The Virtual RowAround Scotland has begun!

The VIRTUAL RowAround Scotland 2020 is all about creating an opportunity from a disappointment, and celebrating ten years of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association in a different way. A beacon in a sea of uncertainty.

RAS is not just about the rowing – it is about connecting people and communities and that’s what we are all missing. So let’s do it virtually – VRAS!

Your section ‘pilot’ will be contacting your clubs for archive photos of your skiff and the landscapes you would have been rowing through, and for wee stories about your crew and club. Our people-in-residence — artist, poet and storyteller, will also jump in. All in real time. However, our storyteller Jan is out of action at the moment with Covid-19. Get well soon, Jan.

Let’s make this ‘Year of Coughs and Splutters ™’ one to remember; look on the bright side – fewer blisters this way!

(Please click on the photos to enlarge them.)

The Romance of Rowing

Wish you were here
Skiff rowers from clubs on both sides of the England/Scotland border were due to arrive in Gretna in tandem carrying a young bride and groom to the famous Blacksmith’s shop, re-enacting a romantic elopement from the 1700s.

The Pride of Annan and Pride of the Solway skiffs from Annan Harbour Rowing Club, and the brand new Bowness Belle from Bowness-on-Solway, were to have had the responsibility of transporting the happy couple to Gretna. Unfortunately, the launch of the Bowness Belle was halted by Coronavirus precautions. The skiffs were to row up the River Annan to Gretna, with a flag ceremony at the Sark, which marks the watery border between England and Scotland (see below).

Pride of Annan
Pride of the Solway

Message from Alan Thomson at Annan

We awoke to a fine morning with sunshine and enough south in the breeze for the Solway to be flat calm. It would have been a fabulous morning to row to Gretna.

Good day for a row to Gretna at Annan Harbour – Wed. 25th March
As you can see in the pic conditions at Annan Harbour are perfect for a departure, this was the very spot where Landward would have conducted their interview and filmed the crew rowing off.

So a mile and half down river, then another mile south east and we would be passing through the two ends of the former Solway Viaduct. We usually stay away from here as it is a tide gate with a 6 kn flow on the flood. So we would be whizzing through at what would undoubtedly be a record speed for Annan. Then we would be entering a vast expanse of water, the confluence of the rivers Esk and Eden. We would be holding for the Scottish side and the channel of the Eden, only 8 miles down to Port Stormont. Then another 500m to the mouth of the Sark which marks the Border and the flag waving photo opps.

The Blacksmith’s Shop at Gretna Green was where the official launch was to happen and of course it is completely closed. We lost a rowing event but five couples are missing out on their wedding day!

Pride of Annan would have been positioned under the hand-fasting sculpture, replete with Bride and Groom and accompanied by 40 school choristers giving a medley of rowing songs. Here’s one of them for your enjoyment:

Imagine this with a skiff under the arch, with the bride and groom and a choir
Row, Row, Row your skiff
Down the Solway Firth
Pull hard, heads up
Lots of fun and mirth

Row, Row, Row your skiff
Our across the bay
Yes cox, no cox
‘round Scotland all the way

Row, Row, Row your skiff
Rowing with the tide
12 miles, 10 miles
and a 100 more beside

Wedding Guests

Guests invited to the ‘wedding’ include RowAround Scotland’s storyteller-in-residence, Jan Bee Brown, poet-in-residence Joel Mason and artist-in-residence Elspeth Mackenzie along with more than 40 pupils from Solway Primary School in Cumbria and Elmvale Primary School in Annan who were to sing rowing songs. Scottish Coastal Rowing Committee members, Event Scotland staff and, reportedly, a Scottish Government minister were also due to attend.

We had advertised for a rowing couple to join us at Gretna for a wedding. Kees, who stunned us all at the medal ceremony at Stranraer Worlds with his public proposal to Annet (she said yes!) was about to move house and countries on this very day so could not take part. How about it, you two, for 2021 – same time, same place?!

The Baton sets off on its Virtual Journey


Andrew Rendle, SCRA’s Secretary and the Safety Officer for RowAround, hands over the baton at the start of the virtual RowAround. NB he is doing it over the Water (!) but no need to worry about the baton not floating, this time at least.

The BBC Landward Film crew, here on Stroma in the Pentland Firth, were due to film the launch of the RowAround, with the skiffs leaving Annan.

Jinking the Gauger

A message from our storyteller, Jan:

I am still coughing and struggling with the fatigue of the virus. I have written out the story of Rosamund, as I promised to record it for Virtual RowAround; it feels strange to see it on paper as it is shaped as a story to be told – but the bug put paid to that this week at least.

Here’s the link to Jan’s story: Jinking the Gauger (pdf, 58kB)

A Rowing Machine with Scenery

A coastal rower exercises at home on Easdale Sound with the islands of Scarba and The Garvellachs in the background, readying for the real RowAround later.


If you would like to ‘row’ your leg of the row on your ergo, please send in a picture of you doing it! Preferably in club colours with date, distance, places connected.

Logbook and Charts

Cover of the RowAround logbook, being kept for when we manage to row the route for real!
Solway chart in the RowAround logbook

The Sark and La Malouine

The River Sark or Sark Water is a river best known for forming part of the western border between Scotland and England. Most of its short length, however, is entirely in Scotland. It flows into the estuary of the River Esk just to the south of Gretna. Photo by Alan Thomson of the mouth of the Sark, where it enters the River Esk, and eventually the Solway
La Malouine, a tall ship skippered by Roy Kerr, is to provide overnight accommodation for skiffies on the Solway leg and will act as an escort boat. She has been a well-kent fixture at skiffie World Championships, even shuttling a skiff across to Strangford as deck cargo to save the ferry fares and firing her cannon … any resemblance to the Rosamund (see Jan’s story above) is entirely fictional.
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