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Th e sto ry of scotlan d’s p lac es to ld th ro ugh aer ial imagery


A From our islands to our cities, landscapes are a product of human invention and intervention. Almost no part of Scotland has been left untouched and unaltered by its people. Through images from the National Collection of Aerial Photography we can read the long and complex histories of how Scotland’s places came to be. These unique tales of communities, their landscapes and their architecture are told through five themes: Ritual and Religion Taming the Earth Defending the Land Enlightenment Engine Room Inspired by the aerial images of three places featured in the exhibition, school children investigated their local history and folklore alongside traces of the past marked in the landscape. They designed a creative response showing how they would change, highlight, or enhance their place, and then filmed it from the air. These aerial films of their interaction with the landscape were shown in the exhibition.

The Above Scotland exhibition is a partnership project between Architecture and Design Scotland

(A+DS) and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS).

s the glaciers of the last Ice Age receded, Scotland’s earliest ancestors ventured northwards, exploring a wild, fertile territory. Nomadic hunter-gatherers at first, they made the decision to stay for good – to farm and to build. From that moment on, people began to write their story firmly into the fabric of the landscape. From our islands to our cities, landscapes are a product of human invention and intervention. The first farmers, who began to clear homesteads from the ‘wild woods’, saw a landscape of rich, fertile soil. The societies who created some of our earliest architecture – massive stone tombs and circles built in alignment with the sun, moon and stars – saw the landscape as a bridge to an afterlife.   Millennia later, the philosophers of the Enlightenment judged the landscape as a resource to be changed and ‘improved’ for the sake of progress and productivity. The artists, poets and writersof the late eighteenth century pictured the landscape as the setting for poignant history and sublime romance. And the engineers of the Victorian era took the landscape on as a challenge – terrain to be bridged, tunnelled and crossed, as a symbol of man’s all-conquering ingenuity.   Through the National Collection of Aerial Photography, held by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, we can read the long and complex histories of how Scotland’s places came to be. Unique tales emerge of communities, their landscapes and their architecture.

Ritual AND Religion

Scotland has been a Christian country for well

day, accumulating vast libraries and supporting

ruined abbeys, parish churches, crowded cemeteries

orders provided quiet seclusion for prayer and worship,

over a thousand years, with ancient tombstones,

generations of scholars. Settings chosen for religious

and majestic cathedrals providing a physical timeline

as well as protection from the temptations of secular

sites found throughout Scotland are enigmatic

western seaboard to the rest of Scotland can be traced

for one of the world’s leading religions. Yet prehistoric reminders of the lost ritual practices of our

life. The spread of Christianity from the islands of the from these sixth century monasteries and isolated

pre-Christian ancestors. The meaning and purpose

chapels to today’s parish kirks – and often

and stone circles may remain a matter of inspired

of Scotland’s many standing stones, burial chambers speculation, but the effort invested in creating these

monuments demonstrates the central role they played

for past peoples trying to make sense of the world.

Throughout medieval Europe, monasteries and

abbeys were the intellectual powerhouses of their

on the same sites.

For millennia, the call to worship, to create holy structures in celebration of the divine, has left

permanent marks on the nation’s landscapes. Linked

through time by the enduring power of religious belief, they remain some of Scotland’s most awe-inspiring monuments.

RITUAL AND RELIGION Ring of Brodgar Around 5,000 years ago, a number of Scottish islands were central hubs with trading links across the sea to Ireland, England, Scandinavia and even further afield. The vibrant cultures that thrived in these places produced some of our first true architectural masterworks. The Neolithic Orcadians in particular were a society that appears to have been preoccupied intensely with death and religion, and they transformed the spaces around their homes and farms into a vast landscape of ritual and ceremony. Giant stone circles and tombs were built to be visible for miles around. Indeed, the sheer volume of monuments constructed on Orkney during the third millennium BC – many of which remain standing to this day – have made it one of the most remarkable and enigmatic sites of the entire ancient world. Here five worn paths thread like veins towards the heart of the Ring of Brodgar, one of Orkney’s iconic prehistoric monuments. Dating from between 3000 BC and 2000 BC, Brodgar was a cathedral of the Neolithic era, its circle of massive stones once bringing communities together in ritual and worship. Now, thousands of years later, it remains an attraction for many visitors and tourists.

