Scottish Life Magazine masthead
scotish life magazine special subscription offer
harris tweeds

The Engine Shed

Inside a repurposed military base, historic buildings and monuments
are being preserved through advanced technology, engaging
showmanship and old-fashioned education.


For any people, in any country, their sense of place, identity and culture is deeply influenced by the built environment that surrounds them. We are what we build, one might say, not least in Scotland, where a rich architectural heritage has left us with some 450,000 recorded historic buildings and other monuments, from Neolithic standing stones and imposing castles and tower houses to the "auld clay biggin'" in which Robert Burns first saw the light of day.

As Scotland's former First Minister, Alex Salmond, wrote a few years ago in the foreword to the book Building Scotland, our farm cottages and tenements, as much as castles and historic houses, "are a pivotal point of reference in understanding who we are today."

But such a rich built heritage requires expert maintenance to survive, and in an age when younger generations of building tradesmen are increasingly accustomed to working with modular components that arrive on site in flatbed trucks or on pallets, the essential skills and understanding of appropriate materials required to repair and maintain historic buildings can be worryingly hard to find.

Such ongoing issues surrounded last July's opening of the Engine Shed, a striking new national building conservation centre built on a former army base in Stirling. Nothing to do with railways, the ₤11 million centre (about $14.6 million) has been created by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), the public agency concerned with the nation's historic buildings and monuments. It will act as a central hub for educating both the general public and those involved in building and conservation trades and professions, promoting a greater understanding of traditional building materials and skills and, it is hoped, inspiring future generations to care for Scotland's built heritage.

Photo © Historic Environment Scotland

The full text of this article is available in the Winter 2017 issue of Scottish Life.

Click here to preview our feature article on Harris Tweed by Paul Stafford.

Click here to preview our feature article on Stirling, Where Highlands Meet Lowlands by Keith Aitken.

Click here to preview our column Scotland In Music by Edward Scott Pearlman.

Click here to preview our reviews of Scottish Books.

Photos © Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint