One of the areas in which Scotland punches well above its global weight is in terms of length of coastline it has at its disposal.

We enjoy 11,800km of sea-battered shoreline in Scotland. That’s 369% of England’s 3200km, 155% of Italy’s 7,600km, 161% of France’s 7,330km, 183% of Ireland’s 6,437km, approximately 66% of China’s £18,000km and infinitely bigger than Switzerland’s, Bolivia’s or Belgium’s 0km. Indeed our shores are so lovely in some places that a Carribbean country decided to use Scottish beaches in its tourist drive rather than its own sought-after sandy enclaves. On the 4.5 hour East Coast train stretch it is surely the sea-hugging 45 minutes down to Berwick that awards the best views.

In my sadly-not-so-recent travelling adventures there were several highlights, chief amongst them were swimming with dolphins, checking out the surfing at Bondi beach, eating some glorious fish and island hopping off the Vietnamese coast. Once in a lifetime some would say but, with a little bit of imagination and effort, all of the above could be permanent fixtures in any Scottish travelling itinerary thanks to our coast.

Whales, Dolphins and Sharks
I don’t know what it is about these creatures but there is a child-like delight in scanning the waves off the West coast (and parts of the East) knowing that there is a fair chance you may see one of them leap out from the watery depths.

Sadly hundreds of these animals, the dolphins in particular, are killed each year due to unsustainable fishing practises which are regrettably continuing, hopefully criminally so.

The healthier and livelier our seas and oceans are then the more likely that a gazing onlooker (tourist or otherwise) will enjoy that delightful experience of seeing that basking shark or pod of bottlenose dolphins.

That opportunity can be bottled, sold and banked for Scotland’s benefit, not to mention the personal benefits that living alongside a thriving nature brings.

Scotland is sitting on a surfing goldmine and really is behind the curve in terms of utilising it to its full potential. One of my top highlights of my long period of living in Edinburgh was heading out to Dunbar to pick up a lesson on Belhaven Beach. 25 degree sunshine, 6 foot waves and regular drifts, it was perfect conditions and I was regrettably only one of two out there enjoying the free gift on that Saturday afternoon.

I see no reason why Dunbar, in time, can’t be an unmissable stopping off point for Lonely Planet-wielding backpackers travelling to the UK. A sweep of beachfront similar to that of Bondi Beach in Sydney, a headland perfectly ripe for a Surf School and restaurant/recreational village and only 15 minutes by train from Edinburgh City Centre. If I win the lottery I’ll be straight up there to get cracking on it.

This is of course to overlook Orkney, Thurso, Shetland etc; all world-class surfing locations that are a long way off realising their full potential and not yet luring enough bodacious, Quiksilver-clad thrill-seekers to their coastlines.

I was perhaps spoiled for seafood restaurants when I lived down at The Shore in Edinburgh with Kings Wark, Fishers, The Ship, Creelers, Teuchter’s Landing and Café Fish all less than three minutes away from my front door. That is to brazenly overlook the Michelin award winning Martin Wishart and Tom Kitchen which I was unable to save up enough pennies for.

It would be great if we saw an increase in line-caught fish and a decrease in mass-produced, processed seafood that relies on questionable catching techniques. We are blessed with bountiful waters and the efforts to protect them have been heartening. Why not really push our fishing heritage and pedigree further by including how to gut, fillet and cook a fish in the High School syllabus? Shouldn’t a country that boasts such a remarkable coastline ensure that it has those rudimentary seafood skills? It would certainly beat the Bran Cakes and Lentil Soup that I remember making as a jaded pupil in Home Economics class, a subject I got an F in despite my now being a keen cook.

Scotland has 790 islands. A quite remarkable tally and once again a thumping defeat over Switzerland, Belgium and Bolivia. I am loathe to say they are underused, two couples I know of honeymooned on two of them this very year, but their value, although largely qualitative, is something that should be considered and even quantified where possible.

Could we run more ambitious, more tourist-friendly island cruise boats? Old junk boats snaking through Harrs, Rum and Eigg at a leisurely pace with well chosen activities and areas of historic interest along the way? Maybe such events already exist but if all we are relying on to get around off the West coast is the reliable, no-nonsense CalMac, then I think there’s more that could be achieved.

It’s difficult to put into words the frustration that living away from a coastline brings with my now being based in London. The Thames, you won’t be surprised to hear, just doesn’t cut it somehow. Scotland’s coastline needs to be treasured, cultivated, leveraged, protected and enjoyed as much as possible and while this is generally the case already, there is so much more that can be realised from it.

So pick up that surf board, that fishing rod, those boardies or that CalMac explorer pass, cast off the bowlines and enjoy.

(Note – Yes, those photos really were taken in Scotland)