur, and at New Lanark he saw the opportunity to develop a kind of industrial reform - later known as utopian socialism - which explored the possibility that commercial success didn't have to come through the exploitation of workers.
Under Owen's leadership the village of New Lanark grew to around 2,500 people - including around 500 children, for whom he opened the UK's first infants' school.
Children were educated to the age of 12, as well as being employed in the mills from the age of 10, and all workers paid a small portion of their wages into a welfare fund that would support those in the village who were sick or unable to work for brief periods.
Owen reduced the number of hours worked by his employees to 'just' 10.5 hours a day (!) and he believed in the importance of a pleasant environment for people's happiness and welfare - allotments were provided for villagers to grow their own vegetables.
The increased cost of Owen's welfare vision was opposed by his business partners, and so in 1813 he bought out the other investors in the mill operation in order to be able to operate on the principles that he felt were important.
Many of the buildings at New Lanark still serve as housing for local people, but one of the properties has been opened to give visitors a sense of the living conditions for people in the 19th century.
Entire families would be accommodated in just a single room, with children sleeping in beds that could be stored under the adults' beds to save space. Some were lucky enough (eventually) to have indoor toilets... New Lanark wasn't connected to the National Grid - providing homes with a reliable supply of electricity - until 1955.
Owen also lived on-site with his family, although as mill owner his home was rather more luxurious than that of the workers, with an office and library space, separate dining rooms and lounge spaces, a kitchen on the lower floors, and separate bedrooms above.
But the heart of New Lanark are the original mill buildings, where it is still possible to sense what daily life might have been like for the people who toiled here.
Visitors can enjoy a short multimedia ride which introduces Annie Macleod, a young girl who describes what life was like for those who lived and worked at New Lanark.
One of the buildings still operates as a functioning mill, creating wool which is shipped out and sold, and if the clatter of the modern machinery is anything to go by, the noise in these cavernous floors, filled with machinery and workers, must have been deafening.
Visitors can access a new roof garden at the very top of the mill building, where the views along the river and into the wooded areas on either side of the valley create a tremendous sense of the rural isolation in which New Lanark was established. A cafe offers refreshments and there's even an on-site hotel for those who want to experience modern luxury with a hint of industrial heritage.
Robert Owen sold New Lanark in 1825, but the mills continued commercial operations until 1968. Despite being scheduled for demolition in the 1970s a heritage trust was established to preserve New Lanark as a historic space, and it was formally inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
As well as exploring the village and mill buildings, take a walk along the winding pathways beside the banks of the river to view the Falls of Clyde, a series of spectacular waterfalls including the falls of Corra Linn which were painted by JM Turner and visited by the likes of Walter Scott, and Dorothy and William Wordsworth. It's a great way to get a sense of how the natural landscape has been colonised by the human experience.
Because of the rural location it's not easy to get to New Lanark without a car - it's about an hour's drive from Edinburgh, making it a good option for an afternoon trip away from the city.
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Despite being only just over 50 miles away from Edinburgh by road, St Andrews is a surprisingly difficult place to get to, making it a rewarding day out with a real sense of having gone somewhere!
Thanks to the mainline train routes being curtailed in the 1960s there's no direct rail link between Edinburgh and St Andrews itself - the nearest station is Leuchars, a few miles further up the coast. This could still be the fastest option for getting to St Andrews, however, as the road from Edinburgh is long and winding, and can be prone to traffic delays and hold-ups.
But once you get to St Andrews you'll find a whole medieval town to discover, bursting with shops and restaurants, and with some prime historic features as well as a major golf course and Scotland's first university.
Here's my introduction to four historic features of St Andrews...
ST ANDREWS CATHEDRAL
The settlement on this corner of Fife's north-east coastline has existed for the last 6,000 years or so, and its earliest recorded name was Cennrigmonaid.
The association with St Andrew - one of Jesus's apostles - dates back to the mid-eighth century, when a number of relics (Andrew's arm, kneecap, three fingers and a tooth...) were brought from Greece by a monk after having a dream in which an angel told him to establish a church for St Andrew at the furthest edge of the earth. After being shipwrecked off the coast of Fife, the settlement where St Andrews stands today was the recipient of the relics, and the associated church.
That monk was St Regulus, or St Rule, and around 1077 CE a church was built in his name. Part of that original church survives - still named St Rule's Tower - and was later incorporated into the grounds of St Andrews Cathedral itself.
St Andrews became a destination on the pilgrim trail, with people travelling up to 400 miles and walking through historic towns like Culross or using services such as the ferry established by Queen Margaret from South Queensferry to visit the reliquary of St Andrew, recognised as the patron saint of Scotland since at least 832 CE.
The cathedral itself was built from around 1158 CE, and became the largest single building in the whole of Scotland, approximately 119m long, 51m wide, and 30m high at its tallest point.
