Inverclyde and Renfrewshire
Bordered by the city of Glasgow to the east and the Firth of Clyde to the west, the villages and towns of Inverclyde and Renfrewshire prospered and grew during their textile manufacturing, sugar-refining and shipbuilding glory years. The factories, mills and yards may be quieter now but the natural assets which enabled much of that prosperity are still here. The 40 walks in this guide make the most of the rivers, moors, reservoirs and coastline of this often-overlooked part of Scotland, exploring some impressive industrial heritage and hidden away wildlife-rich havens along the way.
Inverclyde and Renfrewshire
The regions of East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire and Inverclyde lie at the western edge of Scotland’s Central Belt, bordered by Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. These three regions have much in common, by way of both industrial heritage and landscape, and their natural assets – the rivers, the moorland and the coastline – have in recent centuries been pivotal in enabling towns and villages to grow and prosper here. Today, it’s these same natural assets that make walking here so rewarding. With far-reaching views around almost every corner, there’s also much to be learned about the industrial heritage of these areas while out exploring. There is evidence of Roman occupation in and around Paisley (the Romans named it Vanduara) while there are traces left by Iron Age inhabitants in Busby and on the summit of Duncarnock above Neilston. Paisley Abbey was established during the 12th century and it became an important commercial centre for trade across Europe, with great influence and wealth following.
Within East Renfrewshire and Renfrewshire, rivers such as the Levern Water, the Gryffe and the White Cart Water were all central to the thread, cotton and textile industries in Neilston, Barrhead, Houston, Eaglesham, Kilbarchan and Paisley from the 18th century. Paisley, in particular, became a textile giant, with a peerless weaving heritage, and the town is known across the globe for its famous Paisley Pattern. Although its teardrop motif had its origins in Persia, Paisley adopted the design during the 19th century, particularly in its cotton and silk Paisley shawls. The Coats and Clark families were instrumental in making Paisley the centre of the thread and cotton industries.
Away from Paisley and a 5km stretch of the Levern Water, between Barrhead and Neilston, was home to several cottonmills. The biggest was Neilston’s Crofthead Mill, which first opened in 1792 and at its height employed around 1500 people. Another 1000 worked in the nearby bleachfields and calico printing works. Many of these workers were local people but many more were immigrants from Ireland and the North and West Highlands of Scotland, meaning the village grew substantially. Crosslee Cotton Mill, near Houston, was the largest mill on the River Gryffe, having opened in 1793, and in its heyday employed upwards of 300 workers. Eaglesham had two mills, employing more than 200 people, while Kilbarchan once had an extraordinary 800 handlooms within the village.