True Highlands Blog
2020 is Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters. Something that we’re not short of in Scotland – and we don’t just mean the rain! With endless sea lochs, firths and islands, Scotland’s coastline is a whopping 10,250 miles (16,500 km) including its 790 islands, and 31,460 freshwater lochs and lochans are scattered throughout the country.
Water – whether it’s coastal seas or inland lochs – is what makes Scotland special. It gives us world-class drinking water and its variety – whether crisp and clean or rich and peaty – lends variety to our famous Scottish whisky (or uisge-beatha – ‘water of life’). Scotland’s climate – while notorious for its rain – supports luscious landscapes including Atlantic oak rainforests, Caledonian pine and birch woodlands, and glens and ravines filled with ferns and mosses. It feeds rivers that come tumbling down from the hills filled with peat from the mountain soils, crashing over spectacular waterfalls. Our coasts are as stunning as they are diverse and support rich coastal and marine life that can be spotted form our shores swimming, leaping, hunting and basking.
Scotland has a seafaring past and our coasts were once the highways of the country, as settlers came and Scots emigrated by boat, navigating the narrow coastal inlets and islands. Ancient Kingdoms were based on the islands and labyrinthine west coast of the Highlands, and rulers established castles perched on clifftops and islands to guard their lands. Evidence of these power battles is still being unearthed today – Viking ships and treasure buried in dunes, ancient artefacts discovered in castle ruins, and unique buildings such as brochs that are still not fully understood by archaeologists today.
Festivals across the Highlands celebrate coastal life and the rich resources it provides Highlanders. The Scottish Series brings together yachters from across Scotland and beyond to race in the stunning waters of Loch Fyne. Tarbert Seafood Festival in Argyll and the Food of the Sea Festival in Assynt celebrate the world-class seafood that is harvested off our coasts. Perhaps the most spectacular is Up Helly Aa in Shetland, a festival that celebrates the archipelago’s Norse history by building and burning an iconic Viking longboat.
Wildlife is abundant in our coastal waters. Otters can be spotted in rivers, freshwater lochs and in coastal waters – particularly on rocky shores where they can hunt among the kelp forests. Dolphins and whales can be seen, some year-round and others as summer visitors. The Moray Firth is one of the best places to see bottlenose dolphins from the shore – and the population that lives in the Firth contains the largest of these species in the world! Orca can be spotted hunting, particularly off Orkney and Shetland but also the west coast and Hebrides, and occasionally down the east coast as far as the Moray Firth. Seabirds including white-tailed eagles, skuas, gannets, puffins and razorbills congregate in huge numbers on cliff faces and rocky islets each summer, and their dramatic dives into the waves below are spectacular to watch.
There are endless opportunities to enjoy our coastal and inland waters. Coastal paths throughout the Highlands lead you along sandy beaches, towering clifftops and rugged rocky shores. Boat trips will take you out beyond the shoreline to admire the wildlife and scenery that the coast has to offer. For the more adventurous, there is diving, snorkelling, coasteering, kayaking, paddle-boarding, canoeing, white water rafting… you name it! We might be a nation famous for our rain, but it certainly does provide plenty of benefits when it comes to getting out and enjoying the water.
If you’re visiting in 2020, make sure to join in the celebrations for Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters and take advantage of what they have to offer – whether that’s fresh seafood, a dram of whisky, stunning scenery, peaceful island trips or adventurous sports!Tags: #ycw2020, coastal wildlife, scotch whisky, scotlands coast, scotlands waters, scottish lochs, sealife, visitscotland, water sports