13 Can’t Miss Year of Coasts and Waters Events in 2021

Scotland’s stunning coast, lochs, rivers and waterways are quite a draw for those who enjoy watersports and for those who just love to relax and appreciate their value in the landscape. These special places are also a huge source of inspiration for lovers of art, history and culture.

As part of our Year of Coasts and Waters celebrations, several event organisers have developed an amazing collection of events that showcase how our coasts and waters inspire them. From outdoor adventures and food from the islands, to dramatic light projection festivals and more, below are 13 events in Scotland you won’t want to miss this autumn.

The events below are just a few of  Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters full event programme.

1. Travelling Gallery: Shapes of Water Tour

from 4 September

The Travelling Gallery

The Travelling Gallery © Travelling Gallery

This year’s Travelling Gallery exhibition follows a watery theme. It showcases three exciting young artists, Suzie Eggins, Amy Gear and Rhona Mühlebach, and their expressions inspired by the Year of Coasts and Waters. The Shapes of Water exhibition explores our coasts and waters through drawings, sculpture, paintings and film. The Travelling Gallery will visit the leisure centre in Stonehaven and Summerlee Museum in North Lanarkshire in the next few weeks.

2. Light the North: The Lighthouse Trail

On until 17 October

Follow this unique trail through stunning parts of Aberdeenshire, Moray Speyside, Orkney and Shetland. There are 50 colourful and creatively designed lighthouse sculptures to discover and when the trail concludes, they will be auctioned off to raise funds for Clan Cancer Support. Don’t miss the ‘Doric Dalek’ in Aberdeen’s Bon Accord Centre, see ‘Two Worlds, One Scotland’ in Kirkwall Harbour in Orkney and admire ‘The Viking Path’ in Stonehaven.

3. Your Tay, Your Adventure, Perthshire

On until 17 October

Kayak tour down the River Tay to Newburgh

Kayak tour down the River Tay to Newburgh, Fife © Willowgate Activity Centre

The River Tay is Scotland’s longest river and Willowgate Activity Centre in Perth, are offering a fantastic programme of outdoor events focusing on the river, as part of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters celebrations. From open water paddleboarding trips and wild swimming sessions, to kayak tours and pond dipping events, enjoy this amazing waterway and learn more about it on your chosen experience. Just remember to book online in advance.

4. RowAround Scotland

On until 27 October

The Anstruther St Ayles skiff on Loch Shiel, Highlands

The Anstruther St Ayles skiff on Loch Shiel, Highlands © RowAround Scotland

The 70 member clubs of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association have been rowing round the coast of Scotland in their St Ayles skiffs this year to celebrate the Year of Coasts and Waters. These remarkable four-oared rowing boats are built by the communities that use them and each has undertaken a stage of the RowAround Scotland relay. A number of stages are still to be completed, so look out for community crews rowing by a shore near you.

5. Everything Flows

On until 31 October

Our Plastic Ocean exhibition at Street Level Photoworks

Our Plastic Ocean © Mandy Barker, courtesy of Street Level Photoworks

Street Level Photoworks, one of the UK’s leading photographic arts organisations, is co-ordinating several events and exhibitions in Glasgow, Oban and a number of venues along the Firth of Clyde as part of the Everything Flows photography trail. This captivating programme of events explores our relationship with Scotland’s coasts and waters and how we should seek to protect them for the future.

6. Launch! … on the sea with Scotland’s lifeboats

On until 25 November

Airing on a number of cinema screens across Scotland now, Launch is an archive film and video featuring a specially commissioned sountrack. It explores how the crews of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution help keep people safe at sea. And importantly, how those they leave behind on shore, help to support their local crew and shape the communities they live in. As the film’s producer, Shona Thomson, says – “It really does take a community to launch a lifeboat.”

7. Northern Lights Festival, Wick Harbour

8 – 16 October

See Wick Harbour and the Caithness coast as you’ve never seen them before with this brand new arts festival. An amazing projection show will light up the harbour and the festival, run by Lyth Arts Centre in Wick, also includes fascinating talks, performances and exhibitions. The 10-metre high puppet, STORM, will also tour the town on Monday 11 October.

8. The Royal National Mòd, Inverness

8 – 16 October

Visit Inverness and celebrate our unique Gaelic culture through song, dance, literature, sport and the arts. The Mòd, which has been running for well over 100 years, is Scotland’s premier Gaelic festival, and this year will feature a mix of live events and virtual competitions. Organised by An Comunn Gàidhealach, the Mòd moves venues each year and in 2021 Inverness and Eden Court Theatre will host a fantastic week of events. Look out for the Mòd Fringe too.

9. Light Waves

17 October, 7pm

Iona Abbey, Argyll & The Isles

Iona Abbey, Argyll & The Isles © Double Take Projections

Historic Environment Scotland are lighting Scottish history up like never before in what is sure to be an amazing online event. Featuring stunning light projections on some of Scotland’s finest historic buildings, the organisers will broadcast a short film on YouTube and Facebook narrated in Scots, English and Gaelic. Light Waves will explore the heritage and traditions associated with Scotland’s coasts and waters through poetry and a specially commissioned soundtrack.

10. Carry Me Home – A Ferry Tale

From 20 October

MJ Deans in Carry Me Home - A Ferry Tale

MJ Deans in Carry Me Home – A Ferry Tale © National Theatre of Scotland

Carry Me Home – A Ferry Tale is a new short film by Seth Hardwick that takes its inspiration from the coasts and waters around the west of Scotland and the timeless world of ferry travel. Filmed onboard a CalMac Ferry, the film follows Mairi (MJ Deans) as she takes the last ferry home to the islands, after she found what she was looking for, and the community supports her through loss, understanding and acceptance. The film will stream on the National Theatre of Scotland website and their social platforms from 20 October.

11. Hooley 5k – Scottish Canoe Association

23 October

Kayaking on Strathclyde Country Park, Motherwell

Strathclyde Country Park, Motherwell © AE Photos

Hooley/hoolienoun Informal: a wild or noisy party or “blowing a hooley” – strong winds! Calling all paddlers! The Scottish Canoe Association is organising this fantastic kayak racing event over a 5000 metre course, taking place in Strathclyde Country Park near Glasgow. As it’s an autumn event, you might expect the weather to be blowing a hooley and there may also be a few hooley’s after the racing is finished! Stick around on Sunday 24 October for a skills training session.

12. Taste of Shetland Festival

23 October

Head for Shetland this October and join this annual festival which celebrates the outstanding local larder of these remarkable islands. Organised by Shetland Food and Drink, there will be stalls to browse containing all manner of local produce, samples to try and local producers are always happy to chat about their delicious food and drink. Enjoy cookery demonstrations, talks and hands-on sessions for all ages and stock up on some Shetland delights to take home.

13. Paisley Hallowe’en Festival presents Out of this World

28 October – 1 November – 5 – 10pm

Ursula lassos the moon installation as part of Paisley's Hallowe'en celebrations

Ursula lassos the moon installation © Topher McGrillis

See Paisley’s town centre, and in particular the areas around iconic Paisley Abbey, the Town Hall and the River Cart, transformed by a collection of otherworldly and enchanting illuminated art installations. In Out of this World, look out for an alien invasion, a constellation of stars, creatures from the deep and even a ‘meteor shower’ over the River Cart in this free and fun family festival. This is a brilliant way to celebrate Hallowe’en in a slightly different and captivating way.

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13 Can’t Miss Year of Coasts and Waters Events in 2021