Kelvinhall Station – International Athletics Arena and Kelvingrove Art Gallery

Situated as one of the middle two station in the West End quartet, Kelvinhall subway station serves the lower end of Byres Road. If you are looking for a quieter part of the West End, or access to Dumbarton Road, then this is the place to be.

It is important to remember that Kelvinhall is a subway station as well as being a building. Officially, the building is called the Kelvinhall International Sports Arena and it has hosted some of the world’s greatest athletes over the years in its well known and often televised indoor athletics meetings. Currently, it is closed for redevelopment and will open again some time in 2016. Across the road from the Kelvinhall building is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This is one of the most important cultural establishments in Scotland and woe betide you if you have never been for a visit. If that hasn’t sold you, bear in mind that it’s completely free to enter. Both complexes are just down the road from Kelvinhall subway station, just turn left out of the station entrance and keep going over the river. You can’t miss them.

Entrance to ticket hall
Entrance to ticket hall

The station itself sits at the junction of two of the most important roads in the West End. Dumbarton Road which runs parallel to the river heading out of the city and Byres Road which runs northwards up towards the heart of the West End at Hillhead. Just further along Dumbarton Road lies Partick Station and the effective limit of the subway network in the West End. There is a certain amount of access to the southern end of Kelvingrove Park and the University of Glasgow if you wander up the hill. The immediate area around the station has a myriad of shops, restaurants and bars with a firmly established West End feel. Quirkiness and originality mix with some old established businesses to provide a very bohemian shopping experience. Kelvinhall is one of those stations where you know you are going to find a little gem of a shop or cafe.

There are two substantial hospitals near to this station. The nearest one is the Western Infirmary which is just before the Kelvinhall arena. Also nearby, to the South East, is Yorkhill hospital. This is the main children’s hospital in Glasgow. It will soon be relocating to the Southern General in Govan.

The Kelvinhall inner circle sign

Without question, Kelvinhall has the strangest entrance out of any of the subway stations. If it was not for the overhanging entrance sign, you would probably miss it. The actual barriers are hidden down a covered alleyway that has the feel of some backstreet speakeasy. Across the alley from the barriers, is a somewhat quirky bicycle shop come cafe that adds to the feeling. In terms of the station’s design, the classical single platform is different from similarly designed stations as it has been recently renovated to a new style. Many of the side platform stations like Partick, Govan and St Enoch have also been touched up, as well as the half and half platforms of Hillhead, Ibrox and Buchanan Street. Kelvinhall though, is one of the few central platform stations to have been upgraded.

The roadside entrance to Kelvinhall Station
The roadside entrance to Kelvinhall Station, which Subway do I choose?

The platform is not a big one and there is a definite claustrophobia to the area, especially since the track curves at a quite noticeable angle. It is an interesting sight to see the train bend its way round this curve as it comes in to the platform and accompanying the train are some unusual acoustics as well.

There is a farmers market that is held every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month in Mansfield Park, which you can easily reach by turning right out of Kelvinhall Subway Entrance. It is a very friendly market with some great food and is well worth a visit. There is also an area around Kelvinhall where the old Volcano Nightclub used to stand. This was where the nightclub scenes in Trainspotting were filmed, although it is now a block of flats.

For subcrawlers the nearest stop is, somewhat confusingly, the Partick Tavern across the road. If you have just come from Partick and are wondering why the Partick Tavern is in Kelvinhall and not Partick, I would just like to point out that Kelvinhall subway station is named after the Kelvinhall itself. Kelvinhall is not an area, merely a station in the area known as Partick. The Partick Tavern has every right to be called the Partick Tavern.

You are in the heart of the West End in Kelvinhall and there are plenty of good places to put down. The Lismore or The Sparkle Horse being within spitting distance. The danger is more that you will find it all too comfortable and never resume your quest.

Directions outside Kelvinhall Station
Directions outside Kelvinhall Station

On the whole, Kelvinhall is a genuinely nice area with the added bonus of world class sports and cultural facilities. The station is not big or obvious but its clandestine entrance gives you the feeling of being in the know. Definitely worthy of a visit, especially on a quiet afternoon for a browse round the shops.

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