Landscape Character Assessment

Landscape Character Assessment is a standard method used to identify, describe, classify and map what’s distinctive about our landscapes.

Landscape character is the distinct and recognisable pattern of elements that occurs consistently in a specific type of landscape. Landscape qualities are the less tangible aspects of a landscape – e.g. the appreciation of its beauty or history, it sense of wildness or its challenge for recreation.

The whole of Scotland has been mapped and described through Landscape Character Assessment (LCA). It shows us the variety in our landscapes, and helps us to understand what makes one landscape different from another.

LCA also provides baseline information that can be used to guide landscape change. For example, such information may inform:

  • development plans
  • decisions on development proposals
  • land management plans
  • indicative forestry strategies
  • agri-environment schemes

LCA informs the use of many landscape tools and techniques.

How Landscape Character Assessment is done

LCA analyses in detail the three main landscape components of:

  • landform (e.g. hills, straths, glens) – e.g. are hills rounded or angular?
  • land cover (e.g. rivers, lochs, woodland, farmland) – e.g. what is the dominant type and pattern of woodland?
  • settlement (e.g. towns, villages, farmsteads) – e.g. how is a settlement set out?

It then looks at how all these combine to form the landscapes we see and experience. Areas with similar patterns of components are mapped together as a particular Landscape Character Type.

To find out more, view the guidance we created in partnership with Natural England: Landscape Character Assessment: Guidance for England and Scotland

Linked to this guidance are various Landscape Character Assessment topic papers, available on the Natural England website.

Landscape Character Assessment in Scotland

Between 1994 and 1999, Scottish Natural Heritage commissioned, in partnership with others, a series of 30 regional LCA studies. Together, these identify and map the landscape character of all of Scotland (mostly at a scale of 1:50,000).

Each study typically covers a local authority area, and provides the landscape foundation for natural heritage and planning policymaking. The studies have been used widely in the development planning system.

But since the studies were produced there have been:

  • significant advances in digital technology and available data
  • changes in development patterns and pressures

As a result, we’re currently reviewing Scotland’s LCA studies at the level of Landscape Character Type – i.e. an area of consistent and recognisable landscape character.

Our aim is to build on the original LCA studies to create a single dataset, which will be hosted on this website. The revised format will make the information easier to access and the mapping much clearer. We expect to complete our review late 2018.

It isn’t necessary to entirely replace the original LCA studies, as much of their information, including many boundaries and descriptions, remains valid. We have updated certain studies where necessary.

Browse the full list of Landscape Character Assessment studies in the Information Library.

Alternatively, click on the map below to locate a report.



Find out more

Landscape Character Vignettes: SNH Commissioned Report No. F99NB07

Overview of Scotland’s National Programme of Landscape Character Assessment: SNH Commissioned Report No. 29