For 400 years it was the religious centre of medieval Scotland, until the Reformation in 1560 made the celebration of the Catholic Mass illegal, and the cathedral building was ransacked by mobs and its interior features destroyed. The building fell into ruin, with its stone being taken and recycled into other structures around St Andrews as its walls and towers collapsed over the following centuries.
Today only portions of the cathedral's east and west towers and some of its walls survive intact, but the sense of scale and grandeur of the original building is still impressive.
ST ANDREWS CASTLE
The castle on the rocky promontory grew up alongside the development of the original cathedral, from the twelfth century.
As with many Scottish fortresses, St Andrews castle itself was periodically destroyed and substantially rebuilt as it changed hands between the Scots and the English forces, and the foundations of the version that survives (albeit in ruins) today date from around 1400 CE.
Cardinal David Beaton, whose house in the sixteenth century stood on Cowgate in Edinburgh's Old Town, was executed at St Andrews castle in 1546, after ordering the torture and execution of Protestant reformer George Wishart, who has burned at the stake in front of the castle earlier that year.
The castle finally fell into ruins in the middle of the seventeenth century, and little sense of the grand residential fortress that it once was survives today.
What can still be seen, however, is the original 'bottle dungeon', which was a notorious prison space cut into the solid rock beneath the fortress, as well as the mine tunnels which were carved in the 1540s when efforts were made to attack the castle by tunnelling beneath it to place explosive beneath its foundations.
UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS
The university at St Andrews was founded in 1413, making it the oldest university in Scotland - 150 years older than the University of Edinburgh - and the third oldest in the UK. It is made up of 18 academic schools, split into four faculties - Art, Science, Medicine, and Divinity - across three colleges.
Home to just under 12,000 students (along with staff they make up around a third of the total population of St Andrews), the university routinely features in 'best of' rankings for academic institutions both within the UK and around the world. Unique to St Andrews university is its system of classification of students by year - first years are Bejants or Benjantines, second years are known as Semis, third year students are Tertians, and in their fourth and final year they become known as Magistrands.
The university is spread between a number of buildings and campus areas across St Andrews town centre, including historic structures and more modern faculty spaces.
Subjects studied by students range from medicine and theology, to classics, art history, mathematics, biology, film studies and computer science, and the university is considered one of the most selective in the UK in terms of entry requirements. Typically students accepted to study at the University of St Andrews would be expected to get three grade A results at A-levels (in the English school system), or four As and a B in the Scottish Highers system.
THE HOME OF GOLF
The fourth feature that defines St Andrews is its historic (and economically advantageous) connection to Scotland's national sport - golf!
The Old Course at St Andrews has claims to being the oldest in the world, established in the early fifteenth century (although the course at Bruntsfield Links in Edinburgh has been active since around the same time, and remains free to play).
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, who have the large club house overlooking the course, are just one of several clubs with permission to utilise the course, although the land itself is common ground owned by St Andrews town council.
It was here at St Andrews that the standard golf course length of 18 holes became established, in the 1760s, and the Old Course became the home of the Open Championship, first held here in 1873. It remains the setting for the championship every five years.
One of the most famous features of the St Andrews Old Course is the Swilcan Bridge, a historic stone arch that crosses the narrow Swilcan burn, a small stream which runs through the course and out into the nearby sea.
The bridge is reputed to have been built over 700 years ago by farmers who needed to bring their sheep across the ground.
The bridge features on both the 1st and 18th green of the Old Course, and is a picturesque feature that is uniquely associated with St Andrews.
If you're not able to play a round on the Old Course itself (FYI, par for this particular course is 72...) you might instead want to visit the R&A Wold Golf Museum, or one of the many hotel bars and restaurants overlooking the course, or the multitude of golfing supplies shops to be found in the vicinity.
For non-golfers, St Andrews remains a good option for a day out, with plenty of interesting shops and cafes (Mitchell's would be my recommendation for lunch).
There are lovely views from the walk along the coastal path, between the castle ruins and the back of the cathedral, to the still active harbour area where seafood is brought ashore on a regular basis.
Or wander the narrow lanes of the town, where the buildings routinely date back several hundred years - the picturesque frontages and cobbled streets create a beautiful backdrop for your afternoon exploring.
The beach, famously featured in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, about Scottish missionary and Olympian Eric Liddell, offers plenty of space for walking (or running... in slow motion!), building sandcastles in the golden sand or - for those brave enough - a dip in the chilly waters of the North Sea.
Beneath St Andrews Castle is a small tidal lido is ideal for casual swimming without the risk of waves, tides, and there's a popular aquarium for you to get up-close with the life aquatic...
