Exploring Scotland’s Most Stunning Buildings and Their History

Whenever changes happen, it is often not a bad thing. Having a refresh can really make a difference. For example, having a new wardrobe, a new hairstyle, or even changing your lifestyle completely. 

This applies to buildings too and there are so many sites around Scotland that have stood tall for years and years, and they all usually have a unique and historic background. What might come as a surprise to you is just what these buildings have been, and in this article, we’re exploring iconic Scottish buildings to showcase their original purpose compared to their current use. 

St Andrews in the Square 

St Andrews in the Square in Glasgow was originally built as a place of worship and is a Grade A listed building. The 18th century former church was built around 1754 and maintained its original purpose as a church up until 1990. But rising costs for its maintenance saw the building sold to the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust for £1 in 1993. 

The building needed major work, but the nature of it challenged a project that would not be beneficial in years to come. Now, it is Glasgow’s leading performing arts centre, hosting facilities such as a café, toilets, and dressing rooms. It was reopened with its new purpose as a centre for Scottish culture on St Andrew’s Day in 2000. 

There are now plenty of modern functions within this building. For example, you can get married and hold a conference of a formal awards dinner St Andrews in the Square. Its gorgeous architecture is steeped in history, and it also boasts a 250-guest capacity. 

Cairn Hotel Edinburgh 

The Cairn Hotel was designed by William H. Playfair which is now one of the most unusual hotel Edinburgh has to offer in 1822 by. You may recognise Playfair’s name, as he also designed the stunning National Monument in the capital city, as well as the National Gallery. 

The hotel is part of a larger string of other sites on Windsor Street, built originally to serve as private townhouses. Playfair designed the street to form part of his Eastern New Town scheme, and so the Cairn Hotel Edinburgh is a great example of one of the few domestic commissions done by the leading 19th century Scottish architects. 

Many of Playfair’s classic hallmarks characterise the building, including a wrought iron balcony designed with a trellis pattern and Greek key border, as well as distinctive railings. In fact, Playfair himself was a primary driving force behind the Greek Revival in Edinburgh during his time, with his work earning Edinburgh the reputation of being the ‘Athens in the North’! 

Òran Mór

Òran Mór stands at the top of Byres Road in Glasgow and is unmissable. Did you know that Òran Mór is Gaelic for “big song?’’ Fitting in with its illuminated neon hoop suspended around the former church’s spire, and equally colourfully-lit windows. Òran Mór is a unique whisky bar and events venue, occupying a rather unconventional site. 

The church was built in 1862 and it was used for worship by local residents. A notable feature of the church building is the 11 carved heads that decorated the arches of the main hall of the church, now the auditorium of the Òran Mór. Each head represents a prominent figure of the church. 

These distinctive heads watch over in this historic building as gigs, weddings and club nights take place, which is obviously a modern day occurrence. Overlooking guests at the whisky bar and restaurant, the eccentric setting certainly draws people in. The venue is particularly noted for its wide range of whiskies on offer, with over 280 malts to choose from. 

The Timberyard Restaurant

What was once known as a site for Lawson’s Timber, The Timberyard restaurant in Edinburgh started as a props and costume store in the 19th century! 

‘The Shed’, which is a separate area from the restaurant and is a small bare brick outhouse which has a wood burning stove and caters for up to 10 guests. 

The chopped logs which feature frequently in the décor nod to the site’s most recent use, and less so to its origins. As for the food, this one is certainly as intricate and unique as the building’s history, with fresh, foraged ingredients on offer. The Timberyard also grows its own herbs and ingredients, as well as filtering and bottling its own water. 

Old buildings are often overlooked when it comes to buying and developing, and this leads to a lot of abandoned buildings. Do you think that more of these structures should be reused and redeveloped into becoming more modernised? A new lease of life would add to the rich history of the buildings which once defined our city’s, while also preserving local culture to contend against increasing modernisation. 


Flush the Fashion

Editor of Flush the Fashion and Flush Magazine. I love music, art, film, travel, food, tech and cars. Basically, everything this site is about.