History

At the National Trust for Scotland we take great pride in our history.

Since 1931 we’ve been telling the stories of some of Scotland’s most iconic historical places. We’re the biggest conservation organisation in the country, and part of our work is to continually improve our understanding of the past through detailed historical research.

When we talk about history as part of our work, we mean the study of the past as it’s presented in written documents. Historical documents such as old estate maps, legal papers, personal diaries and lists of belongings (to name just a few) are crucial in helping us get a true sense of the people, places and events that make up Scotland’s past.

Here are some of the historical documents that have informed our understanding of the places in our care:

  • The Book of Kells, the world-famous illuminated manuscript of Gospels in Latin (now held in Trinity College Library, Dublin) is argued by some to have been produced on Iona.
  • In 1375, Abbot John Barbour wrote a 14,000 line poem called The Brus about the exploits of Robert the Bruce and Sir James Douglas during the Scottish Wars of Independence, including a long description of the Battle of Bannockburn.
  • The National Library of Scotland holds a copy of the orders written to Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, commanding him to carry out the Glencoe Massacre in 1692.
  • Often, the most informative documents relating to Trust properties are historical maps. Many country estates in the later 18th and early 19th centuries commissioned surveyors to draw up maps of their properties, and used them to propose improvements.
  • Canna House contains a huge archive of written Gaelic material collected by John Lorne-Campbell, documenting the music, language and folklore of a culture in decline.

Historical documents need to be found, researched and interpreted, and qualified historians are experts in accessing and interpreting a complicated range of original sources. Even then, we can’t be certain that every document we turn to is reliable – historical documents have been written by all kinds of people, each of whom has their own point of view, which often makes their writing biased.

Historical research helps inform our interpretation of our properties, the experience of visitors, and the information we include in our guidebooks. You’d be amazed how much new information is still out there, just waiting to be discovered.

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For the love of Scotland

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Scotland’s stories

The places we care for tell some of the biggest stories about the creation of modern Scotland.

Famous Scots

We’ve picked out a few notable men and women from Scottish history, whose stories are highlighted at Trust places around the country.

Jacobites

A memorial stone on Culloden Moor calls the Jacobite soldiers who died fighting beside Bonnie Prince Charlie ‘the gallant Highlanders’.

Canna House

The Hebridean home of the late Dr John Lorne Campbell and his wife Margaret Fay Shaw.

Timeline

Take a wee stroll through Scottish prehistory and history with this handy timeline.