Scotland’s stories

We know that the places we care for tell some of the biggest stories about the creation of modern Scotland, thanks to historical documents that relate to our properties.

Rural depopulation

Around 200 years ago 90% of Scotland’s population lived in the countryside; now 90% live in towns and cities. With the arrival of industry, Scotland’s economy changed drastically. Rural communities were put under pressure by poor harvests, rising rents, changes in farming practices, population growth and clearance from the land.

The written evidence for this is often recorded in the papers of the large landed estates. Many people were forced to leave their homes – some moved to cities and towns, while others emigrated to the New World. This process continued throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century, with places like Mingulay and St Kilda being abandoned in 1912 and 1930 respectively.

Three farmers sitting on a bench at Moirlanich
Three men who farmed the land at Moirlanich Longhouse in the early 1940s

The Jacobites

Famous uprisings across Scotland during the 17th and 18th centuries aimed to put King James VII and his descendants back on the British throne. His supporters became known as Jacobites, from the Latin for James, Jacobus.

The bloody story of the Jacobite uprisings, and famous leaders like Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie), is told at battlefields and memorials from Killiecrankie to Culloden. The historical evidence for this period comes in many forms, from military maps and memoirs to Jacobite letters.

The lone Highlander at the top of Glenfinnan Monument
The lone Highlander at the top of Glenfinnan Monument


As ships crossed the ocean in the 18th century, Scottish merchants made their fortunes trading in sugar, tobacco and slaves.

Robert Allason was a tobacco merchant who built Greenbank House in 1760. Robert and his brothers, Sandy and William, were all involved in the ‘triangular trade’. Goods made in Glasgow were exchanged in West Africa for captive Africans, who were then shipped across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and North America. There the slaves were sold and worked on plantations, from where the sugar and tobacco was taken back and sold in Scotland. William Allason’s papers are still held in libraries in Virginia, USA.

Greenbank House and garden
Greenbank House in Glasgow

The Enlightenment

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Scotland was part of one of the most significant outpourings of intellectual and scientific thinking in history.

Our places built during this period reflect the very best of Scottish architecture – from Haddo House and the House of Dun, built by William Adam, to Culzean Castle, which was redesigned by William’s son, Robert. At Newhailes House, Sir David Dalrymple built a magnificent library wing to hold his vast collection of 7,000 books, pamphlets, broadsheets, prints, maps and music books. His library now forms part of the National Library of Scotland’s collection in Edinburgh.

Find out more about the Newhailes collection on the National Library of Scotland website.

Writing desk and paraphernalia in the library at Newhailes House
Writing desk and paraphernalia in the library at Newhailes House

The Victorian era

Wealth and prosperity flowed to Scotland in the years after Queen Victoria ascended the throne. But not all that prosperity trickled down. Both in cities and on estates such as Mar Lodge (where Victoria herself used to picnic at the Linn of Dee), Trust properties tell the story of the great Victorian separation between rich and poor, upstairs and downstairs.

A view across Glen Dee at Mar Lodge Estate
A view across Glen Dee at Mar Lodge Estate

The written word

The history of the written word is a major part of Scotland’s heritage – from the history of printing presses (which you can see on display at Robert Smail’s Printing Works) to the works of our national poet, Robert Burns. Original copies of many of Burns’s works, including his first published collection, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, are on display at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.

One of the displays at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, a desk with paper flying above it
One of the displays at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

Women in history

Our places have some fantastic stories about important women in the past, who you might never have heard of. Queen Ermengarde (1170–1233), wife of King William the Lion, founded the Cistercian Balmerino Abbey in Fife, where she is also buried. And Miss Elyza Fraser inherited Castle Fraser when her brother died in 1792. Unlike most women at the time, she had a deep knowledge of agricultural matters and would go on to make many improvements to both the castle and the estate.

Ruined arches of Balmerino Abbey
Balmerino Abbey, founded by Queen Ermengarde