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New Lanark: Travel back to the 1800s as Annie’s ghostly tours capture spirit of mill life

© Shutterstock / TreasureGaloreNew Lanark is a great family day out and educational too
New Lanark is a great family day out and educational too

Imagine a 200-year-old ghost guiding you through the twists and turns of life in the mills of the 1800s. It’s not a tall tale – the spirit of Annie McLeod represents the real lives of mill workers in industrial Britain.

The Annie McLeod Experience is one of the most popular attractions at the award-winning New Lanark Visitor Centre, which tells the fascinating story behind the purpose-built 18th Century cotton mill village just over a mile from the town of Lanark.

“Every family’s favourite part of the attraction is the Annie McLeod Experience, a dark ride where the ghost of wee Annie takes you on a magical tour of what life was like in the early 1800s,” says Andy Cuthbertson, commercial manager of marketing at New Lanark Trust.

But the centre has so much more to offer. Now a Unesco World Heritage Site, New Lanark, founded in 1786, became a model for industrial communities that spread across the world in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Andy says: “New Lanark stands as a testament to the social pioneers David Dale and Robert Owen, who saw the value of not just the health and happiness of their workers, but their education, too.”

Mill owner Robert Owen believed the prime vehicle for social reform was education. At New Lanark, he created the world’s first nursery and infant school, complete with a comprehensive education system for children. At the Historic Classroom, children will get a taste of what schools were like for their counterparts two centuries ago, and can even enjoy dressing up as schoolchildren from Annie McLeod’s time!

Andy says: “My personal favourite is our newest exhibition, Tenement Through Time, which explores the lives of several families at one address in New Lanark between 1881 and 1971. It has interactive and virtual elements, as well as objects and stories from the families who lived there.”

Visitors can still see the machinery in action – spinning yarn, which is sold in the Mill Shop – at the People & Cotton exhibition. Outside, you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the historic village and its beautiful surrounding scenery from the Roof Garden. The garden features more than 70 different plants and shrubs, a water feature and animal sculptures, and attracts butterflies, birds and an array of insects.

Robert Owen believed workers should be surrounded by clean air and green spaces, and his vision still rings true today, with lots of opportunities to explore and play. Families will enjoy Clearburn Picnic and Play Area, which boasts a giant willow storytelling dome, a hideaway treehouse and bug hotels. And no trip to New Lanark would be complete without viewing the magnificent Falls of Clyde.