The browser you are using is out of date and is no longer supported. To view and use this site correctly, please update your browser to the latest version.

historic landscapes


St Kilda by Niall Benvie 1996. Copyright: the National Trust for Scotland.
Scotland’s landscape is rich in evidence of our past. This can take the form of relict landscapes, that is deserted settlements and field systems.
It can also be seen in field boundaries and vegetation patterns. Some traces are obvious, but some are hidden beneath peat or other deposits.

Not all of this evidence can be listed or scheduled, as traces may be too extensive, too slight or too obscured. Nevertheless, these can be protected to some degree within protection policies for Scotland’s landscape as a whole.

World heritage

Cultural landscapes of international importance can be inscribed as World Heritage Sites, though only a few will achieve this accolade: the outstanding cultural landscape of St. Kilda was inscribed in 2005.

European landscape convention

The Council of Europe’s European Landscape Convention is the first international treaty to be exclusively concerned with landscape, which it defines as an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors. It promotes the protection, management and planning of all landscapes and sets out guiding principles:


National protection

Local landscape designations can also embrace cultural qualities, and HS and SNH have recently produced Guidance on Local Landscape Designations,

Scottish landscape forum

Historic Scotland has recently participated in the Scottish Landscape Forum. This was established by Scottish Natural Heritage with the support of the Scottish Executive in June 2006 to facilitate discussion, prepare advice and promote action for the better care of Scotland’s landscapes.

The Forum comprises a group of some 25 public and non-governmental bodies with a common interest in the future well-being, management and use of Scotland’s landscape use. A report of the Forum’s initial work can be found here.

Historic landuse assessment project

The HLA is a joint project between Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS). It is enhancing our understanding of the historic dimension of landscape and will help shape our approaches to its management.

The HLA is a GIS-based mapping project that shows the historic origin of land-use patterns, describing them by period, form and function. It is compiled at a scale of 1:25000, and is based on the analysis of key data sources, such as early maps, aerial photography and survey results.

The HLA has identified some 55 individual historic land-use types, which can be grouped under 14 thematic headings (or categories) to simplify the data. It also depicts relict land-use, including relict archaeological landscapes greater than 1 hectare in area (smaller areas cannot easily be mapped at this scale). The data can be viewed here.

HLA has been completed for around 65% of the country at present, and it is hoped that full national coverage will be achieved by 2011-12. Reports have been produced for the two National Parks (Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Cairngorms (2000)), and two National Scenic Areas (Solway Coast NSAs (2002) and Wester Ross (2003)).