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Everything you need to plan a sustainable trip to Scotland

On the back of Glasgow’s COP26, now could be the perfect time to plan a sustainable trip to Scotland.

In 2021/22, visitors looking to travel responsibly will find a world of choice to suit every taste as sustainability is at the heart of what makes Scotland, Scotland.

Whether Scotland is home or a vacation destination, it’s all of our responsibility to care for.

If we all tread lightly by making sustainable choices, we can ensure that no harm comes to wildlife habitats, protected plant life, or the breath-taking landscapes that make Scotland such a magical destination. 

Many businesses in Scotland are choosing to make sustainability a priority, resulting in a breadth of exciting and environmentally friendly options available to visitors, so that they can enjoy a vacation that treads lightly upon the earth.

Read on to discover how to become a responsible traveller by adding some eco-friendly adventures to your trip to Scotland.

Scotland’s music scene

Scotland has a major music scene, particularly in Glasgow, which was named the UK’s first UNESCO City of Music in 2008. 

Visitors can find out more about Glasgow UNESCO City of Music by exploring the world’s first UNESCO trail, which was created with sustainable travel experiences at its core. 

For those seeking exciting nightlife, the SWG3 Complex in Glasgow is one of Scotland’s most innovative venues that is thinking outside the box to install a heating and cooling system which uses the body heat of clubbers. How does that work?

The heat emitted can be captured by heat pumps and transformed into energy.

It is estimated that 70 tonnes of CO2 could be saved annually. It’s worth giving your best on the dancefloor!

Enjoy this music hotspot by heading to Mono, a vegan cafe bar in the heart of Merchant City. 

Renowned for its relaxed atmosphere and quality food, Mono also has an in-house record store and regularly hosts live entertainment, gigs, exhibitions, book readings, art performances and workshops. 

Scotland adventure

Looking for a holiday adventure?

Wild Discovery, a pioneering new wildlife watching company, has teamed up with eGuide Scotland to create the UK’s first wildlife safari on mountain eBikes.

These new tours will bring a shot of adrenaline to the wildlife watching experience whilst also helping reduce the carbon footprint of wildlife watching holidays.

Aviemore Bikes has the answer for those who never dared to try mountain biking, thinking it would be too hard.

With their recently acquired fleet of e-bikes, it has become much easier to enjoy the trails across the Cairngorms National Park and delve into its beautiful scenery.

No specific experience is needed and the teams at Aviemore Bikes have great suggestions for amazing and safe routes to follow.

If you’re more interested in driving, why not explore the Orkney Islands using Spoot, the electric campervan that can be rented by JP Orkney

Exploring the area with an electric van will give visitors a great feeling of freedom, while travelling sustainably. 

Why not expand travel expectations with the world’s shortest commercial flight

No time for a movie or Bloody Mary: the average length of the flight from Westray to Papa Westray is approximately two minutes long and takes place in Orkney, between the two islands.

This connection is aiming to be the first one to become fully electric, by 2026.

In the meantime, Loganair, the Scottish airline, is trialing electric flights, and upgrading their current fleet to have the most efficient planes possible.   

Scotland wilderness

At present, just one per cent of the ancient Caledonian forests remain and several organisations are running tours to introduce visitors to Scotland’s wild spaces and the efforts to preserve and restore them.

The luxurious Alladale runs rewilding retreats on its tranquil wilderness reserve in the Highlands.

With 100 square kilometres of rugged mountains, forests, rivers and lochs, as well as an abundance of wildlife, located in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, visitors can look forward to exploring the spectacular reserve and wildlife and enjoying locally sourced food.

In early 2023, Trees for Life plan to open the world’s first rewilding centre.  

The Dundreggan Rewilding Centre aims to provide visitors with a direct forest experience through events, voluntourism, and activities on accessible habitat. 

The centre will become a unique gateway for people to immerse themselves in nature in ways that are best suited to them whilst helping to protect the wildlife around them. 

Filled with natural and cultural heritage, the Rewilding Centre will be the ideal place to connect with Scotland’s wild landscape.

Ever wondered if your wilderness survival skills are up to scratch? 

Visitors can embrace their inner hunter-gatherer with Wildwood Bushcraft and go foraging for wild ingredients at unspoiled Highland destinations to create their own naturally sourced, nutritious and sustainable feast. 

Led by an expert guide, visitors will forge a deeper understanding and connection with the natural world through their woodland survival courses, foraging lessons, and canoe expeditions.

For a more indulgent experience combined with a connection to nature, travellers can stay at the self-catering, eco-friendly family-run Treehouses at Lanrick

Newly opened in 2020, these luxury retreats include a tree top terrace and outside baths in a stunning private woodland setting.