DP058594 / 2009

RITUAL AND RELIGION Iona The origins of Christianity in Scotland can be traced back to the island of Iona and a monastery founded by St Columba in the middle of the sixth century. Iona held one of the greatest libraries in Western Europe, making the monastery a seat of learning and the epicentre for the spread of the gospel. Little remains of the original monastery, but it would once have housed a small settlement for an austere and contemplative life, with a modest church and huts for the monks to live and work in, including small cells for solitude and prayer.   After Columbus died in AD 597 the monastery became a centre for pilgrimage. Vikings began raiding Iona in AD 794, and, by AD 825, Iona had been abandoned. Its power was restored in the tenth century, however, after the Vikings converted to Christianity and intermarried with the Gaelic population. In AD 1200, the Benedictine Order built the great abbey, and St Ronan’s Nunnery was established. The abbey was abandoned during the Reformation and lay in ruins for 400 years until 1938, when it was restored by the Iona Community.

SC455539 / 1994

RITUAL AND RELIGION St Andrews The formation of the present town of St Andrews began around AD 1140, although a settlement stood on the site for centuries before. The area was transformed in the medieval era as it grew in importance as an ecclesiastical, academic and trading centre. St Andrews Cathedral occupied a site used for worship since the eighth century, when the relics of St Andrew, Scotland’s patron saint, are said to have been brought there. Work began on the cathedral in 1160 and continued over the next 150 years. Recognised as the nation’s ecclesiastical capital, St Andrews Cathedral was the largest in Scotland and was the imposing headquarters of the medieval church. By the thirteenth century it had a huge economic and political influence within Europe but the rapid and sweeping changes of the Reformation saw the cathedral abandoned in 1560. The extensive ruins of the cathedral provide a vivid reminder of the power of religion and belief to change landscapes forever.  

SC1037618 / 1998

RITUAL AND RELIGION St Mungo’s, Glasgow Dating from the thirteenth century, St Mungo’s Cathedral dominated the summit of medieval Glasgow – a small hilltop settlement on the site of St Mungo’s sixth century church and seventh century grave. A precious monument from the past, St Mungo’s is the only medieval cathedral to have survived the Reformation largely intact. Most of the structure dates from the 1200s, although the Reformation saw the removal of many decorative features. Gradually the modest town of Glasgow extended downhill towards the Clyde, before the trading boom of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries transformed the city fabric. As merchants created a new centre to the west, the old High Street and Upper Town descended into decay and squalor, and the cathedral became an increasingly isolated figure on the fringes of a rapidly expanding urban environment. The Necropolis, Glasgow’s great Victorian garden cemetery, reputedly modelled on Père Lachaise in Paris, now seems a potent symbol of the ultimate decline of the first city.   Today, the origin point of the city of Glasgow is surrounded by modern development, as motorway sliproads and high-rise housing close in on the dark, gothic grandeur of the cathedral.

DP075388 / 2010

RITUAL AND RELIGION Teampull Eion On the Atlantic coastline of Lewis, the crumbling remains of the medieval chapel of Teampull Eion and its enclosed cemetery stand out a lush, striking green against the surrounding seams of worked land. Perhaps first built in the fifteenth century, the abandoned churchyard contains over 2,000 unmarked gravestones. Â

DP109574 / 2004


After the end of the last Ice Age, a vast forest grew

of long-abandoned buildings show where they lived,

birch, rowan, aspen and juniper that covered the

fields, and the faint impressions of disused roads and

Forest. Over 6,000 years ago, the inhabitants of

across much of the country. The dense carpet of pine,

Scottish Highlands became the great Caledonian Scotland began to carve small clearings out of this wild and imposing landscape, turning the soil to cultivate crops.  

Farming, above all other human activities, tamed and shaped the wilds of Scotland. For millennia, people lived out their lives to the rhythms of the farming

calendar, clearing the forests and working the land to

feed their families and communities. Farming has left

layer after layer of remains, giving remarkable insights into the lives of our ancestors. The broken-down walls

grassed-over banks let us trace the outlines of their tracks allow us to follow their footsteps.

Now only fragments of the once great Caledonian

Forest remain. The colourful and familiar patchwork

of field systems dominating much of today’s lowland countryside show how completely Scotland’s early

wilderness has changed. At the other extreme, across highland valleys and moors, abandoned farms and fields have merged back into the texture of the

land, reverting to type – once again fierce, rugged

and unruly. Almost no part of Scotland has been left untouched and unaltered by its people.

