A sheep with her lambs walk up the main street in a small Scottish town

Fire up the Quattro because Historic Environment Scotland is taking you back to 1970s Scotland!

We have digitised over 50,000 images of Scotland in the 1970s. The photos were taken to document Scottish architecture but along the way photographers managed to capture snippets of life from all over the country.

Different collections – telling the same story

These pictures come two separate collections. The Scottish Countryside Commission and the C-listed buildings surveys give an insight into life in Scotland during the 1970s and early 1980s. The surveyors were originally sent out to capture architecture, however, the backdrop to this survey is life in rural Scotland.

1970s Scotland. Children peer into the window of a sweet shop

Between 1978 and 1981 the Countryside Commission for Scotland ordered a survey of the buildings in the Scottish landscape. The survey identified traditional building character in Scotland while classifying regional and local characteristics. Carried out by a team of fieldworkers and coordinated by Robert J Naismith, of Sir Frank Mears and Partners, the conclusions were published in Buildings in the Scottish Countryside, 1985.

The List C Survey was commissioned after a review of C-listed buildings with a view to re-categorisation. Previously, all C-listed buildings had no legal protection but in 1974 a new category C(S) was created that gave some legal protection. It was decided to survey the buildings which had no statutory status in order to create a record of their existence and perhaps later review their status. The buildings were surveyed by ‘vocational students’, starting in June 1975.

A vennel with washing hanging up

A time machine to the 70s

In some ways the photos are very familiar: a young couple holding hands, children playing and a building being renovated. However when you look a bit closer trousers are more flared, prams have been left alone and the scaffolding looks a bit wobbly!

Workmen working on a three story house.

As you dig deeper, looking through these collections is like jumping into a time machine. You get a real feel for the period and you notice how much has changed in Scotland.

1970s, a couple sits outside their cottage on deck chairs with a collie dog lying in the road.

Taken all over Scotland the images capture everyday buildings that were homes and businesses. On Bute, a couple take advantage of the sun and sit outside on deckchairs with their dog. We peek down Little Vennel in Cromarty to see washing hung up to dry. We’ve managed to track down some of the locations so you can see them today. Decide for yourself if you think they have changed!


A couple hold hands, walking through Inverary:

In the 1970s a couple walks in front of a pub holding hands
We see children waiting in the doorway of the post office in Inverallochy:
Black and white photo from the 1970s shows children lurking in the doorway of a post office

In Hamilton, a boy waits patiently for a trip which has been postponed until the car is fixed:

Black and white photo of a residential street in the 1970s. A boy sits on the garden wall while his dad fixes the car.

Be a time traveller!

This is just a small selection – if you visit Canmore.org.uk you can search through both collections and travel back in time!

Three children stand on a bridge with a wheelbarrow and brush. 1970s Scotland.


About Author


Kim Harsley

Kim Harsley is an archivist, managing the Digitisation Project. When she's not thinking about old things she's probably taking photographs of her guinea pigs.