‘Plunge In’ to Year of Coasts and Waters

Seil Coastal Rowing Club will be helping complete the Argyll stretch of the relay route.

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Communities up and down the west coast of Scotland are being encouraged to make a splash in 2020 as events and projects come together and grants are offered to help celebrate Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters.

Scotland’s Themed Years have been running since 2009 as a way to celebrate a particular side to Scotland that is felt deserves recognition, and this year is the turn of coasts and waters. The idea of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 is to spotlight, celebrate and promote opportunities to experience and enjoy Scotland’s coasts and waters, while encouraging responsible engagement.

West Coast Waters, an initiative spearheaded by Argyll and The Isles Tourism Co-operative (AITC) and supported by funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), was successfully launched in 2019 to bring together representatives of over 2,500 tourism interests across the west coast.

The campaign will involve six high profile projects aimed at helping tourists explore the full range of visitor experiences along the length of Scotland’s west coast.

These projects include:

  • The Coast that Shaped the World – this project, which has already been awarded funding through the Natural Cultural and Heritage Fund, led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), will develop a website, app and programme of digital exhibitions along the west coast of Scotland. Stories of coastal communities will convey how maritime cultural, and natural, heritage helped to shape the world. Local stories will be mapped and gathered, creating a website and app to inspire potential visitors.
  • West Coast Waters Hopscotch Trail – in collaboration with ferry operator CalMac this project will see the development of the UK’s first island-hopping long-distance trail. Five circular itineraries will allow travellers to explore the islands and mainland coastline on a route tailored to their interests, including itineraries based on whisky tasting, wildlife and Gaelic culture.
  • West Coast Waters Baton Relay – sponsored by Scottish Salmon Company, the baton relay is an ambitious community-focused event. The relay will visit 20 communities, over 20 weekends between May and September.
  • Scavenger Hunt – where businesses have the chance to part of a treasure hunt that challenges participants to take in specific sights, places and experiences as they travel around coastal communities.
  • West Coast Waters Trails of Discovery – the promotion of new and existing visitor trails themed around the unique products and experiences available, including snorkel trails in the highlands; Argyll Sea Kayak Trail; the Hebridean Whale Trail; food and drink trails; cycling and walking trails; and the spectacular new sunset trail.
  • West Coast Waters 2020 promotional campaign – tying all of the West Coast Waters initiatives together and providing a link to the Year of Coasts and Waters will be an overarching promotional campaign, West Coast Waters 2020. The high-profile campaign has received a grant from VisitScotland Growth Fund and will be used to invite visitors to immerse their senses in the wealth and range of marine tourism opportunities on offer.

Carron Tobin, West Coast Waters project manager, said: ‘West Coast Waters is hugely exciting, with collaboration on a scale never experienced before.

‘We are all keenly looking forward to welcoming visitors to our coast and islands and helping them slow down, immerse their senses and explore the roads less travelled across the West Coast.’

For more information and to see how you can get involved with the Year of Coasts and Waters on the west coast visit www.westcoastwaters.co.uk

Also marking the occasion is SNH, as it launches a new £150,000 fund to help community groups join in the celebrations.

Plunge In! The Coasts and Waters Community Fund will offer a range of grants, from small pots for schools and youth groups to awards of up to £10,000, and applications are now open for community-led ideas that will engage and connect more people with Scotland’s seas, coasts, lochs, rivers, streams and wetlands, as well as their unique wildlife.

Projects might include plans for restoring habitats or promoting and celebrating local environments or wildlife, and should leave a legacy from the year, for example through improved skills and knowledge or the creation of a community resource.

Small grants of up to £500 will also be available to groups of young people to connect with nature by visiting on of Scotland’s many nature reserves.

SNH chief executive Francesca Osowska said: ‘As Scotland’s nature agency, we’re really excited about the Year of Coasts and Waters. There is so much to celebrate about our coastlines and waterways and we want to encourage and inspire people to explore and enjoy them.

‘We know communities up and down the country will want to celebrate the year in their own way but we recognise that some might lack the resources to do so.

‘This new fund is a fantastic opportunity for groups to get involved, be creative, help their local environment and wildlife and improve our coasts and waters.’

Applications for Plunge In! The Coasts and Waters Community Fund will be open until February 28.