Buildings

The National Trust for Scotland has been taking care of Scotland’s historical buildings since 1931.

From iconic castles and famous birthplaces to Victorian villas and 18th-century watermills, we care for and manage important historical buildings across Scotland. 

As important as our castles and stately homes are, they actually only make up a small proportion of the buildings we look after. We also manage plenty of modest buildings that shine a light on how rural and working-class communities have evolved. Together, the Trust’s places celebrate the unique architectural history of Scotland.

What kind of buildings do we look after?

Historic houses

Whatever the size or style of a house – whether it’s a tiny thatched cottage or a stately home – if it has a significant role to play in Scotland’s history, we’ll work to preserve it. We care for the birthplaces of Scotland’s national bard Robert Burns and renowned geologist Hugh Miller, as well as Newhailes House in Musselburgh, a breathtaking Palladian house from the 17th century that played a significant role in the age of the Scottish Enlightenment.

Newhailes House with a tree in blossom
Newhailes House in spring

Castles

We care for 11 castles, as well as a royal palace. Each of these imposing properties has its own story to tell, both in terms of the people who lived there and their architectural style. You can see the pink fairytale turrets of Craigievar in Aberdeenshire, which is said to have inspired the design of the Disney Cinderella castle, or a far more austere style at Drum Castle, which dates back almost 700 years.

The pink fairytale Craigievar Castle
The pink fairytale Craigievar Castle

Vernacular buildings

‘Vernacular’ architecture tends to refer to modest historical homes and functional buildings that were built using local materials and traditional techniques. They’re a huge part of our rural history: places like Moirlanich Longhouse – a fabulous cruck-framed dwelling from the 19th century that we’ve preserved and partially restored – show us how farming communities of the past might have lived.

Moirlanich Longhouse – a cruck-framed dwelling
Moirlanich Longhouse – a cruck-framed dwelling.

Early industrial buildings

We look after a number of mills and other working buildings. Places such as Barry Mill, near Carnoustie, where you can still watch grain being milled every Sunday, and Robert Smail’s Printing Works, in the Scottish Borders, with its fully operational Victorian letterpress, shine a light on Scotland’s industrial, agricultural and commercial history.

The Wharfedale Reliance press at Robert Smail's Printing Works
The Wharfedale Reliance press at Robert Smail's Printing Works

Architectural treasures

Scotland is the birthplace of some of history’s most innovative and important architects. Plenty of our buildings celebrate the work of famous Scottish designers like Robert Adam, who redesigned Culzean Castle and was responsible for the iconic Georgian style of Edinburgh’s New Town, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who inspired generations with his work at the Hill House.

Culzean Castle
Culzean Castle
Did you know?

Did you know?

Above Castle Fraser’s Great Hall is a quirky feature called the Laird’s Lug. This is a chamber that was built for the sole purpose of allowing the laird to eavesdrop on his guests. How’s that for hospitality?

Buildings facts

Here are a few facts and figures about our buildings:

  • We care for 271 listed buildings.
  • It’s not just the big houses that we look after. We’re responsible for everything from gate pillars and walled gardens to fountains, doocots and ice houses.
  • Our Annual Repair Grant (ARG) partnership with Historic Environment Scotland has been running for more than 30 years. Over the last 3 years it has enabled us to paint over 1,000 windows, repoint more than 4,000 square metres of walling and clean more than 10km of gutters.
  • Our ARG programme has supported more than 700 jobs and 83 apprenticeships, and used more than 60% local labour and local materials during our works. The programme also employs a wide range of professional skills, from surveyors and architects to ecologists and material scientists.
  • We need a wide range of skills and materials to look after the 1,600 built structures on our estate. These include stonemasons, carpenters, roofers, plasterers and blacksmiths, who use a wide range of traditional materials such as thatch, slate, clay, stone, lime and timbers of all types.

Working with buildings

Our interest isn’t just in ancient ruins – we also love the rich interiors and collections of historic properties. We care for a number of places that are still living, breathing homes, and in some cases we welcome guests to stay overnight or use the building as a unique venue for events. It’s a great way to make sure that our buildings are still a part of Scottish life.

In this way, we’re different from the likes of Historic Environment Scotland, but we often work with them and other organisations with a shared interest in protecting historical sites. We all have the same goals: to grow our understanding of Scotland’s buildings, to better protect our properties by being more proactive, and to find new ways for people to engage with our historic homes and castles.

100 ways

in which we’re loving and protecting Scotland, for you.

More

Explore

Interiors

By making your way inside a historic building, you can open the door to Scotland’s past.

Exteriors

Top to bottom, the Trust’s properties make for a grand tour of Scotland’s most noteworthy exteriors.

3 key projects

These mini case studies provide a more detailed look at some of our conservation work across Scotland.

Trust at work

A brief look at the work we do to protect and promote our historic buildings.