TAMING THE EARTH Balnagleck Farm Just inland from the Links of Machrihanish on the Mull of Kintyre, the field systems of Balnagleck Farm lay a series of ordered geometric panels over the landscape. From above, it becomes clear just how remorselessly the ‘Improvement’ farms divided up the landscape of the past. Here the remains of walling and strips of rig and furrow are sliced apart by the lines of the modern fields. Picked out in shadow at the top corner of the end field are remains dating even further back – a 2,000-year-old drystone structure known as a ‘Dun’, now enclosed by ruler-straight field walls.

DP056806 / 2008

TAMING THE EARTH Scarp Cut off from the main body of Harris, Scarp is a mountain islet formed by Beinn fo Thuath rising steeply out of the sea. Here two golden beaches face each other across a thin channel of aquamarine sea in the Western Isles. A favourite place for settlement for thousands of years, the flat ledge of cultivable land on the eastern fringe of Scarp was the site of a crofting township, whose population reached a peak of 213 people in 1861. Less than a hundred years later, however, this had fallen to 74, and in 1971 the last family left the island and its scattered spread of buildings – including a chapel, schoolhouse and mission house. Scarp is perhaps most famous to the wider world as the site in 1934 of a German scientist’s ill-fated attempt to pioneer the world’s first ‘rocket-mail’ postal service.

SC1007626 / 2005

TAMING THE EARTH Northton This colourful crofting patchwork at the An Taobh Tuath peninsula on the Isle of Harris overlies the machair landscape where the buried debris of a 9,000-yearold hunter-gatherer camp was discovered. In 2011, archaeologists drilling boreholes down several metres into the soil recovered the unmistakable traces of man: flint and quartz, charred grain, hazelnut shells and substantial amounts of animal bone. This jumble of discarded fragments – in essence a prehistoric rubbish dump – was the first proof that people had reached as far as the Western Isles this early in the human story of Scotland. Sometime around 7000 BC, hunter-gatherers had moved northwards through a warming landscape freed from the grip of the last Ice Age, and made landfall on Harris. Millennia later, in the nineteenth century, farmers working this fertile shoreline were evicted and forced to eke out an existence on the rocky and inhospitable east coast of the island – where the soil was reputedly so thin that crops could not be sown and it was impossible even to bury the dead. It was only after the First World War, when the government bought much of the machairs of the west coast, that the community returned to live and work on the land.

DP011860 / 2005

TAMING THE EARTH Little Rogart The earthwork remains of the nineteenth century township of Little Rogart reveal a long history of farming going back many hundreds of years. When viewed from above, this long grassy ridge becomes an intricate pattern of abandoned cultivation rigs and the remains of farmbuildings, corn-drying kilns and walled enclosures. Traces of stone-walled roundhouses show that the land was settled in prehistoric times – though the first written record of the site is a ‘Hearth Tax’ return dating to 1691, which records three tenants. By 1815 this had increased to fourteen, but soon after the inhabitants must have been removed during the Highland Clearances, as the township does not appear on an 1833 map, instead, in its place are two buildings enclosed by a stone dyke. These are likely to be the house of a shepherd brought in to manage the surrounding landscape as an extensive sheep farm. The Highland Clearances are one of the most controversial times in Scottish history. From around 1750 to 1880, tens of thousands of Scottish Highlanders and Islanders were evicted, often violently, from the lands their families had occupied for generations to make way for large-scale sheep farming.

DP080250 / 2009

TAMING THE EARTH Balmoral The first novel Queen Victoria ever read was Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor. Charmed by the romantic storylines, she was even heard to describe herself as a ‘Jacobite at heart’. It was the Highland landscape in particular that captured her imagination, and in 1848 she purchased Balmoral on Deeside. Over the coming years Victoria and her husband Prince Albert transformed Balmoral into their principal residence in Scotland. This royal Highland estate popularised a romantic version of Scottishness, and led to a new architectural style called the Scots Baronial. Mock-medieval turrets, battlements and towers appeared on buildings from country houses to town halls and hospitals. But beyond the architecture, this nostalgia industry also had a profound effect on the landscape. Scott’s poem The Lady of the Lake, a favourite of Prince Albert’s, reintroduced the heroic image of the hunting monarch. Throughout the later nineteenth century, the traditional Highland landscape was cleared not for sheep farming, but to create vast tracts of ‘wild’ land managed for deer, grouse, trout and salmon – Highland ‘theme parks’ for the aristocratic and the rich.

