Using the map

What can I do?

You can click on the map, or insert a grid reference or post code, to find out more information about the soil type found there.  You can also download the map data for the whole of Scotland.

Be aware: This map was produced at a fixed scale; zooming-in does not change the resolution of the map.

What is it?

What do I see on my screen?

National coverage of the main soil types across Scotland mapped originally at 1:250 000 scale. The map is based on data collected between 1947 and 1981.

Map legend and soil classification


The legend for the digital version of the National soil map of Scotland on this website shows 'generalised soil types'. These soil types are a simplification of the more complex soil classification used to map the soils at a 1:250 000 scale, because it is not practical to show all the individual soil types on a small, online map. The more complex classification is obtained when you interrogate or download the map.  

Classification of Scotland's Soils

Soils are classified by grouping similar soils together according to their key characteristics. In Scotland, soil classification is based on the soil properties you can see in the field (for example, colour, texture) and on the arrangement and nature of the different horizons (layers) within the soil. Major revisions to the soil classification were made in October 2013.

Soil map unit (QMUNIT)

The National soil map of Scotland shows the distribution of Soil Mapping Units (QMUNIT). The QMUNIT is a number identifying a unique combination of parent material, component soil types and associated landforms. Over 580 combinations are found in Scotland. The colour of each map polygon indicates the dominant soil type for each of the map unit combinations. You can find out more about the map units in the database.

What is included in the digital dataset?

The digital dataset is made up of three layers: soil boundaries, lochs and coastline. Over 20,500 individual soil polygons are grouped into more than 580 QMUNITs. Data reported includes information on typical soil properties associated with the soils in the individual QMUNITs.

How was the map / dataset created?

The 1:250 000 National soil map of Scotland was created by the Macaulay Institute (now The James Hutton Institute) based on data collected from field surveys carried out between between 1947 and 1981. The digital dataset is adapted from the original 1:250 000 scale soil map series. The map should be cited as: 'Soil Survey of Scotland Staff (1981). Soil maps of Scotland at a scale of 1:250 000. Macaulay Institute for Soil Research, Aberdeen. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.4646891'.

How is it updated?

Since its first release the dataset has been corrected for minor errors and spatial boundary errors.  It underwent major change following the creation of a unified classification for Scotland’s soil in 2013.

Accessing original copies of the maps

The original maps were published in the 1980s as 7 separate sheets with an associated handbook. They can now be viewed on, and downloaded from, The James Hutton Institute website. 

Technical and reference material

This page was last updated on 25 Sep 2023

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