Support Scotland's heritage by giving now to the National Trust for Scotland


Become a member

Enjoy hundreds of great days out
from only £2.00 per month.
Join online today, visit today
with instant membership

The other main component of the Trust's archives is the historic archive collections of personal papers, family papers, estate records and other documents linked with the properties and/or the families associated with them. Although not every property has such a collection, those that do tend to remain at the properties. There are also a few such collections held at the Trust's headquarters, including diaries, letters, photos and other documents connected to St Kilda, Geilston House and Auchenvhin House, Rockcliffe.

Many historical houses had rooms which housed their collections of family archives and estate papers. Not all of these came to the Trust at acquisition but those that did include the remarkable Irvine papers of Drum Castle and the Brodie papers of Brodie Castle.

Drum Charter - 1329

Often these collections have been surveyed by the National Register of Archives of Scotland, generally prior to the Trust taking over the property, and nearly all of these surveys are available online from the NRAS website.


One of the more remarkable collections is the archive relating to John Lorne Campbell and his wife Margaret Fay Shaw, held at Canna House on Canna and most of it focuses upon the Campbells' study of Gaelic culture.

Most of the rooms in the house are filled with the Campbells' research papers, private papers, manuscripts, books, music, photos and photo albums, sound recordings and film. They have been organised and catalogued by Magdalena Sagarzazu, a close personal friend of the Campbells, who was subsequently engaged by the Trust to work on the collections. The oral archive in particular is a fascinating one, containing examples of wire and wax cylinder recordings of Gaelic speakers and Gaelic oral tradition. Nearly all of the oral recordings have been digitally copied.

St Kilda

A fragile community clung on to St Kilda for over 4,000 years. Living in the harshest of environments, and living mainly off the seabirds and the primitive Soay sheep, the islanders' self-sufficient way of life has been an endless source of fascination for many historians. Ironically it was only really when the outside world began to impinge on St Kildan life by increasing visits to the islands and importing goods and supplies hitherto unheard of by the islanders that they began to feel disaffection with island life. Other factors had an impact on the islanders and so in 1930 the islands were evacuated.

When the 5th Marquis of Bute bequeathed the islands to the National Trust for Scotland in 1957 he also gave a treasure trove of archives consisting of books, letters, diaries and photos. A selection of these was used as part of a very successful exhibition at Charlotte Square in August 2005, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the evacuation of the islands. Two examples of the St Kilda collection are shown here. The first is a pencil sketch of the kind of Hebridean 'Blackhouse' that the islanders would live in prior to the storms that destroyed most of them in 1860.

Also shown is an extract from the 1887-88 diary of John Ross, the supply schoolteacher on St Kilda for the summer of 1887. He describes 'Steamer Day' outlining visits by tourists to Hirta and the sale and purchase of many goods between them and the islanders.