The Cultural Landscape

The past lives of people in the Cairngorms National Park are reflected in a wide range of physical as well as intangible resources. People and place continue to interact to create the rich cultural resource that ranges from the landscape and built environment to the artefacts and traditions of local communities.

There are many clues that we can use to identify the human impacts on the landscape of the prehistoric and historic past. For example:

  • Pollen records – indicate the clearance of forests and the beginning of agriculture;
  • Archaeological remains of settlements – including charcoal for radiocarbon dating, and tools and other artefacts;
  • ‘Written’ records – Pictish symbols on stones, the statistical accounts, diaries and estate records;
  • Architecture of buildings – purpose, use of materials, design and structure;
  • Intangible resources – folklore, ballads, traditions and place names.

The environment, and the resources available in it, dictates what people can do – the way they farm, the houses they built in the past, the way they play. Those activities in turn have shaped the land. Intensive farming, clearing and planting of trees, and the management of the land for sporting interests, alongside the creation of planned villages and the depopulation of the land, have transformed the landscape of the Park. These transformations are remembered through the intangible legacy: the folklore, traditions, songs and place names.

The cultural heritage of the Park is layered with material evidence and local traditions over time, which have shaped much of the landscape and culture of the area and remains part of its current identity.