Stepping into this iconic 380-year-old building is like travelling through time with centuries of history to explore.

First dating back to the 17th century, the function of the Auld Kirk in Kirkintilloch has changed a few times over the years, but the building itself? Surviving and thriving.

Its imposing Gothic tower is still standing and can be seen from almost anywhere in the town, while the original 1644 date stone can still be seen on the exterior south gate wall.

Even the foundations on which the Kirk was built are steeped in history. The site is near Peel Park, where a Roman fort on the Antonine Wall was built.

A castle belonging to the noble Scottish family the Comyns originally stood there, but this was likely destroyed on the orders of King Robert the Bruce in the 14th century.

(Image: EDLC Trust)

Before he became king, Bruce had murdered John Comyn inside Greyfriars church in Dumfries by stabbing him to death amid a bloody battle for succession.

The kirk began life as St Mary’s Parish Church and was designed to resemble a Greek cross, with traditional Scottish crow-stepped gables.

It operated as a church for an incredible 270 years, but as the congregation grew, the original building grew less suitable. Bad ventilation and crowded conditions led to parishioners threatening to stop attending.

This led Reverend Thomas Angus Morrison to request a new building, and from 1914 the Auld Kirk building continued to be used as a Sunday school.

In 1961, it was passed into the care of the Town Council and opened as a museum. Many of its paintings were created by Arthur Griffith, whose style frequently includes fairies and fantastical scenes. There is more behind the scenes though, and anyone who wishes to see a painting not on display can do so by appointment.

It is fitting that such creative work be housed in such a beautiful building. The Auld Kirk and its cemetery has been given Category A-listed status, which is specially reserved for buildings of special architectural or historic interest.

Now to celebrate a momentous 380 years in which a local institution has ‘survived and thrived’, the Auld Kirk Museum is hosting a free exhibition.

It is being arranged by East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture (EDLC) Trust which has managed the site since 2011.

As well as a permanent display on the history of Kirkintilloch – including one of the iconic red telephone boxes created by the Lion Foundry – the kirk has a changing exhibition space which becomes the regular host of work by talented artists from the local area to around the world.

Almost four centuries later, the Kirk is showing no signs of fading into the back of the history books and is still attracting thousands of visitors every year, with a four star Visit Scotland rating to boast.

Part of the exhibition Part of the exhibition (Image: EDLC Trust)

Karin Jackson, general manager of EDLC Trust, said, “The Auld Kirk Museum has hosted many wonderful exhibitions and events over the years so it’s only right that – on its 380th anniversary – we focus on the building itself.

“Times have changed massively since it became an iconic fixture locally, but it has survived and thrived. I hope as many people as possible take the chance to visit the free exhibition and explore its fascinating history.

“As well as photographs and information from the past you can also see some of the objects that have been in the museum's collection the longest.”

The 380th Anniversary Exhibition is on until August 8, 2024.