Falls of Clyde

P1020840.JPG It’s one of the unwritten rules of life that most things get smaller and less impressive with age (the obvious exceptions being waistlines and taxes, perhaps). Like the Curly Wurly (my brain does work in strange ways), wee sticky strips of toffee in a chocolate-coloured coating, it doesn’t outchew everything for three pence any more. I remember from childhood holidays in Findochty on the Moray Coast feeling terribly frightened by the towering rock stacks of the Priesties towering over the east sands. I have a dim, diffuse memory of being stuck on a ledge high above the waves foaming and crashing and rolling far beneath me with that scary sucking noise, clinging onto a sheer rockface by my fingers and toes while my Dad, above, is gently encouraging me to get a move on as the tide is coming in. Years later I was back on the east sands looking at the Priesties and wondering if geological erosion really could be so accelerated as to shrink the massive rock walls of my memory to a few oversize boulders. No, but I was a bit bigger, and my perspective had shifted. I’ve seen the Eiger now.

P1020869.JPG Last weekend we walked from New Lanark up to the Falls of Clyde. And contrary to the above rule, the Falls were far more imposing than I remember. Maybe I’ve only ever been there after extended periods of dry weather (that’s about a day and a half in the west of Scotland, of course). At any rate there was plenty of white water thundering over the Corra Linn and the Bonnington Linn and it was all very lovely, powerful and invigorating (aside: I thought a linn was the pool of water at the foot of a waterfall, but according to Chambers it can also mean the waterfall itself – in linguistic terms is this a confusion or a conflation?).

P1020821.JPG Another perspective of age and experience – for me there was always something a bit odd about New Lanark, something that jarred and didn’t quite fit. I never acknowledged this at the time, following the train of accepted wisdom and the history syllabus about great Scottish philanthropists, economic titans and social pioneers. But Robert Owen was Welsh, and New Lanark, as Dee pointed out, looks like a multi-storey Welsh mining village on the banks of the Clyde. That’s what doesn’t have the right feel – not the industrial plant, nor the social principles, but the incongruous architecture.

P1020875.JPG The light is definitely lifting since the turn of the year. Colours are changing from the monochrome of winter to an array of luminescent greens and warm browns. Turner’s watercolours of the Falls of Clyde are on view this month in the National Gallery of Scotland (of course we went to see them, ticking off another of the ‘things to do in Edinburgh’ list) – alongside some of his paintings of the Falls of the Rhine at Schaffhausen, which are a bit bigger, and a bit noisier, and more imposing as waterfalls go (see earlier post from July 2010). But the Falls of Clyde are closer, and they’re ours. Here are some of Dee’s photos.


P1020880.JPG There’s a lot of information about the Falls on the New Lanark website, even a link to the SEPA water monitoring station at Kirkfieldbank so you can really plan your trip to coincide with high water flow.

The geology’s interesting. Apparently the Falls of Clyde are an example of the indirect effects of glaciation – glacial debris in the original watercourse caused the river to change direction and wind its way instead down the steep steps through the sandstone gorge. A much more scenic route, of course – and another incitement to take the road less travelled.

So not everything gets less exciting as we get older. Well that’s good.


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