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Dive in to enjoy Scotland's year of coasts and waters


By Nicky Marr


As we slide inevitably into a new decade (how did that happen?) we can be forgiven for wishing that things would get better.

The past 10 years haven’t been great in terms of news headlines. We’ve seen a devastating rise in the demand for food banks, public services are in crisis, we’re witnessing staff and funding shortages across our beloved NHS and children who need the greatest levels of support in our schools are being denied the help they need.

We’re on the brink of crashing out of Europe, still with little idea of the implications, while across the Atlantic, Donald Trump is likely to secure himself a second term in the White House, eroding the rights of women and minority groups as he goes.

And it can’t have escaped your notice that we are polluting our oceans, one throwaway plastic cup, bottle and bag at a time.

But when everything on a global scale seems hopeless, it can help to try and forget the big stuff that, for today, we can’t influence. I’m not suggesting that we turn our backs on politics or stop recycling, but instead of focusing on insurmountable problems, we should devote more energy to doing little things that make us feel better.

Here’s my feel-good list:

  • Laughing with family and friends or snoozing by the fire ‘watching’ a movie.
  • Cooking good food and then eating it – with greed and gusto.
  • Tidying out a cupboard and donating everything I’d forgotten I had.
  • Making a ‘to-do’ list and scoring off the things I’ve achieved.
  • Taking a walk, or a wetsuit swim. I rarely feel more alive than when I’m in or near water.

Luckily enough, water isn’t hard to find. In London they say you are never more than six feet away from a rat. I’d stake my life that in the Highlands and Moray we’re never more than a six-minute walk, drive or cycle from water.

Encouraging us to make the most of this amazing natural resource is VisitScotland’s latest initiative – 2020 is Scotland’s year of coasts and waters, celebrating one of our country’s greatest natural resources.

Whether it’s our dramatic coastline or our lochs, rivers, reservoirs, canals or peatbogs, as a small nation we are richer than most in the wet stuff. It falls from the sky to swell our lochs and rivers, making them rich feeding (and sporting) grounds for trout and salmon.

There are many ways of making the most of Scotland's year of coasts and waters, including kayaking in the Moray Firth. Picture: Explore Highland
There are many ways of making the most of Scotland's year of coasts and waters, including kayaking in the Moray Firth. Picture: Explore Highland

It creates the fertile farmlands that help our farmers rear and grow the food we eat. It gives us whisky too. And world class seafood is out there for the taking – although it’s a perilous business getting it to shore sometimes.

During Scotland’s year of coasts and waters, VisitScotland will entice us (and visitors from abroad, of course) to rediscover glorious beaches and bracing cliff walks. We’ll be pointed towards the hidden lochs and river trails that are right here on our doorstep and encouraged to enjoy the wildlife they attract. They’ll be suggesting we interact with water in new ways – money is being poured into watersports such as sailing, wild swimming, coasteering and kayaking. We just need to get out there and get on with it.

Water is part of Scotland’s DNA. It flows through the history of our nation. It’s no mistake that our major towns and cities are all on rivers – heavy industry on the Clyde built Glasgow; Aberdeen would be nothing without the Dee and the Don and North Sea fishing and oil, and harbour towns right around our coasts were built up largely to support a vibrant herring industry. Dundee has a past based, yes, on jam and journalism, but without the Tay there’d have been no jute in the city, nor would it have had a prosperous whaling fleet.

I’ve written before about the pull of the sea. I can see the Moray Firth from my bedroom window and Nairn, Rosemarkie and Cromarty’s beaches are within easy reach. It’s no coincidence that all my favourite motorhome parking spots are right on the shore.

There is nothing finer than to wake up within earshot of the rhythmic pounding of waves. It almost makes up for the howl of the herring gulls. One of my most treasured Christmas gifts was a wet-bag that doubles as a float… it means I can (if I feel brave enough) go wetsuit swimming on my own.

At the turn of a decade when everything else seems uncertain, we can rely on Scotland having water. So, get out in 2020 and make the most of it. Climb a waterfall, kayak along a canal, swim in the sea. Forget politics for a while and embrace the rain.

As Scots, we know there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.



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