East Kilbride is South Lanarkshire's largest town and has Scotland's largest undercover shopping centre. To experience what it is really like on a farm and the rural way of life, you must visit the National Museum of Rural Life based in Kittochside in East Kilbride. Especially on an event day such as the Heavy Horse Show or the Christmas foal show where the surrounding farmland and museum come alive.
Try your hand at water sports in the James Hamilton Heritage Park. With two adventure playgrounds and a popular fleet of fun boats. The park also offers ornithologists some excellent bird-watching opportunities from the bird sanctuary.
If cobbled streets and village charm are more your style you should head for East Kilbride Village where you'll find speciality shops, the beautiful 18th-century parish church and cobbled streets.
Kilbride, as it was originally called, dates back to the first millennium, verified by archaeological finds of ancient graves in the area and also the uncovering of Roman coins and other artefacts. The name is derived from the founding of a monastery for both nuns and monks by St Bride, or Brigit, in Kildare, Ireland in the sixth century AD. The monks later arrived in Scotland to spread the word of their God. Kil is the Gaelic for "church", making Kilbride "church of St Bride".
The first written parish records appear in the 12th century, during the reign of William the Lion, the Scottish King responsible for setting up the Auld Alliance with France in 1165. William gifted the lands to the Anglo-Norman knight, Roger de Valoins, who became the Lord of the Manor and lived close to the site of Mains Castle.
The lands of Kilbride passed through the hands of many important and powerful families, most notably the Comyns. In the 14th century John 'the Red Comyn', a claimant to the Scottish throne, sided with William Wallace in fighting for independence from England, although he was often at odds with Robert the Bruce. After the death of Wallace, the Red Comyn and Robert the Bruce appeared to be moving towards an alliance but when they met at Dumfries Abbey in 1306, the Bruce murdered Comyn and stripped the family of all their titles and land. He was crowned Robert I at Scone a month later. The Bruce gave Kilbride as a dowry to his daughter Marjorie when she married Walter the Steward, establishing the mighty Stuart dynasty of Scottish and English kings. Walter later handed over the Barony of Kilbride to the Lindsay family from Renfrewshire, but their line died out in poverty during the 17th century.
The 16th and 17th centuries saw the growth of the Covenanters, Scottish Presbyterians who bound themselves by a series of solemn oaths or covenants to maintain Presbyterianism as the sole religion of their nation. Over a period of 50 years throughout the reigns of Charles I, Charles II and James II they struggled against the Crown to preserve their religion. The struggle often erupted into armed conflict, the most famous being the Battle of Drumclog and the Battle of Bothwell Bridge in 1679. After their defeat at Bothwell, commander of the Covenanter army, James Reid, charged the King's army alone and snatched the Kilbryd (as it was then spelt) Standard and escaped back through enemy lines. The faded yellow flag, with the red letters "Kilbryd, for God, King and Covenants" is now in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, which is currently closed for refurbishment.
In the early part of the 18th century, Kilbride added the East prefix to distinguish itself from Kilbride in Ayrshire which added "West" to its name. East Kilbride was also given the status of burgh of barony, allowing it to hold weekly markets and four annual fairs. The famous Open Cattle Show Society was formed in 1772 which, by the late 1940s, was the largest one-day cattle show in Scotland, taking place in the Show Park, which is still there today, owned by the farming community but also home to junior league football club, East Kilbride Thistle.
In 1774 the parish church, now the Old Parish Church, was built in what is now referred to as the Village. This ancient hub, now surrounded by the New Town still retains many features from this period including the Montgomerie Arms, an ancient coaching inn with its Loupin Stane or mounting block for patrons to mount and dismount their horse or carriage.
The oldest building in East Kilbride, just off Avondale Avenue, dates from 1640. Now called Rose Mound, it was home to the famous Scots playwright James Bridie before he went to live a secluded life on the Isle of Bute. The poet, writer and historian John Struthers was born in a cottage on the grounds of Long Calderwood in 1776 and another famous writer to have visited East Kilbride was George Orwell. He was a tuberculosis patient at Hairmyres Hospital from 1946 until 1948 and while there he wrote part of his novel 1984.
The anatomists and surgeons William and John Hunter were born at Long Calderwood Farm. The Hunterian Museum at Glasgow University is named after William, who bequeathed his collection of books, coins and paintings to the university. William pioneered obstetrics while John revolutionised 18th-century dentistry giving it a scientific basis for the first time. He was also appointed surgeon to George III and Surgeon-General to the British Army.