3.1 Introduction

The ‘Source to Sea’ approach advocated pre-supposes a very broad range of archaeological sites and hence allows for a massively diverse range of research areas to be pursued. The boundary between the land and the sea becomes blurred both physically and politically, and hence heritage legislation within the intertidal zone can be difficult to apply consistently. Another issue is that historically the foreshore and inter-tidal zone appear to have fallen between two stools, so there is a backlog of monuments to be recorded and analysed. This is the result not only of administrative boundaries, but of a modern mindset seeing the landscape through the eyes of the motorist or walker, and underestimating the importance of the coast for transport and industry until the recent past. Scotland and England have adjoining intertidal zones in the Solway Firth and this will hopefully enhance both cross-boundary and cross sector projects and allow research to develop outside the constraint of modern political and administrative boundaries.

Past research into the heritage of Scotland’s coastal and intertidal zones and maritime hinterland has largely been piecemeal and unsystematic, due, largely to this geographic and chronological diversity. Part of the cause is that Scotland, at 15,000km as measured on a 1:25000 map, has the second longest national coastline in Europe. There are more than 750 offshore islands around Scotland, contributing to well over half of the length of the total Scottish coastline. Although only 96 of the islands were inhabited during the 2001 census, many of the uninhabited islands show evidence of former habitation. Archaeological investigation in some of these offshore locations can be problematic, and this has led to the resource being only partially understood.