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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 03/12/2020

Scotland’s coasts and waters have shaped our rich history and heritage, and several organisations have made the most of this connection, using the Themed Year to engage with their customers and stakeholders.

We spoke to Clare Willis, Marketing Manager at the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) to find out more about NTS’s involvement with the Year of Coasts and Waters.

Why did NTS decide to get involved with Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21 and have you been involved with Themed Years previously?

The National Trust for Scotland has been involved with every themed year to date! Amongst others, we’ve celebrated Homecoming, Food & Drink, Innovation, Architecture & Design, our Young People and now our wonderful Coasts and Waters. Each of the themed years has given us the opportunity to showcase the amazing places in our care and inspire people to visit them.

Our properties have always been keen to get involved and look to tie in their activities to the theme. This can range from delivering a new event, through to a themed guided tour of our collections. In addition, we always seek out any PR opportunities and create new compelling content that can be shared with our audiences. 

What are the main activities, content or campaigns you’ve created around the Themed Year?

We were successful in our funding application for a flagship event ‘Culzean by the Sea’. The event was sadly postponed due to COVID-19 but has been rescheduled for next summer and we look forward to welcoming visitors to a new trail featuring specially commissioned wicker sculptures each linking to Culzean’s coastal ties such as mermaids from the days of piracy.

The Coasts & Waters subject has been woven into our communications and literature throughout the year and we’ve featured beautiful watery images on our member guidebook and digital channels. We’ve also commissioned new content for our website, social media and member magazine to highlight the people, places, wildlife and collections in our care that fit within the theme.

Culzean CastleCulzean Castle © National Trust for Scotland

What success stories have you experienced with your Themed Years activity?

The Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology was a stand-out year for us as we were able to link so many of our stories, people and places to the theme. We collaborated with the National Museums, Historic Environment Scotland and the Palace of Holyroodhouse to deliver a national campaign telling the story of the Jacobites. We jointly created a national trail to encourage people to visit 26 of the most famous Jacobite sites across Scotland. The campaign exceeded all targets, won numerous marketing and tourism awards and left us with a legacy of engaging content that is still in use today.

Have there been any unexpected outcomes?

A key element of our ‘Culzean by the Sea’ event was to deliver some school’s workshops led by the artist who was commissioned to create the sculptures. COVID-19 meant that this couldn’t happen, but we have embraced the ‘new norm’ and the artist will now deliver a virtual workshop via Zoom so the children can still get involved and be inspired to create their own artwork.

What do you have in plan for 2021?

We were delighted when VisitScotland confirmed it planned to roll the Year of Coasts & Waters into 2021 as this meant we could continue to use the theme to showcase our work and our places. Alongside our flagship event, we will have even more exciting new content to inspire people to visit and discover more about our places.

Beyond that we’re excited to look ahead to the Year of Scotland’s Stories in 2022 and will, no doubt, relish the opportunity to share some of the wonderful stories relating to the places in the care of the National Trust for Scotland.

The island of St KildaSt Kilda © National Trust for Scotland

Beyond NTS, a range of other organisations / businesses pro-actively engaged with the year.

The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland connected with the Themed Year highlighting archaeological events and activities with a strong connection to coasts and waters. An X-Class midget submarine at Aberlady and a submerged prehistoric forest at Benbecula are just a couple of the artefacts found in Scottish Waters which were highlighted in blogs on the Dig It! website. Other online content brought shipwrecks, castles and crannogs to life and the Society promoted initiatives such as a virtual tour created by the Wemyss Caves Group.

Many of Scotland’s museums chose to get involved with the Themed Year, using the opportunity to highlight their collections and programming in a new way. Museums Galleries Scotland supported museums to participate as part of a number of their funding streams. While COVID-19 meant that some plans for events and exhibitions were postponed, others were able to take place, such as the Scottish Fisheries Museum’s Sea Change exhibition. Originally intended as an exhibition to be enjoyed at the museum, the team worked hard to recreate the content in a digital format for a wide audience to enjoy during lockdown, exploring what the seas, and the fishing industry, will be like 50 years from now. Sea Change can now be experienced either in-person or online.

For 2020, Scotland’s annual Go Industrial Day  went digital with a Year of Coasts and Waters theme, with activities including live streams and social posts from the RRS Discovery, Scottish Fisheries Museum and Scottish Maritime Museum.

Armadale Museum on the Isle of Skye chose to celebrate Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 with the Coastal Castles of Clan Donald exhibition, which used prints, drawings, maps, photography and film from the museum archive to explore castles along Scotland’s Western Seaboard that have a particular association with Clan Donald.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) used the Year of Coasts and Waters to inspire both visitors and locals to explore their historic sites by Scotland’s stunning coasts and waters. From the high cliffs surrounding the grand medieval Tantallon Castle in East Lothian to the UNESCO World Heritage sites on the islands of Orkney, many of their sites are beautifully framed by lochs, rivers and the sea. You can find out more about HES’s Themed Year activities, ranging from online content, exhibitions and funding opportunities, in this case study.