The History of the Architecture of Scottish Cities

Four of the biggest cities in Scotland are very different in their architectural histories, namely Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen. Home design specialists DM Design took a closer look at these differences as well as how historic and political events influenced these cities’ design and construction.


In the 1700s the Union Act of 1707 kick-started the boom in Edinburgh’s architecture. Most of the houses were tenement buildings which were tall and unsafe to fit the population into what was a tiny space. The mansions that existed were located around the countryside with the wealthy and poor living in close proximity.

The Age of Enlightenment impacted Edinburgh’s architecture greatly with William Henry Playfair playing a huge role, designing some of the city’s most monumental buildings in a classical Greek revival style. This is where the name ‘Athens of the North’ came from.

In 1752 the a new town was proposed by Edinburgh’s Town Council, featuring designs that had large gardens incorporated into them, green spaces and shopping centres, mainly aimed at the wealthy.


From its beginnings as a religious settlement which saw the creation of the St Mungo church in 560 AD and the Glasgow Cathedral in 1197, the Glasgow city architecture’s largest influence was by the formation of the United Kingdom, the Act of Union.

The post-war regeneration of Glasgow went on to see the impact of award-winning architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh transform the city’s landscape. Some of Mackintosh’s work which depicted an ornamental and historical style included the Glasgow Herald Building, Glasgow School of Art Commission and Walter Blackie’s ‘The Hill House’ family home.


With many of its famous buildings and homes made from granite which was extracted from quarries in and around the area, Aberdeen is known as the Granite City. Some examples of these granite buildings include Provost Skene’s House (1545), the Aberdeen Music Hall (1820), the Tenements around the Rosemount Viaduct (1880s), No 50. Queen’s Road (1886), and Rosemount Square.

Granite was also exported from Aberdeen, establishing the city as the world’s granite capital.


With establishment roots that go way back to 585 AD, Inverness makes for one of Scotland’s most historic towns. People congregated in the highlands to trade.

The settlement of King David in the 12th century brought with it the construction of the Inverness Castle, which was changed from a wooden fort to stone.

Built in 1593, Abertarff House is the longest-surviving house in Inverness, developed with corbie steps that are synonymous with Danish medieval churches and a host of other Scottish structures.

The 1700s were characterised by Georgian features with the Balnain House built around 1726, depicting strong symmetry and a rather imposing, powerful appearance. Georgian architecture can also be seen in the old courthouse, jail and tollbooth steeple.

The 1800s saw Inverness spawning a wave of architectural change with the Inverness Cathedral making for one of these changes. It depicts a Gothic Revival style while the Victorian Gothic-style Town House was built in 1882, rather prominently showing finials and gables characteristics.

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