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Themed Years present a range of opportunities. A number of organisations used Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters to create funding programmes aligned to the theme.

We spoke to Gillian Macdonald, Head of Sales & Marketing at Historic Environment Scotland. She told us more about the organisation’s involvement with the Year of Coasts and Waters.

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

Historic Environment Scotland have participated in the themed years initiative since its inception. The organisation sees it as a great opportunity to collaborate with partners in and linked with the tourism industry.

As a result of having different themes the organisation have worked with a variety partners over the years. It also gives the organisation a chance to promote different sites across their portfolio and different aspects of its work.

This creates new reasons to visit and potentially attracts different audiences.

Can you tell us about the Coasts and Waters Heritage Fund?

At the start of 2020, Historic Environment Scotland established a support fund linked with the theme of the year. In October, the organisation announced that it would award a special collection of grants.

In the end, £194,349 was awarded to 18 organisations and community projects across Scotland. These grants were designed to help them:

  • increase their community’s engagement with Scotland’s coastal or waterway heritage
  • build the resilience of their local coastal or waterway heritage for future generations
  • promote knowledge about their local coastal or waterway heritage at risk of loss due to climate change
Blackness Castle, West Lothian

What other things did you create around the Themed Year?

A lot of activity was around delivering digital content. This necessity stemmed from the fact that the sites were closed for the early part of the visitor season.

Historic Environment Scotland thus developed a section on its website for all related content.

Throughout the year, the organisation exhibited fascinating collections of photography from their archives. These were related to Scotland’s coasts and waters. It also posted themed blogs and social media posts.

Historic Environment Scotland featured articles in our quarterly membership magazine. It also developed a retail product range currently available on their online shop.

The organisation funded a website with underwater footage of the Queen of Sweden shipwreck off the coast of Shetland. The site includes 3D scans to allow you to “dive” to the shipwreck.

The organisation also opened a touring exhibition at the Shetland Museum in February. Using its archives, it explored Scotland's relationship to the sea and its impact on everyday life.

The exhibition then moved to Fort George between the end of October until the end of January 2021.

What do you have planned for 2021?

Historic Environment Scotland works on a plan for opening next season and how it can promote the theme with activity at its sites.

It was fortunate to receive funding to run a Themed Year's event and plans to reschedule it into 2021.

The organisation works through how the event will be reimagined to work in the context of the new events guidance. It also aim to retain the creative approach of digital projection and music.

There are also plans to continue to tour the exhibition at Fort George. There are talks to stage other exhibitions throughout the year.

Skara Brae, part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney world heritage site by the Bay of Skaill, Orkney

Rangers’ events are held annually at Holyrood, Linlithgow and on Orkney. It will also form a key part of the Year of Coasts and Waters programme given one of the key strands is a focus on the natural environment.

The organisation continues to integrate Year of Coasts and Waters in their marketing. The focus lies on coastal, water linked sites to deliver content, themed itineraries and encourage visits.

The theme also offers a key opportunity to focus messaging on initiatives linked with our climate change objectives.

Find out about the Year of Coasts and Waters activities on

Other organisations which created Themed Year funding opportunities

National Lottery Heritage Fund

Funding went to Edinburgh’s science centre Dynamic Earth for an immersive exhibition about our deep-sea marine life. The Hebridean Whale Trail received funding to redevelop the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust Centre.

Scotland’s first community-driven maritime rewilding project was also awarded funding.

This helped local people and businesses get involved in growing up to one million native oysters over five years in a loch on the mid-Argyll coast. An award went towards restoring the Plock parkland near the Skye Bridge.

A community project on the Island of Gigha received funding to develop foot and cycle access.

The Gateway in Tobermory received an award to tell the story of Scotland’s precious marine environment in both English and Gaelic.

Read about the fund's projects on

Museums Galleries Scotland

Museums Galleries Scotland encouraged venues across Scotland to celebrate the Themed Year. Programmes included  the Festivals Fund and Small Project Fund and Museum Development Fund.


NatureScot developed a special programme of activities and projects, launching a £150,000 Plunge In! Coasts and Waters Community Fund to help communities mark the year in style.

The fund generated a huge amount of interest and ultimately funded 25 new projects across the country.

Projects included river rangers, ocean-inspired artwork, saltmarsh stories and sea safaris. Other projects featured Gaelic song and orca watching.

View the Plunge In! Coast and Waters Community Fund Story Map on

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