Visiting Scotland is an adventure full of history and mystery. But now you can add sustainably to the list with this eco travel guide.
Scotland is a country famed for its breathtaking landscapes and historic attractions that have stood the test of time — and the tramp of tourists’ feet. While the nation welcomes visitors from across the globe, it is also keen to promote sustainable tourism that helps to preserve its ancient sites and precious natural resources.
If you share the same ethos and would love to explore Scotland’s many fascinating treasures — both natural and manmade — while being sure to tread lightly on the earth as you go, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some top tips to help make your Scottish travels as sustainable as possible.
Avoid peak season
During the summer months —also known as peak tourist season in the land of Caledonia — Scotland finds itself inundated with eager travelers, and this can put a real strain on everything from businesses to accommodation providers and, most worryingly, the natural environment.
In order to avoid contributing to the problems that can arise from over-tourism, try and plan your Scottish adventure during the off-season — there will be a lot fewer tourists as you visit various attractions.
Leave nothing behind
Also known as the ‘leave no trace’ ethos, this tip is an obvious one in principle but can be harder to stick to in practice.
As well as the obvious meaning — don’t drop any rubbish, don’t leave any belongings behind — another way to ensure you leave no trace is to avoid wandering off the path. You may not realize it, but many natural ecosystems can be fragile and easily damaged by tramping feet, so sticking to official trails is of the essence if you don’t want to cause any unwitting destruction.
Try not to fly
We all know how damaging air travel can be to the environment, so if it’s possible, try not to fly to or around Scotland. There is a solid transport infrastructure in the country, including trains, buses, and ferries, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find more sustainable alternatives to flying.
Of course, if you are relocating to Scotland for work or study, then getting around will probably be made even easier as it’s likely you will be investing in a car. Fortunately, there is plenty of information to help make relocating as stress-free as possible, including an in-depth guide to removals in Scotland. Once you’re all settled in, you can start planning your eco-friendly exploration!
Use eco-friendly travel products
Whether you will be camping, caravanning, or staying in quaint rural B&Bs, a simple way to make your Scottish travels eco-friendly is to use sustainable products while you travel.
From bamboo travel cups and reusable straws to zero-waste shampoo and conditioner bars, and organic shopping bags, there are so many products you can use that will be kind to the environment and to your wallet.
Where to stay
Rufflets, St. Andrews
The Rufflets luxury boutique hotel in St Andrews is Scotland’s first-ever carbon neutral hotel — setting the stage for the country. Enjoy the white-washed century-old building that is powered, heated, and insulated sustainably. The kitchen sources its organic food from the property’s tranquil garden and the hotel is filled with eco touches to enhance your stay. Explore the natural beauty nearby at West Sands and Craigtoun Country Park.
Trigony House & Hotel Spa, Dumfries & Galloway
Find this eco gem — a former shooting lodge — hiding in Dumfries & Galloway. Each room has unique furnishings, but they all have Egyptian linen bedding, handcrafted bath essentials, an atmosphere urging you to relax. Its eco efforts are found in the food, which is local and organic, the spa is packed with natural and organic treatments, and the hotel is also reducing its carbon footprint with a carbon-neutral heating system. Enjoy quiet time at the hotel or take a bike or hike nearby to the Southern Upland Way.
Apex City Quay Hotel & Spa, Dundee
Dive into eco serenity at Scotland’s first eco spa, Yu Spa, at the Apex City Quay Hotel and Spa. The environmental considerations run the gamut from the organic products to the water filtration system. The property participates in the Green Tourism Program, which measures its impact on one or more of the following: environment, community, cultural heritage, and the local economy. Enjoy a day full of spa treatments or venture to nearby Clatto Country Park and Camperdown Country Park and Templeton Woods, for an immersive nature experience.
Where to eat
David Bann, Edinburgh
Widely regarded as the best plant-based restaurant in Scotland, David Bann’s creative, eclectic seasonal vegetarian cuisine is served in warm, maroon decor.
A Glasgow city center staple since 2007, Stereo is located in a building designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Chow down on a range of tapas-style vegan eats, beer, and cocktails before, after, or during a live performance at the club.
Dine at Henderson’s, an upmarket Edinburgh destination that’s rich in style and innovative vegetarian cuisine. From restaurateur Barrie Henderson, this destination serves up seasonal vegetarian and vegan food, freshly made drinks, healthy salads, and desserts.
What to do
Support local, eco businesses
One of the best ways to practice sustainable tourism in Scotland is to support local businesses as much as possible, the smaller the business, the better. The off-season can also be a slow period for businesses, so they will welcome your visit. This means shopping at independent stores, perusing local markets, and eating at independent restaurants and cafes that obtain their ingredients from local sources. By doing this, you will be giving back to the communities that you visit and helping to ensure they will succeed.
From the Edinburgh eco marketplace, Good People, to a range of thrift and antique stores, Scotland is rich in local, family-run businesses with an eye toward re-commerce.
Visit an eco spa
Beyond the Yu Spa, Scotland is teeming with sustainably minded spas and salons perfect for a restorative, serene getaway, whether your entire stay or just an afternoon getaway. The options abound from the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire to Portavadie in Loch Fyne, Isle of Eriska Hotel, Spa, and Island in Benderlock, Stobo Castle in Peeblesshire, and Kimpton Blythswood Square in Glasgow.
Spend time in nature
From the Scottish Highlands to city parks and coastal treks, the best way to connect with Scotland sustainably is to spend time in its abundant natural beauty. It’s a low-impact way to connect with a country and fully appreciate the need to protect it for future generations.
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