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Travel Sustainably in the UK

You’ll soon be travelling to United Kingdom and we’re here to help you get prepared in the best way possible.

During your trip, you’ll be experiencing the local culture and heritage of the nations that make up this country. Visit the vibrant cities and historic sites of England, explore the Scottish capital and Highlands, and wander along coastal paths in Wales.

Through all this, it’s good to keep in mind the importance of preserving it all for future generations to enjoy.

At Nordic Visitor, we believe in doing our part for the planet and our local environment. For that reason, we want to encourage you to do the same when visiting our beloved country.

That said, sustainable travel is not just about conserving the environment. It’s also about supporting local economies and having a positive impact on the local communities.

On this page, you’ll find some friendly suggestions on how you can do your part.

Packing for your visit to the UK

Arrive in the UK prepared to be as green as possible by bringing a couple of items from home, including reusable water bottles and shopping bags. This way, you can save money and be environmentally friendly in one go.

The drinking water in England, Scotland and Wales is clean and of high quality. That means it’s safe to drink the tap water and you can refill your bottle as you go.

Cafés are usually happy to refill for you too, and you’re likely to find water fountains in cities and at popular attractions.

When it comes to shopping bags, shops are required by law to charge you for them. So an easy way for you to reduce the amount of waste from your holiday and save money is to bring a reusable shopping bag with you.

Making the most of the local cultures

When you visit the United Kingdom, you’ll soon be immersed in the beauty of its national parks, coastlines and charming countryside.

You’ll also discover cultures rooted in Celtic, Viking, Norman and Anglo-Saxon heritage, with a storied past stretching back generations. While similar to each other, each country has developed its own festivals, traditions and tasty food.

By supporting the local communities, you’ll embrace your British experience while making a positive impact on the economy and people.

1. Shop local for souvenirs

If you plan on buying souvenirs, why not purchase items made locally? Here are some suggestions for each country:

Scotland:

  • Items or clothes made from Harris Tweed
  • Single malt whisky, gin or beers
  • Silver jewellery
  • Scottish music
  • Locally made shortbread, tablet or fudge
  • Isle of Arran or Isle of Mull cheese
  • Handmade ceramics and glassware
  • Traditional tartan clothing such as kilts

Wales:

  • Welsh pottery
  • A Welsh lovespoon
  • Gold or silver jewellery
  • Woollen clothing
  • Welsh music or books
  • Items made of Welsh slate

England:

  • Jaffa cakes or local sweets
  • Books by English authors
  • London tube or double decker memorabilia
  • English pottery and china, such as tea cups
  • English gin or beers (or Pimm’s)
  • Jam and clotted cream

When buying souvenirs, try to look at the origins of the product to see if they are local or not. You can also ask the vendor.

Or why not purchase souvenirs from a social enterprise? Purchasing goods from social enterprises means that your money is reinvested into tackling key social and environmental issues in the local communities you visit and shop in. Here is a directory of social businesses in Scotland.

2. Visit sites outside peak times

If you can, try to visit popular attractions outside peak times. Not only will you help reduce the pressure on these spots, but you’ll enjoy a more relaxed experience when you visit.

3. Eat local

An easy way to support the British economy while travelling is to eat out at local restaurants. You need to eat, after all!

We recommend especially looking for menus that feature local, seasonal produce. England, Scotland and Wales are fortunate to have a varied natural larder that changes throughout the seasons, so it’s always worth looking at the special menus when dining out.

4. Visit farmers’ markets

Another way to sample local produce is to visit farmer’s markets. These are usually held once or twice a month in towns and cities around the country.

These markets bring the area's top farmers together to sell their fresh, locally grown produce. It’s a great way to meet local suppliers, learn about the region’s heritage and try some really delicious food.

Farmers’ markets usually also have stalls selling local crafts such as pottery, textiles and artwork. So they are a great place to pick up some unique souvenirs as well.

5. Attend British events

Going to festivals and special events hosted in the cities or countryside is a great way to soak up the local culture.

You’ll find some cultural and sporting events and festivals here:

6. Be respectful of local traditions and customs

When visiting cultural and historical sites, remember to be mindful of the importance these sites have for locals. Sometimes they represent our culture and hundreds of years of tradition and are great sources of pride.

Using sustainable transportation

1. Walk around if you can

The best way to get around European streets, dating back centuries, is by walking. Most major cities and towns are very pedestrian friendly and you’ll find your accommodation is close to the action. Why not go for a stroll?

2. Hop on public transport

It’s easy to get around larger cities in the UK with public transportation. Depending on the city, you might find trams, buses, a metro system (like the Tube or subway) and overground trains.

