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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 14/12/2020

Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 was designed to sustain and build upon the momentum of past Themed Years to spotlight, celebrate and promote opportunities to experience and enjoy Scotland’s unrivalled coasts and waters, encouraging responsible engagement and participation from the people of Scotland and our visitors. 

Early 2020

The Year of Coasts and Waters got off to an encouraging start in January 2020 with strong engagement from the tourism and events.  

The supported events programme saw Vision Mechanics’ STORM, a ten-metre tall sea goddess, travel from the River Clyde to Glasgow’s Concert Hall; bringing thousands of people out to meet her ahead of a sold-out, coastal-themed Festival Day at Celtic Connections. In early March, StAnza Poetry Festival’s Coast Lines programme delighted audiences in St Andrews.  

The Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 funded events programme originally consisted of 40 celebratory events, which were due to take place throughout 2020. The COVID-19 outbreak had an immediate impact across the programme with the remaining events put on hold. 


Vision Mechanics – Storm © Neil Hanna

Digital innovation

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Scotland’s waters, rivers and seas have continued to flow, inspiring creativity, wellness and virtual exploration. Some event organisers used technology to connect with audiences and we saw supported events such as RowAround Scotland, Edinburgh Science Festival and Nevis Ensemble create innovative, online offerings.  

Within the Year of Coasts and Waters Partner Event Programme (a non-funded opportunity), the majority of the 100+ registered events had to cancel or postpone, but some, including Orkney International Science Festival, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival and Blas Festival chose to move online, attracting new audiences. 

South Breakwater Lighthouse from Aberdeen Beach
South Breakwater Lighthouse from Aberdeen Beach

Image credit VisitScotland/Kenny Lam

Industry engagement

Industry engagement and partnerships are core to Themed Years and throughout 2020 meetings continued with the Year of Coasts and Waters Steering Group and Working Group.  

Although events were suspended, there was an opportunity to provide communications support to industry partners, including NatureScot’s ‘Plunge In’ fund and 2021 calendar, RSPB’s Nature of Scotland awards and Marine Conservation Society’s BBC Springwatch blog. Other projects included HES’s Splash Back project and Scotland’s Coasts exhibition and Crown Estate Scotland’s Sustainable Communities Fund

The ‘Day in the Life’ series of monthly features continued throughout the year, focusing on those who work within a coasts and waters setting or industry. Interviews ranged from Nevis Ensemble and an RNLI coxswain to a marine conservationist and a champion oyster shucker, illustrating the wide reach of the Themed Years campaign. 


Glasgow Canal Festival © Peter Sandground

Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 flows into 2021

There was overwhelming support from partners for the Themed Year to continue into 2021 and discussions continue with all supported Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 events’ organisers to rescope and reshape the programme.  

On 3 December 2020, the announcement was made that the Themed Year would continue in 2021. A news story on VisitScotland.org presented an overview, while a revised Marketing Toolkit for industry was published, featuring FAQs, hints and tips and new case studies highlighting the way in which National Trust for ScotlandNatureScotDunnet Bay Distillery and Historic Environment Scotland had made the most of the Themed Year opportunity.  

Planning is now underway to ensure the supported and partner events programme, industry engagement and promotion of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters fulfils its potential in 2021.

Dunnet Bay
Dunnet Bay

Image credit VisitScotland/Kenny Lam