The National Trust for Scotland Education | Unna Principles and Wild land policy

Percy Unna, a highly competent and well-travelled mountaineer and who was the president of the Scottish Mountaineering Club at the time, was the driving force and main personal contributor to a successful appeal to mountaineering clubs to raise the finance needed to acquire the major part of Glencoe in 1937 which was then gifted to the National GlencoeTrust for Scotland.

In entrusting the NTS with the care of this premier mountaineering property, Unna drew up principles for its future management, which have guided the management of all the Trust’s mountainous properties. His letter to the Chairman and council to The National Trust for Scotland in November 1937 reads as follows:

“Dear Sirs,

As the movement initiated by a group of members of the Scottish Mountaineering Club to acquire Dalness Forest and hand it over to the National Trust for Scotland, to be held for the use of the nation, so that the pubic may have unrestricted access at all times, has now materialised; as subscriptions to that end were invited not only from the members of the Scottish Mountaineering Club, but also from the members of all the other mountaineering clubs in Great Britain; and as the funds so subscribed enabled the forest to be handed over free of cost to the Trust, together with a surplus to be used as an endowment fund; it is considered desirable that what are believed to be the views of the subscribers as to the future of the estate should be expressed in writing, and recorded in the minutes of the Trust. This is all the more necessary, as in the attached circular which was issued for the purpose of inviting these subscriptions it was stated that the land ‘would be held on behalf of the public and preserved for their use’, and ‘that the Trust’ would ‘be asked to undertake that the land be maintained in its primitive condition for all time with unrestricted access to the public’. The views in question are –

1. That ‘primitive’ means not less primitive than the existing state.

2. That sheep farming and cattle grazing may continue, but that deer stalking must cease, and no sport of any kind be carried on, on sporting rights sold or let; any use of the property for sport being wholly incompatible with the intention that the public should have unrestricted access and use. It is understood, however, that deer may have to be shot, as that may be necessary to keep down numbers and so prevent damage, but for that purpose alone.

3. That the word ‘unrestricted’ does not exclude regulations, but implies that regulations, if any, should be limited to such as may in future be found absolutely necessary, and be in sympathy with the views expressed therein.

4. That the hills should not be made easier or safer to climb

5. That no facilities should be introduced for mechanical transport; that paths should not be extended or improved; and that new paths should not be made.

6. That no directional or other signs, whether signposts, paint marks, cairns, or of any other kind whatsoever, should be allowed; with the exception of such signs as may be necessary to indicate that the land is the property of the Trust, and to give effect to the requirement in the Provisional Order of 1935 that by-laws must be exhibited.

7. That should a demand spring up for hotels or hostels it is possible that it may have to be satisfied to a limited extent. If so, they should only be built alongside the public roads, and should be subject to control by the Trust; and it is suggested that no hotels or hostels should be built in Glencoe itself, or on any other part of the property, except, perhaps, in the lower reaches of the Trust property in Glen Etive. It is hoped that the Trust may be able to come to an understanding with neighbouring proprietors as to corresponding restrictions being maintained in regard to land near to the held by the Trust.

8. That no other facilities should be afforded for obtaining lodging, shelter, food or drink; and, especially, that no shelters of any kind be built on the hills.

9. It is hoped that the design of any buildings which may be necessary will be carefully considered by the Trust; and that, where possible, trees will be planted in their vicinity.

10. In conclusion, it is suggested that the whole question of the management of the Trust properties in Glen Etive and Glencoe should receive special attention, in view of the possibility that the policy adopted by the National Trust for Scotland in the present instance may create a precedent for similar areas in other mountainous districts, not only in Scotland, but also in England and Wales.

P J H Unna
Scottish Mountaineering Club

To complement the Unna Principles and to give guidance in the 21st Century for the management of all the NTS’s properties considered to contain wild land or to have wild land qualities, a Wild Land Policy been developed by the NTS which was approved by its Council in January 2002. The general principle of management is to avoid any reduction in ‘wild land quality’ (this being defined in the Policy).


  • The NTS’s broad definition of Wild Land in Scotland is; “Wild Land in Scotland is relatively remote and inaccessible, not noticeably affected by contemporary human activity, and offers high-quality opportunities to escape from the pressures of everyday living and to find physical and spiritual refreshment”.

    In developing this definition, NTS has proceeded primarily from a recreational view of wild land rather than striving to encompass all possible arguments. There are other ways of looking at wild land, for example as somewhere to live and work or somewhere to conserve biodiversity. How would you define it?

To find out more on this subject, read the above policy & find out more about the NTS approach to Wild Land go and click on Conserve/Caring for Scotland’s countryside/Natural Riches/Wild Land.


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