Information and Advisory Note Number 147 Back to menu
1.1 Scotland has an outstanding coastline
with great scenic grandeur and high wildlife value. It stretches for 16,518 km, with
1,779 km of rocky coast and 43,000 ha of sand dune (including machair).
1.2 The coastal resort developed in Victorian times, as the main holiday destination for most Scots, providing a range of managed facilities and recreations. Since the 1970s there has been a steep decline in holidaying at these traditional destinations. However, the coast remains a popular destination for day trips, being accessible from the main cities which are all at, or close to, the sea.
1.3 As well as swimming and sun-bathing, our coastal waters provide for outstanding sailing, diving, sea-kayaking and wildlife tourism in often wild and challenging settings.
2.1 Visitor numbers
2.1.1 The UK Day Visits Surveys (Greene, 1998; SCPR, 1998, 1999) demonstrate the continuing appeal of coastal recreation. The sample sizes are too small for trends to be inferred with confidence, but the data suggests that visits to the coast increased between 1994 and 1998.
2.1.2 More detailed information is available for a few locations. Data from electronic counters at East Lothian coastal sites show a steady increase in the number of visitors between 1992 and 1999 (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Visitors to East Lothian coastal sites. Source: East Lothian Council.
2.2.1 The entire seaboard of Scotland supports a thriving network of sailing clubs, but activity is disproportionately concentrated in the west. East coast sailing generally requires a greater degree of experience, because many of the smaller harbours are not accessible at all states of the tide. On the north coast sailing is more limited due to the inhospitable waters.
2.2.2 The west coast of Scotland is increasingly becoming the location for major competitive events such as the World and European Sailing Championships, with single events often attracting up to 5,000 competitors. Venues elsewhere in the country have also catered for competitive events, for example, the World Power Boating Championships held in 1997 on the Tay Estuary and the International Tall Ships Race on the Firth of Forth.
2.3 SCUBA diving
2.3.1 Diving takes place all around the Scottish coastline, although it is particularly popular on the west coast. Waters there are sheltered, and often clearer, and numerous marked wrecks provide a focus for diving expeditions.
2.4 Marine wildlife tourism
2.4.1 No trend data is available, but participation is believed to be growing. In 1996, an estimated 1.65 million person days were spent on marine wildlife tourism in the Highlands and Islands. This generated £57 million, supporting 2,660 jobs (Masters et al., 1998).
2.4.2 Activity is concentrated in areas with relatively fragile, peripheral economies, such as the north-west coast of Sutherland and Argyll and the islands. It provides a valuable opportunity to bring additional revenue to such areas, especially out of season when their economies are more vulnerable.
2 5 Bathing water quality
2 5.1 A high quality environment is vital to coastal recreation and tourism. The major cause of pollution in Scottish coastal waters is sewage effluent, which can lead to high levels of bacteria. Tourists are becoming more aware of this potential health risk, and may avoid areas known to be polluted, especially if there is sewage related debris on the beach.
2.5.2 Under the EU Bathing Waters Directive, bathing waters are identified, and their quality monitored regularly. Results for 23 bathing
waters, monitored since 1988, are shown in Figure 2 (SEPA, 1999).
2.5.3 Major investment in sewage treatment
should help greatly to improve water quality.
The number of monitored waters is small in
comparison with the length of the Scottish coast, and most are in popular, accessible locations. Much of the coast is more remote, and distant from pollution sources.
Figure 2. Number of bathing waters passing mandatory standards. Source: SEPA (1999).
2.6 Beach litter
2.6.1 Beach litter can be hazardous to both wildlife and people and a matter of concern to visitors
2.6.2 The Beachwatch project has monitored litter on UK beaches annually since 1993 (Marine Conservation Society, 1993-1999). The volume of litter has fluctuated from year to year, with peaks in 1994 and 1998 (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Items of litter per kilometre. Source: Marine Conservation Society (1993-1999).
3.1 The UK Day Visit Survey, run in 1994, 1996 and 1998, includes data on visits
to the coast. The sample sizes are small, however, and cannot be used to draw
definite conclusions on trends (Greene, 1998; SCPR, 1998, 1999).
3.2 Visitor counter data for East Lothian coastal sites was provided by East Lothian Council.
3.3 Data on bathing water quality was derived from SEPA's 1999 report. Information on beach litter was taken from the Marine Conservation Society's reports 1993-1999.
Greene, D. (1998). Leisure Trips to the Scottish Countryside and Coast, 1994,
Scottish Natural Heritage Research Survey and Monitoring Report No. 42. Perth:
Scottish Natural Heritage.
Marine Conservation Society (1993-1999). Beachwatch - Nationwide Beach Clean and Survey Reports. Ross-on-Wye: Marine Conservation Society.
Masters, DĄ Nautilus Consultants & Carter, J. (1998). Marine Wildlife Tourism: Developing a Quality Approach in the Highlands and Islands. Unpublished report.
Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (1999). Scottish Bathing Waters. 1999 Bathing Water Quality Results. Stirling: SEPA.
Social and Community Planning Research (1998). UK Leisure Day Visits. Summary of the 1996 Survey Findings. London: Social and Community Planning Research.
Social and Community Planning Research (1999). UK Leisure Day Visits. Summary of the 1998 Survey Findings. London: Social and Community Planning Research.
Further detailed information on Natural Heritage Trends: Access and Recreation can be found in Information & Advisory Note No. 142.
To obtain further information about any of the issues raised in this l&A Note,
Ms Jeanette Hall (Author) or Mr Ed Mackey
Environmental Audit Group
Chief Scientist's Unit
Scottish Natural Heritage
2 Anderson Place
EDINBURGH EH6 5NP
Tel: 0131-446 2457
Fax: 0131-446 2405
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