10 Ways to Have an Eco-friendly Holiday in Edinburgh

25 October 2021

Sustainability and being more environmentally friendly are at the forefront of all our minds at the moment.

The good news is that if you’re planning a break in Edinburgh there are plenty of small things you can do to have make your time away more eco-friendly, whilst still enjoying a fun-packed holiday.

From supporting local businesses to enjoying some of the lesser-known attractions, read on to discover our top tips on how we can all do our bit to help the environment.

1. Use Public Transport

Edinburgh Tram Lady Getting On At Station

With regular connections to Scotland’s capital city by rail and bus, leave the car at home, sit back, relax and enjoy the views as you travel straight into the heart of the city.

The beauty of Edinburgh is, as a small city, it’s relatively easy to negotiate on foot. However, when the journey is slightly longer, or the weather is on the dreich side (grey and wet), the city is well served by a reliable and affordable bus and tram service. A single adult ticket on Lothian Buses costs £1.80 and a dayticket, which offers unlimited journeys on day services in the city zone, excluding Airlink, is only £4.50 per person.

Read more about eco-friendly travelling to and within Edinburgh > 

2. Stay in a Green Hotel

Ten Hill Place Skyline Junior Suite

In Scotland we have the Green Tourism Awards, which are given to hotels, restaurants and attractions that have excelled in a range of sustainable benchmarks including energy and water efficiency, waste management, biodiversity, community involvement and more.

Several hotels and accommodation providers in Edinburgh are part of this scheme, demonstrating their commitment to sustainable tourism.

Discover Edinburgh’s green hotels > 

3. Visit Off-season

Charlotte Square In Autumn

While many people love the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh during the summer months, visiting off-season (September – May) is a great way to explore the city without having to compete with large crowds and queues (and it can also sometimes be more pocket-friendly!).

The autumn months in Edinburgh are particularly attractive as the city becomes covered in blankets of red and brown leaves – the ideal landscape for capturing the perfect Instagram image.

Check out picture-perfect Edinburgh on our Instagram channel > 

4. Shop Local

William Street

(Image credit: insta /stockbridgeedinburgh)

Whether you choose to stay in the historic Grassmarket or cosmopolitan Leith, each of Edinburgh’s neighbourhoods have their own collection of unique shops.

Run by people for people, local businesses are often in keeping with the character of the area, adding a sense of pride and joy to the local community. When you shop at local butchers, bakers, green grocers etc, it is likely that a large proportion of the produce has had a short field-to-plate journey. Along with supporting local farmers, it also means the food is likely to contain more nutrients and have less packaging.

Explore Edinburgh’s Neighbourhoods > 

5. Book a Small Group Tour

Rabbies Loch Tours

If you want to explore beyond Edinburgh, booking an excursion with a small tour company is an ideal way to experience Scotland.

From day trips to Loch Ness to 3 days exploring the Highlands, knowledgeable driver/guides will share with you insider tips, take you to areas off the beaten track, and give you the opportunity to experience Scotland at its very best.

Departing daily from Edinburgh, many tour companies have a number of green initiatives including using low fuel consumption vehicles and contributing to sustaining local communities.

Explore Eco-friendly Tour Companies in Edinburgh > 

6. Plan ahead

Edinburgh Castle Esplanade

Know where you want to visit? If visiting Edinburgh Castle or the National Museum of Scotland have been on your bucket list for as long as you can remember, before you visit have a look at their website and learn as much about the attraction as you can – that way you’ll spend less time deciding what to see first when you get there and have a more rewarding visit.

Many attractions also offer virtual tours, so you can get a feel of the place before you visit.

7. Explore Edinburgh’s Other Festivals

TIE Harp

Edinburgh is well-known for its festivals – International Book Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival are huge crowd-pullers during the summer months. But the city also plays host to some smaller, but equally fascinating festivals during the year, which are well worth a visit, including:

Edinburgh Festival of Cycling celebrates all aspects of cycling in and around the city, highlighting the sports importance for encouraging social inclusion & economic development and reducing ill health and pollution.

Bringing together the very best in puppetry, visual theatre & animated film from Scotland and across the world, Manipulate Festival has presented a huge number of ground-breaking performances since its establishment in 2008.

Edinburgh International Harp Festival is the UK’s premier harping event: an annual celebration and gathering of musical talents from the global harp community, and The Clarsach Society’s flagship event.

Celebrating the first signs of summer, Beltane Fire Festival brings ancient Celtic traditions to life with a unique modern twist. Through dazzling fiery displays, elaborate costumes, and immersive storytelling, see May Queen transforming the Green Man from his wintry guise so they can rule together over the warmer months.

8. Sightsee Like a Local

Invisible Leith Tour

For a completely unique tour, and the chance to support the work of a local social enterprise, why not book an Invisible Cities Walking Tour.

Hosted by experienced tour guides, all of whom have been affected by homelessness, they offer their own personal insight into Edinburgh’s past, present and future, whilst sharing with you stories of one of Edinburgh’s most historic and colourful areas.

9. Discover Scotland’s Natural Larder

Cafe Portrait Ciabatta Green Food

Scotland is blessed with a mouth-watering range of seasonal produce and you’ll find some of the finest locally sourced food and drink in Edinburgh restaurants and cafes.

Proving that the journey from plot to plate needn’t be long, several eateries are going the extra mile to ensure only best locally produced ingredients are on offer.

Delve into eco-friendly restaurants and bars in Edinburgh > 

10. Visit the Lesser-known Attractions

Dovecot Studios

(Image Credit: Dovecot Studios)

There are so many well-known attractions in Edinburgh, it can sometimes be hard to decide which ones to visit. While the renowned Edinburgh Castle and Scottish National Gallery, are certainly well worth visiting, take some time to go to those lesser well-known ones as well. The queues are often shorter, they tend to be in quieter parts of the city and you’ll leave with a greater understanding of the local community.

Our top recommendations include:

Dovecot Studios is a must-visit for anyone with an interest in tapestries and fine craftsmanship. The studio is home to five weavers and two apprentices and the gallery is home to collections curated by Dovecot as well as touring exhibitions featuring work by artists from around the world. Visitors to Dovecot can explore exhibitions and attend events to learn about the tapestry studio's projects, as well as relax in the cafe and visit the studios' shops.

Set over 100 acres of meadow, woodland and indoor gallery spaces, Jupiter Artland is an award-winning contemporary sculpture garden unlike any other. Here you’ll find sculptures towering over fields, artworks emerging from water and dreamlike installations tucked away in woodlands. Home to over 30 permanent sculptures as well as a seasonal programme of carefully curated exhibitions and events, this is an ideal place to switch off and relax in the beauty of nature.

With over 400 objects across four stunning galleries, St Cecilia’s Hall: Concert Room and Music Museum is Scotland’s oldest purpose-built concert hall and the only place in the world it is claimed, that you can hear 18th-century music being played on 18th-century instruments in an 18th- century setting! A must for music lovers.

Towards the outskirts of the city in Craigmillar Castle Park, you'll find the romantic ruin of Edinburgh’s other castle, Craigmillar Castle. The complex dates from the 14th century and has hosted some of the most iconic figures in Edinburgh's history over the years - including Mary Queen of Scots.

Housed in 16th century, Huntly House, the Museum of Edinburgh tells the story of the city from the fascinating range of exhibits on display. From the collar & bowl of Greyfriars Bobby, the famous dog who spent over 14 years guarding the grave of his beloved owner, to the National Covenant of 1638.


From January to December, there’s always plenty going on in Edinburgh to keep the whole family entertained – find out more in our What's On Guide >