WHEN it comes to ancient royal burghs, they don’t come much older than the county town of Lanark.

Set on the east bank of the Clyde in stunning Lanarkshire countryside, with roots going back to Roman times, it was once home to William Wallace and has a turbulent history.

These days, though, Lanark is a peaceful haven for walkers, foodies and history buffs, a lovely stop on the Clyde Valley tourist route and a base for visitors to nearby New Lanark, the unique 18th century village that attracts tourists from all over the world.

Historic Highlights

The Romans built a fort at Castle Hill, on the south side of town, highlighting its strategic position in what is now the Clyde Valley. The name is believed to come from the Cumbric Lanerc, meaning “clear space” and it was given Royal Burgh status in 1140 by King David I.

Wallace was an outlaw visiting his wife Marion Braidfoot and their baby daughter when he was arrested and imprisoned by the English governor of the town, William Heselrig. He escaped but Heselrig murdered Marion; Wallace retaliated by killing the governor and his English garrison at Lanark Castle. This was the act of revolt that sparked the bid for Scottish independence that eventually culminated in the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.

Long a centre of farming and livestock – there’s still a bustling livestock market and auction in the town today – Lanark became a hub of industry when the power of the River Clyde was harnessed at New Lanark, the bustling and innovative mill community built on the southern edge of the town 1785.

What to do

Walking around the town centre, you can't help but marvel at the history and handsome architecture all around. Start at The Cross, where St Nicholas Church has stood since 1774, on the site of a chapel going back to 1180. A statue of Wallace nestles in the niche above the front door. Listen out for the church bells, one of which is believed to be around 950 years old. The ruined “High Kirk”, St Kentigern’s, in the town cemetery, is also well worth visiting.

Lanark Cross is also an important place in the history of the Covenanters. A copy of the Test Act was burned there by protestors, and it was later the site of related executions. A monument in the cemetery commemorates those who risked and lost their lives for their beliefs during this unruly period in the nation's history.

Look out, too, for the Tolbooth building, which dates from the late 18th century and once held the country gaol. Nearby Lanark Museum, run by volunteers in Bloomgate, provides a fascinating insight into the burgh and its people, covering more than a thousand years with exhibitions on everything from the industrial revolution to sporting memorabilia. And it's free to visit.

In nearby St Leonard’s Street, the beautifully renovated Lanark Memorial Hall was constructed in 1926 to honour those who had died in World War One. It now hosts a varied calendar of performances and cultural events, from musicals, exhibitions and gigs, to book events and classes.

If the weather is fine, head across town to Lanark Loch, with its boats, kids' play area and putting course.

Today (Saturday) marks the start of Lanimer Week, held annually in the town since 1140. Over the next six days a lively array of gala events will celebrate the town’s past and present glories. Thursday 06 June marks Lanimer’s Day, when a float-filled parade culminates in the crowning of the Lanimer Queen, traditionally elected from a local primary school. In the evening, a spectacular gathering at Lanark Cross with massed pipes and drums will bring the entire town together once again.

No visit to this part of the country is complete without exploring New Lanark, one of the true wonders of Scotland's industrial past. In the late 18th century, New Lanark pioneered a kinder, more nurturing approach to its workers and their families. And this World Heritage Site doesn’t just show visitors what life was like, it immerses them through a fascinating array of live exhibits and historical recreations. Expect to spend at least a whole day here.

While there, don’t miss a walk to the stunning Falls of Clyde, a favourite spot for the likes of Wordsworth, Coleridge, JMW Turner and Sir Walter Scott. The rush of water from the “linns” – Scots for waterfall – can be heard all around as you stroll through idyllic woodland habitat. Watch out for natives such as deer, badgers, otters and kingfishers.

Susan Barr says: “New Lanark has it all: fascinating mills to explore, a lovely shop tea room and hotel, and beautiful walks along the Clyde. The nearby Scottish Wildlife Trust visitor centre offers loads of activities for kids, too.”

Where to eat

Susan highly recommends The Dukes Deli in Castlegate. “It such a fab place,” she says. “Seats are limited but the coffee and sandwiches are superb. The homemade cakes and artisan breads are also great.”

The quirky Wallace Tearoom, in Bloomgate, also serves freshly-baked treats, including a “Scottish Cream Tea” with scones, shortbread, jam, cream and unlimited tea and coffee.

In the evening, Restaurant at the Woodpecker, in Wide Close, has a sophisticated, contemporary feel and an impressive menu that includes some of the best steaks you’ll eat anywhere. The cocktails are great, too.

In the High Street, Italian restaurant Prego is popular with locals and visitors alike. Brian Hughes told us: “The food and service never fail to impress. On my last visit I had the seabass and wife chose the mushroom risotto – both were superb.”

Where to stay

Historic: New Lanark Mill, the hotel in one of restored 18th century mills, offers elegant rooms and a lovely spa. From £143 per night. There’s also an excellent hostel on the site, providing practical self-catering accommodation at budget prices. From £45 a night.

Boutique: The bedrooms at the Rosemount B&B, a handsome stone villa near the centre of Lanark, are spacious and beautifully decorated. The breakfast, with options ranging from waffles and brioche to the full Scottish, is also a big hit with guests.

Central: Airbnb features a number of self-catering properties, including Townhouse Lanark, a comfortable three-bedroom flat in the town centre which sleeps five. From £70 a night.

Where to shop

Keen golfers will certainly want to head to Glenmuir on Delves Road. The prestigious golfing and leisure brand set up shop in the town in 1891 and still stocks an unrivalled collection of golfing and sports gear for both men and women.

Family-run Books, in the High Street, has been selling men’s and women’s wear in the town for even longer, since 1853.

Alan Elliot Butchers in Wellgate has a reputation throughout the Clyde Valley for quality produce. The burgers, pies and prepared meals come highly recommended.

New Lanark Wool and Textiles stocks beautiful yarns and patterns for knitters of all levels.

What to do nearby

Just four miles away in Crossford, the recently-opened Clyde Valley Family Park is set in 90 acres and offers attractions including farm animals, karting and mini train rides.

Keen gardeners will be in their element at Beeches Cottage Nursery, a 15-minute drive from Lanark in Hawksland. Not only can you buy hardy homegrown perennials, you'll get sound advice from the expert owners and find inspiration all around.

In the coming weeks I'll be visiting Largs and Port Charlotte. Send your hints, tips and recommendations for what to do and where to eat, sleep and shop to marianne.taylor@heraldandtimes.co.uk