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This guided walk will be led by Dr Thomas H Bak, Reader in Human Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh and a Scottish Tourist Guide Association (STGA) Blue Badge Guide with particular interest in religious history.

The walk will begin in St Andrew’s Square, in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town, through the Royal Mile in the Old Town, to the University of Edinburgh campus in George Square. We will arrive in time to attend the discussion event “Imagining Scotland: Nationalism, Narratives and New Scots” (part of Scottish Interfaith Week and the ESRC Festival of Social Science 2022).

Topic of walk

The walk will address the topics of religion, nation and identity through the lens of architecture and urban planning.

We will consider how the design of the New Town was originally conceived around two monumental churches of St Andrew and St George, symbolising Scotland and England.

We will see the site of 1843 “Great Disruption” and follow its consequences for Scottish architecture.

In the Old Town, we will discuss whether St Giles Cathedral can actually be called a cathedral.

Passing by two very different minarets, telling the story of architectural adaptation and transformation, we will have a chance to reflect how buildings can express a subtle balance between religious and national identity.


Meeting point: The centre of St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, under the Melville Monument.

Finishing point: 50 George Square, University of Edinburgh.