“ROMANTICISED” notions of Scottish castles and crofters’ cottages are killing off a keystone of the country’s architectural heritage, it is claimed.

Mudwall homes built from clay, earth and turf were common in Scotland for centuries, with the materials taken from the landscapes in which they were built.

The practice died out in the 1700s, after which many structures were razed or left to rot. Few now remain and those that still stand are said are often in a poor state of repair.

New research says this “undervalued” built and cultural heritage is now at risk as due to the focus on less representative structures such as cathedrals.

Experts from Stirling University say the severing of links between the public and the landscapes is to blame.

Dr Paul Adderley, who specialises in environment sciences, said: “Historic earth-built structures are today deeply hidden within the landscapes of Scotland, although they were once a common feature of both urban and rural settlements. Many of these structures were destroyed, repurposed or left to deteriorate following changes to attitudes during the period of Improvement in the 18th century.

“These buildings are often overlooked as part of Scotland’s heritage and many less representative structures – such as castles, cathedrals or crofters’ cottages – are romanticised instead.

“We suggest that a better understanding of how the majority of people lived in that period can be gained through recognition that they occupied buildings often constructed with earthen components.”

The new research, part funded by Historic Environment Scotland, is the first of its kind.

Dr Simon Parkin said the craft traditions involved in building mudwall dwellings are “all but lost”, adding: “Our research will impact the understanding and management of Scotland’s built heritage, which is vital for cultural identity and tourism.”