DP020832 / 2004


The inhabitants of Scotland have been building

years. From the stone remains of Iron Age ‘brochs’, to

A testament to the nation’s turbulent history, their

machine-gun emplacements, it can tell a millennia-

fortifications for many thousands of years.

Viking boat timbers and abandoned Second World War

varied forms reflect the changing weaponry and

long story of defence, conquest and conflict.

armed with spears and swords in the Iron Age, to

The distinct nature of physical landscapes can also

warfare their defences had to repel – from warriors

massed troops and cannons in the Anglo-Scottish wars. Time has mellowed what were often brutal buildings

into picturesque ruins set against spectacular scenery.

But their modern popularity as tourist attractions can never fully obscure their true origins.

As part of an island nation, Scotland and its people

have long had a strategic need to watch the seas and

mark ownership of the surrounding land. The shoreline in particular has represented security, survival,

opportunity and adventure over many thousands of

have a profound impact on ‘place-making’. For a time – in particular in the eighteenth century – the geological border between the Highlands and the Lowlands was also seen as a political border. Lochs and mountains were natural barriers and defences, and secluded

glens were the cradle for fiercely independent clan communities. Some Hanoverian generals even

concluded that it was the Highlands themselves,

as much as the people that lived there, that were responsible for the Jacobite Rebellion.

DEFENDING THE LAND Viking Shipyard, Skye The remote Rubh an Dunain peninsula on the west coast of Skye juts out below the angular peaks of the Cuillins into the Sound of Soay. Reached today by a lonely track from the road junction at Glen Brittle, the peninsula has been a place of human activity for millennia – from our earliest hunter-gatherer ancestors to settlements occupied as recently as the 1860s. Perhaps most interesting of all is Loch na h-Airde at the promontory’s tip – a lochan once connected to the sea by a manmade cutting known as the ‘Viking canal’. Timbers of a 900-year-old Norse boat were discovered here, along with a stone quay and a control system to keep the water level constant. Archaeologists believe this may have been the site of a medieval shipyard and naval base, where boats were built and secured during the harsh winter months: an ingenious use of a natural feature. Viewed from above, it becomes clear that – far from remote – this was the prefect location to cast off into the waters of the western seaboard and beyond.

DP109392 / 2010

DEFENDING THE LAND Nybster Broch Protected by sheer cliffs on the storm-lashed Caithness coast, this curious pattern of remains at Nybster marks the site of the Iron Age equivalent of the tower house or small castle. From the Old Norse word borg, meaning fort, ‘brochs’ were huge roundhouses unique to the north and west of Scotland, where stone was the most available building material. Constructed using sophisticated drystone architecture, 700 brochs are known to have existed across Scotland, built between 600 BC and AD 100. These were feats of considerable architectural and engineering expertise. Typical brochs stood from 5 to 13 metres high and were formed by two concentric walls, producing a hollow-walled tower, which made them stronger and more stable than single walls. Accessed by a door at ground level, between the walls were winding stairways and smaller cells. Brochs may have been built for tribal chiefs or important farmers and, in some places, such as Gurness in Orkney, villages grew around them. Although erected for defensive purposes it is also thought that these markers in the landscape may have been designed to show social status, wealth and power.

DP011860 / 2005

DEFENDING THE LAND Castle Law Set on high positions and surrounded by ditches and barriers of wood or stone, hillforts from the Bronze and Iron Ages were designed to defend against raiders. Although the people of the surrounding landscapes looked to the forts for their protection, these were never just military structures and many forts were often packed with houses. Inside they operated a structured and hierarchical society and were centres of trade and metal working, bringing wealth and power to the chieftains. As times changed and the threat of attack decreased, ramparts deteriorated and homes and yards spread across the old defences.  The strange hieroglyph pictured here on the summit of Castle Law in Perthshire was created at the end of the nineteenth century by the excavations of an enthusiastic antiquarian called Edwin Bell. His deep trenches, picked out in shadow, unearthed the remains of substantial stone ramparts.  

