“ 32 Centre West East Kilbride, Lanarkshire G74 1LL, United Kingdom „
I love shopping and I love a modern shopping centre. I have to be in the mood to go shopping in the traditional high street, preferring instead to drive somewhere undercover where a thick coat or umbrella isn't essential.
I reckon this stems from growing up in a new town, where the shops have almost always been pedestrianised and undercover.
East Kilbride Shopping Centre is located in the heart of the town, and when I was a child it was just called "the town centre". It has grown and developed over the years, much like the town itself.
~~A Brief History~~
If you go to a modern shopping centre such as Westfield in London or Silverburn in Glasgow you will be able to see the entire structure has been custom built from scratch. East Kilbride Shopping Centre isn't like that because it's been added to piecemeal over the years.
The centre comprises of 4 distinctive areas - there is the Princes Mall, the Olympia Mall, the Plaza and Centre West. The shopping centre originally comprised purely of the Princes Mall which was originally Princes Street and for a short period of time cars drove down here before the decision was taken to completely pedestrianise shopping in the town.
When I was a child I remember walking down here to the old Co-op department store where I used to get my hair cut and which sadly burned down. At one end of the street there was a pond and fountain and at the other end was Princes Square, which had some concrete structures which were great for playing on.
The Plaza opened in 1975 and was the first entirely covered part of the shopping centre, and at the time it doubled the size of the shopping centre. The Olympia Mall, complete with ice rink, was opened around 1990 and the most recent addition to the town is the Centre West mall.
The entire shopping centre is now under cover although there are still some shops which are open to the elements. It is, however, possible to park your car here on a rainy day and not get wet.
Location & Getting There
The shopping centre is located in the centre of East Kilbride and is easily accessible by bus, car, or foot. There's pedestrian access to the shopping centre from most parts of the town depending on which entrance you want to use.
The bus station is located at the eastern side of the shopping centre next to the entrance to Princes Mall. Buses serve Glasgow, Ayr, Kilmarnock, Hamilton, Motherwell, Aidrie, Coatbridge and many other local areas.
There are several car parks in the shopping centre. The Olympia car park is closest to the bus station and operates on a pay and display basis. It is slightly cheaper to use than the Plaza and Centre West car parks which operate on a ticket and barrier system. Parking is fairly cheap here - it's 50p for an hour in general. It used to be free and some people have never got over having to pay but having lived in London and Edinburgh where parking truly is expensive it's never bothered me. Parking is free all day on Sundays and after 4pm on Thursdays for late night shopping.
Parking is usually reasonably easy to find here except close to Christmas. Don't think you can avoid paying to park your car by parking in any of the streets just a short walk from the shopping centre. There's a permit scheme in operation around here and if you don't have a valid permit then you will get a ticket.
East Kilbride train station is a ten minute or so walk uphill to the shopping centre.
East Kilbride is Scotland's largest town and as such the shopping centre is large. Having said that, if you are looking for huge branches of stores such as Primark or Marks & Spencer, you will need to go to Glasgow city centre.
Both stores do have branches here, along with perennials such as BHS, Debenhams, Poundland, Next and Boots. You can buy CDs and DVDs in the large HMV branch and the Waterstones branch is well stocked and regularly has author events in the store.
The Princes Mall part of the shopping centre is probably the most dowdy part of the shopping centre and there are several closed units here along with cheaper stores such as Poundland, Savers and Farmfoods. When you get round to where Princes Square used to be the shops pick up a bit and there's a Disney Store here which for years was my daughter's favourite store in the shopping centre, along with a branch of Maplin and McDonalds.
You can also see where the Plaza part of the shopping centre begins, with a huge branch of New Look which used to be a Co-op Departments store - a replacement for the aforementioned one which burned down. If you continue down the Princes Square side you can see the start of the Olympia part of the shopping centre.
The Olympia has several stores including Vodafone, Monsoon, Game, Wallis, Topshop and a Sainsburys supermarket. There is a small food court here which is located beside the ice rink. If you go up to the second level above the ice rink you will find the town's central library and an Odeon cinema. At the other end of this section to the cinema is a bingo hall.
The Plaza is home to Marks & Spencer, WH Smith, BHS, Nationwide, Boots and Primark. When you walk down here these days it seems quite claustrophic in places in comparison to the far airier environment you get in other parts of the shopping centre.
