Cup marked outcrop in woodland at Kilmartin © Jonathan Wordsworth

Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) has robust policies to protect archaeological sites in particular the Scotland’s Woodlands and the Historic Environment Policy statement issued in 2008 and there is a clear commitment towards protecting the historic environment in Scotland's forests in the Scottish Forestry Strategy (SFS  2006). Ths includes clear targets identified in the Strategy's Implentation Plan 2010-2013. They have also issued guidelines on best practice Forests and Archaeology (though these are no longer available - a revised version has been under consideration since 2001).  FCS supports the UK Forestry Standard  and the forest industry UK Woodland Assurance Scheme  that set standards for forest management including the protection of archaeological and historic sites.

Government funding for woodland creation and management is now channelled through the Rural Priorities section of the Scottish Rural Development Programme 2007-2013.

As forests cover 17% of the land area of Scotland, archaeological and historic sites occur frequently in forest areas.  Some sites, such as charcoal hearths and heritage trees, are directly related to woodland practice while others occur in land where trees have subsequently become established. Scottish Government targets to expand Scotland’s woodland cover to 25% by 2050 have implications for both individual archaeological & historic sites and wider cultural landscapes.

Scotland's woodlands and the historic environment

Given their commitments both through the SFS and the Scottish Government's SHEP, FCS have a special section of their website, as titled above, to give advice to foresters and other woodland managers on the historic environment.

Historic Environment Information & Advice for forest and woodland managers in Scotland

'A guide to the resources available to forest and woodland managers relating to the historic environment of Scotland. It has been designed as a route map to the most pertinent available information and advice.' 

Identifying the historic environment in Scotland's forests and woodlands (5mb)

 Archaeology Scotland worked with FCS to produce this guide (2010) which 'aims to help forestry and woodland managers when considering the archaeology and historic environment in their stewardship. It provides an accessible introduction to exploring 'archaeology in the field', illustrating and describing many of the more common archaeological features.'

It is also worth exploring other sections of the FCS website as this also includes a guide to Ancient Wood Pasture in Scotland and an inventory of Heritage Trees in Scotland.

There is increasing recognition on the cultural significance of trees as historic elements in landscape, significant in their own right and worthy of greater protection. This interest and value is shown by the success of the Woodland Trust's Ancient Tree Hunt and can be followed in Scotland through the work of the Scottish Woodland History section of the Native Woodland Discussion Group. Reports of the excellent annual conference proceedings since 1996 can be seen on this website.


(Page last updated 8th March)