5 alternative and sustainable winter trip ideas in Scotland
Scotland is an amazing sustainable travel destination year round. Scottish winters are generally wet and relatively mild for the latitudes. However, the weather can be wild and it is important to be prepared. And at altitude, in the mountains, the weather can be far more extreme. Whether you want to revel in the winter weather, or snuggle up in front of a roaring fire and enjoy inside attractions, here are just some sustainable things to do in Scotland in winter.
Enjoy an Outdoors Adventure
If you love winter weather, Scotland can be a fantastic place to experience it. Enjoy a winter hiking tour in Highlands. Try ice climbing and learn winter skills, or enjoy other extreme adventures. You could also consider trying dog sledding at the only working sleddog centrein the UK, taking to horseback to enjoy fantastic trails, or enjoying a winter cycling or mountain bike trip. If you would rather travel independently, consider a blustery coastal hike, a kayaking trip, or a wildlife watching walk in the Caledonian forest.
Be sure to wrap up warm. And remember, there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes! The weather in Scotland can be very variable. Some years, there is plenty of snow for skiing and other winter sports at high elevations. Other years are milder and ski resorts struggle. Be sure to check the weather reports and plan your adventures accordingly.
Visit Some of Scotland’s Breathtaking Castles and Historic Sights
Not everyone will be up for outdoors adventure in the winter months. But you can still enjoy a sustainable stay in Scotland while the weather is cold. In fact, travelling to Scotland in the low season is a sustainable choice. Top attractions will be less crowded, and your travel impact will be reduced. In winter, top castles and historic attractions will be far less busy, and you can still visit many of them.
Take a castle tour by train, or other forms of public transport. Consider visiting Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Urquhart Castle and many more amazing historic buildings around the country. Or stay put in one location and truly get to know all the historic sights it has to offer. For example, head to Stirling, where you cannot just see the castle but also a range of other historic buildings in the old town. Or make your way to the east coast, to St Andrews – historic home of golf and an ancient university. Here you can see a castle, a cathedral, and many more historic buildings as well as beautiful beaches and stunning coastal views.
Enjoy a Sustainable Scottish City Break
Staying in one of Scotland’s cities is another way to make the most of the off-season. Edinburgh, except around Christmas and Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is far quieter and more relaxing than it is during the summer months. See the city as the locals see it, and enjoy exploring its Old and New Town areas, visiting its many museums and other sights and attractions.
Or head to Glasgow to explore its rich culture. There are plenty of concerts and events even in the winter, and, again, less-crowded museums and attractions to explore. Dundee, Perth, Aberdeen and Inverness all also offer plenty to see and do. You’ll get a warm welcome whenever in the year you choose to visit. But you will have far less of a negative impact on locals if you choose to travel there in winter and avoid the crowds.
Enjoy Scotland’s Winter Festivals
Christmas and New Year in Edinburgh are something to be experienced. But crowds have caused logistical problems in recent years. To enjoy a more sustainable stay in Scotland, spend winter festivals such as Christmas or New Year in a quieter and more remote location. For example, who not book a stay in a glamping lodge or other getaway for the festive season? One delightful example is the Lazy Duck, by Nethybridge. But there are plenty more delightful and sustainable accommodation options around the country.
Another amazing winter festival to experience is Up Helly Aa – the fire festival of the remote, northern Shetland Isles. For 24 hours on the last Tuesday in January, Lerwick leads the way for community celebrations of their Viking heritage each and every year. After Lerwick’s festival is over and done, it is the turn of other communities to hold their own versions of Up Helly Aa, welcoming visitors in their own special ways. This cultural spectacle is certainly something worth making the long trip north to experience.
There are other reasons to head to Shetland in winter too. On the Shetland Isles, you stand a better chance than anywhere else in the UK to see the stunning Northern Lights. While nothing is guaranteed when it comes to seeing the Aurora Borealis, you stand a reasonable chance, especially over the winter months.
Sample Scotland’s Local and Sustainable Food & Drink
Scotland may not historically have been famed for its food. But it is now gaining a name for itself as a sustainable culinary destination. In the winter months, especially after spending some time outdoors, there is nothing better than settling down in front of a roaring fire to enjoy some of the produce of the season and perhaps a wee dram of whisky, or other local beverages.
Of course, the selection of fresh produce available in winter is reduced. But there are still plenty of local, sustainable delicacies to enjoy.
Travelling to Scotland in winter will allow you to experience something a little bit different. You will see Scotland as locals see it, rather than just as part of the tourist throngs. Travelling to Scotland during the winter rather than the summer is always a sustainable choice. And as you can see from the above, there is still plenty to see and do. So why not check out some timetables and make the trip? You’ll be amazed by the wealth of experiences you can enjoy in this beautiful and diverse country.