Lesmahagow – Town of Scottish history, Religion and Dog Walkers

Lesmahagow, Scotland (Lios MoChuda / Lios MoFhègu Sc. Gaelic) – A 12th-century ecclesiastical centre and sanctuary that’s full to the brim of Scottish history and a great place for dog walking in the countryside. My hometown of Lesmahagow, Scotland is a quiet 12th-century picturesque dog walking village to be found in the Nethan Valley near Lanark. Abbeygreen lends its name to the main street which quite tellingly informs the visitor of Lesmahagow’s ecclesiastical past that dates back to the 6th century. Lesmahagow is steeped in history, wildlife, nature walks and is ideal for dog walking. The town is a former staging post between England and Scotland and a stop on the ancient pilgrim trails that crossed the area. Many tourists that come to Lesmahagow are either tracing their ancestry and like to check out the old graveyard and church records (by appointment), visiting the Hare Krishna temple or dog walking.

Where to stay

Today, accommodation can be found in nearby rural bed and breakfasts or hotels in the neighbouring towns. Couchsurfing may also be an option for backpackers looking to explore off the beaten path.

Getting there and going about the village

By Car

If driving to Lesmahagow, the town can be accessed via the M74 between Abington and Hamilton. There are ample parking places in the village centre.

By Bus or Train

The X74 Stagecoach bus has an hourly service to and from Dumfries and Glasgow. There are also local buses that connect with Lanark and Hamilton. The nearest train stations are Larkhall and Lanark. A taxi would usually cost around GBP2-3 per mile.

Walking in the Village

Despite the hills, it is an easy enough place to walk to wherever you want to go. There is a resource centre opposite Rollo’s Cafe which has information about local history and the people there will be able to answer any questions you have.

Things to look out for and visit

Remnants of Lesmahagow’s Monastic Past

The most significant landmark of Lesmahagow is the Old Parish Church with its high steeple. It is also where the old graveyard is to be found and also the remains of Lesmahagow Priory which acted as a place of sanctuary in the 12th century. Evidence of the 6th century Culdee Church was found in the site of the newer priory. Walking through the village crossing the bridge over the River Nethan you come to Turfholm. Keep walking past the Scottish sweets factory on the left then just past the entrance to Birkwood there’s a path on the right which follows a walled garden. This is the Monkstable (see below).

Castles and Ghosts

If you walk around the barrier for Birkwood, the road will lead you up to a derelict 18th-century castle. Follow the uneven road and it will lead on to New Trows Road. The castle used to house a psychiatric hospital until the 1990s and there are reports of spooky going-ons inside the abandoned building. A few years ago some ghostbusters visited the castle and reported some paranormal activity! If Scottish castles are your thing, then a few miles along the road is Craignethan Castle –known locally as Tillietudlem Castle. It sits perched above the River Nethan next to the hamlet of Tillietudlem. It’s also said to be haunted by the ghost of Mary Queen of Scots who stayed in the castle a few times.

Local shops and where to eat

There are a few shops in Abbeygreen. A couple of pharmacies, two chip shops a couple of coffee shops and a couple of pubs. The Black Bull pub also serves good-sized portions of hot food at reasonable prices during the day and is located near the public park and bookmakers. There’s a gift and flower shop in the main street too and a couple of convenience stores. There is a Bank of Scotland which opens part-time and has cash machines. Away from Abbeygreen near the schools are Tesco supermarket and filling station and the Truck Stop where hot food is also served.

Dog Walking

Lesmahagow has several places to walk dogs. Here is a couple:

Garngour / The Monkstable

A walk up towards Garngour Farm takes you past the Hare Krishna’s European temple and through farmland and down to New Trows Road. From here you can walk down the road to the village or continue the walk through Birkwood or down the Monkstable. The Monkstable is a nice walk through the countryside over the river to New Trows Road. This is the area where the monks of the priory kept their horses. It is a popular walk for locals when the weather is nice and sometimes locals will follow the river to swim in the deeper pools of water further upstream. A few precious items from the monastic era were found in this area and are now housed in Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum.

The Kerse

There is also the Kerse which is located just off the motorway junction at the roundabouts and the start of the walk has limited parking. This walk takes you through woodland and by the side of the River Nethan. A walk along the old railway from the Glebe Park is also a popular dog walking route.


March – St Machutes (St Malo) Day

St Machutes Day was a festival celebrated up until the Reformation. On this day, a fair would come to the village. St Machutes is also connected with other places in Scotland like Lismore and also Wales. If you look at the Abbeygreen main street, across from the Bank of Scotland you will spot the name of the big house is called after Lesmahagow’s saint.

June – Lesmahagow Highland Games

Lesmahagow Highland Games are usually held on the second or third Saturday in June and includes a Pipe Band competition, Highland Dancing, Heavy Events that include tossing the caber, a funfair, stalls and hopefully nice weather! It’s also free to attend.

December – Doors Open Day

Lesmahagow Doors Open Day usually takes place on the first week of December. Abbeygreen is closed off to traffic and shops and traders sell their wares just in time for Christmas and for local community groups to do some fundraising. The shops usually have special promotions and there’s always a bargain to be found. For the children, there’s a chance to see Santa Claus too. Hopefully, you find this mini travel guide of Lesmahagow of use when exploring the village. If you ever need to know more, speak to a local, have a look on Google or ask in the Lesmahagow Facebook page.

Jamie Wallace

Thirty something hopeless romantic and Scot who enjoys travelling, writing and languages. Currently travelling in South East Asia. I write about my travels and reflect on the cultural differences I experience. Bilingual columnist for Independence Magazine.