Fancy something a bit different for your next holiday or day off? Take a break from the 9-5 and spend some time in a beautiful Scottish landscape, gain experience and learn new skills, or simply lend a hand in your local community.
Voluntourism is a combination of volunteering and tourism, a growing trend of travelling in order to do some good. It is a great way to help off-set your carbon footprint and make a positive difference to the Scottish environment. You can grow, reflect and make a positive impact on our world with these opportunities.
And, you can get to know Scotland at the same time!
Find a volunteering opportunity near you
Experience length: Regular volunteering opportunities
Whatever your skills or interests, from drone photography to blogging, habitat restoration to identifying plants, you could get involved with the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI). This project offers a range of volunteering activities in several regions across the north of Scotland.
If you love Scotland’s forests, look no further than volunteering with Forestry Land Scotland. There are chances to get involved with everything from building and maintaining mountain bike trails, to volunteering at a visitor centre, or keeping the sites clean, tidy and litter-free.
Join the quest to save Scotland’s red squirrels. These crafty creatures need your help to protect their habitats! The Scottish Wildlife Trust is accepting applications for volunteers (until 2022) who are passionate about the squirrels and can offer various services for a few days per month.
The Wild Oysters project is aiming to restore Britain’s seas to health through the restoration of the native oyster. The team have oyster nurseries set up at both Largs Yacht Haven and Fairlie Marina which need monitoring on a monthly basis. This is a great way to get involved in helping to protect local waters and the biodiversity that lives within through volunteering.
At the John Muir Trust, a love of the wild outdoors is the only pre-requisite! When the organisation returns to regular operations, get involved with tasks such as the running of the Wild Space visitor centre in the Perthshire town of Pitlochry, or regular conservation work parties.
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park has a volunteer programme too, with activities designed to help you gain valuable experience, build skills, and of course, have fun and meet new people! You can register your interest for the time being and look out for more information about future opportunities soon, including a Young Volunteer programme.
Join the Knoydart Forest Trust to help eradicate non-native species such as rhododendrons from the peninsula in the north west of Scotland. This vital work helps the woodlands to recover and recolonise.
Help keep your favourite park looking clean and tidy with MyParkScotland. The organisation offers a wide range of ways to get involved with your local parks and recreational areas.
One day volunteering experiences
Expected length: One day or less
Protect the planet as you paddle Tayside’s waterways with Litter Free Paddle Trips. What could beat a day of free kayaking?! Make new friends as you keep the east coast waters sparkling clean. Keep an eye out for future days out on the water.
Keep Dumfries & Galloway’s coastline as clear as can be with D&G Eco Warriors, a group who organise beach cleans in the area. Keep Scotland Beautiful also arrange beach clean days across Scotland, so you can care for your coasts wherever you are!
Find out more about how to keep Scotland’s beaches clean.
Make a difference with a working holiday
Experience length: weeks to months
Immerse yourself in the raw beauty of the Scottish Highlands with Alladale Wilderness Reserve. Stay in this serene spot on the map and help to restore the Highlands eco-system through a range of volunteering opportunities. From planting trees to a guided ecology walk of the reserve, you’re bound to have a jam-packed day outdoors.
After a hard day at work, you will no doubt have worked up an appetite. When staying at Alladale Lodge, treat yourself and tuck into delicious food and drink, made fresh with locally sourced and home grown produce, cooked up by their very own talented chef.
Live and work in some of Scotland’s most incredible places
A residential working holiday at one of the National Trust for Scotland’s camps will offer you the chance to live and work at one of the properties or protected landscapes. Known as Thistle Camps, these experiences are for over 18s, but younger volunteers can apply for the Trailblazer Camps.
For something truly unique, NTS also offers Conservation Work Parties on St Kilda, a far-flung seabird colony island in the Outer Hebrides, during the summer months. Volunteers carry out essential maintenance work and help with daily tasks on the isle.
Become a wildlife ranger on the Isle of Handa
There are lots of volunteering opportunities on the Isle of Handa, an island in the north west, just off the coast of Sutherland in the Highlands. It’s a stunning nature reserve, home to an abundance of wildlife. You can volunteer here for a week or there are a series of ranger placements which are longer term, lasting from 8 – 21 weeks.
Spend a month working at a National Nature Reserve (NNR)
Although volunteering is currently suspended, you can still contact NatureScot for more information about future volunteering opportunities. The organisation usually looks for residential volunteers to stay for up to a month working at one of the NNRs.
Restore the remains of the ancient Caledonian Forest
Revitalise the wild forests of the Highlands with Trees for Life! Thanks to their volunteer programme, 2 million trees have been planted so far. The Conservation Weeks are cancelled for 2020, however look out for these week-long volunteer holidays returning in 2021, as well as volunteer days and other events. In the meantime, you can plant a tree or donate to the cause.
Research Scotland’s resident whales and dolphins
Embrace the opportunity to live on the west coast, whilst learning and protecting whales and other marine mammals. Based on the Isle of Mull, there are numerous roles available with this charity depending on your experience, including research and education assistants, lighthouse volunteers, work experience and live aboard data collection.
Volunteer on the Isle of Eigg
One of the four Small Isles on the west coast of Scotland (Canna, Rum and Muck are the other three), the incredible Isle of Eigg recruits volunteers every summer. Experience the unique joys of island life from April to September, for a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of two months. Tasks might include litter picking, fruit picking and beach cleans.
Dig for discoveries in Orkney
If you are passionate about archaeology, spend two weeks on an archaeological dig in one of Orkney’s most fascinating Neolithic sites. Preference will be given to anyone with a background in the area. You can sign up now for the Ness of Brodgar excavations in 2021.
Please keep checking the organisations’ websites in advance for future volunteering opportunities as these are all subject to change.
Donate to a cause or join a charity
Why wait for your working holiday or volunteering day? You can always donate to these charities and help and protect Scotland’s beautiful landscapes, wildlife and natural habitats.
Don’t forget to share your experiences with us using #OnlyinScotland.