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Things to do in Hamilton, Central Scotland

Hamilton lies 12 miles south east of Glasgow, to the east of the M74 where the River Clyde and the Avon Water merge. It is in the west central Lowlands of Scotland, in South Lanarkshire.

Hamilton Mausoleum
Hamilton Mausoleum © Carol Motherwell via Flickr

In the 1320s Walter Fitzgilbert was given land in the Clyde Valley by Robert the Bruce. He built a royal hunting lodge and Cadzow Castle. However, the surviving ruins of Cadzow Castle in Chatelherault County Park are actually not the same castle. These ruins adopted the name in the 1800s.

Hamilton Cross
Hamilton Cross © Colin Smith [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The town was originally named Cadzow, which means "beautiful castle". It adopted the name of the Hamilton family in the 15th century. The 1st Lord Hamilton was the husband of Princess Mary who was the daughter of King James II of Scotland.

Hamilton Palace, a huge estate just outside the town, was built in 1695 on the site of a 13th century tower house. It was said to have been one of the grandest residences in Scotland and was the largest non-royal palace in Western Europe.

Unfortunately it had to be knocked down in 1921 due to soaring maintenance costs and subsidence caused by coal mining beneath the house.

The local landmark, looking like a giant salt shaker is the Hamilton Mausoleum. It was built for the 10th Duke of Hamilton in the 1850s in the grounds of the palace, now known as Strathclyde Country Park.

The mausoleum building is huge, encompassing a church as well as the family tomb and some say it is the largest mausoleum this side of the Pyramids. It may well be true.

Cadzow Castle
Cadzow Castle © SuperGolden via Wikimedia Commons


Present Day Hamilton

Hamilton has over 48,000 inhabitants and is the fifth largest town in Scotland, excluding cities. It is a pleasant town with an Edwardian Town Hall building which is now used as a local library and concert hall.

Chatelherault Country Park
Chatelherault Country Park © Elliott Simpson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The town centre was recreated as a circular Town Square and has won many design awards. The Regent Shopping Centre is one of two indoor shopping centres in Hamilton. It is a fair-trade town, a status recognized by the Fairtrade Foundation, and it promotes Fairtrade certified goods.

This thriving town has a host of leisure amenities including the Town House Theatre, a multi-screen cinema and an ice rink.

Strathclyde Country Park
Strathclyde Country Park © Elliott Simpson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Things to Do Around Hamilton

The Hamilton Mausoleum is set in Strathclyde Park. It is said to have the longest echo in the world within a building. This is demonstrated by slamming shut the huge bronze doors within. It also has "whispering walls" and messages whispered carry around the curved interior walls which have amazing acoustics.

Roller Coaster Strathclyde Country Park
Roller Coaster Strathclyde Country Park © Mike Pennington [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The ruins of Cadzow Castle can be seen in the green open parkland of Chatelherault Country Park.

Hamilton Barracks is the base of the former 1st Battalion of the Cameronians Regiment. It has since been disbanded but a museum of their history is located in the Low Parks Museum at Hamilton.

Sandyholm Garden Centre
Sandyholm Garden Centre © Gordon Brown [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Low Parks Museum is housed in a historic coaching inn dating back to the 16th century. It was used as a staging post for journeys between Edinburgh and Glasgow and is said to be the oldest building in Hamilton.

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