East Kilbride is a large town in Scotland, situated about 8 miles to the south of Glasgow.
It was Scotland's first "new town", designated as such back in 1948. Before then it was a small village with an economy mostly fuelled by dairy farming and tourism.
Much of the "Old Village" remains today, and the new town grew around areas described by the planners as "neighbourhoods". The original neighbourhoods within the town were Calderwood, East Mains, West Mains, the Westwood and the Murray. The idea behind these neighbourhoods was to have planned housing no more than a 10 minute walk to local shops and services and a main road and public transport.
The town grew further in the 1960s and 1970s when the St Leonards, Greenhills and Whitehills areas were built.
Later on in the 1980s and 1990s the Stewartfield and Lindsayfield areas were developed by private companies and some of the original tenets of the town were lost, probably due to the huge increase in car ownership since the town was originally designated.
The outskirts of the town became home to three industrial estates - College Milton, Nerston and Kelvin with the later addition of the Peel Park Business Park. These industrial estates have housed various businesses over the years and some of the more famous, and now sadly departed ones include the printworks for "The Radio Times", BSR (anyone old enough to own a record player may remember them!), JVC and Motorola.
Major employers that remain within the town include the Inland Revenue, Rolls Royce and DFID (the Department for Internatiional Development).
The "Town Centre" is the under covered pedistrianised shopping area which is in the heart of the town. This has grown over the years and the first fully undercover part of the Town Centre was the old Arcade, followed by the Plaza which opened in 1975. In the 1980s it was decided to cover over all of the shopping areas in the town and thus when the third phase of the town centre, the Olympia, was opened by the Queen in 1991, the whole of the town centre was undercover for the first time.
This is a huge advantage because the weather in East Kilbride can be appallling. The town is situated on high ground so its not unheard of for the town to be snowed in while the rest of Scotland sees not a flake of the stuff.
Up until 1998 car parking was free in the Town Centre and even today, in a further expanded shopping area (the CentreWest part was added in 2003) it isn't particularly expensive...particularly if like me you have lived in London and Edinburgh!
The Town Centre has a wonderful range of high street stores including Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, Primark, Sainsburys, Next and Zara. There are two food courts within the shopping centre and a couple of pubs for bar lunches.
The town is home to a multi-screen Odeon cinema in the Olympia part of the Town Centre. This replaced the old Caledonian Cinema and Olympia ballroom which were magnets for me in my youth - particularly the under 18 discos at the Olympia ballroom!
Close by to the cinema is the Ice Rink which is open for all to view but adds a lovely ambience to the shopping centre I feel.
There are two small venues for live entertainment - the Village Theatre and the East Kilbride Arts Centre.
There are also plenty of pubs in East Kilbride, but fewer within the Town Centre these days. I personally prefer to go to the Old Village and the Montgomerie Arms, which is East Kilbride's oldest and best pub.
As for dining, again the Old Village is home to some excellent restaurants, particularly Indian and Chinese.
There is no denying that the worst aspect about East Kilbride is the roundabouts. The town is full of them, and the worst one is quite possibly the worst roundabout I have ever had the misfortune to use, which is the Whirlies. This roundabout is infamous and is quite possibly one of the worst "welcomes" to a town I have ever encountered. The addition of traffic lights a few years ago has made it slightly more palatable to use as a driver but if you are approaching the town from the A725 or the A749 you cannot miss this roundabout.
The town is close to both the M74 motorway and the M77 and the A725 takes you quickly (traffic permitting!) to the M8.
The town has a rail link to Glasgow Central and there are two stations within the town - the main East Kilbride station is located about a 10 minute walk (uphill!) to the Town Centre. About 20 years ago there were plans afoot to extend the railway line to the Town Centre but the handful of people who were going to be affected by this managed to have the idea scrapped. Of course why the original planners didn't do this remains a mystery.
The second station is located in Hairmyres, a short walk from the town's main hospital which is also famous for treating George Orwell when his TB flared up. Part of 1984 was written there but the old buildings have long gone to be replaced by a brand new hospital.
Bus services are mainly run by First and there are frequent services to Glasgow, Hamilton, Motherwell, Kilmarnock and Ayr. A new bus service provided by Arriva links the town with the Silverburn shopping centre and Glasgow Airport.
There are several sports facilities within the town, including the Dolan Aqua Centre which has sadly just recently closed for just over a year for refurbishment. This is home to one of the UK's few 50 metre swimming pools and a gym.
There are two major sports centres at Greenhills and the John Wright Sports Centre in Calderwood which also has a small athletics track.
