Situated in the West End, Kelvingrove Park stretches from Gibson Street and University Avenue down to Argyle Street and Royal Terrace. It is 34 hectares of beautifully maintained parkland and a haven for wildlife.
The park started life as West End Park in 1852. It was designed by the famous English gardener Sir Joseph Paxton, whose other work included The Crystal Palace in London, Chatsworth House in Derbyshire and the nearby Botanic Gardens. It sits around the contours of a large hill with the River Kelvin meandering through it.
The grassy slopes and banks of the park provide splendid views to the south and west and were one of the main reasons this site was chosen. It is a classic example of a Victorian city park, and it still has a feel of Victorian grandeur to it.
There are several buildings within the confines of the park, the most famous being Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which sits on the south-western edge by Argyle Street.
In the middle of the park, just off Kelvin Way, you’ll find the park’s bandstand. It was restored to its former glory in 2014, thanks to the work of the Friends of Kelvingrove Park and the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust. Today, the bandstand is an outdoor music and events venue run by Glasgow Life. Its highly unusual amphitheatre design and attractive riverside setting make it well worth a visit if you’re in the park. If you’d like to attend a concert or event there, check out their facebook page for an events listing and ticket details.
The Port Sunlight Cottages sit on the western edge of the park, near the Dumbarton Road entrance. Set high on the hill they are actually relics from the three Great Exhibitions which were held in the park around the turn of the 20th Century.
In the south-eastern corner of the park, you’ll find the An Clachan Cafe. It is a single storey red-brick Arts and Crafts-style building which was originally a shelter and public convenience. It still provides toilet facilities for the south-east of the park as well as being a popular and busy cafe. There is a children’s play area just outside.
Statues and Monuments
The park is home to several of Glasgow’s public statues and monuments. The largest is the Stewart Memorial Fountain which was built to commemorate Lord Provost Robert Stewart and the completion of the Loch Katrine and Milngavie water treatments works - a project which virtually eradicated typhoid and cholera from the city and still provides most of Glasgow’s potable water today. The beautifully ornate statue is based on themes from Sir Walter Scott’s “Lady of the Lake” and features depictions of local freshwater fish, aquatic plants and animals.
Among the other notable statues in the park are the Lord Kelvin Monument, Lord Lister Monument and a statue of Thomas Carlyle. Lord Kelvin was a famous scientist and engineer responsible, among many feats, for the discovery of the second law of thermodynamics and the construction of the first transatlantic cable. Thomas Carlyle was a great Scottish writer, historian and philosopher and is considered one of the greatest social commentators of his time. Lord Lister was a pioneer of antiseptic surgery and introduced the idea of using phenol to sterilise surgical instruments and clean wounds.
The park also has two famous war memorials - the Highland Light Infantry Memorial and the Cameronian Rifles (Scottish Rifles) Memorial. The Cameronian Rifles monument depicts a soldier ‘going over the top’ beside a Lewis gunner and the body of a fallen comrade and commemorates those who lost theirs lives in the First and Second World Wars. The Highlight Light Infantry Memorial remembers those who were killed in various South African campaigns at the start of the 20th Century.
There is a heritage trail that wends its way through the park and past all the major statues and monuments, buildings and locations. It starts and ends at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. In all, it takes about 90 minutes to walk round. A paper copy of the leaflet is available from the Art Gallery, or you can download an electronic version here.
Cafes and Facilities
The other facilities available at the park include five bowling greens, four synthetic tennis courts, three children’s play areas, an orienteering course and a skateboarding park. Public toilets are available at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the An Clachan Cafe and at the entrance to the bandstand on Kelvin Way.