The properties are off-grid, making them ideal for a digital detox getaway. 

The treehouses ensure minimal impact on the surrounding woodland and have been made from timber grown on the property, thus minimising their carbon footprint.

Each of the treehouses also has a unique design and concept with special hand-crafted tables, upcycled furniture and luxury fabrics. 

Eco travel in Scotland

City break enthusiasts can explore Edinburgh’s much-loved attractions in an eco-friendly way on a city cycling tour.  

Edinburgh Bike Tours offers half or full day tours taking in historic buildings, hidden trails and coastline.

The tours are led by expert guides who will lead participants in treading carefully through the capital city.   

Alternatively, fitness fans can join an Edinburgh Run Tour which offers tours taking in a variety of sights, from Edinburgh highlights to panoramas and lesser-known areas of the city such as Stockbridge and the Water of Leith, all while improving fitness and with no carbon footprint attached.

Nextbikes cycle hire scheme’s new sponsor, OVO Energy, have given the famous Glasgow bikes a new look.

The launch of the rebranded OVO Bikes is celebrated by a new “bike green” route which takes visitors to sustainable businesses all over the city by bike.

Opened six years ago, the Borders Railway is entirely electrified and connects Edinburgh to Tweedbank, in the Borders, in about one hour.

A perfect “pocket adventure” from Edinburgh.

Within a day, it is possible to visit Melrose Abbey, stroll on the banks of the Tweed, visit Abbotsford, the house of Sir Walter Scott (whose 250th anniversary was celebrated this summer) or discover the brand new Trimontium Museum.  

Dram of whisky

If drinking sustainable whisky sounds like the perfect holiday treat, Scotland’s got it covered with Nc’Nean, the first net-zero distillery in Scotland.

In 2020, the young and independent distillery launched by Annabel Thomas released its first whisky and in 2021 announced that their distillery in Drimin has net zero carbon emissions and produces zero waste.

The whisky is also entirely organic.

Glenkinchie serves as one of the Four Corners of Scotland distilleries of Johnnie Walker and reopened in late 2020, following refurbishment. 

The East Lothian distillery has already secured a Green Tourism Gold award for its ecofriendly operating credentials and also boasts an orchard and beehives as part of its nature and sustainability strategy. 

Visitors can book a tour of the distillery to learn more about the process and explore the orchard gardens.

The new Arbikie Distillery Visitor Centre is expected to open later in 2021 in Angus. 

The centre will produce the only Scotch rye whisky available in the world, as well as Nàdar, the world’s only climate positive gin and vodka. 

Visitors will see for themselves a sustainable, field-to-bottle distillery built around real craft, real ingredients, and real people. 

Good food for the soul

With an endless supply of top tier restaurants that are committed to combining health and flavour, visitors can enjoy an authentic taste of farm to fork. 

The Glasgow hub of Finnieston is where visitors will find Soul Food Kitchen.

The plant-based cafe bills itself as offering food that serves the body and soul, with a menu promising hearty soup, delicious soul bowls and indulgent burgers.   

Arran’s Food Journey is a celebration of all things food and drink from Scotland’s Food Isle.

This is the place to start a journey where visitors can immerse themselves in the growing, making and enjoying of Arran’s food and drink product.  

Together they tell Arran’s food story from historical tales of farming, illicit stills and whisky smugglers to the modern-day production of Arran Ice Cream, Arran Cheese and artisan bakers.

The Good Store is located in Edinburgh and run by sisters who are committed to the availability of nutritious food and the reduction of waste. 

For those who want a promise of sustainability in their food, the Good Store carries only organic products and offers a plastic-free shopping option.  

Scottish seafood

One of Scotland’s best-loved seaside food shacks, The Harbour Café is run by husband-and-wife team Amy and Jack who source local heritage breed beef and lamb from nearby Balcaskie Estate, prepared by the Butchery at Bowhouse, alongside organic fresh produce from East Neuk Market Garden.  

Situated a stone’s throw away from the water, visitors won’t want to miss the authentic taste of Scotland’s seas.

Why not start the day with some fresh seaweed? 

East Neuk Seaweed offers visitors the chance to forage for seaweed and create mouth-watering recipes with them.

Run by keen forager and cuisine mastermind, Jayson Byles, guests will be guided through the banks of Fife to gather their meal.

For those looking for a deep sea adventure, why not explore Scottish waters with Scotland’s first snorkel trail

Featuring beaches and bays in the likes of Arran, Lochaber, and the north west Highlands, the Scottish Wildlife Trust have listed the best places to see everything from marine plant life to dolphins, whales, and harmless basking sharks.

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