ART DECO buildings of edinburgh

Half day private vehicle tour

Edinburgh’s rich collection of 1930’s architecture will surprise and delight you!

The design phenomenon that became known as Art Deco exploded on to the international scene at the famous exhibition of 1925 in Paris, and by the early 1930s the sleek new looks of international modernist architecture were reaching Scotland, propelled by an idealistic new generation of architects like Thomas Tait, Ebenezer Macrae and the Reid/Forbes partnership.

After complimentary pickup from your accommodation or cruise vessel, you’ll hear about the roots of Art Deco at our starting point, the 1930’s crown jewel that is St Andrew’s House, built as the Civil Service HQ of Scotland and still a major government office. Then you’ll embark with your guide on a tour of the city, stopping at our best 1930’s buildings. For afternoon tours, tea shall be served in the gorgeous period surroundings of the former Maybury Roadhouse!

You’ll see streamlining in garage, school and roadhouse inn design, Beaux Arts style neoclassicism, true Le Corbusier modernism in a Craigmillar café, glamorous white apartment blocks, and form following function in monumental concrete bridgework. You’ll also see Edinburgh’s top two surviving ‘roadhouse’ inns, both beautifully preserved and in use, plus a beautiful 1938 public library.

Meantime, you’ll hear from your guide the inside story of how modernism came to Scotland and its architecture world. What happened when the unstoppable force of the modern movement met the immovable mass of Scottish conservatism? You’ll hear about the personalities and conflicts that shaped Scotland’s built environment, from Le Corbusier himself to Basil Spence, Edinburgh’s own superstar architect, plus we’ll be looking at the social changes that shaped the new architectures.
You’ll hear the architects’ own words from articles and letters of the time, often quite boisterous!

Buildings featured

CALEDONIAN INSURANCE BUILDING – Gorgeous, restrained commercial Deco from 1939 by Leslie Grahame Thompson, with original bronze exterior statues.

ST ANDREW’S HOUSE – the king of Edinburgh’s 1930’s public buildings, Thomas Tait’s magnificent HQ for the civil service in Scotland.

CAUSEWAYSIDE GARAGE (Southern Motors) – one of Basil Spence’s first buildings, a streamlined deco garage just oozing the glamour of the motoring of the time.

NIDDRIE MARISCHAL JUNIOR SECONDARY SCHOOL – a tucked away hidden gem of international modernism, with both exterior and interior features of beauty and interest.

THE WHITE HOUSE – originally one of the new breed of roadhouse inns, beautifully restored to its former glory and now a community café. Refreshments available, and this is our official tea stop for families and young guests, since licensing law means no guests under 18 in the Maybury.

DOMINION CINEMA – a living Deco classic, this ‘picture house’ has been Morningside’s romantic date location of choice ever since 1938 – and is still run by the same family!

FOUNTAINBRIDGE LIBRARY – An austere, light-filled masterpiece, still a library, with one of the best surviving deco stairwells in Scotland.

PRINCE CHARLIE BRIDGE – monumental scale 1937 aqueduct carrying the Union Canal over Slateford Road.

LONGSTONE BUS GARAGE – a rare late flowering of Art Deco from 1949


MAYBURY ROADHOUSE – also a roadhouse inn, now a casino but with its Deco interior features lovingly preserved. (18-25 year olds need to carry photo ID due to casino licensing law, sadly no under 18s)

RAVELSTON GARDEN – Edinburgh’s finest 1930’s flats development, still in its original form.

MURRAYFIELD ICE RINK – Thirties Edinburgh at play, with one of the best surviving frontages in the city.

JENNERS DEPOSITORY – a beloved Edinburgh landmark and archetypal commercial warehouse.

FORMER WHEATSHEAF INN – the very first of the roadhouses, built in an English crafts vernacular, but with some Deco touches!

FORMER POOLE’S ROXY AND TIVOLI CINEMAS – no longer in original use, but fine frontages both, still hinting at the halcyon days of cinema!

LOTHIAN HOUSE – monumental city centre office block, now private flats but with period look proudly retained.

NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND – austere but beautiful library, much delayed in construction; by Dr Reginald Fairlie.

And many more!

tour essentials


  • Family members under 18 years free
  • Credit/debit cards, Apple/Samsung pay, cash accepted.
  • Visiting key Art Deco and other 1930’s buildings in Edinburgh
  • Half day tour (approx four and half hours)
  • Afternoon tea inclusive (Maybury subject to licensing restrictions on <18 yrs)


  • Free cancellation up to 24hrs before tour time
  • Complimentary pickup and drop-off at your choice of location.
  • Commentary from local guide
  •  Children welcome but we cannot provide child safety seats