New Lanark was a site ahead of its time. Founded by David Dale, it is most famous for Robert Owen’s social reforms, such as shorter working days, an end to child labour under the age of 10, and free medical care for workers in the mill.

The cotton mill was in operation for two centuries from 1785 to 1968 and at one time was thought to be the largest industrial facility in the world. It became a world-renowned blueprint for what could be the ideal working and living environment for workers and their families.

Visit the award-winning restored 18th century mill village to see this progressive story brought to life in a series of buildings, exhibitions and attractions.

Map of New Lanark UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • About 200 people still live in the village of New Lanark in restored houses.

Why you should visit

New Lanark was founded by David Dale, a Glasgow banker and entrepreneur, and Richard Arkwright, the inventor and pioneer of industrial cotton spinning. The partnership dissolved after a year, and David Dale continued to run New Lanark for over 15 years before his son-in-law, Robert Owen, took over for the next 25 years.

Owen instituted a wide range of workplace, social, and educational reforms that led to the idea of New Lanark as an ideal community. He described it as “the most important experiment for the happiness of the human race that has yet been instituted in any part of the world”.

Today, New Lanark is an exceptional example of a purpose-built 18th century mill village. Thanks to an ongoing process of conservation and rehabilitation spanning almost half a century, the appearance of the village today is still close to that of the early nineteenth century.

Society may be formed so as to exist without crime, without poverty, with health greatly improved, with little, if any misery, and with intelligence and happiness increased a hundredfold; and no obstacle whatsoever intervenes at this moment except ignorance to prevent such a state of society from becoming universal.”
Robert Owen

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an urgent call for action of a global partnership of countries. They recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations works hand-in-hand with strategies to improve health and education, reduce inequality and encourage economic growth, alongside tackling climate change.

All of our UNESCO designations work towards the UN SDGs – this is looking at their work towards three in particular.

Goal 3

Good Health & Wellbeing

New Lanark and the Falls of Clyde Reserve offer walks and outdoor recreation that contribute to health and wellbeing, alongside organised recreational and educational activities.

Goal 4

Quality Education

Since the time of Robert Owen, lifelong learning has been provided at New Lanark. There are a range of events, workshops, volunteering opportunities, apprenticeships and internships that offer quality education for a range of ages.

Goal 11

Sustainable cities & communities

New Lanark is a living and working village with a residential population. It is powered by hydroelectric power and is working towards reaching net zero carbon emissions.

Learn more about UNESCO

New Lanark is one of six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Scotland. That’s quite the feat for such a compact country and testament to the richness of Scotland’s culture and history. The UNESCO network shines a spotlight on New Lanark as a progressive new model of community with many of the ideas and initiatives developed here now widely accepted features of contemporary society.

A cone of navy blue yarn sitting on top of machinery at New Lanark
Yarn

When you visit

The award-winning New Lanark Visitor Attraction brings this progressive story to life through an amazing set of beautifully restored buildings. On a visit there, you can set foot in the past and learn about life in the village through the years.

Visit buildings including the Institute for the Formation of Character and Robert Owen’s School for Children which is thought to be the world’s first kindergarten.

The mill is situated amongst gorgeous scenery on the banks of the River Clyde. Nearby is the Falls of Clyde Reserve, home to badgers, otters and several wonderful waterfalls.

How to visit

New Lanark is easy to reach. The heritage site is located around an hour's drive from Glasgow (25 miles/40 km) or Edinburgh (35 miles/56 km). The village has a large car park.

The nearest train station is Lanark and trains run every hour from Glasgow Central or Motherwell to Lanark. Local buses and taxis are then available at the bus stance, adjacent to Lanark railway station and Lanark VisitScotland iCentre. There is also a bus service between Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow and Lanark.

There are two electric shuttle-bus services which run in line with the opening of the visitor attraction. One from the car park at the top of the hill to the village and back, and the other which drives a circuit around Lanark and the surrounding area – perfect for those with mobility issues or wishing to reduce their carbon output. The buses use electricity produced by the hydroelectric turbine which is powered by the currents of the River Clyde. If you leave your car at home, you’ll be making the village safer for pedestrians and helping to reduce air pollution which can erode the site’s structures.

The New Lanark bus

Discover & Experience UNESCO in Central West Scotland

The west of Scotland is highly accessible and a great place to start Scotland’s UNESCO Trail. Arrive into one of Glasgow’s two major rail stations, then use the fantastic public transport network including trains, buses and coaches, which make exploring this UNESCO City of Music and the nearby World Heritage Sites of New Lanark and the Antonine Wall easy. Find practical guidance on getting around and tips on attractions, accommodation and food and drink.

View Journey

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