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

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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 nine 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. Light Waves

Premiered on 17 October, and now available to watch online

Light Waves at Iona Abbey, Argyll & The Isles

Light Waves at Iona Abbey, Argyll & The Isles © Double Take Projections

Historic Environment Scotland are lighting Scottish history up like never before in an amazing online event. The stunning short film narrated in Scots, English and Gaelic premiered on YouTube and Facebook on 17 October and is now available to watch on YouTube. Light Waves explores the heritage and traditions associated with Scotland’s coasts and waters through poetry and a specially commissioned soundtrack.

2. Carry Me Home – A Ferry Tale

Broadcast on 27 October, and now available to watch online

Watch the premiere of Carry Me Home – A Ferry Tale, a moving journey of loss and acceptance from the National Theatre of Scotland. In this short film written by Seth Hardwick and Viv Gee, Mairi takes the last ferry home having found what she is searching for. Upon her return to the islands, the community embraces her. A poignant portrait of the welcoming heart of Scotland’s coastal communities, Carry Me Home was filmed on a CalMac ferry off the west of Scotland and features a stirring score with folk singer Josie Duncan. Produced as part of the theatre’s Ferry Tales project, this digital artwork  celebrates the coasts and waterways of Scotland’s western isles, and the countless voyages made by locals, workers and visitors each year.

3. Travelling Gallery: Shapes of Water Tour

On until 19 November

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 Steading Courtyard in Crieff, the Neilston Library in East Renfrewshire and Whale in Edinburgh in the next few weeks.

4. 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.”

5. Everything Flows

On until 15 December

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, which also includes some Screen Machine short film screenings, explores our relationship with Scotland’s coasts and waters and how we should seek to protect them for the future.

6. 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.

7. STORM Across Scotland

30 October and 6 November

Don’t miss this unique art and conservation project STORM as it continues its way around Scotland. Working with charity Trees for Life, visual theatre company Vision Mechanics has planted over 100 trees which trace the journey of their giant Sea Goddess as she spreads the urgent message of the need to tackle climate change and re-wild Scotland. Each tree represents a promise to do so, and in the process, create a new, greener future for our children as the saplings grow into a forest. Meet and greet Vision Mechanics and the extraordinary ten-metre high Sea Goddess at Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens on 30 October, and in Falkirk on 6 November, hosted by Falkirk Delivers. Please visit the website to book.

8. Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival

2 – 7 November

Abbotsford – The Home of Sir Walter Scott, near Galashiels

The Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival returns with a bang to the magnificent Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott. Boasting an impressive and diverse array of guests from the worlds of literature, politics, sport and broadcasting, don’t miss this fantastic book festival set against one of Scotland’s loveliest backdrops. This year’s line-up includes Paul Murton, Neil Oliver, Gavin Esler, Ed Balls, Jonathan Dimbleby, Ed Miliband, Hilary Mantel, Val McDermid, Mara Menzies, Gill Arbuthnott, and more. In keeping with the spirit of this year’s coasts and waters theme, attendees can hear Anna Deacon and Vicky Allan talk about their new book The Art of Wild Swimming, and Nick Morgan on his latest offering,  Everything You Need to Know About Whisky (but are too afraid to ask). Tickets are going fast, so book early to avoid disappointment.

9. SSF Scottish National Surfing Championships 2021

5 – 7 November

The SSF Scottish National Surfing Championships 2021 is due to take place this November at Thurso-East, a spectacular stretch of the coastline in northern Scotland. It’s a fantastic chance to watch the very best surfers from Scotland and elsewhere tackle the immense waves that make this spot famous among the surfing community. Entry for the event must be submitted online at and closes on the 1st of November 2021. Spaces are limited and will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please also note that compliance with Covid regulations is mandatory. Check the website and Facebook page for details and regular updates.

10. Water Music source to sea

7 – 13 November

Cello and violin duo Sequoia admire the waterfall at Rouken Glen Park

Violin and cello duo Sequoia admire the waterfall at Rouken Glen Park © Jack Harper

Violin and cello duo Sequoia present a sonic imagining of the journey taken by a raindrop as it travels along Scotland’s waterways. Water Music source to sea combines music by classical and folk composers, field recordings and Beka Globe’s bold photography, to immerse audiences in one of Scotland’s most iconic natural resources. The performers are Alice Rickards (violin) and Sonia Cromarty (cello).

Water Music catches and contributes to the momentum of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters and COP26 and premiere’s at Govan and Linthouse Parish Church on 7 November, with further performances at Glasgow University (11 November) and St Cyprian’s in Lenzie (13 November). You can also catch performances at Cowal Music Club in Dunoon on 6 February 2022 and Isle of Coll Music Group on 19 March 2022.

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