Scotland’s Magic Year of Coasts and Waters

In Scotland, you’re never far from water.

coasts with boats Scotland sunset

There’s Loch Ness with its mysterious waters, Loch Lomond with its classic song, lighthouses at the coasts, passages across to many islands. There are rivers, too, the Clyde, the Tay, the Forth, the Dee, and the Spey among them, along with streams, lochans, waterfalls… Scotland’s ways of life are, and have been through time, influenced and been influenced by Scotland’s waters.

In 2020, it will be Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters. There will be all sorts of events, some will be ongoing, some one off.

–> Update: Many events have moved online, or have been reset for 2021. Links to individual events, and to Visit Scotland pages, will help you keep up to date with plans. You may also do a search on the web for your favourite event if it is not linked here. People are finding creative ways to carry on. There’s still loads to learn and enjoy about the Year of Coasts and Waters.

Museums will hold exhibits, film festivals will host special strands, seafood dishes will feature on menus. Along the way there will be a focus on education and celebration about sustainable uses of Scotland’s water resources, too. It’ll be, as people in Scotland often say about wonderful things, magic.

You can look forward to the British and Scottish National Surfing Championships, up north in Thurso. Along the Clyde near Glasgow, communities up and down the river will join in the events of Scotland’s Boat Show, which will for the first time extend into night hours when illuminated boats will gather off shore at Kip Marina to form a display to be known as River of Light.

There will be a new family festival in north Ayrshire in the southwest of the country, called Making Waves. Also in Ayrshire, the National Trust for Scotland will offer a sea creature trail at Culzean Castle through which visitors will have the chance to explore the castle ground’s beaches, ponds, and woodlands.

scotland coasts lochinver

The Edinburgh Science Festival will have a series of events and exhibits in a strand called Water for Life. Sea Tamagotchi, a language project in collaboration with Galway, Ireland’s 2020 European Capital of Culture, will focus on endangered words and place names, especially from Scotland’s Western Isles. If you happen to be traveling to those Western Isles, or elsewhere on a Caledonian MacBrayne ferry route, you might get to see a pop up play about stories of those who travel the waters created by the National Theatre Scotland.

“Thousands of Scots and visitors make ferry crossings every year,” said National Theatre Scotland’s artistic director Jackie Wylie, “and we are excited about the opportunity with he support of CalMac and their ships, to create Ferry Tales, a theatrical project which explores the stories behind these journeys.”

Speaking of words, stAnza, Scotland’s international poetry festival, based in Fife, will have programs celebrating poets whose works focus on waters. There will be many events in Shetland and in Orkney too, and nearby in Caithness on the mainland you could enjoy the Northern Lights Festival’s water themed events at Wick Harbour. Over on Isle Martin near Ullapool there’ll be a seaweed festival.

There will be DolphinFest in Aberdeen, a regatta in Fife, a seaside opera, a festival of the history of canals at the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel, and RowAroundScotland in which a thousand rowers will travel in stages along the coasts.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness will be a site for events and exhibiits to do with history and legends of the lochs and the seas created by Historic Environment Scotland. Along the River Tay, there will be a summer filled with water sports, and the Glasgow Canal Festival will celebrate Glasgow’s many cultures and the beauty of the canal.

The Royal National Mod, which celebrates Scotland’s Gaelic language and culture, will be held in Inverness in 2020. Among the ways the Mod will join in the celebration of Scotland’s waters is by offering a Gaelic walking tour of Inverness, as well as a program which explores myth, legend, music, and song of the waters.

autumn river scotland highlands year of coasts waters

One of the earliest events of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters takes place within the Celtic Connections Festival, in January at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Known as Coastal Connections , this will be a full day of talks, workshops, exhibits, and music. The music will feature songs connected to the waters by musicians who themselves have connections to waterborne and waterbound places.

“Landscape and culture are very closely linked,” pointed out Celtic Connections creative producer Donald Shaw, “and since Celtic communities have often been island or shore based, there’s a strong maritime element to many Celtic songs and legends. Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters is a great opportunity to explore that rich heritage through music and drama.”

Among the musicians participating in this celebration of Scotland’s Coasts and Waters are Capercaillie, Skerryvore, Ingrid Henderson, Gnoss, Fara, Julie Fowlis, and Gillian Frame.

Here’s a bit of music to get you started on joining in the year of Scotland’s Coasts and Waters:

In this video from a few years back, Julie Fowlis sings Tha mo ghaol air àird a’ chuain/ My love is on the high seas, which you may find on her album Mar a Tha Mo Chridhe /As My Heart Is.

Hamish Napier plays his tune Spey Cast, inspired by the River Spey, which you may find on his album The River.

Keep up with what is going on during Scotland’s Year of Coasts an Waters by checking the Visit Scotland page about the year, and seek out the organizations and places mentioned above. I plan to bring you more stories about Scotland’s waters as the year of celebration unfolds too.

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