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How we select sites for the Inventory


Gardens and designed landscapes are defined as grounds that are consciously laid out for artistic effect. This broad definition includes many different kinds of site ranging from the grounds around a historic country house, to botanic garden collections, urban parks, small plantsman’s gardens and even some cemeteries. Most frequently represented in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland, however, are the policies associated with an important house or castle, developed by country landowners for both pleasure and productive purposes.

Inventory sites usually exhibit a combination of different features such as built structures, planting, open grounds, landforming, water management, archaeological remains and natural landscape features, all of which may contribute to the value of a site. Some of these elements may be important enough to be designated in their own right by Historic Scotland as listed buildings or scheduled monuments, or by Scottish Natural Heritage for their scientific or nature conservation value.

Assessment of National Importance

For a garden or designed landscape to be included in the Inventory, it must be considered to be of national importance. Sites are selected and assessed using the following value-based criteria:

  • Value as an individual work of art in their right
  • Historic value
  • Horticultural, arboricultural or silvicultural value
  • Architectural value
  • Scenic value
  • Nature conservation value
  • Archaeological value

These are broad headings and the principles of selection are set out fully at Annex 5 of the Scottish Historic Environment Policy.

The condition of the site today and its overall integrity are also important elements of the selection process. The Inventory identifies sites that remain comprehensible and meaningful today. It is not intended to identify lost landscapes or those where the condition and/or the integrity are such that its interest has become devalued.

For each principle, we express value on a scale ranging from ‘outstanding value’ to ‘no value’. Generally, the greater the number of outstanding or high values, the more likely the site is to be accepted for inclusion in the Inventory.

All sites included in the Inventory are considered to be of national importance. Unlike listing for buildings, there is no category or grading system that distinguishes relative merit.

Researching sites

Historic Scotland undertakes fieldwork to gardens and designed landscapes together with desk-based research of historical sources.

The site visit helps us to identify the extent of the site, assess its historical integrity, and to describe more accurately the range of features it contains. Desk-based research involves a review of documentary sources that mention or depict the garden or designed landscape, such as books, photographs, sketches or journal articles. Historical maps and plans, meanwhile, form one of the most important sources of evidence in helping us to understand the development of the landscape through time.

The research undertaken for the Inventory is not exhaustive, and there is much more to be learned through further documentary research and through field survey and investigations. We welcome any additional information that landowners, interested bodies or individuals can provide.

Contact us

Listing and Designed Landscapes Team
Historic Scotland
Longmore House
Salisbury Place
Tel: +44 (0) 131 668 8701/8705