Alien Rock – Edinburgh, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

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Alien Rock

This repurposed church offers a more literal way to get closer to the heavens. 


The Leith neighborhood of Edinburgh has been the site of many urban redevelopment initiatives in the last few decades, to the degree that one such proposal played heavily into the plot of the movie T2: Trainspotting, which was partially set in Leith. Alien Rock is one of the most peculiar real-life developments in this area. 

Alien Rock is a unique indoor climbing center housed in a historic house of worship. Construction on the church began in 1843 and was completed 40 years later. The church was known by various names such as Newhaven Free Church and Newhaven St. Andrew’s Parish Church before being vacated in the 1970s. Two decades later, it was sold and remodeled into Alien Rock, which opened in 1994 as one of Scotland’s first indoor climbing spaces.

With assistance from the United States-based organization Xhurches, which deals with the transformation of church buildings into various other uses, most of the church’s interior structures were removed to accommodate the climbing walls, which reach all the way up the building’s high ceilings. Xhurches also supported a similar church-to-climbing gym transformation in Sherbrooke, Quebec, called Vertige Escalade. The projects are a creative example of repurposing heritage places into new spaces by making use of their existing infrastructure.

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