Over the past 10 years, 'settings' based health promotion has become a central feature of efforts to promote health that recognize the significance of context. Emerging in part from a perception of an over-reliance on individualistic methods, the approach was built on a profound belief in its value and deployed a range of novel theoretical resources, mainly from organizational sociology and psychology. This initial enthusiasm has been maintained within policy directives, in the published literature and, from our own experience, among health promotion practitioners. At the same time, with the maturing of the approach, has come a healthy element of critical review. Drawing upon the literature and based upon our experiences within the Health Education Board for Scotland, this paper seeks to bring together a range of perspectives, casting a critical yet constructive eye on current settings theory and practice. The paper first reviews the nature of settings based work, highlighting the varied bases and expectations that underpin it. Similarly, the many factors that influence the ability of health promoters to deliver such activities are considered. In relation to the construction and delivery of such activity, the paper suggests that there needs to be an explicit and detailed assessment of the nature of the setting, the skills of the health promoter and the associated expectations.