Many of us know the basic steps to take to make travel sustainable. Stay local, cut down on plastic and leave no trace behind. But if you want to make a real difference in lowering your impact, there are plenty more ways to do so.
Here are just some examples of how you can make your time in Scotland more sustainable by making smarter, more eco-conscious choices when it comes to food and drink, accommodation and simply experiencing all there is to see and do.
The majority of Scotland is now under a temporary lockdown, though some island communities are under level 3 restrictions. Please follow any current restrictions – you might need to save these ideas to try later on a future trip.
Find out what level each area is under and read more about the 5-level Covid-19 restrictions to plan and book ahead when considering a future trip. You can search for businesses that are Good to Go, where they have a Covid-19 risk assessment.
SAVOUR A ‘SLOW FOOD’ EXPERIENCE
The Slow Food movement is all about savouring fresh, seasonal produce which is sourced locally. Not only is the sustainable approach to eating and drinking a way to protect the natural world that sustains us all, it also lets you support local businesses and communities.
Galloway Gin Escape at Crafty Distillery, Newton Stewart – harvest by hand the wild growing botanicals in the Galloway countryside that imbue Crafty Distillery’s award-winning Hill & Harbour Gin its delicious taste. Create your own inventive cocktails and receive an in-depth tour of the distillery.
The Newport Restaurant, Fife – this Michelin Guide-featured restaurant is passionate about creating a zero-waste menu and narrowing the supply chain from producer to plate. The result is a tantalising array of traditional Scottish recipes prepared with modern flair and strictly seasonal ingredients foraged by the head chef himself.
Bonobo Vegan Café, Aberdeen – this popular café isn’t just a place to enjoy nutritious and sustainably sourced vegan dishes; it’s also a great example of a socially responsible workers’ co-operative. This means that that all the employees are joint owners in the business and have a say in the decision-making process. What’s more, a portion of the café’s profits are channelled back into the local community.
MacKenzie’s Farm Shop & Café, Shetland – you will be hard pressed to find exceptional produce that has a lower carbon footprint than at Britain’s most northerly farm shop. Set on a family-owned croft that dates back centuries, the MacKenzie’s pride themselves on selling and serving produce harvested and reared on their 36-hectare spread, using the time-honoured practices of their forebears, ensuring 100% traceability. You can experience what life is like on the croft during a stay in one of the two self-catering cottages – Nortower Lodges.
HELP RESTORE THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Love being in nature? There are plenty of ways you can play an active part in protecting Scotland’s biodiversity. From breaks on estates in the process of ‘rewilding’ to voluntourism opportunities, ensure your next Scottish break makes a positive impact on the environment.
Wildland Estates, Highlands – Wildland is the biggest conservation project in the UK. Witness first-hand how it is helping regenerate part of the Highlands during a stay at one of its three estates in Sutherland, Cairngorms National Park and Lochaber. Pick from an exquisite range of properties, from a coastal ‘art hotel’ to cosy cottages and lodges nestled in an ancient forest. Enjoy all kinds of outdoor adventures including e-bike rides, nature walks, 4×4 tours, pony picnics and more.
Trees for Life – spend up to a week in the Scottish Highlands planting trees and undertaking other essential work to restore native forests like the Caledonian Forest and other precious wildlife habitats. Strike up new friendships with a diverse group of people while being surrounded by spellbinding scenery and return home fitter and mentally renewed.
Isle of Skye – Skye is one of Scotland’s most popular destinations. Why not stand out from the crowd by becoming a Skye Voluntourist? It’s a unique chance to really immerse yourself in this magical community and landscape while helping to maintain and restore some of the island’s iconic places. Simply register your interest on myskyetime.com to be considered.
TAKE A TOUR WITH A DIFFERENCE
Opting for a guided tour is one the best ways to get to know a place, no matter the destination or your interest. Just try to choose one which helps enrich local communities and preserve the environment. These are just some of the operators and organisations who are at the heart of the responsible tourism movement.
