ABSTRACT

The rural settlement pattern is a fundamental aspect of the pre-improvement Scottish landscape. The standard settlement unit was the hamlet cluster or ‘ferm toun’ as it was known in the Lowlands. The ferm toun has usually been portrayed as a cluster of between six and a dozen households, mainly tenants working a joint farm. As well as being fluid in layout the actual locations of ferm touns and clachans could change too, as we shall see presently. In the Lowlands the landscape has been so thoroughly transformed by the improvers that the visible remains of deserted settlements are uncommon. In Lowland Scotland a number of nucleated settlements with ancient origins are known to have been deserted although the reasons are not always easy to pinpoint. The importance of settlement change can easily be overemphasised because it is often easier to detect than continuity.