Once you get past Primark and Boots you are in Centre West and it's easily the most modern and striking part of the shopping centre. It's on two levels and houses a large Debenhams store as well as Next, Superdrug, HMV, Jane Norman, Zara, French Connection and Early Learning Centre. If you go upstairs there is a food court which is called the Food Gallery.
The one thing the shopping centre does seem to lack is independent retailers and while there are some dotted around, I have seen many come and go over the years, including a lovely toy shop which was edged out due to its inability to compete with the supermarkets. I do like Lime Tree, a fairly recent addition to the centre which sells scented candles, handbags and ornaments and is worth a visit if you are shopping for a gift.
Cherrypie which is located in the Olympia Arcade sells clothing and jewellery with an edge and also offers photography sessions for all the family. There is an independent pet shop next door.
Generally I think the shopping centre is good for most general shopping trips but if you are looking for electronic items you are limited to Maplin, HMV or Argos. The shopping centre Argos branch does tend to have fairly limited stock unfortunately and many a time I have had to drive to the branch at an edge of town retail park to locate an item however.
Certainly if you are looking for clothing the selection on offer is good for all the family, with stores such as Republic, Retro, Quiz and River Island appealing to younger people and older sorts like me being drawn toward M&Co, Debenhams and Monsoon.
All the major mobile phone brands have a presence here and banking is well represented too with the major Scottish banks all here along with branches of Santander, Nationwide, Barclays and the Dunfermline Building Society. In addition there are cash points available outside Sainsburys and another cash point inside Marks & Spencer.
There are plenty of places to eat in East Kilbride Shopping Centre. The Olympia food court is small and can be quite noisy as it overlooks the ice rink. If people are skating here then there tends to be quite loud music blasting from the speakers. You can choose from a coffee shop, fast Indian and Chinese food and the Little Eately, which offers typical chip shop fare and better home made pizzas and pasta. They also offer a steak pie I can highly recommend for the tastebuds if not the waistline.
The Tower pub offers family dining which is very reasonable - you can get 2 roast dinners on a Sunday for £10 which in comparison to some of the town's carvery style pubs is a bargain. The Exchange bar close to the bus station is a little more expensive although they do offer 2 for 1 deals in the graveyard slot between 3pm and 6pm.
The Food Gallery at Centre West has some lovely places to eat along with famous names such as KFC and Spudulike. My favourite place to eat here is the Tinto Tapas bar, but I also love Berit's & Brown, a deli which sells the most wonderful lasagne and Zucca's, which sells authentic Italian food.
The shopping centre is open 7 days a week and is open from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm every day except Thursday when it's open until 8.00 pm and Sunday when it's open between 11.00 am and 5.00 pm.
Some of the pubs and restaurants are open much later and some stores do not keep the same opening hours - some of the charity shops do not open on Sundays for instance.
There are toilet facilities dotted around the centre and they are well sign posted. The level of cleanliness is generally high and all have baby changing facilities.
Everything in the shopping centre is accessible for the disabled with lifts available in place of escalators. The centre has a Shopmobility unit which offers manual and powered wheelchairs as well as mobility scooters on loan to the disabled. Shopmobility is located in Centre West, close to Debenhams so it would be wise to use the Centre West car park if you require this service.
If you visit with small children there is a Let's Play soft play area in the centre which offers 30 minute and one hour sessions to enable your little one to let off some steam.
This is a shopping centre I visit several times a week and generally enjoy using. There is a decent range of shops and while I do get a bit depressed at the empty units, I live in hope that some new names will come to the centre to add to the range. Since Woolworths closed the town could really use a general style store such as Wilkinsons and I must admit I would love one to open here to save me having to drive down to Hamilton if I need to visit that store. Similarly the independent butcher which existed in the shopping centre since the earliest days closed fairly recently and hasn't been replaced.
Overall however the centre offers the shopper a large choice of things to buy, places to see and dining establishments. Add in the ice rink, the cinema, bingo and nightlife and you have plenty to keep you occupied here.
My only real criticism of the shopping centre is the decline of the area around the bus station, where the old Stuart Hotel - a place I recall with great fondness from my youth - is rotting away as the current owners prevaricate over what they plan to do with the building. It's a great shame the local authority hasn't intervened and it's something that has caused a lot of ill feeling in the town.
The Shopping Centre is, however, the best shopping destination in Lanarkshire and I consider myself incredibly fortunate that I only live five minutes' drive away, giving me so much on my doorstep.
If you find yourself in the area I recommend you visit.