Invisible Cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow – go off the beaten-track with this fantastic social enterprise organisation which recruits and trains guides who have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. All profits go direct to the guides and initiatives to support the cities’ homeless communities.
Hebrides Cruises, Oban – this family-owned company is proof cruising can be environmentally friendly. Offering cruises around the Hebrides and stunning north west coast, Hebrides Cruises are committed to lowering their carbon footprint and reducing noise pollution, regularly servicing their fleet and serving locally sourced produce. There’s also an accredited wildlife expert onboard ready to explain all about the delicate marine habitat of the Hebrides.
Rabbie’s Tours – this Edinburgh-based bus tour company offers trips around the country in their 16-seater minibuses – great for avoiding congestion on narrow Highland roads. On Rabbie’s Tours you can rest assured you’re supporting local accommodation and businesses along the way, and off-setting your carbon footprint. This is because Rabbie’s donates £10 to charity for each tonne of carbon produced on their journeys.
HAVE A DRAM OF SUSTAINABLE WHISKY
Scottish whisky has never been more popular, but did you know the whisky and spirit industry is spearheading major innovations in sustainable technology? Here’s how you can enjoy a wee dram, gin or vodka tipple and help protect the planet.
Glengoyne Distillery, north of Glasgow – Glengoyne is a distillery that is in true harmony with its natural surroundings. It’s the first to have its own wetlands as means of disposing of the liquid waste produced during the malting process – most distilleries send theirs to an industrial treatment plant. Relying on natural reed beds to filter the waste in an eco-friendly method has another benefit – a flourishing natural habitat for birds, plants, insects and other wildlife.
Arbikie Highland Estate Distillery, Arbroath – try Nàdar gin or vodka, two ground-breaking climate neutral spirits which boast a carbon negative footprint. Created using homegrown peas rather than cereal, Arbikie avoids using the synthetic nitrogen fertiliser used in the traditional spirit-making process, which means you can raise each delicious glass with the knowledge you’re helping to improve local water, soil and air quality.
GlenWyvis Distillery, Dingwall – Scotland’s first community-owned distillery was built with the investment from local whisky lovers and others around the world. Each investor has an equal vote in the future of the business – regardless of the size of their investment – while a sizeable chunk of its profit supports local charities, sports teams and initiatives. What’s more, it’s entirely powered by a combination of wind, solar and hydro energy. Take a virtual tour of the premises and try their inaugural spirit which reaches maturation sometime in 2021.
BOOK GREEN ACCOMMODATION
Scotland is fortunate to be able to offer guests an impressive array of properties which are built and run with sustainability in mind. From high-end luxury hotels and glamping to contemporary lodges and more, sustainable accommodation is fantastically varied and suited to all budgets.
The Green House, Scottish Borders – this family-friendly rural retreat is a marvel of sustainable design, seamlessly integrating a clever energy-efficient insulation system. Heated by solar panels, the system ensures the larch structure remains at the perfect temperature year-round.
Burmieston Steading, Perthshire – insulated with recycled plastic and sheep’s wool while being heated and powered by biomass and solar energy systems, the Burmieston Farm’s passion for sustainability goes beyond its buildings. The rooms are beautifully furnished with antiques and ‘upcycled’ furniture, while outside boxes for bats, owls and hedgehogs help support the wildlife.
Lochranza Campsite, Arran – set in a spacious clearing surrounded by dramatic glens, Lochranza is one of the most picturesque spots to pitch a tent. You can also stay in one of the insulated pods. In addition to boasting a 100% green energy tariff, the site has taken steps to boost the biodiversity of the area so that its teeming with red deer, birds, wildflowers, bees and red squirrels.
Nithbank Country Estate, Dumfries & Galloway – this 18th century sandstone house has all the perks of a luxury hotel and the atmosphere of a private home. It also has a range of state-of the-art sustainable design features including an eco-friendly biomass heating system which uses wood sourced locally, energy-saving LED lighting and beautiful bathroom with water-saving fixtures. The mouth-watering menu serves dishes using produce from the kitchen garden and orchard, as well as local suppliers.