This page identifies and documents a sample of a growing number of identified Commons in Scotland. Some of the information is incomplete but, hopefully, by mentioning it here, some interest and further research may follow.
This page does NOT include Common Good Land (see Common Good section of website) and does include community owned land such as the Knoydart Estate, Isle of Eigg and all the land acquired in recent years by Community Groups. Important though this is in the renaissance of civic engagement with land, such land is legally privately owned.
Common land is land which by its character, legal status and history is common. By contrast, the only "common" characteristic of community owned land is the nature of the owner - the land has no special common status. It is land which has such qualities that we are interested in here.
Finally, I (Andy Wightman) have numerous papers and notes on many of the cases listed below (and on others not listed). However, due to the political sensitivity of some of these sites and disputes over ownership, these cannot be published here.
Alyth North Common
On the Hill of Alyth in Perthshire, this commonty has been the
subject of dispute for many years. No Division has ever taken
place and part of the commonty was sold by the Earl of Airlie;s
Trustees in the 1970s even though they admitted they had no
evidence of ownership. The community in Alyth failed to take
action to prevent the new owner acquiring a good title by
In 2007, Scottish Ministers acquired a large part of the Commonty
via the Forestry Commission. It remains to be seen if they are
willing to recognise the Commonty.
Bowden common is a long strip of land, near the village of Bowden in Berwickshire (Grid Ref NT 552310). It is run by the community as a nature reserve, with access for pedestrians and horses, with a few new ponds dug, and a wildlife watching hide. It is cherished by the community, and provides a pleasant access from the village to the open hills of the Eildons.
Cairntradlin Common or Stance
This small area of land to the north of the village of Blackburn (Grid Ref NJ 827135) seems to be a common - either a Commonty or a drover's stance. A preliminary investigation of the title suggests that it is indeed common land. However, it is understood that Stuart Milne Group have built houses on it. Click here for a map showing the area in question (outlined in red) and an 1869 map showing the land as rough grazing.
The Statistical Accounts of 1841-45 contain a wealth of information about life in Scotland's parishes. Each entry includes details of land use in the parish and any land considered to be common is usually noted. In the case of Carluke, there is an entry to the effect that there are 86 acres held as undivided common (see extract). Coincidentally, during a search in the Land Register in 2005, I discovered a title to some land which included reference to "a right of common grazing on the hill of Commonty tinted yellow on the Title plan". This appears to be the "undivided common" referred to in 1841. It is unclear who has rights to this Commonty but it may be all heritors (landowners) in the Parish of Carluke. That includes everyone who owns their own home. What makes the case even more interesting is that the Commonty sits within the boundaries of the Black Law windfarm. If the rights to the Commonty were indeed found to be vested in all the heritors, then the residents of Carluke Parish could enjoy a useful income. Click here for a map showing the Commonty tinted yellow at Grid Ref NS 882531.
This small common lies to the south of the village of Sturartfield in Aberdeenshire at Grid Ref NJ 971454 (stippled area on the map - right). Stuartfield is an 18th century planned villages and the Commonty was provided at the southern end of the village, where the Chapel Well was situated.
Forest of Birse Commonty
This Commonty is Rights in this large Commonty are now held by Birse Community Trust (BCT). The Caledonia Centre for Social Development have published a Case Study on BCT and further details of the Forest of Birse can be found on the BCT website.
Gifford Common is a 55 acre common to the east of the village of Gifford in East Lothian at Grid Ref NT . Rights to its use were historically held by the Feuars of Gifford (and an excellent account of their history is provided in a book of the same name - see Links and Resources). Title is now held by the Feuars of Gifford Charitable Trust.
Thornhill North Common
Thornhill North Common is 9 acres in extent and lies to the north of the village of Thornhill in Perthshire [add Grid Ref] and, after a long process of attemtping to assert the community's rights, the land is now held by the North Common Trust. A Case Study has been drafted and will be published soon (Nov 2007).
Yethom Common is situated just south west of Kirk Yetholm and was originally associated with the Gypsy encampment with which the village is associated. The commons well up in the hills and the position is marked by two large stones, known locally as the Stob-Stanes. Both villages in Yetholm (Town & Kirk) also feature large Greens.
In the centre of Direlton is a 4.5 acre Green which remains a Common.
West Linton Green
Linton Green is about 2 acres in extent and is an old Droving Stance used by cattle drovers from Falkirk on their way south.
The Feuars of Fraserburgh
Title to many areas of common land was historically vested in the feuars of a district or settlement. Often their rights formed part of their title and in other instances the feuars were regarded as the most responsible individuals to take on the burdensome role of landowning! The Frasers of Fraserburgh feud land to the feuars of Fraseburgh. Today they own around 40 acres of land including the Links, Playing fields and a campsite. The Feuars Managers as they are called are a registered charity.
Feuars of Peterhead
The Feuars of Peterhead own property in Peterhead and are constituted along similar lines to the Feuars of Fraserburgh.
Feuars of Letham
There are around 90 commonties in Scotland for which there is no record of division. They are spread over 25 of Scotland's 34 Counties and range in size from a few hectares to over 2000 hectares. Many of these need further research and investigation. It is likely that some remain as commonties, the rights to which will now rest with landowners (including those owning their own home) in the Parish.