Our work

Our purpose is to protect, care for, share and speak up for Scotland’s magnificent heritage. We are Scotland’s largest membership organisation and we are independent of government.

The National Trust for Scotland is the independent charity that protects and shares some of our country’s most precious historic places and natural landscapes on behalf of the people of Scotland.
 
With over 360,000 members we are the largest membership organisation in Scotland.
 
Since 1931, we have pioneered public access to and shared ownership of some of the most magnificent buildings, collections and habitats in Scotland.  We care for ancient houses, battlefields, castles, mills, gardens, coastlines, islands, mountain ranges and all the communities, plants and animals which depend upon them. 
 
Culzean Castle, the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Glencoe National Nature Reserve, St Kilda, Mar Lodge National Nature Reserve, Culloden, Bannockburn and Ben Lomond are among the jewels that are familiar to anyone who has ever lived in or visited Scotland.  These places mean so much to so many people.  From the simple fun and happiness of taking the kids around a beautiful country park, the exhilaration of being alone with only the sounds of the sea and the birds, the quiet contemplation of great historical events to experiencing simple insights into the daily routines of lives once lived.
 
Together, the places and objects in our care tell the stories of Scotland and the Scots; how our people travelled and interacted with the wider world, taking with them their energy and values and returning with new ideas and treasures.  Without our involvement many of these places and things would have been lost forever to the damage caused by time, tide, climate, voracious pests and developers.
 
The words ‘conservation charity’ simply cannot do justice to the range of skills and experiences that our volunteers and staff bring to bear each day.  Our 88 visited properties, hundreds of thousands of artefacts, acres of countryside and gardens are brought to vivid life by armies of volunteers and staff doing everything from guiding visitors to thatching cottages and building footpaths.

Outreach youth group jumping on their forest project
Outreach youth group jumping on their forest project

Each year we welcome three million visitors to our properties, each little realising how much effort and resources are needed to ensure their enjoyment, safety and wellbeing and that they learn something fascinating even in the most casual of trips. 
 
We do more than welcome visitors – we also take Scotland’s heritage out into communities.  Our outreach teams have programmes that target people from early years to adulthood, including planned outdoor learning experiences within school grounds, in urban greenspaces and the great outdoors.  We offer free services to primary schools within areas of multiple deprivation and groups within schools that face social, cultural, financial or physical barriers.
 
Around 80,000 school children visit each year and we do our best to ease the burden on hard-pressed education budgets by offering subsidised membership packages and transport, ensuring that the stories of Scotland are received by young minds hungry for knowledge so that they can be shared and passed onto new generations.
 
As a membership organisation we are governed by a Board of Trustees most of whom are directly elected by our members and who must be Trust members themselves.  They are accountable to no-one but our membership and their duty is to ensure the long-term protection of Scotland’s heritage.
 
Under the unique powers given to us under the National Trust for Scotland Order Confirmation Acts 1935 – 1973 (amended in the National Trust for Scotland (Governance etc.) Act 2013) we have the ability to enter into legally binding conservation agreements that enable us to protect important places that we do not own, reinforcing our historic mission to speak up for all of Scotland’s heritage wherever and whenever it is under threat.
 
As the Trust is independent and not part of government, we are free to raise our voice when we need to, challenging politicians, policy-makers and commercial interests, as well as offering constructive advice based on the hard-won experience of nearly 90 years of pioneering conservation work.
 
We reach out internationally, directly through our USA and Canadian Foundations, as well as through our INTO partners, such as the National Trust of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, ensuring our members enjoy reciprocal rights and that we all work together for the cause of world heritage.
 
Between 2018 and 2023 we are investing £60 million in conserving our properties and bringing about new innovations to enhance visitor experiences and present Scotland’s stories in new and appealing ways.
 
We can do none of this without you.  Please join us and support us.
 

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Our vision and values

Our vision is for Scotland’s heritage to be valued by everyone and protected, now and for future generations

Corporate publications

Each year we publish documents that set out our ambitions and review of our achievements and performance. If you would like to know more about our work, please download the documents listed here.

History of the Trust

The National Trust for Scotland was established on 1 May 1931 to protect the nation’s places of historic interest or natural beauty.

Independent and politically neutral

The National Trust for Scotland is a charity – we are not part of government nor do we have any allegiance to any political party.