Historic Scotland is the government body which is responsible for safeguarding Scotland's historic buildings, monuments and environment. Its equivalent in England is English Heritage.
Both organizations perform the same task, along with the Cadw in Wales and the Ulster Architectural Society in Northern Ireland.
The importance of the role these agencies play is paramount to the preservation of our national heritage. They also manage the properties, open them to the public and maintain them. Buildings and monuments which are listed by Historic Scotland are protected from demolition or alteration without special permission.
Historic Scotland is run by a Management Board. The staff includes archaeologists, art historians, craftsmen, conservators, building professionals, administrators and support staff.
Although it is a Government Agency it is run with a business attitude to its national responsibilities. The main office is in Edinburgh but there are regional offices spread throughout Scotland.
The role of Historic Scotland is to advise on all aspects of the Scotland's historic environment and to carry out the requirements laid down in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.
The members of the board select sites of national importance and where appropriate take them into state care. Their second function is to list structures for their architectural or historical significance.
All kinds of buildings and monuments may be listed by Historic Scotland, either because of their age, their unique architecture, or because of their significance with historic events or a famous person. Some examples of unusual monuments managed by Historic Scotland include the Neolithic Burial Cairns at Galloway, the ruins of Chapel Finian and the Drumtroddan Standing Stones.
Historic Scotland grades the buildings or sites in order of merit. Grade A are the top small percentage of buildings which are of exceptional national interest. They include Craigellachie Bridge at Moray which was designed by Thomas Telford, the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Glasgow City Chambers.
Grade B are the buildings which are particularly important with more than special interest including the National War Museum of Scotland and the Harbourmaster's House at Fife.
The majority of listed buildings are Grade C. These are buildings of special interest and have good reason to be preserved for posterity. Some examples are the statue of John Knox and the War Memorial to Dundee City Police.
There are about 330 buildings currently listed by Historic Scotland including many of Scotland's castles such as Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle. Historic Scotland often organizes events to promote understanding and enjoyment of these national treasures.
Visitors can trace Scotland's history with a visit to Huntly Castle, said to have sheltered Robert the Bruce. Those who appreciate architecture will enjoy exploring some of the buildings designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow including his famous Glasgow School of Art.
Those visiting Historic Scotland attractions may have to pay an entrance fee, although about 70 sites are free. Those wishing to support the work of Historic Scotland may choose to buy an annual membership. One of the benefits is that it includes unlimited access to all the sites throughout the year.
Membership programs make welcome gifts and are an essential source of financial support in enabling the important work of preserving Scotland's heritage landmarks to continue.