Context 158 - March 2019

36 C O N T E X T 1 5 8 : M A R C H 2 0 1 9 Siar because so many of Scotland’s thatched buildings are there – one in five listed buildings in this council area, in fact. It was clear from the people we talked to on Benbecula that this type of building is truly valued.We are planning similar events in the Highlands and Argyll and Bute in 2019. Working with Historic Assynt We get many requests for new designations from individuals and heritage groups across Scotland who ask us to consider giving sites and places local to them recognition and protection. When these sites are located in areas that are more difficult for us to reach, we need to decide how and when to carry out this work.When we heard from the community heritage group Historic Assynt about almost 60 prehistoric burial monu- ments in the Assynt region in the north-west Highlands we were delighted to work with them on a project to explore this heritage further. We knew already that this most remote part of the Scottish mainland had not been assessed thoroughly for potential scheduled monuments in the past, so there some exciting discoveries were likely. What was a little more surprising was the concentration of sites found at Assynt. Without the fieldwork and data-gathering under- taken in advance by Historic Assynt, it would not have been possible for us to easily discover or assess these sites.Working collaboratively with Historic Assynt was hugely rewarding for our heritage and for us as a team. We had access to their local knowledge and it gave us the chance to build a valuable relationship for the future and to demystify what we do. The focus of our fieldwork was the locally dense concentration of chambered burial monu- ments dating back to 4000 BC. As a result of the project, 14 monuments became scheduled, we updated the records for 17 existing scheduled monuments and we removed one scheduled monument which no longer met the criteria for scheduling. The project and its partners at HES and Historic Assynt has secured a far better representation of scheduled Neolithic and Bronze Age burials in the NorthWest Highlands. Being on the ground to assess sites first hand is not always possible or practical. If we have enough recent information about some types of sites, either submitted to us through the designa- tion application process, available to us online, or already compiled in the National Record of the Historic Environment, we may decide that visiting a more remote site is not required. A recent example of this was the listing of the elegant Kylesku Bridge in Caithness – a well- known structure which had been extensively surveyed in recent years. Good data can enable us to understand and assess areas which are less easily visited. New technologies such as the use of drones or sophisticated satellite mapping will no doubt change how we carry out designations fieldwork in the future. For the moment, having a cup of tea and a chat with our stakeholders, when we can, remains a key part of our engagement with the communities and people of Scotland. Dawn McDowell is deputy head of designations at Historic Environment Scotland. The elegant Kylesku Bridge, built in 1984, has been listed (Photo: RCAHMS)

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