Ethical holidays, ecotourism and green travel

Ethical holidays, ecotourism and green travel

You can enjoy a Scottish holiday without the accompanying eco-guilt of carbon-fuelled travel, wasteful hotel policies and imported food. Travel writer Rhiannon Batten gives the insider guide to virtuous vacationing


There’s more to being a green traveller than cutting down on carbon-oozing flights. Where you stay is also important. Using hotel TVs, DVD players, minibars, air con and gyms and demanding that sheets are changed every day comes at an environmental cost. Then there’s the impact of the hotel’s impact on surrounding ecosystems and its effect on local communities. Does your hotel employ local people, source breakfast ingredients from local suppliers and otherwise benefit the local economy?

The good news is that Scotland is home to some impressively environmentally conscious hotels, guesthouses and hostels. All tastes are catered for, from the Scottish Youth Hostel Association’s two eco-hostels, Glen Affric and Loch Ossian (which boast, among other green credentials, electricity supplies generated by wind turbines and solar panels), to seriously green self-catering options such as Orchard Cottage in Dumfries & Galloway, and the more decadent attractions of Glasgow’s Blythswood Square Hotel (where advanced green technology means the hotel’s carbon emissions are much lower than those of a similar building of its size and age) and Perthshire’s Gleneagles (where a stringent sustainability policy has won it a gold award from the Green Tourism Business Scheme;

SYHA beds from £18.50 per person; 0845 293 7373,

Orchard Cottage: weekly rental from £300 per week for six people; Ravenstone, near Whithorn, Dumfries & Galloway, 01988 850241,

Blythswood Square Hotel: doubles from £140, including breakfast; 11 Blythswood Square, Glasgow, 0141 208 2458,

Gleneagles: doubles from £199 including breakfast: Auchterarder, Perthshire, 0800 704705,

For more ideas on green places to stay see Canopy & Stars (, an initiative from Sawdays focusing on ‘holidays with a dash of eco-panache’.


If you want to get out and enjoy the Scottish landscape it makes sense to do it in a way that respects our natural heritage. There are some obvious ways to minimise your impact, such as not dropping litter, sticking to marked mountain bike trails, such as the 7 Stanes (, and by choosing to spend your money with businesses that actively promote environmental and social responsibility.

For basic guidance on enjoying the countryside responsibly, check the Scottish Outdoor Access Code ( If you’d rather make a more active contribution to preserving your wild surroundings, the National Trust for Scotland offers outdoors membership (also giving access to its indoor sites).

For those who don’t want to go it alone, Wilderness Scotland offers a whole host of green, small group holidays across the country, from wilderness walking in the Shetlands to family activity trips in Perthshire.

Guided bike tours are growing in popularity, and there are now a number of companies prepared to lead two-wheeled expeditions across Scotland varying from a day to a few weeks in length. 2 Wheel Tours, based in North Berwick, offer itineraries that take in some of the best scenery in East Lothian. Their tours can be guided or self-guided and the company follows a strict sustainability policy.

Finally, if you’re willing to get your hands dirty, why not sign up for a voluntourism trip, such as the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers’ pathway work along the Kintrye Way or a hands-on holiday with Trees For Life, working to restore the Caledonian Forest?

National Trust for Scotland: outdoors membership from £13.25 per person per year; 0844 493 2100,

Wilderness Scotland: activity trips from around £435 per person per week; 3a St Vincent Street, Edinburgh, 0131 625 6635,

2 Wheel Tours: guided holidays from £255 per person; guided day tours from £50 per person (minimum two people), 07900 365 769,

Galloway Cycling Holidays: guided holidays from £310 per person per week; guided two-day tours from £115 per person; Summerhill, Abercomby Place, Castle Douglas, 01556 502 979,

Velodays Cycling Holidays: guided holidays from £1259 per person for eight days (including bed and board); Aberdeen, Scotland, 0781 041 0084,

BTCV: volunteering holidays from £100 per person per week; 01302 388883,

Trees for Life: volunteer work weeks from £70 per person per week; The Park, Findhorn Bay, Forres, 01309 691444,

For more ideas on green things to see or do, visit, or


From Arbroath smokies to Shetland lamb, food instils a sense of place better than any travel guide. But eating local isn’t only enjoyable, it’s also environmentally preferable. Forgoing imported food and drink in favour of local (ideally organic), seasonal alternatives cuts down on food miles and puts money into local pockets. In Scotland that can often mean opting for fish – but choose carefully. With many of the world’s fish stocks becoming endangered, stay on track by packing a copy of the Marine Conservation Society’s Pocket Good Fish Guide ( to refer to on your travels, or researching your options first at, which lists several places to eat fish with a clear conscience across the country. You might also want to avoid certain foods on ethical grounds. Compassion in World Farming protests against the production of ‘posh nosh’ involving the inhumane treatment of animals (frogs legs and foie gras being two obvious examples).

Some of the most ethical Scottish restaurants include The Real Food Café in Tyndrum, the Captain’s Galley in Scrabster, Inver Cottage Restaurant in Argyll and Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles. While brewing is never going to be the most green of industries, you can at least toast your green travels a little more gently with a pint of organic beer from the Black Isle Brewery, a Soil Association-registered independent brewery in Ross-shire.


The Real Food Café
Main Street, Tyndrum, 01838 400235,

The Captain’s Galley
The Harbour, Scrabster, 01847 894999,

Inver Cottage Restaurant
Strathlachlan, Strachur, Argyll, 01369 860537,

Restaurant Andrew Fairlie
Gleneagles, Auchterarder, Perthshire, 01764 694267,

Black Isle Brewery
Taeblair, Munlochy, Ross-Shire, 01463 811871,

For more ideas on sustainable places to eat and drink in Scotland see

Rhiannon Batten is the author of Higher Ground: How To Travel Responsibly Without Roughing It, out now, published by Virgin.