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Mapping Wild Land Areas

Scottish Natural Heritage published a map of Wild Land Areas  PDF document in June 2014.  

Wild Land Areas are the most extensive areas of high wildness.  They are identified as nationally important in Scottish Planning Policy, but are not a statutory designation. The areas have been identified following a consultation  PDF document in 2013 on our Core areas of wild land map (responses  PDF document and an analysis  PDF document ).  This informed the preparation of the new map and our advice to Government  PDF document .    

Phase I - How have we mapped wildness?

GIS data can be downloaded from theSNHi Natural Spaces external site web page.

The Wild Land Areas are the result of a three phase analysis.

  • Phase I applied GIS analysis to map the relative wildness of all of Scotland, using four physical attributes: perceived naturalness, rugged or challenging terrain, remoteness from public mechanised access, 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.

Our approach is outlined below, with more detail provided in this methodology  PDF document .

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 (standard and colour defective vision versions of the maps can be downloaded below).

Wildness Maps (standard and colour vision deficiency friendly)

These four layers have been combined to produce a map of relative wildness of Scotland (2.7 Mb)  PDF document  (Colour vision deficiency version 2.6 Mb  PDF document )

The data on these maps can be downloaded from the SNHi Natural Spaces web page.

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

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 Wild Land Areas identified and selected by Phase III can be downloaded from the SNHi Natural Spaces web page.

If you have any further questions on this work please email