Skip to main content

29 May, 2014

Scotland’s living cultural heritage on our doorstep

Scotland could have around 1700 orchards, giving hope that this valuable cultural resource has not been lost, according to a new study announced today by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

A desktop survey of candidate orchards found 1728 likely orchards. An orchard is defined as a collection of five or more fruit trees and many of these sites have been in decline for several decades.

But while new smaller orchards are being planted, large traditional orchards are still in decline and therefore in danger.

Traditional orchards contain many veteran trees – some with pear trees of up to 300 years old – and the desktop survey by CW Hayes Associates across local authority areas in Scotland highlighted that:

  • Orchards were found in 31 out of 32 local council areas;
  • South Lanarkshire, followed by Fife, has the largest number of candidate orchards at 213 and 186 respectively;
  • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar was found to have just one candidate orchard while in Shetland none were found;
  • Dumfries and Galloway, Highland, Perth and Kinross and Scottish Borders have more than 100 candidate orchards each.

Speaking before the Gardening Scotland event at the Royal Highland Show in Ingliston, near Edinburgh, Kate Holl, the project officer for SNH, said: “Some of our large traditional orchards may have been lost forever, but this valuable work does much to pinpoint where our remaining orchards are.

“This desktop survey has helped locate 1728 sites which will now go forward as candidate orchards for more detailed study as part of a field survey involving volunteers across Scotland. Despite the losses in orchards, we were pleasantly surprised to discover they can be found throughout Scotland, and not just those areas more traditionally associated with fruit production. We could do with finding more and if anyone knows about orchards in Shetland please let us know.

“If we know where the orchards are across Scotland we can target resources and effort to halt the decline. The work has also helped us understand the orchard as an ecosystem and its role in providing food and shelter for a range of local bugs and beasties. We need orchards, and they in turn are a valuable safe haven for our birds and insects as well as providing us with seasonal fruit.”

Dr Crispin Hayes of CW Hayes Associates was contracted by SNH to carry out the work and added: “It is clear from our work that Scotland’s orchards are a real and living cultural heritage and provide us with a link to the past as well as being an opportunity for barometer of the future.

“Orchards are a source of local food products, including fresh fruit, and the work gives an insight into, and involvement with, the cultural heritage that orchards represent in Scotland.

“Orchards are also a source of local fruit, cider, and other foods such as honey, but they also hold an important place in the cultural heritage of many parts of Scotland. Old orchards are places of living history and we would like their value to be better recognised.”

Notes to editors

The report is available at

Media inquiries: Fergus Macneill, SNH Public Relations: 01463 725021

Kate Holl, project officer SNH: 0131 316 2642

Dr Crispin W. Hayes, consultant, CW Hayes Associates 07914 396623

Contact information

SNH Media

NatureScot is Scotland's nature agency. We work to enhance our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. Our priority is a nature-rich future for Scotland and an effective response to the climate emergency. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

’S e NatureScot buidheann nàdair na h-Alba. Bidh sinn a’ neartachadh àrainneachd na h-Alba agus a’ brosnachadh dhaoine gu barrachd suim a chur ann an nàdar. Tha e mar phrìomhachas againn gum bi nàdar na h-Alba beairteach agus gun dèilig sinn gu h-èifeachdach le èiginn na gnàth-shìde. Tha an tuilleadh fiosrachaidh aig no air Twitter aig