Scotland's landscape

In 2006, the UK signed the European Landscape Convention, recognising landscape as an important part of our natural heritage. The Convention describes landscape as ‘an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors’. This is a wide-ranging and inclusive definition, and it covers all landscapes – including towns, villages and open countryside, whether natural or managed, and whether special or ordinary.

In Scotland, trees, woodlands and forests are well recognised for their increasing contribution towards the culture, economy and environmental quality of our diverse landscapes. They are also appreciated for their contribution towards the scenic beauty of Scotland’s landscapes, providing spatial structure and seasonal effects that change over time.

Many parts of Scotland’s landscape are recognised and protected for their special qualities. Those designations with a focus on special landscapes are at both the national level – National Scenic Areas and National Parks – and regional level – Local Landscape Areas. In addition, there are areas of Scotland’s cultural landscape recognised for their significant contribution to the historic environment and selected for inclusion in the Historic Environment Scotland Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes. There are also more remote parts of Scotland described as Wild Land Areas. Although not a formal designation, these areas are recognised as a nationally important asset and considered sensitive to intrusive human activity and development.

Forests and woodlands are frequently significant components of these protected areas and the landscape impacts of woodland creation and management should be considered in the context of the designation and associated policies and guidance.

Guidance from other organisations

As well as the resources above, the guidance below is also relevant landscape and forestry.

  • Landscape Character Assessments - NatureScot, formerly known as Scottish Natural Heritage, has mapped and described the variety of landscapes found throughout Scotland. The use of Landscape Character Assessment is highlighted in the UK Forestry Standard as guidance on how to integrate forestry into Scotland’s variety of landscapes.
  • Historic Land Use Assessments - The Historic Land-use Assessment (HLA) is a GIS dataset viewed as an interactive map. The HLA is a key tool for understanding the historic landscape and complements other techniques of landscape assessment. In combination these enable a more holistic view of the landscape and its development over time to be achieved and approaches to landscape management and planning to be better integrated.

Landscape development resources

Building on the UKFS guidelines, our resources offer ideas to help forest managers develop plans in relation to landscape.

View our resources.

Relevant links