30 MAY 2019: With over 800 islands, it’s only natural that Scottish tourism would eventually cast a line to its coastal heritage. As such, VisitScotland has declared that 2020 will be the Year of Coast and Waters. “If you look a map, you can see how close you are to the sea at pretty much all times,” observes the tourist board’s Michael McCuish.

The thematic year follows an off year in 2019 as Visit Scotland declares themes in alternate years. 2018 was the Year of Young People and 2022 will be the Year of Stories.

In the meantime, it will be water, water everywhere, as the country’s tourism industry shines a light on its marine and maritime heritage.

McCuish points out, for example, that his hometown is part of Scotland’s little-known Seafood Trail on the west coast, where “a lot of the time, you’re catching it in the morning and eating it at lunch time. I love that seafood is so fresh.”

He adds that sustainability will be a big part of the spotlight, as will gin and whiskey, which “is obviously a big part of our culture and comes from the water.”

The coastal theme plays into VisitScotland’s desire to mitigate the effects of over-tourism by encouraging visitors to forgo (or limit their time at) at tourism hotspots like Edinburgh and discover lesser-known areas of the country.

To that end, the tourist board has created two new tourism trails:

•  South West Coastal 300: Covering “Robbie Burns country,” and featuring Peter Pan Moat Brae, Caerlaverock and Culzean castles, Logan Botanic Gardens, Dark Sky Observatory, Wigtown Book Town, and much more, the area is “probably somewhere that international visitors haven’t had a chance to explore.”

•    North East 250: On the “tip of the single malt whiskey trail” and in the heart of “castle country,” highlights of this route include the whiskey distilleries of Speyside, Cairngorms national (dark sky) park, over 260 castles including the castles of Royal Deeside, Aberdeen, and rugged North Sea coastline with its quaint seaside villages. “It almost looks lunar in parts,” observes McCuish. “It’s sublime, take your breath away and absolutely stunning.”

The tourist board is also encouraging visitors to take advantage of its status as “the home of golf” by forgoing iconic (and crowded) links like St. Andrews and playing at its lesser-known gems, like Moray, Ballindollach, Montrose, Selkirk and Portpatrick. “There are so many golf courses to play at, and some of them are free,” says McCuish.

Travelling in shoulder and winter seasons are also good ways to beat the crowds, and at the same time experience some of the country’s amazing festivals, such as Hogmanay.

McCuish notes that VisitScotland has a dedicated travel trade web team to assist travel counsellors and tour planners with full detail available at visitscotlandtraveltrade.com or by e-mailing traveltrade@visitscotland.com.

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Michael Baginski

Editor, Mike Baginski is well known and well respected within the industry across Canada, the US, in the Caribbean, Mexico and numerous other destinations outside North America.

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