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10 March 2018

TV series tells Scotland’s story from the sky

A new, three-part BBC1 Scotland series, telling the story of the nation from a completely different angle is coming this spring.

A photograph of a helicopter over hills.
Image © BBC

The new, three-part series Scotland from the Sky demonstrates the accessibility of aerial photography while explaining its use as a tool for military reconnaissance, city planning and archaeology.

Inspired viewers are being urged to get involved first-hand by visiting Canmore, the online catalogue to the HES archives. By simply searching for their street, they will be able to start a journey into the rich tapestry of photographic history. With 1.6 million images in the archive, the public can easily get introduce themselves to the collection which made the series possible.

A photograph of two men in an open-top plane. One man is wearing a flying helmet and goggles. The other is wearing a blue jacket and is looking through a camera down at the land below.


Scotland from the Sky has been created with the expertise of Historic Environment Scotland’s James Crawford, who has spent a decade researching and writing about the history of this archive. Throughout the series, viewers are guided through a century of aerial photographs charting the ever-changing face of Scotland’s rural and urban landscapes.

Beyond seeing Scotland’s stunning scenery – past and present – from above, are the tales of the people behind the lenses. Viewers will discover stories of First World War aerial photographers dodging bullets in the skies over the Somme, the planners who use the view from above to create the places we live and the Historic Environment Scotland aerial survey team searching for ancient remains from the skies.

A black and white photograph taken from the air of a bridge disappearing into clouds and a town on the edge of the water.

Historic Environment Scotland Publishing Manager James Crawford, who writes and presents the series, said:

"By delving into the Historic Environment Scotland archives we are – quite literally – offering a whole new perspective on the story of Scotland."

"It is remarkable, but largely unknown, just how much today’s landscapes have been shaped by the view from above. Huge tracts of the Highlands were transformed with the help of aerial photography, while post-war planners looked to the skies for the solutions to redesigning our greatest cities. At the same time, the aerial view has revolutionised our understanding of the past, resulting in the discovery of tens of thousands of ancient sites that could never have been spotted from the ground."

BBC Scotland Commissioning Executive, Factual, David Harron said:

"Scotland from the Sky is a lavish, ambitious and fascinating series which tells the story of the evolution of Scotland’s towns and countryside through spectacular aerial photography."

"I am sure it will prove to be a compelling watch for audiences."

Historic Environment Scotland are also publishing a major new book to accompany the series. In Scotland from the Sky, James Crawford combines his first-person account of filming the series – including flying in a one-hundred-year-old Bristol Fighter and a vintage Tiger Moth – with the history of aerial photography in Scotland.

The book is lavishly illustrated with hundreds of never-before-seen historical and modern images from the Historic Environment Scotland aerial archives. It will be available from all good booksellers. It can be ordered directly from Historic Environment Scotland for £25.

A photograph of a mountain from the air with blue skies above.

Jamie added: “It has been fantastic to work in partnership with the BBC to open up these archives to a new audience. The sheer quantity of aerial photography is vast and we have only been able to scratch the surface in the show.”
Scotland from the Sky will be broadcast on BBC1 Scotland later this spring.

Pre-order Scotland from the Sky

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES)

  • We are the lead public body charged with caring for, protecting and promoting the historic environment. We will lead on delivering Scotland’s first strategy for the historic environment, Our Place in Time.
  • Historic Scotland, Scran, Canmore, The National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP), The Engine Shed, Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle are sub-brands of Historic Environment Scotland.
  • View our press pack and keep up to date by registering for media release email alerts. If you wish to unsubscribe, please contact us.

Year of Young People 2018

The Year of Young People (YoYP 2018) will inspire Scotland through its young people aged 8 to 26, celebrating their achievements, valuing their contributions to communities and creating new opportunities for them to shine locally, nationally and globally. Over 200 young people throughout Scotland will become #YOYP2018 Ambassadors, ensuring their communities know about local opportunities to celebrate young people.

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For further information

Iona Matheson
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
Direct Line: 0131 668 8703
Mobile: 07827 956 858

Out of hours: 07721 959 962 or mediaoffice@hes.scot