DP056544 / 2008

DEFENDING THE LAND Dunnottar Castle Set on a coastal promontory to the south of Stonehaven, and protected on all sides by precipitous cliffs, Dunnottar Castle was renowned as one of the most impregnable fortresses in Scotland. Perhaps because of this reputation, it regularly drew besieging armies to the head of the steep, narrow saddle that connects it to the mainland. For over 1,000 years it played a crucial role in Scottish history. The Vikings sacked a Pictish stronghold built on this site in AD 890, and in 1296 William Wallace seized the castle from an English garrison. Three and a half centuries later, with Oliver Cromwell’s armies on the march, the Scottish Crown Jewels were sent to Dunnottar for safety. The castle was soon under siege, and surrendered in 1652, yet the English troops could find no trace of the Jewels. Instead they had been buried beneath the pews of the nearby Kinneff Church, where they remained undiscovered for eleven years, until the King returned to the throne. As Scotland’s last bastion, Dunnottar has regularly housed some of the nation’s greatest historical figures: Constantine mac Aed, Sigurd the Mighty, William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots and the Marquis of Montrose.

DP114087 / 2011

DEFENDING THE LAND Stirling Castle Thought to have been fortified from at least Pictish times – and besieged, sacked and rebuilt on numerous occasions – today Stirling Castle is a battle-scarred monument to the nation’s turbulent history. Its fragmentary architecture ranges from Robert ll’s imposing North Gate – dating from 1381 – to the extensive eighteenth century Outer Defences created to withstand the threat of the Jacobite Rebellion. In the mid sixteenth century James V built a glorious Renaissance palace in the centre of Stirling Castle. The choice of Stirling was an obvious one. Sitting on a volcanic outcrop rising over the near impassable marshes of the Forth floodplain, the castle was a crucial gateway, controlling the only major route linking the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland – a place of refuge for some, a forbidding citadel for others. Travellers, merchants, politicians and armies journeying north or south had to use the only main road – a partially paved track – and the only bridge, which left no option but to pass directly through Stirling itself. The small fortress town was a focal point for intrigue and bloodshed, and the backdrop for some of the most significant battles in the nation’s history, from Bannockburn to the Jacobite Rebellion.   

DP079034 / 2010


During the mid eighteenth century a new intellectual

Throughout the nation, powerful ideas took on

exchange ideas and venture opinions and arguments

characterised the design ethos of the Enlightenment.

elite, largely based in Edinburgh, gathered to discuss, on everything from philosophy and literature to

economics and agriculture. They set about tackling

the challenge of transforming Scotland into a rational, efficient and, above all, modern nation. A cultural

revolution, soon dubbed the ‘Scottish Enlightenment’, had begun.

physical form. Strong lines and strict regularity

‘Improvement’ surged through towns and cities as

many medieval street plans were altered, adapted and developed. The dramatic intellectual developments

ultimately had a profound effect on the appearance of the Scottish landscape. A desire for order and

productivity saw the countryside recast as the physical

embodiment of the ‘Improvement’ ideal. Regular

from a poor rural country into a modern capitalist

grid over the land. Lavish country houses were set

Over the coming century Scotland was transformed economy. Underpinned by the belief that reason and ingenuity could solve any problem, this philosophy

patterns of enclosed fields and woodland laid a vast amid sculpted gardens and parkland. The change in

the countryside was remarkable and, in many cases,

of the Enlightenment was applied to every aspect

complete, sweeping away wholesale the traditional

organically over millennia.

of life in Scotland.

layouts of fields, farms and villages that had developed

ENLIGHTENMENT Edinburgh New Town Constrained for centuries by the landscape, Edinburgh’s Old Town grew upward and on top of itself. This urban congestion of intense overcrowding and squalor created a melting pot of thinkers whose radical new philosophies and ideologies coalesced in debating chambers and Old Town taverns. It was in this febrile atmosphere that the map of the city was first redrawn. Perhaps the most evocative and enduring symbol of the Enlightenment is Edinburgh’s Georgian New Town. Architects like James Craig, Robert Adam and William Playfair looked to the splendour of Ancient Greece and Imperial Rome as they created the formal layout of the New Town. A masterpiece of city planning, this grand, aristocratic quarter was laid out in a grid of airy streets, squares, graceful crescents and formal gardens. Built in stages between 1767 and the mid nineteenth century, its neo-classical architecture deliberately references the roots of European civilisation, creating a vast, ordered monument to the nation’s cultural awakening.   Overlooking the New Town, the rounded summit of Calton Hill was the canvas for a sequence of neo-classical monuments – symbols of Enlightenment Edinburgh’s dream of becoming a ‘Modern Athens’.

