Scotland’s first festival to celebrate unsung marine heroes – seaweed

It is the slimy, slippery and smelly sea plant that for many just gets in the way on the nation’s beaches.

But for others seaweed is more than just fast-growing algae that tickles your legs when your swimming – but is one of the world’s great unsung heroes.

And next week those who are passionate over what they consider is the “overlooked wonder of our marine environment” are to gather for Scotland’s first seaweed festival.

Not only is seaweed a rich source of nutrients and energy for animals such as crabs and sea urchins, but it also creates critical habitats for other species, acting as nurseries for young fish and places where other sea creatures can take cover from predators.

Kelp also produces vast amounts of oxygen, absorbs carbon and has unique properties that can be used in cosmetics, fertiliser, emulsifiers, medicines and biofuels.

Some say it is a huge potential resource that remains virtually untapped.

Some companies have been formed in Scotland to make the most of seaweed which it is believed can be used for vegan food, protein supplements and even recyclable packaging.


Isle Martin, an uninhabited island in Loch Broom, on the west coast of Scotland, the closest of the Summer Isles to Ullapool has been chosen as a main location for the week-long seaweed event.

It has previously been the site of a monastery, a herring curing station and a flour mill and is now recognised as a bird sanctuary, owned and managed by a community trust.

But from Monday it will be the scene of the Isle Martin Seaweed Festival – seven days of and online events, seaweed identification walks and creative activities on local beaches.

There will be talks, presentations, workshops and even seaweed tastings involving local and international guests.

Festival curator Julia Barton explained why she thought it was a good idea, saying: “As an artist who is fascinated by plant forms and who has been working in the littoral zones of Scotland over the last eight years, I have become passionate about the beauty of seaweed, its vital part in marine biodiversity and its importance in the global ecosystem.

“As it’s Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, I felt it was a great opportunity to bring together scientists, artists and writers to share their knowledge and celebrate this amazing world of coastal flora and to discuss its future sustainability.

“I proposed Isle Martin with its clear coastal waters, as it’s a beautiful place, community owned and cared for by people who are deeply committed to the local stewardship of the Wester Ross Marine Protected Area, within which it sits.”


Julia Horton

After five days of identification walks and creative activities on the mainland, the action moves to Isle Martin itself on September and 11 and 12 when Professor Juliet Brodie from the Natural History Museum presents a film called A Window into the World of Seaweed.

Other highlights include a presentation by Isle of Mull-based Dutch artist and poet Miek Zwamborn, author of The Seaweed Collector’s Handbook who will be sharing her seaweed discoveries, its history, culture and use.

Award-winning author and historian David Gange, will be kayaking over to Isle Martin to present his talk Seaweed at the Centre of the World.

Another speaker, New Zealand-born forager and chef Jayson Byles, who now lives in Fife, will be cooking up some seaweed treats over a festival campfire.

There is also a seaweed-themed film night featuring a collection of short films being shown at Ullapool’s Ferry Terminal, includind Flowers of the Sea Forest, adocumentary shot on Scotland’s west coast of the Citizen Science seabed survey of 2018. It will also feature a film from the Natural History Museum about the making of a seaweed window display.


Artists in North Ronaldsay, the northernmost island in the Orkney archipelago will be talking about its kelp industry and how it can be put to culinary uses.

Ms Barton added: “We have a wonderful mix of art, science and ecological themed events taking place throughout the week, highlighting the many different and fascinating aspects to seaweed. I know even those of us who know quite a bit about it are looking forward to learning something new.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992