Two small estuaries, the Eden Estuary of eastern Scotland and the Ria de Foz of north west Spain, are compared. The former was glaciated during the Pleistocene, the latter was not. These water bodies are macrotidal, of similar size, entrance morphology and advanced state of sedimentary infill. There are, however, major differences in their sedimentary dynamics partly as a result of anthropogenic interference. A training wall partially confines the main channel of the Ria de Foz, whereas the Eden Estuary lacks comparable structures. Prior to the extension of the Foz wall, the rate of migration of a spit at the mouth of the ria was up to one order of magnitude greater than that of a similar spit in the Eden Estuary. Following completion of the wall, the rate of spit erosion in the Ria de Foz increased to two orders of magnitude greater than that of natural processes in the Eden. A beach nourishment scheme at Foz, relocating sediment deposited within the Ria, has succeeded in stabilising the spit and substantially reducing erosion. Relative stability of land and sea may have existed over the last 5,000 years at Foz but not at the mouth of the Eden, where isostatic uplift has exceeded sea level rise. The requisite stability for complete sedimentary infill at Foz may not exist owing to the predicted worldwide rise of sea level due to global warming. The rise of sea and land levels around the Eden Estuary are now believed to be counterbalanced, providing the necessary geological conditions for complete sedimentary infill.