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Scotland's churches reimagined: fantastic former churches to explore

VisitScotlandMiriamVisitScotlandMiriam Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
edited December 2016 in Arts and Culture
You're never too far from a church building in Scotland, but take a closer look and you might be surprised at what you find when you step inside!

Religious buildings are often fascinating to visit because of their intricate architecture, historic significance and peaceful atmosphere, but some former churches in Scotland have been put to completely different use since the congregation has move on, and offer something else entirely in these grand spaces. 

We've gathered a few of the ingenious re-imaginings that have put former churches to new use - let us know what your favourites are too!
  1. Museums and visitor centres
    Churches were once, and sometimes still are, at the heart of community life in Scotland, so it seems fitting that some former church buildings are now museums and heritage centres that house information about the local history of the area that surrounds them. One such museum is Clan Gunn Heritage Centre and Museum in Latheron, Caithness (pictured), which is housed in a former church.

  2. Shops, cafes and restaurants
    With so many churches located in prime  spots in the villages, towns and cities, it's not too surprising that a number of these buildings have been turned into places to part with your money for clothing, gifts, art and food. In Inverness you can buy second hand books in the cosy surroundings of Leakey's Bookshop.

  3. Activity centres
    You can climb the walls of a former church at Alien Rock in Edinburgh! An atmospheric place to learn and refine your skills, it has vaulted ceilings and around 200 routes to conquer.

  4. Places to stay
    Any fan of home improvement programmes will know that many old churches have been converted into places to live, so it goes that there is also church accommodation in Scotland. Often you'll find architectural elements remain, such as stained-glass windows, old bell towers and stone cloisters, leaving a spiritual peace about the place.

  5. Wedding, music and events venues
    Church buildings lend themselves well to use as events venues, and often have beautiful acoustics. At the The Queen's Hall in Edinburgh was originally a Georgian church prior to becoming a concert venue, and retains many original features.

  6. Cinemas, casinos and bingo halls
    Similarly, they also make great locations for entertainment in a variety of forms. Soul Casino in Aberdeen is particularly unusual in being set in Langstane Kirk, a former church. 

  7.  Pubs, bars and clubs
    Some of the most fascinating transformations have seen former churches turned into watering holes, with Oran Mor in Glasgow (pictured below) being one of the most famous. The nightclub and bar and events venture hosts the regular 'A Play, A Pie, A Pint' lunchtime theatre series, and a mural in the private event auditorium was painted by writer and artist Alasdair Gray.

Noticed any 'inspiring' church buildings? Let me know!
I'm an Edinburgher who works in the VisitScotland Content Team - have you seen our blog?


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