Aims To assess long-term trends in the number of breeding Lapwing and determine the relationship between these trends and changes in agricultural management on an upland study area. Methods Breeding Lapwing were counted along two road transects in nine years between 1980 and 2002, and on one extensive plot in 1980, 1990 and 2000. Counts along the road transects were made from a vehicle and the fields used for nesting were recorded. Changes in field management along the transects were monitored annually between 1980 and 1990, and habitat composition assessed in 1980, 1985, 1990 and 2000. Results During the first 20 years of study the number of breeding Lapwing declined substantially on all three count areas and by 77% overall, with further declines on both transects in 2002. The area of unimproved grassland and arable on these transects also declined substantially due to conversion to improved grass. Fields that comprised either unimproved grassland or arable were most likely to hold nesting Lapwing, while the chance of a field losing its nesting Lapwing was positively associated with the occurrence of drainage. Drainage and conversion to improved grass were closely linked. Conclusions Agricultural intensification is a probable cause of decline in the number of breeding Lapwing in upland areas. Such declines may have been widespread in upland areas following increased agricultural intensification in recent decades.