3 June 2024

10 ways to have an eco-friendly holiday in Edinburgh

Arthur Seat

Discover how you can have a eco-friendly break in Edinburgh, whilst still enjoying a fun-packed holiday.

  • Tip 1: Embrace Edinburgh’s sustainable transportation options. Embrace its compact size by walking or cycling between places. Familiarise yourself with our bus and tram network to explore further. Download the ‘Transport for Edinburgh’ app to plan your journeys.

  • Tip 2: Stay in eco-friendly accommodation by booking with Green Tourism accredited supplier in Edinburgh.

  • Tip 3  Try restaurants that prioritse locally sourced, organic and seasonal ingredients to support the local economy and reduce food miles.

1. Use public transport

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Exploring Edinburgh’s neighbourhoods and speedy, low-cost travel around the city.

Edinburgh Trams

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.

As a small city, it’s relatively easy to negotiate a large part of Edinburgh on foot. However, when the journey is slightly longer, or the weather is on the damp side, the city is well served by a reliable and affordable bus and tram service. A single adult ticket on Lothian Buses costs £2.00 and a DayTicket, which offers unlimited journeys on day services in the city zone, excluding Airlink, is only £5.00 per person. Edinburgh Trams run every 7 minutes between Newhaven and Edinburgh Airport. There are 23 stops along the route, including Ingliston Park and Ride, Murrayfield Stadium, Haymarket Station, St Andrew Square and Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre at Leith.

Plan your journey now with our guide to Eco-friendly travel to and within Edinburgh

2. Stay in a green hotel

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The eco-conscious and curious visitors looking for the greenest stays in Edinburgh.

The Balmoral Lobby
©Rocco Forte Hotels

The Green Tourism Scheme offers restaurants, attractions and accommodation providers advice on how to be greener. Accolades are given to participating hotels, restaurants and attractions that have excelled in a range of sustainable benchmarks including energy and water efficiency, waste management, biodiversity and community involvement.

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

Discover more about eco-friendly accommodation in Edinburgh.

3. Visit off-season

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Enjoying Edinburgh’s exciting autumn and winter events programme.

Inverleith Park

While many people love the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh during the summer months, visiting off-season (September to 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 is blanketed in glorious shades of red and brown leaves – the ideal landscape for capturing the perfect Instagram image.

For some inspiring images of the city, head to our Instagram channel

4. Shop local

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Finding unique gifts and supporting Edinburgh’s local businesses.

Stockbridge Shops

Whichever of Edinburgh’s neighbourhoods you choose to stay in, they all 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 the local butchers, bakers or greengrocers it’s 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.

Discover more about the different parts of the city in our guide to Edinburgh’s Neighbourhoods

5. Book a small group tour

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Immersive and personalised adventures.

Haggis Adventures

If you want to explore beyond Edinburgh, booking an excursion with a small tour company is a great idea.

From day trips to Fife to 3 days exploring the Scottish 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.

Plan your next trip with our guide to eco-friendly tour companies in Edinburgh.

6. Plan ahead

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Ensuring you’re well-prepared to enjoy Edinburgh the eco-friendly way.

National Museum of Scotland

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 when you get there and have a more rewarding visit.

Our Top Edinburgh Attractions page has some great ideas to get you started….

7. Explore Edinburgh’s other festivals

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Discovering a diverse programme of events for all interests.

Dancers performing at the Pomegranate festival
Pomegranates Festival

Edinburgh is well-known for its festivals with the likes of the Edinburgh International Book FestivalThe Edinburgh Fringe and Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival pulling in huge crowds over the summer months. But the city also plays host to some smaller, but equally fascinating festivals throughout the year, which are well worth a visit.

Burns & Beyond celebrates the life and legacy of Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland; Manipulate Festival sees the very best in puppetry, visual theatre head to the city, while the Edinburgh International Improv Festival shines a light on the art of improvised comedy.

Featuring concerts, courses and workshops, the Edinburgh International Harp Festival is the UK’s premier harping event; Pomegranates Festival celebrates traditional dance from Scotland and around the world, and Beltane Fire Festival brings ancient Celtic traditions to life with a unique modern twist.

Don’t miss any of Edinburgh’s renowned festivals – sign up to our monthly newsletter and receive details of the top events taking place in the city each month

8. Sightsee like a local

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Getting a deeper connection with our local communities.

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

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Supporting sustainable local farming practices, reducing food miles, and tasting fresh local delicacies.

Cannonball Restaurant, Smoked Salmon

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’s 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. 

Discover more in our guide to eco-friendly food and drink in Edinburgh.

10. Visit the lesser-known attractions

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Helping Edinburgh to preserve its historic built environment and supporting local businesses.

Red and yellow exterior of Museum of Edinburgh
Museum of Edinburgh

There are so many well-known attractions in Edinburgh but it’s worth taking some time to visit the lesser well-known ones as well as the big crowd-pullers. At these smaller venues, the queues are often shorter, they are sometimes in quieter parts of the city and you’ll leave with a greater understanding of the local community.

Dovecot Studios is a must-visit for anyone with an interest in tapestries and fine craftsmanship; the Museum of Edinburgh tells the story of the city from the fascinating range of exhibits on display. While St Cecilia’s Hall: Concert Room and Music Museum is 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!

Explore the early days of firefighting through to today’s modern service at the Museum of Scottish Fire Heritage; step back in time and experience life in Edwardian times at Lauriston Castle, or have a go at cracking open a safe and see what one million pounds actually looks like at the Museum on the Mound.

Find out what’s on in Edinburgh

From January to December, there’s always plenty going on in Edinburgh to keep the whole family entertained. 

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