DP038471 / 2008

ENLIGHTENMENT Inveraray In August 1803, the poet Dorothy Wordsworth wrote of her first sight of the village of Inveraray on the shores of Loch Fyne, describing a line of white buildings on a low promontory right opposite and close to the water’s edge… “It is so little like an ordinary town, from the mixture of regularity and irregularity in the buildings”. Inveraray was “so little like an ordinary town” because it is one of the earliest examples of a planned town landscape. Striving for the ideal of carefully designed urban symmetry, it had been rebuilt completely some 60 years earlier on the instructions of Archibald Campbell, the 3rd Duke of Argyll – a model settlement to complement the Duke’s new model castle. Sir John Vanburgh, architect of Blenheim Palace, is credited with inspiring the initial concept for Inveraray Castle, but the Palladian-gothic pile that eventually emerged in 1789 – after 43 years of construction – was the product of a number of architects, including Roger Morris and William Adam, and Adam’s sons John and Robert.

DP105561 / 2011

ENLIGHTENMENT Burghead On a narrow peninsula projecting out into the Moray Firth, the ordered grid-iron layout of the village of Burghead is typical of the designed settlements of the early nineteenth century. Built between 1805 and 1809 as an industrial herring fishing station, Burghead has left the distinctive stamp of ‘Improvement’ on the landscape. Yet the history of this promontory goes back much further. At the very tip of the headland are the earthwork remains of a once significant seat of power in the Pictish kingdom of northern Scotland. A massive fortification constructed here some 1,500 years ago was largely flattened by the linear rows of fishermen’s cottages. However, a number of remarkable fragments of this site’s history do remain. Most unusual are the ‘Burghead Bulls’, a series of 30 bull carvings discovered during harbour construction works at the beginning of nineteenth century. Believed to be religious icons, territorial emblems or clan totems, the carvings are outstanding relics of Pictish art and culture – although today the whereabouts of only six of the original 30 are known, with the remaining stones held in both the National Museum of Scotland and the British Museum.

DP103344 /2011

ENLIGHTENMENT Tweed Valley, Melrose Agriculture fascinated the Enlightenment theorists. The landowner and legal philosopher Lord Kames dubbed it the ‘chief of the arts’, and was one of a number who advocated a new, rational approach – one that would alter fundamentally the relationship between man and his environment. Rather than accepting the landscape as a gift of nature, it was proposed that it could be altered for the better – or ‘improved’ – by wholesale, systematic intervention. As a result, from the mid eighteenth century onwards, the old order of the Lowlands was wiped clean away. Gone were the organic sprawl of fields and the meandering strips of rig and furrow. And in their place came a vast, ordered, geometric grid, separated by the straight lines of stone walls, roads and hedges – the unmistakable signature of the modern age. Here in the Tweed Valley near Melrose, the creation from the mid eighteenth century of a vast network of fields, roads and woodland has completely remodelled the landscape.

DP011382 / 2006

ENLIGHTENMENT Drumlanrig Castle Landowners were eager to demonstrate their new status as masters of an ‘Enlightened’ landscape. Social standing was defined increasingly by the display of material status, and the country estate became the ultimate symbol of taste and refinement. Planned ‘wildernesses’ – with deliberately informal yet still intricately designed walks and gardens – were manufactured as counterpoints to the newly enclosed and regulated countryside. The mansions built at the heart of these estates were sober, refined and classical. Architects strived to translate the elegance and beauty of antiquity into a modern idiom. Once again, the idea of ‘Improvement’ was central to this philosophy – by drawing on the ancient standards they believed architecture itself could become a civilising instrument. Amid the rolling hills of the Southern Uplands, Drumlanrig Castle is one of the finest designed landscapes in Scotland. The original seventeenth century layout of the castle and its gardens is believed to have been influenced by Sir William Bruce, and alterations over the centuries involved noted designers and Enlightenment figures including the 3rd Duke of Queensberry, architect William Burn, and even Walter Scott.

