Sustainable Travel in Scotland: An Easy Guide

Scotland’s natural beauty, fascinating history and vibrant cities make it a popular travel destination. What’s the downside? Overtourism is rampant in popular attractions, threatening the well-being of local communities and the environment.

The good news is that it is possible to enjoy Scotland and still have a positive impact as a visitor. The answer is responsible tourism and sustainable travel in Scotland.

So, from activities to accommodation, we’ve put together a quick guide to sustainable travel in Scotland to help you plan a responsible trip.

How to get around Scotland sustainably

Here are some Top tips To help you be a sustainable traveler in Scotland:

Use public transportation

Most of Scotland’s major attractions are well connected by public transport. The train line is served by Skrill Which can take you as far north as Thurso, all the way to the Scottish Borders and everywhere in between.

Train travel in Scotland is a real joy to experience as the country is home to some of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. One of them is the West Highland Line which goes from Glasgow to the West Coast either at Mallaig or down to Oban.

You’ll be treated to epic scenery on your trip, with highlights like Loch Lomond, Rannoch Moor and Glenfinnan Viaduct to look out for.

It is also possible to travel around Scotland by coach and coach. Megabus can take you to most major towns and cities. Citylink Scotland It is another popular choice.

If you have plans to explore the Scottish Isles, there is no need to book flights. Easy to access and affordable through Caledonian McBrain Ferry.

Explore by bike

Get some exercise and fresh air with Scotland’s National Courses Network. There are some beautiful roads around the country.

How about a beach for hopping through the Outer Hebrides island chain? Or why not cycle from Edinburgh city center to Shore-in-Leith?

You can, of course, rent push bikes, but if you need a little more kick, an electric bike can make all the difference on those hills.

Related reading: Some of the best cycling routes in the UK

Driving an electric vehicle

If you prefer owning your own car or campervan, try to rent an electric or hybrid car where possible—especially if you’re taking a road trip.

They emit fewer greenhouse gases and air pollutants into the atmosphere, so with electricity you help keep Scotland’s environment clean.

Uses ChargePlace Scotland To find charging points on your route.

The Jacobean steam train passes over the Glenfinnan Viaduct
The Jacobean steam train passes over the Glenfinnan Viaduct

How to choose eco-friendly accommodation in Scotland

Take these steps to find sustainable places to stay in Scotland:

Find environmental credentials

Hotels that are serious about their environmental impact will highlight their environmental credentials on their website.

To help make your choice, look for third-party credits from Green Key Declaration, EcoLabel, Green Tourism and Tourism For example, but not limited.

Search hotel booking sites

Finding sustainable hotels has never been easier on popular booking platforms such as Look for the “Travel Sustainably” tag.

However, if you’re not too convinced, accommodation booking platforms solely dedicated to sustainability are here to help. paying off Which only lists certified green hotels.

Ecobnb is another excellent option because it offers a range of accommodation types that adhere to strict sustainability standards.

Go boutique and family owned

Aside from the big chain hotels, one of the best ways to soak up the local culture and be more sustainable is to stay in independent B&Bs.

Where else will you find a unique place to stay, get local knowledge, and support small businesses, all with a hearty breakfast to match?

Related reading: Guide to renting a vacation home

Some of the absolutely amazing inns, B&Bs, and hotels include:

Sustainable Travel Scotland at Viewfield House
Viewfield House, Skye

Sustainable travel in Scotland: things to do

From wildlife spotting to re-breeding, here are some sustainable activities to do in Scotland:

Go off the beaten path

Avoid the crowds by going off the beaten track on your trip to Scotland.

For example, rather than making a beeline for the Isle of Skye, visit some of the lesser-known islands on the west coast instead. Skye belongs to the Inner Hebrides group, of which there are 35 inhabited islands!

Glen Coe is another destination particularly prone to crowds. This scenic colorway is a hotspot for traffic, drones and litter. For a cleaner, more “unfussy” beauty, why not head to Glen Affric or Glen Lyon instead?

If you want to swing by Skye and Glen Coe, visit over the shoulder or off season when there are fewer crowds. Generally, October through April is quieter while July and August are the busiest months.

Do a small group or self-guided tour

Take the stress out of your itinerary by taking a tour with a responsible operator. If you want to ensure your impact is positive but still be flexible, Byway Travel It does no-fly itineraries on request.

With Byway, you can easily create a personal, self-guided itinerary that takes you through Scottish Highlands and carrots.

Solo travelers may prefer small group tours led by local guides that help you connect with the local culture and environment.

A good example of this intrepid travel. It has a selection of multi-day itineraries that focus on hiking holidays, island hopping or exploring the best of Scotland in just over a week.

Byway and Intrepid Travel are B Corporation certified meaning they meet high social and environmental standards.

Related reading: A road trip through the Scottish Highlands

Learn about saving

Scotland is known for its natural beauty, but truthfully, its landscapes are severely depleted by nature. The Scottish Highlands alone were home to the Caledonian Forest, which covers a huge amount of land. Now only 1% of it is left.

