Repurposing scientific datasets to bring coastal heritage to life

The Challenge

Scotland’s west coast is a hub for marine tourism activity. From marinas to historic lighthouses to wildlife hotspots, it is an area that attracts a variety of visitors, all with a range of independent and intersecting interests.

Part of a CAPITEN (Atlantic Cluster for Technological and Economic Innovation in the Nautical Sector) project, The University of Highlands & Islands wanted to create a tool that displayed information from all these activities. This would be used by visitors as a reference point, to help them embrace all the area has to offer.

The challenge was to establish the best way to communicate this diverse data, including those pulled from more complex data sets and advanced sources to general users. Making the resource accessible and engaging to general users was paramount.


Given the parameters and aims of the project, a digital, interactive map was decided as the best method to convey the west coast’s rich marine activity. To support this, an exploration of the available research and academic datasets was conducted which established the best data to use to encourage visitors to the area and safely into the water.

Marine hub datasets formed a backbone to the map, highlighting detailed mooring and marina information for those travelling by boat. In addition to this, the map included a large and comprehensive variety of other data sets for users to explore. This includes:

Marine Hubs

All Scotland’s west coast commercial ports, piers, harbours, jetties, pontoons, marinas and slipways

Marine Trails

Marine trails including the Hebridean Whale Trail, Argyll Sea Kayak Trails and Snorkel Trails


The best beaches for visitors to get into the water as identified by local students


Ferry ports to help visitors travel to the islands


Shipwrecks under the routes of the ferries


Lighthouses provided by the Northern Lighthouse Board

Castles & History Sites

Castles and historic sites provided by Historic Environment Scotland

Whales & Dolphins

Whale, Dolphin and Porpoise sighting hotspots identified by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust

Seal haul-outs

Seal haul outs and otter sighting hotspots identified by the Sea Mammal Research Unit


Seabird sightings provided by the Sea Watch Foundation at Bangor University and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Coral Reefs

Coral Reefs provided by NatureScot


Filtering to allow boat visitors to find marine hubs by their facilities


The MaraMap now exists as a comprehensive guide to Scotland’s west coast. Previously inaccessible data, such as those of marine wildlife, is now available for all to consume, enjoy and act on. The map acts as a vital resource for those wishing to explore the area and safely navigate its waters and helps those that visit make memories to last a lifetime.

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Where we are

2 Walker Street