Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, is renowned for its rich history, stunning architecture, and a distinctive charm that resonates through its streets.

At the heart of this allure lies the extensive use of local stone in the construction of its iconic buildings. The city’s unique geology has gifted it with an abundant supply of various types of stone, each with its own distinct characteristics, colours, and textures.

Geological Diversity

Edinburgh’s geological composition is a mosaic of ancient rocks, shaped by millions of years of geological processes. The city is located on a landscape formed during the Carboniferous period, around 360 million years ago. This period gave rise to the sedimentary rocks that now grace Edinburgh’s buildings. The two primary types of stone used are sandstone and limestone, both of which have unique qualities that contribute to the city’s architectural diversity.

Sandstone Buildings

Sandstone is a popular choice for many of Edinburgh’s buildings due to its warmth, durability, and distinctive reddish-brown hue. The most famous sandstone used in the city is the locally quarried Craigleith sandstone. Quarried from the Craigleith Quarry in the 18th and 19th centuries, this stone has graced numerous landmarks including the Scott Monument and the Assembly Rooms. Its warm colour, coupled with its ease of carving, has made it a favourite among architects, enabling intricate detailing and ornate designs that define much of Edinburgh’s neo-gothic and Georgian architecture.


Limestone is another stone that has played a significant role in Edinburgh’s architecture. It comes in various shades, from pale cream to light grey, and offers a more subdued yet elegant appearance. The Hailes and Gullane limestones, sourced from quarries near Edinburgh, have been used in structures like St. Giles’ Cathedral and the Palace of Holyrood House. Limestone’s durability, combined with its ability to weather gracefully over time, has ensured that these buildings retain their charm for centuries, embodying the concept of timelessness.

Cultural Significance

Beyond their aesthetic value, the stones used in Edinburgh’s buildings hold cultural and historical significance. The very act of quarrying and using local stone has deep-rooted connections to the city’s identity. It reflects a sense of pride in the natural resources of the region and a commitment to preserving architectural heritage. The craftsmen who shaped these stones into intricate facades and soaring spires have left their mark on the city’s character, leaving behind a tangible connection between past and present.

Preserving the Legacy

The use of local stone, though a symbol of the city’s architectural grandeur, has also presented challenges in preserving these historic buildings. Over the years, exposure to harsh weather conditions and urban pollutants has taken a toll on these stones, causing erosion and deterioration. Preservation efforts have become crucial to maintain the integrity of these structures. And that is where Balmore comes in. We are historic building restoration specialists and have been involved in multiple restoration projects involving careful stonework cleaning, masonry repairs to damaged sections, and occasionally replacing stones beyond repair using our rope access team.

Dealing with sandstone building repairs

With the near endless number of sandstone houses, historic churches, tenement blocks and other large scale historic buildings, we can provide stonework repairs, stonework restoration and stonework cleaning that will not disappoint.  Along with our 35 years of experience, we have been growing and investing in both our team and our equipment.  We are one of the few DOFF Steam Cleaning Specialists in Scotland and can work on the delicate cleaning of sandstone to remove graffiti, smoke staining, moss, algae and more.

Edinburgh’s buildings, with their timeless beauty and historical significance, owe a great deal to the local stones that have shaped them and it is vitally important to maintain them to ensure the long lasting survival of the Edinburgh skyline. The use of sandstone and limestone in these structures is not merely an architectural choice but a reflection of the city’s geological heritage and cultural identity. As these buildings continue to stand as testaments to time and human creativity, the stones that compose them serve as a reminder of the enduring beauty of Edinburgh’s architectural legacy.