DP104033 / 2010


For a time Scotland was the engine room of the British

to the beat of the industrial machine, the working

in manufacturing. Coal from Lanarkshire and Ayrshire

hooters. Such dependency had its dangers. In the Great

Empire, its raw materials fuelling a massive expansion drove the steam engines of the mills and railways,

and iron works provided the building blocks for

incredible feats of marine and mechanical engineering. The Industrial Revolution started in the eighteenth century and reached an extraordinary peak as the

Victorian period ended and the twentieth century

began. As the world lurched towards a first, terrible,

day marked out by the piercing calls of the factory

Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, with dwindling

markets and increased competition, the first signs of

decline – and its devastating consequences – emerged. A brief respite, as the Second World War created an

artificial surge of activity, only delayed the inevitable.

As Scotland moved through the second half of the

global conflict, the exploitation of resources and the

twentieth century, the engines of heavy industry

the nation. Many industrial communities died, the

pace of manufacturing grew even more frantic.

Whole communities grew up utterly dependent on

specific resources like coal and iron. Central Scotland, its skies darkened by belching furnaces, marched

were broken up, leaving their debris scattered across intensive extraction of coal, iron and shale leaving

behind strange, alien landscapes.

ENGINE ROOM Caledonian Canal In the past, the merits of Inverness as a transport hub and staging post for travelling to and from the distant reaches of northern Scotland were well recognised. Enjoying sheltered anchorage at the mouth of the River Ness, it has assumed major strategic significance since the Middle Ages. A prosperous centre for local and foreign trade, Inverness was quick to take on the role of capital of the Highlands. For a long time Inverness was a stopping off point for Scotland’s intricate network of drovers’ roads. The markets of the town grew in size and importance as the Industrial Revolution brought increased commercialism to agricultural trade. By the early nineteenth century a major drive was underway to improve transport links across the often unforgiving Highland terrain. Thomas Telford’s Caledonian Canal, built between 1803 and 1818, was a colossal undertaking, which brought civil engineering to the region on a heroic scale. Following the geological fault line of the Great Glen – from Fort William to the Beauly Firth – it is a spectacular collaboration of the natural landscape and engineering ingenuity.   From first residences built alongside the works to house engineering contractors and their families, to today’s urban sprawl, the canal has been a catalyst for urban growth in Inverness.  

DP024658 / 2007

ENGINE ROOM Mallaig On Scotland’s long, indented coastline, the strong, hardstanding lines of harbours, piers and jetties create new boundaries between water and land. Just over a hundred years ago Mallaig was a tiny settlement made up of a handful of thatched houses – most famous perhaps as a landing point for Bonnie Prince Charlie when he escaped from Skye in July 1746, hidden beneath piles of plaid at the bottom of a boat. Although Lord Lovat oversaw the construction of a stone pier here in the mid nineteenth century – part of an ‘Improvement’ scheme to develop the village as a fishing port – it was the arrival of the West Highland Railway in 1901 that truly transformed Mallaig. For a time a major industrial herring station and kippering centre, the harbour today is one of Scotland’s most iconic transport hubs – a borderland between road, rail and ferry; a gateway to the Sound of Sleat, the Knoydart peninsula and the Isles.

DP109027 / 2011

ENGINE ROOM New Lanark Standing tall on the steep banks of the River Clyde, the purpose-built mill village of New Lanark was founded in 1785. Early in the nineteenth century, the Utopian idealist Robert Owen inspired a model industrial community here, pioneering a progressive social philosophy which advocated education, factory reform and humane working practices. During Owen’s time some 2,500 people lived in New Lanark – many having moved from the poorhouses of Edinburgh and Glasgow. By providing healthy living and working conditions, a school (the first infants’ school in Britain in 1817), evening classes, free health care and affordable food, Owen proved that it was not necessary to treat workers badly to achieve profits. As an early planned settlement, New Lanark is an important milestone in the historical development of urban planning In recognition of the profound influence that New Lanark had on social developments throughout the nineteenth century and beyond, it is now a World Heritage site.

