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Shaping the Landscape Exhibition, New Lanark

Explore the new Clyde and Avon Valleys geology exhibition

The dramatic landscape of the Clyde and Avon Valley has been significantly influenced by its underlying geology. Ancient rocks provided coal and iron to fuel the industrial revolution. Impressive gorges and waterfalls were formed in the last ice age, and not only powered mills but also inspired art and literature.

Visit the Shaping the Landscape exhibition at New Lanark World Heritage site to explore the geological story of this beautiful landscape, and see how the ancient coal swamps, vast ice sheets and powerful rivers have continued to shape lives here ever since.

The exhibition is free to local residents (ML8, ML9 and ML11 postcodes), so please bring along some ID with your address (e.g. driver's license) or a utility bill with a local address and postcode.

Visitors from further afield may view the exhibition as part of the New Lanark World Heritage Site upon purchasing of a regular Day Admission ticket, available here or on the day from the Visitor Centre.

Find out more about what you can see in the exhibition below.

  • Forming the Landscape
    Forming the Landscape
    Photo: Stonebyres Falls, at the Falls of Clyde

    The landscape of the Clyde and Avon Valleys is the result of hundreds of millions of years of rock formation, erosion and deposition. Our soils, plant cover and river systems are much younger, forming after the vast ice sheet of the last glaciation retreated from this part of Scotland. Explore the fascinating story of the formation of the landscape we see today.

  • Living in the Landscape
    Living in the Landscape
    Photo: Archaeological excavations taking place at Black Hill

    The first hunting parties arrived in the Clyde and Avon area soon after the retreat of the ice. Several thousand years later people began to settle here, and families have lived and worked in these valleys ever since. From archaeological excavations on Black Hill to medieval castles perched high above river gorges, find out about the people who made this place home.

  • Taming the Landscape
    Taming the Landscape
    Photo: The railway viaduct over Morgan Glen

    As people settled in the Clyde and Avon Valleys, they adapted this dramatic landscape to suit their requirements. Fast-flowing rivers and steep-sided gorges created a challenge for communication, but fords, roads and bridges were gradually built. During the 18th century new Enlightenment ideas led estate planners to incorporate landscape features into their designs.

  • Inspired by the Landscape
    Inspired by the Landscape
    Photo: A 19th century visitor looks over the Avon Gorge

    The Clyde and Avon valleys became a tourist attraction from the 18th century onwards. Writers of both poetry and prose came here, seeking and finding inspiration, and you can listen to some of their words in the exhibition. The rushing waterfalls, atmospheric gorges and steep wooded slopes carved out by geological forces provided an ideal inspiration for the landscape artists of the later 18th and 19th centuries.

  • An Industrial Landscape
    An Industrial Landscape
    Photo: The 18th century cotton mills at New Lanark World Heritage Site

    The underlying geology has made this landscape exceptionally rich for industrial development. From coal and sandstone laid down in the rocks 310 to 410 million years ago to sand and gravel deposited as the ice retreated, rich resources have been extracted from the ground. Fast flowing rivers provide water power, and the environment and soils are ideal for fruit growing. Find out about these industries, and the communities which grew up around them.

  • A Wild Landscape
    A Wild Landscape
    Photo: A viewpoit at Cartland Craigs, part of the Clyde Valley Woodlands National Nature Reserve

    Some of Scotland’s oldest woodlands and most diverse habitats can be found in the steep-sided gorges of the Clyde and Avon valleys. These sheltered woodlands and underlying soils support a rich diversity of plant and animal life. Investigate this special landscape, and find out where you can go to explore the geology, heritage and environment of the Clyde and Avon valleys for yourself.


New Lanark Visitor Centre is open:

April – October: 10am – 5pm

November – March: 10am – 4pm

Find out additional information about visiting New Lanark here.

The exhibition is supported by SSE Sustainable Development Fund, and Heritage Lottery Fund & South Lanarkshire LEADER supported Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership (CAVLP). It was developed by Abound Design and Interpretation Ltd, in collaboration with digital media specialists CMC Associates Ltd.

Thanks to all who contributed to the development of the exhibition, including The Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage, Strathclyde Geoconservation Group, BGS Scotland, RSPB Scotland, Falls of Clyde Heritage Group, South Lanarkshire Council, Stonehouse Heritage Group, Lanark and District Archaeological Society, and New Lanark World Heritage Site.

The exhibition follows a geological audit of the Clyde and Avon Valley by British Geological Survey Scotland in 2016, available to view below. Explore the 12 key sites in the area that tell the region’s geological story identified by the report including New Lanark World Heritage Site, The Falls of Clyde and Chatelherault Country Park, by clicking the items below this article.


Area Guide