Our environment

Scottish identity: Who decides who we are?

This is one of a series of resources exploring the theme Scottish identity: who decides who we are? This section uses Monarch of the Glen and other relevant artworks to focus on our environment, offering images, questions and activities for learners of all ages to explore.

Sir Edwin Landseer, The Monarch of the Glen, (about 1851)

Landseer worked in London but he was fascinated by Scotland. He made annual sketching, hunting and fishing trips to Scotland each autumn for many years. He enjoyed walking in the glens and mountains to find inspiration for his paintings. In the eighteenth century, an increasingly industrialised and urban population enjoyed the escapism provided by images of the wilderness, and of exotic, foreign themes.

Landseer’s works have been described as not just portraits of individual animals, but symbols of strength, beauty and power in nature.

Eva Vermandel, Deer, Isle of Arran, 2009, © Eva Vermandel

About deer

There are four species of wild deer in Scotland; roe deer, red deer, sika and fallow deer. Roe deer and red deer are native species that colonised Scotland naturally around 10,000 years ago.

Red Deer antlers are dark brown, with polished white tips to the tines.  A Royal Stag has 12 points or tines; an Imperial Stag has 14 points; and a Monarch has 16 points.

The red deer population declined as forests were cleared for agriculture, but survived in the Scottish Highlands, south-west England, and a few other areas.

Today, the Red Deer is distributed widely across the UK. It is a herbivore, grazing on a wide variety of plants such as heather, grasses, shrubs and trees; if the opportunity arises, they will also feed on agricultural crops and garden plants.


We wonder…

  • what’s it like to be a deer?
  • how does an artist in London paint Scottish mountains?
  • how do artists influence the way Scottish landscape is represented and does that impact on how we see Scotland?


What do your students wonder about our environment?

Ask your students to come up with questions, or try some of the questions below.


When you look out your classroom window what do you see?

What would a tourist expect to see in Scotland?

Do you recognise Scotland in the Monarch of the Glen?

About you

What do you do when you want to escape from your everyday life? 

Why do we need art, stories and escapism?


Which animals could represent Scotland?

Could Monarch of the Glen mislead people about Scotland?

There’s a saying ‘you can take the boy out of Scotland but you can’t take Scotland out of the boy’. Does your environment shape who you are and how you think?

Who decides who we are?


Here are three activities that explore our environment. We have purposely suggested activities that are not aimed at a particular level as we believe in teachers’ professional judgement; you can adapt activities to suit any group and any time frame.

Find nature

Martin Boyce, Our Love is Like the Flowers, the Rain, the Sea and The Hours, 2002, Mixed media installation Dimensions variable Installation view, Tramway, Glasgow, 2002, Courtesy of the Artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow. Photography Keith Hunter
  • Ask pupils how many species they think are living in the school playground. In groups challenge them to see who can find and document the most.
  • Pay close attention to everything you find: different leaves, weeds, insects, birds etc.
  • Ask them to find different ways to document findings: e.g. photos, drawings, words, sound recordings etc.
  • Ask them what they’d like to know about these species. Pupils lead own research.

Creativity skills being developed include researching productively, being curious and persistence.

Possible links to the Curriculum for Excellence are natural world in Science, speaking in Literacy and performance in Expressive Arts.

 Can you hear what I hear?

Alan Davie, Magic Landscape [Opus O.1337], 1996, © The Estate of Alan Davie
  • Choose an environment the class agree to be typically Scottish.To enable this, they will need some time to consider the notion of ‘Scottishness’, i.e. what makes something Scottish?
  • Ask them to create a soundscape for the place, recreating all the sounds they might hear there. This can be done through research, imagination or visiting the site. They can use instruments or record actual sounds.
  • Have a conversation about how sound helps us understand a place.  
  • Ask them to create a soundscape for Monarch of the Glen or another painting.

Creativity skills being developed include imagination, resilience, and problem solving.

Possible links to the Curriculum for Excellence are music in Expressive Arts, people and place in Social Studies, and emotional intelligence in Health & wellbeing.

Save what matters

Nathan Coley, The Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh 2004, © Studio Nathan Coley
  • Ask pupils to choose a place that’s important to them, somewhere they go regularly.
  • What’s so good about this place?
  • If tourists came to this place what would it tell them about Scotland?
  • Create a scenario where this place is at risk e.g. a tourist resort / airport/ social housing/ wind farm is to be built there.
  • In groups problem-solve how to avert this danger e.g. create a campaign to make this an official World Heritage Site.

Creativity skills being developed include problem solving, delivering and presenting solutions and collaboration.

Possible links to the Curriculum for Excellence are people and place in Social Subjects, persuasive writing in Literacy and performance in Expressive Arts.

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