Roughly coinciding with the course of the River Clyde, the historic inland county of Lanarkshire stretches from the rolling Lowther Hills bordering Dumfriesshire to the southern edge of Glasgow, and extends north and east beyond the remarkable Antonine Wall, the Roman Empire’s most northerly frontier. The county is also home to the unique 18th-century mill village of New Lanark, once powered by the thundering Falls of Clyde, as well as wonderfully remote hillcountry, densely wooded river gorges, peaceful lochs, magnificent parkland and vibrant nature reserves, all offering great opportunities for walkers of all abilities.

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Lanarkshire is an historic inland county in south and central Scotland which roughly coincides with the basin of the River Clyde. While the magnificent Falls of Clyde, upstream from the UNESCO World Heritage village of New Lanark, have been one of Scotland’s most celebrated tourist destinations since the end of the 18th century, the Clyde’s association with shipbuilding, heavy industry and rapid urbanisation has meant that the wider area has not always received the same high acclaim as other regions of Scotland as a place for exploration, recreation and tourism. This is an oversight, as Lanarkshire, whilst being by far the most populated part of Scotland, is also home to wonderfully remote hillcountry, ancient woodlands, peaceful lochs, riverside walkways, country parks and vibrant nature reserves, all offering great opportunities for walkers. It could be argued that a great part of its appeal today is the diversity of landscapes it encompasses and, especially for those interested in social and economic history, how it has adapted to changing fortunes over the centuries.

This guide contains 40 routes, the majority offering easy to moderate walks, with a few more challenging hikes to the top of higher hills. There is no claim to be comprehensive; the walks selected here are merely a sample of what is possible. The routes are divided into four sections. The first features walks in predominantly rural and hilly Upper Clydesdale; the second explores the banks of the River Clyde and its sister river, the Avon; the third centres on the more urbanised and industrialised area south and east of Glasgow; and the final section looks at the area around the course of the Roman Empire’s Antonine Wall and the Forth & Clyde Canal in the north of the region.

Safety and access

The geography of Lanarkshire means that different weather conditions often prevail in different parts of the region, so be prepared for every eventuality, particularly on longer walks over higher ground.
Sturdy walking shoes or boots are recommended for all routes. The majority follow good paths and tracks, but in some cases the terrain can be boggy. Take wind- and waterproof clothing and ensure you have enough warm layers to enjoy the walk whatever the conditions.

The sketch map accompanying each route is intended to help plan the outing rather than as a navigational aid. The relevant Ordnance Survey Explorer or Landranger map should always be taken. On longer routes that cross open ground, a compass and the knowledge to use it is a very useful thing.

While the Lanarkshire countryside is a great resource for outdoor activities like walking and cycling, it also provides a living for many farmers and foresters. To avoid conflict between walkers and those who work the land, it is important to enjoy the great outdoors responsibly. Walkers in Scotland have long enjoyed the right to roam on just about any land with no requirements to stay on defined paths or rights of way. This position was clarified by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 which gives everyone the right to access most land for purposes of recreation, provided they act responsibly. Always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Some of the walks in this guide cross land where farm animals graze or deer and groundnesting birds live. If you take a dog, it is very important to keep it on a lead in such areas.

Occasionally, you may encounter temporary access restrictions. This could, for example, be a forest track closed due to tree harvesting or a path shut because of erosion. Usually a diversion will be offered and if this is the case you should follow it. If there is no diversion, you may have to consult your map and work out an alternative route.


Although the main towns and larger villages in Lanarkshire are well served by trains and buses, there are many areas which are sparsely populated and less easy to reach without a car. While every effort has been made to include walks that can be reached by public transport, this guide would be incomplete without routes in the harder-to-reach spots.

History of Lanarkshire

The first people to be recorded as living in southern Scotland were the Damnonii, a Celtic tribe of the late 2nd century, who are thought to have lived more or less peacefully alongside later Roman invaders. Under General Agricola, the Romans campaigned in the area and it was occupied by them between the time that Hadrian’s Wall was built in 122ad, through the completion of the Antonine Wall between the Firths of Forth and Clyde, until their retreat south again around 165ad. The temporary nature of the Romans’ time in the area meant that they built roads, camps, forts and bathhouses but no towns or villages. After the departure of the Romans, the volcanic plug of Dumbarton Rock became the capital of the Strathclyde Britons who controlled Yr Hen Ogledd, the Old North, which comprised southern Scotland and northern England. By the mid-5th century they had become Christian and a church and a new community named Glasgu was founded on the banks of the Clyde by a missionary called Kentigern, better known in Scotland as Mungo.

This chapel developed into the magnificent 12th-century Glasgow Cathedral, the city’s oldest building. Following battles with Angles from the south, Picts from the north and Vikings from Ireland, the area was finally conquered by the Gaelic-speaking Kingdom of Alba and became part of the emerging Kingdom of Scotland under Duncan I in 1034. Lanarkshire is assumed to have come into existence during the reign of King David I in the 12th century, although it was not referred to in official documents until the reign of his successor, Malcolm IV. It was the Romans, however, who had first recognised Lanark’s location as strategically important and they built a fort which was re-used and fortified several times over the centuries. In 978ad, the first meeting of the Scots Parliament was held by Kenneth II here and in 1297 the Scottish nationalist William Wallace attacked the occupying English garrison, killing the sheriff and kicking off the Scottish Wars of Independence. Robert the Bruce, who was made the Sheriff of Lanark in 1303, eventually destroyed the castle after it had been retaken from the English to stop it being a garrison again. Today, the site is used as a bowling green.

