Scottish National Tourist Routes: Clyde Valley

Scottish National Tourist Routes: Clyde Valley

When people think of a motorhome tour of Scotland, they often have the romantic Scottish highlands and west coast in mind. However, with Scotland being a relatively small country, there are plenty of short detours available… The Clyde Valley Scottish National Tourist is a short but scenic route which starts, rather bizarrely, at the Elvanfoot/Crawford interchange on the A74M (junction 14). The junction is somewhat unusual, too: the entry and exit are 4.5 km (2.8 miles) apart, but it’s still considered one interchange.

If you’re heading south on the motorway, you come off at Crawford and turn back on yourself; if you’re heading north or coming from Galloway you go under the motorway from Elvanfoot towards Crawford. Either way, you want the A702, heading northwards.

The official route takes you through the middle of Crawford, on the old Carlisle Road, while the A702 detours it. The village is worth a stop, though. Crawford Castle was originally a Roman fort and has later associations with William Wallace. The ghosts of Roman soldiers are sometimes seen – but only from the knees up, as they walk at the level of the Roman road, not the modern one. Crawford was also one of the staging posts on the Edinburgh to London coaching route, although the inn (also allegedly haunted) is now closed.

The A702 hugs the motorway all the way to Abington, where there’s a service station; you could come off the motorway here (junction 13) instead of at Crawford, if you’re joining the route from the north. From Abington, the route follows the River Clyde north-eastwards on the old Roman road towards Biggar, along a very pretty valley. If you associate the Clyde with Glasgow and industrialism, this road will come as a pleasant surprise.

Just south of Biggar the route turns onto the A72 and sharp back on itself – the roads join at a 45° angle, which requires a certain amount of finesse from the driver.  If you’d rather take it more gently, head into Biggar, which is worth a visit anyway. It’s an ancient town, dating from 1451, with a 16th century kirk (church) and a Gasworks Museum, the only one of its kind in Scotland. It’s also a great place to buy treats, with famous ice-cream, chocolate and fish-and-chip shops. From Biggar you can head back to the A72 facing in a much more comfortable direction.

The A72 crosses the Clyde and joins the A73 at St John’s Kirk; the two roads share the route as far as Lanark, which can be confusing when you’re trying to read the road signs. You cross the Clyde again at Hyndford Bridge, a handsome Grade A-listed 5-arched bridge dating from the late 18th century. It’s narrow, so you may have to wait to cross it.

Your next stop is Lanark, which was granted its Royal Charter in the 12th century, making it one of Scotland’s oldest Royal burghs. In the 10th century is was the site of the first Scottish Parliament and its church bell is believed to be one of the oldest in the world. This is a town with a proud history. It also has good independent shops, restaurants and so on. The route diverts from the A73 via the B7017 and A743 past the station, avoiding the town-centre’s one-way system.

New Lanark, a UNESCO World Heritage site, provides fascinating insight into how people worked and lived during Britain’s Industrial Revolution. Photo credit: 4652 Paces

New Lanark, a UNESCO World Heritage site, provides fascinating insight into how people worked and lived during Britain’s Industrial Revolution. Photo credit: 4652 Paces

Nearby is New Lanark, which is a must-see if you’re interested in the Industrial Revolution. It’s so important that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The original owner provided good housing, free health care, education and even a nursery school at a time when it was not unusual for children as young as five to work all day and never get an education at all. The Annie McLeod Experience will show you what life was like for a worker there in 1820.

Nearby, and utterly different, is the Falls of Clyde Scottish Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre, where you can see the waterfalls and woods and learn about the badgers, bats and other wildlife in the area. There’s an honesty-box for your entry money and the original Victorian self-guided trail to follow around the Falls of Clyde.

The A72 splits away from the A73 again just north of Lanark, heading through Crossford and Milton Lockhart. Milton Lockhart House used to be the big property here, but in 1988 it was taken down and moved, brick by brick, via the Trans-Siberian Railway to Japan. It now houses the World Santa and Christmas Museum, with over 1100 Santas, one of which does an Elvis impression. The recently-restored lodge, which stayed behind, can be seen across a bend in the river.

The road continues through the hamlet of Rosebank; shortly after it you briefly join the A71 at a roundabout on the Clyde before turning off again onto the A72, following the river north-west. The road goes under the M74 at junction 7, so you can join the motorway here if you want.  But you haven’t quite finished with the tourist route yet.

It continues past Chatelherault Country Park, originally a hunting lodge and summer residence for the Dukes of Hamilton and now open to the public. Set in a curve of the River Avon, Chatelherault has miles of woodland, gorge and river walks, an exhibition gallery, and parts of the original mansion to view. There’s also an adventure playground, café, gift shop and all the usual mod cons.

Chatelherault Country Park is centred on The Duke of Hamilton’s 18th century hunting lodge. Photo credit: Harry McGregor

Chatelherault Country Park is centred on The Duke of Hamilton’s 18th century hunting lodge. Photo credit: Harry McGregor

The route officially ends just north of Chatelherault, at junction 6 of the M74, handily close to the Hamilton services. However, there’s another attraction worth visiting just the other side of the motorway. The easiest way to reach it is to go under the motorway at junction 6, on the A723, and turn left after you’ve crossed the Clyde.

Strathclyde Country Park offers a variety of watersports on the loch, and also Scotland’s Theme Park, with excellent rides for those who enjoy a good scream. At the other end of the road into the country park you’ll find yourself at junction 5 of the M74, so it’s very easy to get on to your next port of call, wherever that may be.

From Hamilton the road takes you just as easily to Glasgow and the mouth of the Clyde, Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth – in fact pretty much anywhere in Scotland. Wherever you choose to go on your motorhome tour next, we hope you’ll enjoy this off-motorway excursion for real one day soon.