Also within the town are the James Hamilton Heritage Park in Stewartfield and the Museum of Country Life. There is also a small museum to celebrate the Hunter brothers who were pioneers in surgery.
The town has changed a lot since I was a child - for example both my old primary school and secondary school have now been demolished - the primary no doubt to be replaced by more houses, and the secondary has merged with another to take into account lower school rolls and been replaced with a brand new building.
I haven't lived in East Kilbride since 1990 but my family are still there so I visit at least once a month. It is a place I still like to go to and spend time in and feel my daughter can run around safely in the Town Centre unlike some other high streets in the UK.
It's probably not the sort of place you would visit as a tourist but for a day trip to shop and play, I would recommend it!
East Kilbride is one of those towns that you either love or hate. You hate it because it's full of roundabouts; or you love it because you've somehow been brainwashed. The former view is a little rash, and I intend to provide a balanced opinion of this newest of towns. East Kilbride is a new town, built to the south east of Glasgow. It is, without doubt, the most successful of the new towns, and its population is approximately 100,000. It is accessed by the A725, A726 and A749 roads, or by rail, for which it has two stations. As a tourist destination, let me sum up the attractions of EK, as I have come to affectionately know it: The Town Centre (off the A726 Queensway): This amalgam of different shopping centres is one of the largest undercover malls in Scotland, and it is soon to be expanded, with Centre West providing a Debenhams store, amongst other things. Here, you can find a nine screen UCI cinema, an ice rink and various eateries and bars. To prove that the people in EK are more enlightened than their cousins in Edinburgh, there is even a branch of Ann Summers. Kingsgate Retail Park (off the A749 Glasgow Road): Here, we can find the only Pizza Hut in East Kilbride, which is reason to flock there in itself. There's also a Burger King, a Sainsbury's and the usual retail outlets. Calderglen Country Park (off the A726 Strathaven Road): This is a spectacular country park, set in the gorge of the Calder Water. There are two adventure playgrounds, a zoo and a visitor centre, as well as myriad walks through the forest. Entry is free and thoroughly recommended. James Hamilton Heritage Park & Loch (off Stewartfield Road): This attraction is found in Stewartfield, a massive development of private housing on the northern outskirts of the town. It comprises a small castle, fronted by a modern, man-made loch. There is a pleasant footpath around the loch, and there is watersports
equipment for hire to use on it. Museum of Scottish Country Life (off Stewartfield Road): This should appeal to the youngsters who like their farmyard animals etc. I haven't been here, as it's recently opened, but I hear that it's meant to be good. Dollan Aqua Centre (overlooking the Town Centre): The striking-looking Dollan Aqua Centre houses an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a gym, a health suite and a kids' soft-play area. The most notable feature is the peculiar pinball flume in the swimming pool. Riders must hit targets to accumulate a score, which is displayed on an electronic scoreboard as they exit the flume. Fantastic. The Pro-Lane Bowl (off the A726 Strathaven Road): Scene of many a birthday party, East Kilbride's bowling alley is reasonably priced, and a mecca for kids on Wednesday nights, when it's karaoke time! In the same area, you can find a good Chinese restaurant, and a Di Maggio's Italian restaurant, which is a bit expensive. The Whirlies Roundabout (at the meeting of the A725, A749 and B783): Legendary amongst roundabouts, this roundabout takes its name from the huge metal spheres that somebody decided to place in the middle of it. For travellers from the north, it is now bypassed by the Whirlies Bypass Roundabout, which is - to my mind - less architecturally stunning. The other roundabouts (along the A726 Queensway): Some of the roundabouts around the Town Centre area are quite splendid from a pedestrian viewpoint, if not an automotive one. To facilitate pedestrian travel between the Town Centre and other areas, the town planners decided to install an elaborate network of underpasses. These are peculiar, because along their length, they have a pavement and a sunken roadway, for cyclists. These roadways are connected to the main road, so I would imagine an enterprising filmmaker could drive a Mini down these roads and into the centre of the roundabouts f
or some surreal, Italian Job-style fun. If you want to stay in East Kilbride, you are spoilt for choice. The most luxurious hotel in the town is the East Kilbride Hilton (on the A726 at Stewartfield Road), which has a good restaurant and a health club. A slightly more austere experience can be had at the reliable Travel Inn (off the A726 at The Murray Roundabout). If there isn't a picture in the brochure, you might otherwise stay at the Stuart Hotel (in the town centre). East Kilbride is a vastly underrated tourist destination. I hope that I have whetted your appetite for some new town action, come your next holiday.