Wave of the future – ‘Water Wellness’ in Scotland

Scotland could be set to ride the wave of a growing wellness trend, according to VisitScotland.

Water Wellness, also known as Blue Mind*, is linked to the positive influence water can have on our physical and mental health; the feeling of calm or peacefulness that is sparked when in or near water.

The national tourism organisation believes that due to its many lochs, rivers, canals and coastlines, Scotland is ideally placed to become one of the hottest destinations to embrace this movement.

New YouGov** research commissioned by VisitScotland, as part of the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21, found that almost three quarters of UK adults (73%) think that being near water can reduce stress levels, while nearly two thirds (65%) believe it can reduce anxiety and depression.

It also found that the most popular activity that UK adults would like to do on a holiday in Scotland to help them relax and unwind would be walking along a deserted beach (63%), followed by a walk in woodland (59%).

With miles of picturesque coastlines, over 30,000 lochs and other scenic waterways, VisitScotland believes the trend could provide a welcome boost to the country’s valuable tourism industry as it recovers from the devastating impact of COVID-19.

Throughout the pandemic, activities such as wild-swimming and paddle-boarding have grown in popularity as individuals consider new ways to look after their physical and mental health. Increasing evidence about the benefits of ‘cold water therapy’ on the body have also led to growing interest around spending time in ‘blue space’.

With that in mind, VisitScotland has launched new activity which aims to inspire visitors to embark on their own water wellness journey throughout Scotland, showcasing businesses and locations which offer water-based wellbeing experiences.

Chris Greenwood, VisitScotland Senior Insights Manager, said“Similar to forest bathing, water wellness is that connection to our natural resources and its impact on our physical and mental health. The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted the wellbeing of people all across the country and over the past year we’ve seen evidence of people embracing activities that help address this, such as the increasing popularity of wild swimming. 

With its remote lochs, breath-taking beaches and bustling waterways, Scotland is ideally placed to capitalise on the trend for water wellness and there is an exciting opportunity for businesses to benefit by promoting the experiences they can offer. 

Our research, inspired by the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21, demonstrates a recognised appreciation of the positive influence water can have on our wellbeing. Tourism has been one of the biggest economic casualties of COVID-19, and as the industry looks to recover, we will continue sharing inspiration and insights as to what visitors are looking for now travel is possible again.  Tourism and events will help to rebuild the Scottish population’s well-being – everyone deserves a holiday, and Scotland, and all it offers, will be the perfect antidote after lockdown.”

Water Wellness experiences include:

Wild swimming – Cold water therapy is a hot topic in the world of wellness thanks to its positive benefits on the mind, body and spirit but Scotland’s breath-taking beauty adds an extra special element to the experience. Suggested locations include Loch Morlich in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, as well as beaches such as Gullane and Eyemouth.

Paddle-boarding – Recognised as one of the fastest growing sports in the world, paddle-boarding is a great way to explore Scotland’s blue spaces, as well as keeping you active. Suggested locations include: Galloway Activity Centre (Dumfries & Galloway) Willowgate Activity Centre, (Perthshire) Adventure Carrick (Ayrshire) and Pinkston Watersports which offers visitors Stand Up Paddle-boarding experiences close to Glasgow city centre.

Kayaking/Canoeing/Wakeboarding – Regular exercise and staying active is the key to a healthy body and mind, fortunately Scotland is packed full of water-based adventures to help boost physical and mental wellbeing. Suggested locations:  Portnellan Farm on Loch Lomond, North Coast Watersports at Thurso, Port Edgar Watersports based at South Queensferry, Outdoor Explore, Perthshire and Foxlake Adventures in Dunbar, East Lothian.

Waterside walks – Scotland is famous for its stunning scenery and there is no better way to enjoy it than on foot. Slow down, relax and take time to enjoy the surroundings with a wonderful waterside walk by the coast, in the city or to find a quiet waterfall. Suggested locations include: Leith, Edinburgh, Dundee’s waterfront and Aberdeen beach,  the Fife Coastal Path, St Magnus Way on Orkney, Ramnahol Waterfall on Shetland, known in Norse as ‘pool of the ravens’ and Eas A’ Chual Aluinn, Sutherland, Highlands, the UK’s highest waterfall.