people in a field having a meeting

Information for teachers

Scotland's countryside is a dynamic place full of history and secrets. Although today it may seem like a quiet place with few people living there, in the past things were quite different.

If you take a look around the fields, glens and hills you will soon discover plenty of signs that once, the countryside was a busy, thriving place. The surviving evidence of grass-covered mounds, overgrown building walls and lengths of drystone dyke, as well as the outlines of old fields all point to the forgotten stories of long abandoned rural settlements & sites that can often date back hundreds of years. These buildings are a valuable record of what life in the Scottish countryside was like during an important period of Scottish history that includes the agricultural and industrial revolutions and the Clearances. They belong to a time when most people lived in the country and farming was an everyday way of life.

There are thousands of these archaeological sites throughout the countryside and they are extremely important for telling the story of Scotland's rural past. However, little is known about these settlements and the lives of the people who lived and worked in them. Most of them are unprotected by the law and many are in danger of disappearing completely as they crumble away over time.

Scotland's Rural Past (SRP) was a five-year nationwide project that was launched in October 2006 to work with local communities across Scotland to investigate and document abandoned medieval and later rural settlements.

SRP inspired local volunteers to join together and discover more about this significant part of their heritage through researching, recording and interpreting rural settlements in their area. The project also supported communities in promoting and raising awareness of their rural past locally and nationally through a range of access and educational initiatives.

The data collected by local volunteers was added to the records of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) where it became publicly accessible and contributed to the understanding and management of these rural sites. The SRP team worked closely with highly experienced archaeologists from RCAHMS to provide training in archaeological field survey and recording techniques as well as in documentary research.

One of our key project aims was to make this fascinating part of Scottish history more accessible and exciting to a wide range of people, so we worked closely with schools, to raise awareness of rural settlements and the rural way of life through education projects, and encouraged teachers to take part in creative initiatives, special activities and exhibitions.

The Scotland's Rural Past team encouraged schools to make links with local projects or start their own and get involved in investigating the rural past in their districts. We also gave talks in schools and provided guided field visits to rural settlement sites.

The work done by young people was put on the 'Schools Projects' section of the  SRP website to share with other schools and local communities. We also provided help and resources to encourage people to enjoy and learn about the rural past in their local districts.

Scotland's Rural Past is an initiative of the Historic Rural Settlement Trust. The project was hosted by RCAHMS, with partnership funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and The National Trust for Scotland.

© Historic Environment Scotland - Scottish Charity No. SC045925.