Hillhead Station – The focal point of Glasgow’s West End, Byres Road and Glasgow University
Hillhead is the beating heart of the West End. Anyone bound for Byres Road, Glasgow University, the Botanic Gardens or Ashton Lane, this is your stop. As if that wasn’t enough, there are a multitude of diverse bars, restaurants, shops and takeaways fit for anyone. This is Glasgow, student style.
Exit the subway and you’re on Byres Road, which runs parallel to the station in either direction. Save for the excessive busyness, it’s a fairly ordinary looking bit of street. Here you’ll find a refreshing mix of established chains and independent businesses. However, to get the most out of Hillhead you’ve got to do some exploring.
Directly behind the station is Ashton Lane, your go to for up-market bars and some good quality food. For example, if food is what you’re after, you could do worse than The Ubiquitous Chip. To get there just turn left out of the station and left again down the charmingly old fashioned alleyway next to the station and you’e there. In terms of bars, there’s everything from your standard Irish pub Jinty McGuinty’s, to a unique Polish themed bar called Vodka Wodka that’s a must if cocktails are your thing. Admittedly you won’t find much for cheap here but that just means that it oozes quality . If you are a tourist in Glasgow looking for a night out this is a good place to go for something comfortable. They rarely see Taggart round these parts.
Also worthy of note in Ashton Lane is the Grovenor Cinema, an important institution in the Glasgow Art house scene. Together with the GFT at Cowcaddens they show most of the foreign and arthouse movies currently on release. This means that if you’re desperate to see that edgy new French film, Glasgow has you covered.
The University is situated up University Avenue (I know I sound like Frankie Howerd) and boasts and boasts stunning architecture as well as being an important cultural landmark. To get there, take a left out of the subway and then left again once you get to the intersection of University Avenue and Byres Road. University Avenue extends up the hill and on either side are numerous grandiose University buildings mixed in with a few more modern ones, although these are less easy on the eye. Go down the other side of the hill and you’ll come to an entrance to Kelvingrove Park.
Highlights here include the two Student Unions, which can be found on either end of University Avenue, or for those after something classier, there is the Hunterian Museum which is situated on the left about half way up the hill. The University is vast and while there is a lot to see, be aware that venturing in may result in you getting lost in a maze of rooms and corridors.
The park itself is a vast area of maintained land that acts as the spiritual heart of the West End. Lots of lycra during the day so just be careful you don’t get mowed down by an errant cyclist or zoned out long distance runner. With that said, venture off the path and set up somewhere on the grass and you’re likely to not want to leave. It’s usually a fairly busy place up until the early hours, so fine for an evening stroll as well. Past the witching hour and you might see its seedier side and at that stage is definitely not the place to take your grandma.
Back at the start of University Avenue, Byres Road continues on and leads down towards Kelvinhall and the other side of the West End. Because Byres Road is perpendicular to both Great Western Road at the Hillhead end and Dumbarton Road at the Kelvinhall end, it is an important link between two of the main artery roads out of the city centre.
Everything previously mentioned is accessible with a left turn out of the subway, but there’s plenty on the right side as well. This is where you’ll find Great Western Road for one. If you went across the bridge at Kelvinbridge and just kept walking you would end up at this junction.
Across the junction from Byres Road is the Botanic Gardens. If plants arre your thing then it’s a fun day out, although on a sunny day not many people are immune to its charms as somewhere simply to sit and relax. Turning right back up towards Kelvinbridge is Oran Mor which sits on the corner. This really is the cream of the crop and is essentially a popular-music-venue-come-Scotland-on-steroids pub. What’s more, If you fancy bumping into Alasdair Gray, there’s no where else to be. Great Western Road continues up the hill in a busy, bustling sort of way. Turning left in the opposite direction you start to hit some of the leafier parts of the West End. Great if you are staying in a 5 star hotel but apart from some nice buildings it’s likely to be a long walk to Anniesland and the suburbs. If you do end up going in that direction, look out for Murano Street Student Halls. You’d be forgiven for thinking they house prisoners by the look of the buildings but alas unfortunately they house students.
A special place of interest in this area is the Western Baths. This is an original Victorian swimming pool with many decadent features of the period. It does require membership to gain full access but if you ever do get a chance to have a dip in the deep end then it is highly recommended.
Subcrawl wise it just has to be Curlers. Situated immediately outside the entrance to the subway the bar is just on the right, same side of the road. Seriously, if you have come via the southern approach and you can be bothered walking somewhere else then you’ve been cheating! Plenty of scran around here and it’s a very good place to sort that liquid filled stomach in time for the home straight.
Interestingly wnough, Hillhead is one of only three stations to feature a split central and side platform (the others being Buchanan Street and Ibrox). This used to be uncomfortable for new users of the subway as the relatively narrow central platform was open on both sides and an unwary passenger could have the unnerving experience of trains whizzing by left and right. These days, there is a large plastic barrier that acts as a wall, but most old school subway users will tell you different tales.
Overall Hillhead is probably the busiest station on the West End side of the subway network. It is the primary stop for Glasgow University and also a very good spot if you want a bit of upmarket nightlife away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.