Above Scotland

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This new exhibition at The Lighthouse, Glasgow, created by Architecture and Design Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, gives visitors a unique birds-eye view of Scotland through stunning aerial photography from the National Collection of Aerial Photography.

From our islands to our cities, landscapes are a product of human invention and intervention. Almost no part of Scotland has been left untouched and unaltered by its people. Through these large-scale images we can read the long and complex histories of how Scotland’s places came to be.

As part of Above Scotland Architecture and Design Scotland also visited three of the places featured in the exhibition and invited school children to create a response to their place and to capture the results with their own aerial photography. Films of the process and the results are part of the exhibition.

The ABOVE SCOTLAND exhibition opens to the public on October 26th and will run until the 23 January 2013 in Gallery 2, The Lighthouse, 11 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow, G1 3NU.

The exhibition is suitable for the whole family, admission is free and opening hours are Monday – Friday 10:30am- 5pm and Saturday – Sunday 12 – 5pm.

All Images Copyright RCAHMS

More about the Above Scotland exhibition:

As the glaciers of the last Ice Age receded, Scotland’s earliest ancestors ventured northwards, exploring a wild, fertile territory. Nomadic hunter-gatherers at first, they made the decision to stay for good – to farm and to build. From that moment on, people began to write their story firmly into the fabric of the landscape.

Through the National Collection of Aerial Photography, held by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, we can read the long and complex histories of how Scotland’s places came to be. Unique tales emerge of communities, their landscapes and their architecture.

In preparation for this exhibition A+DS went to three of the communities featured in this exhibition – Harris, Inveraray and Inverness – and worked with local school children to allow them to put their own creative mark on the landscape and capture this from the air. Films of the process and the final product forms part of the exhibition. Find out more about the workshops here.


The photographs in the exhibition are broken down into five sections:

Taming the Earth
Ritual and Religion
Engine Room
Defending the Land

Taming the Earth

Over 6,000 years ago, the inhabitants of Scotland began to carve small clearings out of this wild and imposing landscape, turning the soil to cultivate crops. Farming, above all other human activities, tamed and shaped the wilds of Scotland. For millennia, people lived out their lives to the rhythms of the farming calendar, clearing the forests and working the land to feed their families and communities. Farming has left layer after layer of remains, giving remarkable insights into the lives of our ancestors. Almost no part of Scotland has been left untouched and unaltered by its people.

Taming the Earth: Little Robart


Ritual and Religion

Scotland has been a Christian country for well over a thousand years, with ancient tombstones, ruined abbeys, parish churches, crowded cemeteries and majestic cathedrals providing a physical timeline for one of the world’s leading religions. Yet prehistoric sites found throughout Scotland are enigmatic reminders of the lost ritual practices of our pre-Christian ancestors.

Ritual and Religion: Teampull Eoin



During the mid eighteenth century a new intellectual elite gathered to discuss, exchange ideas and venture opinions and arguments on everything from philosophy and literature to economics and agriculture. They set about tackling the challenge of transforming Scotland into a rational, efficient and, above all, modern nation. A cultural revolution, soon dubbed the ‘Scottish Enlightenment’, had begun. Over the coming century Scotland was transformed from a poor rural country into a modern capitalist economy. Underpinned by the belief that reason and ingenuity could solve any problem, this philosophy of the Enlightenment was applied to every aspect of life in Scotland.

Enlightenment: Inveraray


Engine Room

For a time Scotland was the engine room of the British Empire, its raw materials fuelling a massive expansion in manufacturing. Coal from Lanarkshire and Ayrshire drove the steam engines of the mills and railways, and iron works provided the building blocks for incredible feats of marine and mechanical engineering. The Industrial Revolution started in the eighteenth century and reached an extraordinary peak as the Victorian period ended and the twentieth century began. As the world lurched towards a first, terrible, global conflict, the exploitation of resources and the pace of manufacturing grew even more frantic.

Engine Room: Mallaig Harbour


Defending the Land

The inhabitants of Scotland have been building fortifications for many thousands of years. A testament to the nation’s turbulent history, their varied forms reflect the changing weaponry and warfare their defences had to repel – from warriors armed with spears and swords in the Iron Age, to massed troops and cannons in the Anglo-Scottish wars. Time has mellowed what were often brutal buildings into picturesque ruins set against spectacular scenery. But their modern popularity as tourist attractions can never fully obscure their true origins.

Defending the Land: Stirling Castle


Main image: Caste Law

All Images Copyright RCAHMS

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