So it's safe to say that St Andrews has something to keep you entertained for an afternoon, and offers a vibrant alternative to Edinburgh's city centre. And having enjoyed the scenery, an ice cream, and some fresh air, all you then have to worry about is how to make the journey back to Edinburgh... ;)
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The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, creating a requirement for the structures of the city - the built heritage of Edinburgh - to be carefully monitored and maintained to protect their cultural and historical significance.
Although most visitors think naturally of the Old Town as a heritage site, the bulk of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Edinburgh covers the city's New Town, built from the 1760s as an expansion to the original medieval settlement. Together the two halves of Edinburgh create a historical record of around 3,500 years of human occupation, and I always say that if visitors only explore the Old Town they're only getting half of Edinburgh's story.
But Edinburgh is just one of six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Scotland, with another three of these culturally protected spaces easily accessible from the city itself.
Here's my introduction to all six sites...
EDINBURGH, OLD AND NEW
Both sides of the city centre are scheduled within the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing, showcasing the two distinct characters of Edinburgh's built heritage.
The Old Town grew up largely organically, filling the space between the two royal residences - hence the Royal Mile between the castle and the palace - with narrow streets growing down from the spine of the rock into the valleys to both the north and the south. It was unplanned, chaotic, evolving to meet the needs of the city as it grew from a humble market town to an urban capital.
Edinburgh's Georgian-era New Town, by contrast, represents the finest example of early coordinated town planning in the UK.
Laid out in 1767 to a plan by James Craig, the city expanded in a series of phases that filled the space to the north of the Old Town with grand residential properties, planned parks and gardens, and geometric streets.
The two sides of the city continue to contrast and complement each other, and even today visitors can still experience the difference in the two halves of Edinburgh.
THE ANONTINE WALL
Once the north-western limit of the Roman Empire, the Antonine Wall is often overshadowed by its earlier (and more substantial) cousin, Hadrian's Wall.
Whilst the latter - itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site - ran for nearly 100 miles across northern England and was built from stone, the Antonine Wall was constructed a generation later, and ran for 39 miles across the central belt of Scotland. The camp at Cramond, outside Edinburgh, was the Romans' largest settlement during the brief time they occupied Scotland.
Construction on the Antonine Wall started around 142 CE, and took approximately 12 years. From surviving earthworks archaeologists can tell that the wall comprised an elevated road with a wide rampart about 4m in height, and then a deep ditch, studded along its length with 16 forts to provide an armed force to protect the boundary.
The wall was abandoned less than a decade after its construction when the Romans retreated from Scotland in 162 CE. They destroyed all the wall's defensive structures, dismantling or burning the forts - only the physical rampart of the wall itself was left intact.
Much of the line of the Antonine Wall can still be traced across the central belt of Scotland today, with its ditch and earthwork mound running from Bo'ness on the Forth in the east to Old Kilpatrick on the Clyde in the west.
The Anontine Wall was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.
These neolithic features are some of the most intensely studied archaeological sites in the UK, and some of the most important historic sites in the whole of Europe. They offer an insight into the lives (and deaths) of the people living around 5,000 years ago, and include a burial mound, a village, and remnants of two impressive stone circles which are among the oldest such sites in the whole of Britain.
Despite its relative inaccessibility Orkney is a popular destination for visitors, and shows another element of Scotland's diverse natural and cultural heritage.
A good reminder that not all World Heritage Sites have to be ancient monuments or structures, New Lanark, about 35 miles south west of Edinburgh, is a mill town established in 1785, during the early years of what became the Industrial Revolution in Britain.
Established as a cotton mill, producing cloth that could then be exported around the UK and turned into a variety of clothing, New Lanark also provided accommodation for the up to 2,500 people who worked there. The care given to the workers meant the town developed as a new kind of philanthropic industrialism, where children were given an education and families were could access innovative social and welfare programs.
The mill's later owner, Robert Owen, met opposition from investors and business partners who didn't care for the reforming principles he espoused.
But Owen was able to demonstrate that it wasn't necessary for industry to exploit its workers in order to be commercially viable and successful. Discipline was maintained without using punishments, and a portion of the mill workers' wages was put into a fund for supporting those who fell sick or needed medical treatment.
By the 1800s New Lanark was the largest mill in Scotland, and one of the largest factory operations in the whole world. The mill evolved and changed over the generations, until it finally closed as an industrial operation in 1968, nearly 200 years after it was first established.
New Lanark was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, in recognition of the integration of Owen's philanthropy, reform, planning and industrial principles, and now operates as a charity as well as functioning as an active mill with a thriving local village community.
Surrounded by the north Atlantic Ocean, just over 40 miles north-west from the island of Uist in the Outer Hebrides - and 110 miles from the nearest point of the Scottish mainland - this island community was likely occupied as far back at 2,000 years ago, but with a population that never exceeded 70 people. The island was finally evacuated of its final 36 (human) residents in 1930.