Many companies require exact change if paying cash. Or you can pay using apps or contactless.

3. Drive in an eco-efficient way

If you are going on a self-drive tour, there is still a way for you to be more sustainable if you want.

The easiest way to limit the fuel consumption of your vehicle is to drive gently, evenly, and smoothly. Acceleration and braking require more energy, so avoid sharp acceleration and abrupt braking. Try maintaining a constant speed to be more economical and eco-friendly.

You can read more advice on driving safely in the UK on our travel guide.

Conserving the natural environment

One of England, Scotland and Wales’ main attractions is its rugged landscape, with craggy mountains, sandy seaside and vast valleys. There is lots you can do or keep in mind to help preserve it during your trip.

1. Leave no trace behind

These countries, and especially their national parks, are known for their unspoiled natural habitats. Help keep them this way by putting your litter in bins and recycling if possible. If there are no bins where you are visiting, take your rubbish back with you to your accommodation so you can dispose of it there.

We also encourage you to recycle your travel documents if you do not plan to bring them home with you as a keepsake. Make sure to place them in a designated paper recycling bin.

2. Don’t go off-road driving

Driving and parking sensibly will help preserve the natural landscape. Keep to marked roads and parking spots and do not create an obstruction.

3. Hike along marked trails

Hiking is a great way to discover more of the natural scenery in England, Scotland and Wales. You’ll find many beautiful hiking trails of all levels and through a variety of landscapes. Make sure to keep to marked paths to preserve the native flora.

Good to know is that Scotland provides visitors and locals with the unique right to access most of Scotland’s land and water. All parts of the great outdoors are accessible. The only exceptions are areas marked as private property, most land where crops are growing and areas that are closed off for health and safety reasons.

4. Be mindful when visiting national parks and protected areas

You need to show extra consideration for the natural environment when visiting national parks and protected areas. Do not remove stones, plants, rocks or other natural items from protected land.

Some sites in national parks may have restricted access during wildlife nesting and breeding seasons. Make sure to honour these restrictions so as not to disturb the wildlife.

5. Observe wildlife without disturbing it

When visiting the British countryside and going wildlife spotting, your goal should be quiet observation. Make sure to keep your distance. To not disturb the different species, we recommend you do not make quick movements or loud noises. And do not try to touch them.

When meeting farm animals, please respect farmers' advice. If they are out in fields, do not pet them or feed them.

The UK countries are home to over 90,000 varied and diverse species. Here are some you might spot during your visit:

Red Deer

You might instantly recognise the red deer. It is the largest land mammal in the UK. They are even more noticeable in the autumn. When exploring the great outdoors, you might see or hear the annual rut. This is when male deer battle each other to ensure a claim over their territory and mating rights.

Birds

British national parks, forests and coastlines are a paradise for birds and bird watchers. You can find a vast array of species while exploring over land and sea, including:

  • Ptarmigan
  • Capercaillie
  • Red kites (national bird of Wales)
  • Ospreys
  • Golden Eagle (national bird of Scotland)
  • Puffins
  • Guillemots
  • Razorbills
  • Owls
  • Robins (regarded as Britain’s national bird)


Red squirrels

Scotland and Wales especially are great spots to see native red squirrels. The species has been threatened with extinction by the spread of disease and competition from the non-native North American grey squirrel.

Red squirrels have been wiped out in many parts of the UK, but thanks to successful breeding programmes they are still present here.

Reducing your carbon footprint

All tour packages with Nordic Visitor since September 2023 are being carbon offset through the Iceland Carbon Fund and SoGreen. What does carbon offsetting mean? Trees will be planted to offset the carbon emissions produced by your trip. You can read more about this initiative on our Sustainability Policy.

What else can you do? We recommend you look into sustainable ways to travel to the UK. If you’re coming from another European destination, you may want to consider taking the train to London.

When travelling by plane, here are some sustainable considerations to keep in mind to reduce your flights’ carbon footprint:

  1. Using a booking site that shows flights’ carbon emissions to allow you to choose the lower-carbon option.
  2. Choosing direct flights to limit the carbon emissions of your journey. Planes burn the most fuel during take-off and landing, which means emissions are higher for layover flights.
  3. Travelling with airlines that offer trustworthy carbon offsetting schemes. If your airline doesn’t include this, you could instead donate to a carbon offsetting fund yourself.

If you’re looking for more resources, you can also check out our UK Travel Guide. Here you’ll find information on weather conditions, health and safety, what to pack and other useful tips to prepare for your trip.

By travelling in a sustainable way you are helping us preserve our beautiful country so that future generations can also enjoy visiting.

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