VisitScotland reveals most popular seaside activities

Three generations of the Giacopazzi family enjoy some fish and chips and ice cream from their 121-year-old eatery in Eyemouth, Scottish Borders

LISTENING to the sound of waves, eating fish and chips and watching the world go by are the nation’s favourite things to do by the seaside, according to a recent survey. 

VisitScotland is encouraging visitors to recreate treasured times from their childhood summers by taking a holiday at the seaside this year.

YouGov* research commissioned by the national tourism organisation, as part of the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21, found that two-thirds of UK adults named listening to the sound of waves as their top choice (66 per cent), followed by tucking into a chippy (62 per cent) and seeing the world go by (61 per cent). While 57 per cent of people liked eating ice cream and a further 57 per cent also liked strolling the boardwalk.

The survey revealed that 98 per cent of UK adults have been to the seaside and despite The UK’s, at times, unpredictable weather, 38 per cent of people also like to sunbathe at the seaside.

Visitors are being urged to indulge in some seaside nostalgia during the Year of Coasts and Waters and visit the towns and villages of their past as part of a staycation and help the tourism industry as it recovers from the devastating impact of COVID-19. 

Suggested locations include:  

  • Nairn – This is a relaxing and friendly seaside resort in the Scottish Highlands, blessed with three beautiful beaches, stunning scenery and two championship golf courses. One of the sunniest and driest places in Scotland, Nairn is a popular family holiday destination and an ideal base for walking, cycling, touring the Highlands and golfing. Located on the Moray Firth, at the edge of the sand-floored Culbin Forest, a visit to Nairn can bring you a surprising array of Highland wildlife-watching opportunities, including dolphins, seals and some remarkable birdlife. The historic Fishertown area of Nairn gives an insight into life during the early 19th century herring boom, and you can find out more about the area’s history at Nairn Museum. The town is also home to charity Scottish Exotic Animal Rescue which welcomes visitors.
  • Macduff – Macduff is a small coastal town in Aberdeenshire, situated on Banff Bay looking out to the vast Moray Firth. Linked by the seven-arch Deveron Bridge, the town is less than a mile from its neighbour, Banff, and is known for its fishing industry heritage. The centre of town revolves around the harbour where freshly caught seafood can be bought from local fishmongers, traditional fish and chip shops, or tasted at bars and restaurants. Pay a visit to the Macduff Marine Aquarium or spend a quiet morning at the historic Tarlair Outdoor Swimming Pool to the east of the town, offering walks, atmospheric views and flashback in time to when the pool first opened in 1931. Or for a more relaxing holiday, why not admire the stunning views after a stroll to the top of the Hill of Doune.
  • Arbroath – The historic harbour of Arbroath in Angus remains in action today and long beaches and stunning sandstone cliffs stretch out on either side of the town. The town is famous for The Declaration of Arbroath, one of the most important documents in Scotland’s history which is closely associated with the town’s impressive Arbroath Abbey (currently closed to visitors). To celebrate The Declaration’s 701st anniversary this year, the town is holding the Arbroath 2020+1 Festival ( The Signal Tower Museum, within the original shore station for the Bell Rock Lighthouse, tells the story of the lighthouse itself and of the local fishing and maritime industries. The town is famous for the Arbroath smokie (smoke-cured haddock) which is prepared in a number of family-run smokehouses tucked in around the harbour.
  • Stranraer – Stranraer has a long history as a ferry port and the town is situated at the head of Loch Ryan. The town has many shops and there are plenty of places to dine out too. There are several eye-catching artworks in the area surrounding the castle and Stranraer Museum can be found in the old town hall. Although currently closed, the Castle of St. John, a ruined four-story tower house built around 1500, which sitting on a green in the main street. Three miles east of Stranraer are Castle Kennedy Gardens, with the castle, two lochs, a giant lily pond and an avenue of monkey puzzle trees. Logan Botanic Garden sits 13 miles south of the town and is home to exotic ferns and palms and boasts a beautiful walled garden.
  • Eyemouth – The historic town of Eyemouth, five miles north of the border with England in the Scottish Borders, boasts a natural harbour and fine coastal scenery. Fishing at Eyemouth dates back to the 13th century and the harbour is still active with its colourful fleet. The solitary mansion of Gunsgreen House on the south side of the harbour was at the centre of 18th century smuggling in wine, spirits, tea and tobacco. It has been a visitor attraction since 2009 along with Eyemouth Museum based in the town’s Auld Kirk, which traces the area’s fishing and social heritage.
  • Burntisland -Located in Fife, the town of Burntisland is home to a beautiful sandy beach. Perfect for relaxing, walking and families, the town and beach can be easily reached by train and also sits on the Fife Coastal Path. The experience is enhanced by a modern leisure centre, seaside park and crazy golf course. Along the high street you’ll find several takeaways, cafés and pubs. The 12th century Rossend Castle and the 16th century Mary Somerville’s House (named after the pioneer of women’s education who lived there in the late 18th century), are worth a look (though closed for inside visits) along with the octagonal towered Parish Church, reputedly the first new post-Reformation church in Scotland. For the best views across the Forth, head up The Binn, the hill which overlooks the town.
  • Irvine – Boasting an award-winning sandy beach and a bustling town centre, Irvine has something for everyone. The beautiful stretch of golden sand is found at the mouth of the River Irvine near Irvine Railway Station. Irvine itself was made a Royal Burgh in 1372 by Robert II and is now a busy town with important historical and maritime connections. It now houses the main site of the Scottish Maritime Museum, located in a former shipyard building. And Eglinton Country Park, which boasts miles upon miles of paths and bridleways, perfect for pleasant walks, horse rides or cycles. For kids, there is a great play area which is also wheelchair friendly.