St Kilda is one of the few UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the globe which is listed for both its natural and cultural qualities.
THE FORTH BRIDGE
The most recent addition to Scotland's UNESCO World Heritage Sites is the Forth Bridge, once nicknamed the eighth wonder of the world, which was inscribed in 2015.
Opened in 1890, the bridge continues to provide a rail link to the north of Edinburgh, over the Firth of Forth. Its distinctive cantilevered structure, painted in an eye-catching red colour, was deliberately over-engineered following the collapse of the Tay Bridge, a railway crossing outside of Dundee, which resulted in at least 59 deaths of passengers on a train which fell into the water as the bridge collapsed during a winter storm in 1879.
The Forth Bridge bridge connects the towns of North and South Queensferry, and was the first major project in the UK to be built from steel. It has since become an iconic feature that has entered popular culture in a variety of ways.
Like the ancient tale of Sisyphus, eternally pushing his boulder up a mountain, an unending or protracted task is often described as being 'like painting the Forth Bridge' - because by the time they had finished painting the bridge, they immediately needed to start all over again!
Today the Forth Bridge continues to provide a vital transport link into and out of Edinburgh, and can be viewed from either of the towns at its ends, or from a rail journey across its length.
So visitors to Edinburgh can easily tick off another UNESCO World Heritage Site or two during their visit - though St Kilda and Orkney require rather more of an effort to access...
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Just a few short miles outside Edinburgh is the Iron Age site of Castlelaw, a hill fort established around 2,500 years ago on the slopes of the Pentland Hills.
Sites such as this exist all across the central belt of Scotland. There's evidence of up to four Iron Age forts within Holyrood Park in Edinburgh, and the site of Edinburgh Castle is itself a prehistoric site of settlement. (The tribe which lived on the Castle Rock for a time were known as the Gododdin, a pretty warlike people who are believed to have once spent a full year feasting on their site - high above the surrounding landscape - before marching south to fight the tribes of northern England...)
The Iron Age is a period of time from roughly 800 BCE until the arrival of the Romans in Britain around 43 CE, following the periods known as the Stone Age and the Bronze Age - the names are taken from the common materials which became used as tools and weaponry in their respective times. Some estimates put the population of Britain in that period between 3 and 4 million people, with Scotland at that time still occupied by tribal groups who lived in communities across the vast landscape.
The site at Castlelaw was a fortification, featuring a series of boundary ditches and defensive ramparts which remain evident in the landscape, with the site originally having had a wooden palisade or wall built to protect it from attackers.
Most interestingly, however, the site also has an unusual example of a souterrain (from the French for 'under-ground'), accessed today via a short set of steps which lead into the subterranean chambers.
This underground structure was not a residential space - though it's understandable to imagine people living here - but a storage room or cellar where the settlers of Castlelaw hill fort would have been able to stash food and other valuable resources. Dug into the earth, the walls are lined with stones and would originally have had a timber or thatch roof to protect it from elements.
The people who lived at Castlelaw would have been farmers, working the land, who occupied wooden huts or roundhouses within the defensive structures of the hill fort, looking out over the surrounding landscape.
It's a fairly harsh and unforgiving piece of land, even today, and it's not difficult to imagine that life here would have been pretty difficult and inhospitable. Our Iron Age ancestors would have been much more resilient to the challenges of the Scottish climate than we are today!
So the underground storage spaces would have been crucial to making the best of their harvests, protecting the produce from the weather and ensuring a constant supply of food all year round, especially over the winter months.
The site at Castlelaw hill fort was excavated in the 1930s, and the souterrain examined and covered with a concrete roof, including glass portals to allow natural light into the space, which is easily accessed by visitors.
One of the archaeologists who investigated the site in 1931-2 was Dr Margaret Stewart, who became the first woman to be elected as Honorary Fellow to the Society of Antiquities of Scotland, a cultural organisation which occupied the gallery built by John Ritchie Findlay (today the Scottish National Portrait Gallery) before moving to its current headquarters at the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street.
Finds from the 1930s excavation of the site include Roman pottery sherds - not so unusual given the nearby Roman presence at Cramond - examples of local pottery, German buckles and ornamental decorations, and cup-marked stones, a form of prehistoric rock art.
These indicate that the community here had access to trade with a variety of external groups who brought goods from well beyond the local area, including items sourced from right across Europe. Perhaps they may even traded with the Goddodin, in what is the heart of Edinburgh today.
Descending into the small tunnel of the souterrain at Castlelaw is like walking through a doorway that takes you back in time, and although there's no costumed guides or much in the way of information panels, there's something remarkable about just standing in a space created by humans over 2,000 years ago.
You can still put your hands on the ancient drystone walls, which were constructed by a group of people living here long before Scotland as we know it today could even have been imagined. If those stones could talk, imagine the stories they'd tell...
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