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Coast and seas

Wherever you are in Scotland, you’re never more than 65km from our dramatic, varied and highly productive coast and seas.

Scottish waters are a special place for marine habitats and wildlife, thanks to the combination of:

  • our position at the edge of the European continental shelf
  • Scotland’s long coastline and large area of sea
  • the mixing of warm Gulf Stream currents and cold currents

Glacial activity created our highly intricate coastline, which includes around 800 islands mostly off the west and north coasts. At about 18,000km long, our coastline would stretch from Scotland to Australia were all of its curves and creases straightened out.

Coastal habitats including sand dunes, cliff habitats, saltmarsh and saline lagoon are thus a very big part of the Scottish landscape. Machair is a remarkable living landscape that’s unique to Scotland and Ireland.

Scotland’s territorial seas (up to 12 nautical miles from the coast) cover an area greater than the Scottish mainland and islands added together. Our inshore and offshore waters combined make up 13% of all European seas and contain a staggering 8,000 species or more.