Other recent findings by VisitScotland showed that almost two thirds of people are keen to revisit places in Scotland that they haven’t been to for years. With some doing so in a different way either by trying new activities such as paddle-boarding or canoeing or by staying in different accommodation such as glamping or a luxury hotel. 

Not only is Scotland’s seaside home to cherished memories for many, it is also where numerous multi-generational tourism businesses have been serving customers for decades, dishing out the ice cream, the fish and chips and the bucket and spades. As well as new businesses creating exciting fresh ways to experience Scotland’s coasts and waters. 

Chris Greenwood, VisitScotland Senior Tourism Insight Manager, said: “As we celebrate the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21 there’s never been a better time to visit the seaside. Scotland’s coastline is stunning, full of golden sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, spectacular marine life and lots of history and heritage. 

“It is where families have holidayed for generations and with so many holidaying at home this year, we’re increasingly seeing people seeking out experiences that they maybe haven’t enjoyed since childhood, coupling nostalgia with a desire to recreate new memories with loved ones.  

“The seaside is the perfect spot to embrace water wellness and enjoy a break away from it all while being mindful of water safety. In the wake of COVID-19, it is important that Scots support local businesses, and Scotland’s seaside locations are ready to welcome visitors on a staycation, serving stunning scenery, mouth-watering food and drink or a totally new experience.” 

Peter Giacopazzi, director of Giacopazzi’s in Eyemouth, said: “Nothing gives us more pleasure than hearing from customers whose family has visited our business over the years – so many people tell us they used to visit as children with their parents or grandparents, and now they bring their own children and grandchildren.

“To hear that a visit to our business is part of their holiday rituals really makes us smile – how lucky are we to be sharing in all their lives in some small way. 

“We are so grateful for the additional support these visitors bring each year – with many of them coming to see family who live locally as well.

“As a family business with several generations continuing on our traditions and preserving our heritage, the support we receive from locals and visitors alike is what sustains our business. 

“We are proud to call Eyemouth our home and to live somewhere so beautiful and special that people want to come and experience a part of it and we try to encourage them to do so whilst respecting our local community and environment.”

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