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Why is the historic environment important?


Medieval settlement. Crown Copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
As well as being indispensable to the study of history and archaeology, the historic thread of our environment is vital to our understanding of how our society and our landscape have developed over time. Its contribution to modern life is varied.

Enhancing our quality of life

In contributing to the familiar, aesthetic quality of our surroundings, where we live and work, the historic environment enhances our sense of well-being. As it is all around us and easily accessible, it provides a setting for a great variety of local activities.

  • Enhancing our quality of life: in contributing to the familiar, aesthetic quality of our surroundings, where we live and work, the historic environment enhances our sense of well-being. As it is all around us and easily accessible, it provides a setting for a great variety of local activities.

  • Knowing ourselves: the historic environment is fundamental to our sense of place, helps link us to our roots and underpins our sense of cultural identity. It is of value for what it tells us about past society, modern culture and human interaction with the environment, and it helps give us a long-term view of social and environmental change.

  • Place-making: the historic environment contributes significantly to people’s sense of place and their enjoyment of different spaces. The character of our local landscape and townscape is largely the product of historic development, and this is reflected in the diversity and distinctiveness of field patterns and settlement lay-outs, as well as in building styles, materials and cultural traditions. This historic character is not only attractive in its own right, but it can act as a catalyst for creative new designs.

  • Sustainability: the historic environment represents considerable past investment of physical, natural and intellectual resources.  Where archaeological and historic features already exist, it makes good sense to make the most of the resource they provide, rather than destroy them or allow them to decay with consequent cultural, environmental, social and economic costs.

  • Environmental regeneration: the historic environment can make a beneficial contribution to the regeneration of both urban and rural areas. Through the adaptation of historic buildings for modern uses, and in providing a high quality setting for new development, the historic environment provides a unique environment where people choose to live and work. Their inherent quality provides an opportunity for reviving run-down areas.

  • Employment and economic success: the historic environment can make a significant contribution to economic prosperity. The historic environment generates value by creating a high quality setting for modern life, attracting inward investment and helping to create economic prosperity. The economic benefits of tourism are also closely linked to the historic environment - 83% of visitors to Scotland come primarily to visit historic sites and make an important contribution to the Scottish economy. Attracting visitors to an area provides economic benefits through direct employment linked to the historic sites, as well as to tourism-related businesses, while  heritage projects also generate employment and play an important role in maintaining traditional skills for wider application.

  • An educational resource: the historic environment provides a focus and resource for lifelong learning about the human past and how people have inhabited the landscape and used natural resources through time. This aids teaching about our modern culture and our present environment.

  • Recreation and access: archaeological and historic sites are popular places for recreation, attracting local people and visitors alike.

  • Our broader environment: investigation of the historic environment contributes significantly to our understanding of environmental change and the impact of human activity on natural resources through time. Such knowledge of the past is vital for informing management decisions today.  Historic features frequently provide locally important habitats for flora and fauna, the nature of which is often closely related to human activity in the past.








Contact us

Heritage Management Directorate
Historic Scotland
Longmore House
Salisbury Place
Edinburgh
EH9 1SH
Tel: +44 (0) 131 668 8716