Conserving and promoting Scotland's heritage

There is no other organisation in Scotland with as wide remit to care for cultural, built and natural heritage.

Through our 4,000 volunteers, over 500 permanent and 750 seasonal staff we provide access to the most important natural and human heritage Scotland can offer.  

"The purpose of the National Trust for Scotland is to conserve and promote our heritage."


"The National Trust for Scotland serves the nation as a cabinet into which it can put some of its valuable things, where they will be perfectly safe for all time, and where they are open to be seen and enjoyed by everyone."

Sir John Stirling Maxwell 

Collections and conservation

Historic buildings are more than just structures: they are repositories of history and memory, filled with the work of the craftspeople who furnished and maintained them; the sum total of the efforts of the communities which surrounded them and the status and ambitions of the people who owned them.


Every property has stories to tell and those cared for by the Trust are filled with tens of thousands of artefacts which range from great works of art to humble domestic objects.  What each has in common is that it was part of a life once lived.

Our expert staff follow a regime of ‘preventative conservation’, which means that they identify and manage threats to all items in our collections, whether they be books in a magnificent library, fragile gilded mirrors or original carpets and curtains.

Time, temperature, humidity and even sunlight can wreak havoc in our collections, as can pests like woodworm and moths.  It is a 24/7 responsibility that never ends and through which our staff have to be eternally and painstakingly vigilant.

Our staff travel all over Scotland to safeguard and conserve artwork, objects, fixtures and fittings and to uncover and record original decorative schemes.  Our archaeologists work alongside conservation teams to seek the earliest structures and sites of occupation in and around our properties, often finding objects which throw a light on the distant past, such as an early Christian ‘cursing stone’ on the Isle of Canna, and artefacts of more recent times, such as wartime aircrash sites.

If you are lucky, you might see our staff at work when you visit a Trust property and it is then that you can glimpse the professionalism and dedication on which the conservation of Scotland’s heritage depends.

Treasured buildings

Ranging from the state-of-the-art 3D technology of the new Battle of Bannockburn Centre, which opened in 2014, to the 100 centuries-old lunar calendar in the grounds of Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire, the Trust owns a very special collection of buildings.  Each of these illustrates different chapters of Scotland’s story; from the everyday vernacular of the common folk to grand settings for intrigue and opulence; from the devastation wrought by vicious warfare to the pastoral tranquility around Barry Mill in rural Angus.


Our 129 heritage properties include everything from castles and great houses to modest     cottages and mills. In and around these properties there are 1,500 individual buildings of which 270 are listed for special protection. We welcome over two million visitors to these places each year.

Our properties make for fascinating places to visit.  You can see the finest examples of Robert Adam’s architecture at the truly iconic Culzean Castle in Ayrshire and also at 5–7 Charlotte Square in the original New Town of Edinburgh.  Travelling west to Helensburgh, you can contrast Adam’s designs with Hill House, a supreme manifestation of the work of internationally renowned Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Or, if you want to see the kind of place that most people’s ancestors would have lived and worked in, you can head to Glasgow where you can visit the Tenement House and see a dwelling frozen in time – Miss Agnes Howard lived there for over 50 years and left the Edwardian gas lights and décor completely untouched.  A short distance away in Kilbarchan, you can visit the 1723 Weaver’s Cottage and watch a 200-year-old hand-loom being used to create a tartan. Over on the other side of the country, in the Scottish Borders, you can try out a fully operational Victorian letterpress at Robert Smail’s Printing Works.

If celebrity is your thing, we also happen to own the birthplaces of Robert Burns, Dr David Livingstone and J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. Or if you prefer something more unusual, we even have a big, big fruit in the form of the Pineapple, a truly bizarre structure dating to 1761.

If you would rather see castles, we have plenty to offer. These include the fabulous, pink, fairy-tale edifice of Craigievar in Aberdeenshire and the imposing Castle Fraser where the occasional joust is still staged.

We even have, it is said, a healthy collection of ghosts in dramatically atmospheric places like Fyvie Castle and Culross Palace. But we cater for living residents too: you can book accommodation and live like a Laird at Brodie Castle, or enjoy presidential style in Culzean Castle’s Eisenhower apartments, which were gifted to the US President to use in his lifetime in gratitude for his wartime achievements.

Whichever property you choose to visit or stay in, our property teams will make the occasion as enjoyable and informative as they can.  Volunteer guides will give you the inside knowledge and relate a more than a few fascinating facts. Our hard working staff will ensure the best possible presentation of the property interiors and grounds, including a fulsome series of events to cater for kids, families and dedicated heritage buffs.

Advocates for Heritage

With more than 83 years in the business of conservation, we’ve learned a thing or two. As we are independent of government and have no allegiance to any political party, we have the freedom to speak out when we need to and to offer advice and support when others need us. That said, we have tried to use our influence wisely – we are not naturally a strident, campaigning organisation and prefer to make our case in a careful and considered way having examined the available evidence.


We regularly work alongside other conservation organisations about such matters as the protection of wild land and climate change.  We’ve raised our voice on issues such as national planning processes and about developments we feel are threatening Scotland’s heritage.

We are equally comfortable about working alongside local communities and the private sector and have made substantive contributions to national policy debates, such as the Scottish Government’s development of a strategy for Scotland’s historic environment, Our Place in Time.

  Everything we do is based on the following core purposes:

• Conservation
• Access
• Education
• Enjoyment

In fulfilling our core purposes, we are involved in a wide range of activities aimed at ensuring our members and visitors have every opportunity to enjoy and make the most of all of our properties and landscapes, including:

• Corporate hospitality
• Cruise holidays
• Events
• Holiday lets
• Long-term lets and farming tenancies
• Restaurants
• Shops
• Tearooms and cafés
• Tours
• Weddings