After Robert the Bruce restored Scotland’s independence, the county enjoyed a period of stability – although when the powerful Douglas family rebelled against James II in 1455, their castle at Douglas was sacked and land and titles forfeited. The next period of upheaval to affect Lanarkshire was the persecution of Presbyterians in the reign of Charles II. Hardy dissenters sheltered on the high moorlands where they held secret meetings for worship, and even defeat for the Covenanters at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge in 1679 did not persuade them to accept Episcopacy.
While the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the deposition of James II brought more peaceful times – despite Jacobite uprisings in support of the House of Stuart in the Highlands – many Lowland Scots were strongly opposed to the proposed Act of Union in 1707.

Closer ties with England, however, soon meant greater opportunities for trade and over the following centuries Lanarkshire grew in prosperity and importance, not just to the economy of Scotland, but to the expanding British Empire.The industrial heartlandWhen first created, the shire of Lanark extended as far as the Firth of Clyde, although this western area later became Renfrewshire, and Lanarkshire was split into two, then three wards, one of which included much of Glasgow. For a while, however, it was Rutherglen, a burgh with a castle and a ford over the Clyde, that was the most important settlement, and a parliament was convened here in 1300. It was also here that William Wallace was betrayed to the English in 1305. During this time Glasgow was a ‘sleepy cathedral and market town’ but it soon began to re-invent itself as the commercial centre of Scotland and, following the 1707 Act of Union, took full advantage of the growing trade with Britain’s colonies. Now, with full access to trade in the goods produced by slave and indentured labour, vast quantities of tobacco, sugar and cotton arrived in the city and its outlying ports. This trade helped trigger significant expansion of local manufacturing which radiated out; everything from pottery to linen to shoes was produced for export.

As cottonmills needed to be near rivers and water was essential for bleaching, dyeing and printing, industry spread out along the rivers from Glasgow and former weaving villages became incorporated into the larger industrial enterprise. At this time, New Lanark, perfectly located in a ‘hollow den’ by the fast-flowing Clyde, famously became not just one of the largest cottonmills in Britain but, under the progressive management of Robert Owen, established itself as a pioneering industrial environment with a largely content, healthy and educated workforce.
The transformation of Glasgow and much of north Lanarkshire into an industrial powerhouse also involved the exploitation of the area’s plentiful mineral resources.

Lead, gold and silver had been discovered in the reign of James IV in the Lowther Hills, and coal had been dug since the 16th century when Cistercian monks from Newbattle Abbey, who had been granted the high moorland between Glasgow and Edinburgh, had first come across the ‘black stanes’. The development of the Monklands coalfields and the creation of the Monkland Canal rapidly accelerated production. Coal-fired steam engines for pumps and traction helped develop the mines, and later the railway boom increased demand for coal, as did the iron industry which had established itself in Lanarkshire following the discovery of blackband ironstone. Ironstone had first been worked at scale at Wilsontown near Forth, but it was the invention of the hot-blast furnace by James Beaumont Neilson in 1828 which turned Monklands, with its easy access to coal, into the ‘Iron Burgh’.

Outside of the industrial heartland, railways improved communications, greatly increased trade in livestock and allowed the produce of the fertile soil of the Clyde Valley, ‘the fruit basket of Scotland’, to be distributed all over the country. Tourism also developed, with hoteliers and tour operators benefiting from the growing interest in the countryside and the more wealthy members of society’s need to escape the noise and smoke of industry. The river valleys of Lanarkshire, with their steep wildlife-rich gorges, unspoilt woodland, thundering waterfalls and surrounding high moorlands which were ideal for shooting, were especially popular. Eager to show off their wealth, merchants and industrialists built ever-grander country houses within easy reach of the factories, mills and mines that made them rich. The most impressive was the tragically long-gone Hamilton Palace which was rebuilt by the 10th Duke of Hamilton using the vast wealth that derived from his ownership of the Lanarkshire coalfields.

With more capital available for investment, the expertise in cotton, iron and then steel production laid the groundwork for the shipbuilding and heavy engineering enterprises which came to epitomise Glasgow and Lanarkshire’s industrial might. By the early 20th century, well over 100,000 skilled workers were involved in building and fitting out the floating palaces, and their mercantile or military equivalents, before they went to sea.
The area’s time as the ‘workshop of the world’ came to an end, however, following the disruption of two World Wars and the steady growth of foreign competition. By the 1960s, the city and its satellite towns were forced to develop new identities and industries. As part of this effort and also to solve the problem of overpopulation, five ‘new towns’ were created, including Cumbernauld and East Kilbride in Lanarkshire, which have succeeded in attracting new industrial and commercial development and become two of Scotland’s largest towns.

Places of Interest

Antonine Wall
Arbory Hill
Bar Hill Fort
Baron’s Haugh
Bizzyberry Hill
Bonnington Linn
Broadwood Loch
Broomhill Viaduct
Cadzow Castle
Camps Reservoir
Carron Valley
Cartland Craigs
Castle Dangerous
Colzium Estate
Corra Linn
Craignethan Castle
Croy Hill
Culter Fell
Dalzell Estate
David Livingstone Birthplace
Dumbreck Marsh
Dungavel Hill
Dunsyre Hill
East Kilbride
Falls of Clyde
Fannyside Loch
Green Lowther
Hillend Reservoir
Lamington Hill
Langlands Moss
Lilly Loch
Nethan Gorge
New Lanark
Orchardton Woods
Pap Craig
Quothquan Law
Rotten Calder
Spectacle E’e Falls
Strathclyde Loch
Wallace’s Cave (Coalburn)


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