Scotland is one of the "greenest" countries. "We discovered green before the rest of the world," boasted the tourist director of Inverness. "Come to our Highlands and discover that fact for yourself."
In summer, eco-travelers often see much of the panoramic and challenging Scottish terrain by bike. Touring by bike is a bit difficult in the Highlands, but easier around the Kingdom of Fife, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, as the countryside is filled with scenic lanes. Of course, you'll have to stop for sheep crossings.
Most of the Western Isles, and Shetland and Orkney, can also be traversed by bike. Bike rentals are found in most major towns and cities. Transporting bikes on Scotland's many ferries is possible, in most cases, for very little money.
Many visitors come to Scotland just to explore its parks. The Association of National Park Authorities (www.nationalparks.gov.uk) offers data on all of the U.K.'s national parks, including those in Scotland, and provides hiking advice.
If you live in the United States, you can get information before you go from The Mountaineers Books, at 1001 SW Klickitat Way, Ste. 201, Seattle, WA 98134 (tel. 206/223-6303; www.mountaineersbooks.org), which has an extensive collection of titles on hiking, biking, and mountaineering in Britain, especially Scotland.
The best national parks for exploring in Scotland include the Trossachs, Loch Lomond, and the Cairngorms.
General Resources for Green Travel
The following websites provide valuable wide-ranging information on sustainable travel.
- Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com) is a great source of sustainable travel ideas; the site is run by a spokesperson for ethical tourism in the travel industry. Sustainable Travel International (www.sustainabletravelinternational.org) promotes ethical tourism practices, and manages an extensive directory of sustainable properties and tour operators around the world.
- In the U.K., Tourism Concern (www.tourismconcern.org.uk) works to reduce social and environmental problems connected to tourism. The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO; www.aito.com) is a group of specialist operators leading the field in making holidays sustainable.
- In Canada, www.greenlivingonline.com offers extensive content on how to travel sustainably, including a travel and transport section and profiles of the best green shops and services in Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary.
- In Australia, the national body that sets guidelines and standards for ecotourism is Ecotourism Australia (www.ecotourism.org.au).
- Carbonfund (www.carbonfund.org), TerraPass (www.terrapass.com), and CoolClimate (www.coolclimate.org) provide info on "carbon offsetting," or offsetting the greenhouse gas emitted during flights.
- Greenhotels (www.greenhotels.com) recommends green-rated member hotels around the world that fulfill the company's stringent environmental requirements. The Hotel Association of Canada (www.hacgreenhotels.com) has a Green Key Eco-Rating Program, which audits the environmental performance of Canadian hotels, motels, and resorts.
- Visit www.eatwellguide.org for tips on eating sustainably in the U.S. and Canada.
- For information on animal-friendly issues throughout the world, visit Tread Lightly (www.treadlightly.org). For information about the ethics of swimming with dolphins, visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (www.uk.whales.org).
- Volunteer International (www.volunteerinternational.org) has a list of questions to help you determine the intentions and the nature of a volunteer program. For general info on volunteer travel, visit www.idealist.org.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.