One of the most impactful ways to be a sustainable traveler in Scotland is to learn about regeneration and conservation in Scotland.

Scotland: The Big Picture is a charity restoring educational treks in the Cairngorms National Park.

It offers a jam-packed run featuring guided nature trails through Glen Feshie, nature-friendly farms, and hosts discussions about biodiversity and wildlife reintroduction.

These tours are ideal for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts who want to gain a deeper understanding of Scotland’s natural environment.

Find out more about refilling with ‘Scotland: The Big Picture’

Plant trees on the weekend

Another way you can make a positive impact on Scotland is to help restore its depleted forests by planting trees or supporting tree planting initiatives.

Trees for life On a mission to rebuild the Scottish Highlands. You can visit a number of sites where the charity operates and enjoy the natural surroundings.

Another way to get involved is to volunteer at the Dundreggan Rebuild Center (opening in 2023), where you can help care for the young trees at the nursery and join in the rebuilding projects. You can also visit the center and learn more about refilling.

Go hiking in the highlands and valleys

Scotland benefits from a ‘Right to Roam’ law which means that most inland land and waters are allowed to be accessed by the public for non-motorized recreational uses – as long as they are responsible.

So, what better way to make the most of this access than by hiking?

There is no end to the beautiful hiking trails throughout the Scottish countryside. Some of the best one-day walks in Scotland include:

  • Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh
  • Conic Hill, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs
  • Rackwick to Orkney, the Old Man of Hoy
  • Ben Nevis and Fort William

Multi-day hikes in Scotland include:

  • Western Highland Road
  • Great Glen Road
  • Border monasteries road
  • Speyside Road
  • Berwickshire Coastal Path

Be a sustainable hiker in Scotland by ensuring you leave no trace. Stick to the road, take all the trash home with you and leave everything as you found it.

Stay safe there too. Pack the right gear and keep an eye on the weather forecast.

Related reading: Best sunglasses for hiking and outdoor activities

Cycle around Skye and other islands

While Skye has a problem with overtourism, it is possible to explore the island with a lighter footprint.

To get started, exchange the car for a bike. Then, visit over the shoulder or out of season to reduce the amount of congestion on the roads.

Many of the island’s attractions can be found at Trotternish episode A popular little road trip around the Trotternish Peninsula. A cleaner, greener way is to rotate it instead.

Sky Apex It allows you to rent e-bikes for a reasonable price and follow the well laid out loop to sights like Quiraing, Old Man of Storr, Fairy Glen, Kilt Rock and more.

Cycling is a mode of transport that you can use around the Scottish Isles instead of driving.

You can rent e-bikes on the Isle of Mull or bring your own and ride some epic routes long and short across Orkney, the Shetland, the Outer Hebrides and more!

Go and discover the wildlife

One of our favorite places to explore Scotland’s wildlife is the Trenchation Islands, an archipelago of islets and skerries off the coast of Mull.

Birds and marine life are abundant here and you can meet them in their natural habitat on an ethical boat trip.

Staffa Tours Boat trips operate departing from Tobermory and Fionnphort on Mull as well as Oban and Ardnamurchan on the mainland.

Its various routes take you to Iona (the birthplace of Celtic Christianity) and Staffa, an island inhabited by puffins from April to August.

Look out for minke whales, dolphins, gray seals, cormorants, gannets, guillemots, and more. You might even see basking sharks if you’re lucky!

Always make sure to keep a respectful distance from any wildlife you encounter. Don’t try to touch, squeeze, or feed them, either.

E-bike around Scotland!
E-bike around Scotland!

Supporting small and sustainable businesses

One easy way to advocate for sustainable tourism in Scotland is to support local businesses.

Small shopping helps keep money in the communities. You also get a deeper understanding of the local people and culture. It’s the win!

Take a step further by supporting companies that are making an effort to be greener, too. For example, the Dawyck Botanic Garden in Peebles is the UK’s first carbon-free botanical garden.

Inverary Castle, owned by Argyll Estates, is a Green Tourism Silver Award winner thanks to its biomass heating system, biodiverse grounds, waste reduction and local store.

If you enjoy bustling, the Eden Mill Distillery in St Andrews is Scotland’s first carbon-neutral distillery. Pop into the shop to grab a bottle of gin or scotch whiskey.

For tours and tastings, head to Nc’Nean, an organic and B-certified distillery on the Morven Peninsula.

Final thoughts on sustainable travel in Scotland

We hope you found these tips useful in planning your eco-getaway in Scotland.

While its ecological health is far from perfect, it is still one of the “greenest” countries in the world.

Great routes for cycling and public transportation provide accessible alternatives to cars. Plus there are plenty of eco-friendly activities and places to stay.

Ultimately, traveling sustainably in Scotland is about finding a balance, whether it’s reducing your footprint, supporting green businesses, or avoiding overtourism hotspots.

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