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Mapping Scotland's wildness and wild land

Consultation on Core Areas of Wild Land 2013 Map

The Scottish Government consulted in 2013 on the Main Issues Report for the National Planning Framework 3 and draft Scottish Planning Policy, that proposed a policy approach that refers to our Core Areas of Wild Land 2013 map. In light of comments Government received, we were asked to provide further advice to Ministers on this map. We therefore consulted on three questions set out in this consultation paper  PDF document . This consultation closed on 20th December 2013, and the analysis of responses  PDF document and the responses  PDF document  themselves can be viewed online.

The map below of Core areas of wild land 2013 can be zoomed into to view specific areas (the GIS data can be downloaded from the SNHi Natural Spaces web page).

The following provides further information on our mapping work. 

Preparing a new map of wild land

Scottish Natural Heritage identified 'Search Areas for Wild Land' in 2002. These were considered to be where the most significant and valued areas of wild land would be found. But the map was a preliminary and incomplete one, prepared for debate and further refinement. Our recent work has applied GIS techniques in a more objective and robust approach.

The new map of Core areas of wild land is the result of analysis undertaken in three phases:

  • Phase I mapped the relative wildness for all of Scotland, using four physical attributes: perceived naturalness, rugged or challenging terrain, remoteness from public roads, and visible lack of built development and other modern artefacts.
  • Phase II analysed the data to identify the largest and most wild areas (producing a long list of possible areas of wild land).
  • Phase III used informed judgement to select wild land, and define their extent.

This methodology  PDF document gives a more detailed explanation of the analysis undertaken.

Phase I - How have we mapped wildness?

Wildness is a quality experienced by people when visiting places of a certain character. Measuring wildness is inherently difficult, as people respond differently according to their personal experience and their expectations of a place. However, we consider wildness depends on four physical attributes being present, which can be measured and mapped.

  • The perceived naturalness of the land cover (January 2013) - high resolution map 10.5 Mb  PDF document , low resolution map 2Mb  PDF document
  • The ruggedness of the terrain which is therefore challenging to cross (February 2012) - high resolution map 5.4Mb  PDF document , low resolution map 1.5Mb  PDF document
  • Remoteness from public roads or ferries (February 2012) - high resolution map 7Mb  PDF document , low resolution map 1.5Mb  PDF document
  • The visible lack of buildings, roads, pylons and other modern artefacts (February 2012) - high resolution map 11Mb  PDF document , low resolution map 2Mb  PDF document

These four layers have been combined to produce a map of relative wildness of Scotland (January 2013) - high resolution map 6.9Mb  PDF document , low resolution map 2Mb  PDF document

The data on these maps can be downloaded from the SNHi Natural Spaces web page. Comments on the Phase I work, consulted on in February - March 2012, can be viewed in this report  PDF document

Phase II and III - How have we identified Core areas of wild land

Phase II analysed the scores of relative wildness identified in Phase I, to determine distinct classes of wildness using a statistical technique called 'natural breaks'. The largest areas with the classes of the highest scores were identified.

Phase III applied informed judgement to confirm which of the areas identified by Phase II merited selection as an area of wild land character. This took account of the known limitations with the GIS analysis, such as structures consented or built since the analysis was undertaken. Areas were defined to encompass contiguous blocks of land of the highest wildness.

The areas identified and selected by Phase III can be downloaded from the SNHi Natural Spaces web page.

What next?

The consultation on the map closed on 20th December 2013. We are reviewing all comments received and will prepare further advice to Scottish Ministers on the Core areas of wild land 2013 map in early 2014. Until Government confirms its approach to wild land in the finalised National Planning Framework 3 and Scottish Planning Policy in June 2014, we will continue to apply the established set of Search Areas for Wild Land.

If you have any further questions on this work please email

Last updated on Monday 3rd March 2014 at 08:26 AM. Click here to comment on this page