Skip to main content
Visit Scotland | Alba

Scotland’s coasts and waters provide us with both an abundant natural larder and world-class spirits. 

Dunnet Bay Distillers are based in Caithness. They use Highland water and locally-sourced botanicals to create their award-winning gin and vodka.

We spoke to Joanne Howdle, Tour and Events Coordinator at the Dunnet Bay Distillery. She told us about the innovative new visitor experience they created to celebrate the Year of Coasts and Waters.

Why did your business decide to get involved with Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21?

Dunnet Bay Distillery had never previously been involved in VisitScotland’s Themed Years. But they decided to use the Year of Coasts and Waters as a starting point to develop new experiences.

They used Caithness and Scottish coastal mythology and maritime history for their activity. In framing these experiences, they picked three of the distillery’s spirits to underpin the coastal / maritime theme.

These were Rock Rose Navy Strength Gin, the official North Coast 500 Gin and Holy Grass Vodka Cold Brew Coffee Edition.

Can you tell us more about the new product you developed?

Claire Murray, Director and Co-Owner of the distillery, decorated the tasting room. There, the experiences took place with a coastal / maritime vibe.

Visitors loved it as they felt safe in a welcoming and beautiful environment. They were delighted that our visitor centre and shop were open, COVID safe, and offering these experiences.

Coastal themed tasting room At Dunnet Bay Distillery

How did you had to adapt to restrictions in place due to COVID-19?

Since reopening the visitor centre after lockdown, the distillery changed its visitor offer. It used to offer an hour-long guided distillery tour twice a day, Monday to Saturday.

This accommodated a maximum of sixteen people per tour. Now, they offer four, 30-minute long experiences named North Coast Stories with Tasting.

These experiences accommodate a maximum of ten people per session. During which, visitors are sat in physically distanced, bespoke boat sheds.

How did customers react to your Themed Years activity?

Many of visitors said the coastal themed experiences were much more fun than a distillery tour. They said that both the boat sheds and the coastal / maritime theme should be kept indefinitely.

It made visitors feel that it gave them a good historical introduction to the North Highlands and the North Coast 500.

Can you tell us about any success stories you enjoyed with this new product?

The distillery only started running the experiences on 5 August 2020.

But visitor numbers for August 2020 were up by 10.3% on August 2019 whilst September 2020's visitor numbers were up a whacking great 78.1% on September 2019.

The distillery continued to experience growth in October with visitor numbers up by 54% compared to 2019.

Three clay bottles of gin

What do you have planned for 2021?

The distillery started planning for the 2021 season over the winter. But it is likely that they'll will be running the "North Coast Stories with Tasting" again in 2021.

Find out more about Dunnet Bay Distillers on

Other businesses who pro-actively engaged with the Themed Year to showcase food and drink

Heather Street Food

Heather Street Food are the concession for V&A Dundee on the plaza outside the museum. They worked with V&A Dundee to create eye-catching Year of Coasts and Waters inspired artwork for the side of their vans.


Simon Attridge, Executive Chef at Gleneagles shared his recipe for West Coast Crab with The Herald. The feature also looked at the importance of sustainable sourcing.

It talked about the way he used Scottish seafood on the menus at Gleneagles especially as part of the Year of Coasts and Waters.

Edinburgh Food Festival

Edinburgh Food Festival was unfortunately unable to take place in August 2020 due to COVID-19. The programme would have included a series of live chef demonstrations from some of Scotland’s top culinary talent.

They planned to cook up a variety of tasty recipes showcasing the freshest fish and seafood from around the country’s coasts and waters.

Destination Marketing Organisations

A number of destinations used the #YCW2020 hashtag on social to align their local produce with the Themed Year. Welcome to Fife shared details of the Bowhouse Market in March which had a coasts and waters theme.

Visit East Lothian used Valentine’s Day to highlight the region’s locally caught seafood served up in award winning restaurants.

Related links