Scotland’s Rural College is using satellite imagery to offer virtual tours of its upland research farms in Perthshire.

Usually at this time of year, farm and research staff at SRUC’s Hill and Mountain Research Centre would be hosting two or three visits a week to Kirkton and Auchtertyre farms. However, given the current restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, they have instead come up with a new way to highlight some of the wide range of activities on the farms.

Following the example set by Cath Seeds, programme leader for countryside management at SRUC, who developed a virtual field trip for students just as lockdown started, the college is using Google Earth to offer farm tours.

Upland Ecologist at Kirkton and Auchtertyre, John Holland, has used an extensive photo library to develop three virtual tours looking at the biodiversity management and cultural history and archaeology of the farms, and the public or ecosystem services they provide.

As the farms are a Linking the Environment and Farming Innovation Centre, it was decided to use LEAF’s Online Farm Sunday event on Sunday 7 June to launch the tours.

Head of the Hill and Mountain Research Centre, Davy McCracken, said: “The tours provide a fascinating insight into the farms and we are pleased at how well they were received by attendees at LEAF’s Online Farm Sunday event.

“Although we will get back to hosting face-to-face meetings on-site at some point in the future, such virtual tours provide an alternative way of bringing the farms to others. We are investigating what other aspects of research on the farms – such as our use of sensor technology – could also be illustrated in this way and used for our own virtual events.”

The tours can be accessed at: on Google Chrome (if using a desktop and laptop) or on mobile phones.