DP055178 / 2009

ENGINE ROOM Aberdeen Harbour Stretching out across the countryside in swathes of palegrey granite is a suburban city built during the boom times of Queen Victoria and the Empire. Yet, unusually for a modern city, Aberdeen’s ancient origin point – its harbour – remains its economic heart. From prehistory, the sheltered river mouth has sustained merchant traders, trawl-fishermen, tea clippers, granite exporters and, today, the massive infrastructure of the offshore oil and gas industries.   From its earliest origins, the fortunes of Aberdeen have been tied irrevocably to the sea. The natural harbour of the sheltered Dee estuary has been in use for well over a thousand years. Always a centre for trade, the port came to be dominated by steam-powered trawl-fishing during the nineteenth century, with the new rail connection providing a direct link from the quayside to the markets of London. The arrival of the oil barons in the 1970s transformed the city harbour once again. Enormous investment in infrastructure created one of the most modern ports in Europe, with extensive facilities provided for deep-water berthing and ship repair. Aberdeen emerged as a state-ofthe-art gateway to the North Sea.  

SC455539 / 1994

ENGINE ROOM Dundee Dundee grew up as a small port in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. By the nineteenth century the influence and reach of the city was astonishing. Entrepreneurial in spirit and international in outlook, Dundee was a bustling trading centre shaped by the cosmopolitan influences of foreign trade. Goods arrived from Northern Europe, the whalers of the North and South Atlantic sold the oil from their catches on the busy quaysides, and fleets of jute ships voyaged to and from India. At the start of the nineteenth century, a major harbour development by Thomas Telford increased the volume of mercantile traffic. As ‘Juteopolis’ began its muscular expansion, brooding masses of mills and foundries encircled the medieval and Renaissance core of Dundee. This rapid growth reduced the old centre to smoky, disease-ridden slums. With typically decisive Victorian vigour, the ‘City Improvement Act’ of 1871 saw this dilapidated core almost completely reconstructed. The decline of the jute works throughout the twentieth century saw the fragmentation of Dundee – and in its place came the first experiments in ’Modernism’. In the 1960s, the Tay Road Bridge brought the motorcar directly into the centre of Dundee, and in the past half century, high-rise housing has both risen and fallen. Such radical changes have characterised the history of this urban landscape. Yet, whatever the social or economic climate, the merchant soul remains imprinted in Dundee. DP007961 / 2004


The Front Green, Inveraray

A still image captures a moment in time; opinions, presumptions and theories are developed out of

that one frozen landscape. As part of this exhibition we wanted to draw the stories behind the images

out and animate them in a way that allowed the

community to take ownership of how their landscape was being portrayed.

We worked with local children in three areas highlighted in this exhibition, using the aerial images of their place as a starting point. After investigating local history, folklore, marks in the landscape and community

aspirations, the children designed a creative response

that changed, highlighted or enhanced their place, and filmed it from the air using a weather balloon.

InverNESS The children from Muirtown Primary School focused on the Caledonian Canal linking its history and purpose to their everyday life through the use of blue umbrellas and choreography. Their story begins with the representation of the movement of water through lock gates, transforming into a  wave motion surrounding one of the chambers, highlighting safety and fluidity.

Harris The children from Leverhulme Memorial and Shelibost Primary Schools worked with the landscape and forms of Northton Beach to develop a visual narrative that utilised movement and the coastline. Their story tells of joy, freedom, taming the landscape and  the relationship to the local community.

InverARAY Children from Inveraray Primary School were inspired by their town and surroundings to create striking visual images, inscribed on the landscape with fabric, to communicate personal and community narratives of daily life, history and productivity. For further information on this project please visit:

Northton / An Taobh Tuath Harris The Caledonian Canal Inverness

The Front Green Inveraray

The Above Scotland exhibition is a partnership project between Architecture and Design Scotland (A+DS) and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS).

Credits: Exhibition Curation: Architecture and Design Scotland

Text and Images: The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland Education: Architecture and Design Scotland and DO Architecture Exhibition Design: Konishi Gaffney Architects

Graphic Design: Andy McGregor Design + Media Ltd Fabrication: Johannes Sailer

With thanks to: All the pupils and staff at:

Leverhulme Memorial Primary School

Bill and Chris Lawson, Seallam Visitor Centre

Muirtown Primary School

Mike Lofts, Scottish Canals

Shelibost Primary School Inveraray Primary School

Stephen Wiseman, The Waterways Trust

The Above Scotland exhibition ran at The Lighthouse, Glasgow 26 October 2012 to the 23 January 2013

The Scottish Government is the principal sponsor of Architecture and Design Scotland’s programme of architecture and outreach activities based at The Lighthouse

Above Scotland Exhibition  

This resource is the compilation of all the graphic panels, images and text from the Above Scotland exhibiton.

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