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ecoDestinations - UK
Featured Destination - the United Kingdom
Officially named the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the UK is an island nation comprised of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Consistently among the top international destinations, the UK boasts 27 awe-inspiring natural and cultural UNESCO world heritage sites. On the other hand, many parts of the UK remain wild and pristine. So get off the beaten path, and into the great outdoors!
- Not from the UK? Make sure your passport is up to date, and visit the official government website for visa services to find out if you need one, and how to obtain it.
- National Rail Enquiries: This Brit train travel portal will simplify your life! Travelling by train is a great way to experience the beautiful countryside and explore off-the-beaten-trail places in the UK.
- Villages Online: Villages Online is your guide to quickly find many of the village, town or local community websites throughout the UK. Browse local community websites in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, organized by county.
So Much More Than Fish and Chips...
- With a resurgence of michelin rated chefs and commitment to growing and purchasing produce locally and organically, the UK is experiencing a culinary make-over. Tantalize your tastes for savory, sustainable cuisine with this restaurant list featuring organic, vegetarian, vegan, fair trade, and special diet cafes including: wheat free cafe, gluten free and more, in alphabetical order according to town name.
- As coveted Michelin stars are being awarded to a record number of chefs in the UK, female Michelin star chefs are also on the rise.
Sustainable Travel Experiences in the UK
Here are a few organizations and programs that can help you search for sustainable travel experiences that make a difference. Make sure to check these resources before your next visit to the UK!
Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO)
AITO is the first tourism industry association to incorporate into its business charter a commitment to Responsible travel and green tourism. AITO members recognise that the destinations where they provide holidays are the life blood of the industry, and that they need to protect them with a responsible travel and sustainable tourism policy. more...
Provided by the ARENA Network, Green Dragon is a manageable way of achieving a recognised United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS)-accredited and independently-inspected Environmental Management System (EMS). more...
Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS)
The GTBS is the national sustainable tourism certification scheme for the UK. Those businesses that meet the required standard receive a Bronze, Silver, or Gold award based on their level of achievement. The current network of members is comprised of a wide range of business types, including accommodation providers, visitor attractions and others. more...
GreenTraveller is a green travel guide to green places to stay and green holidays. It features eco-friendly places to stay in the UK and Europe and suggest low impact ways to get there. more...
The New Forest
England's newest National Park, the New Forest offers a range of sustainable options for places to explore, sleep, eat and play. Their "Green Forest" website features the tourism businesses in The New Forest who are going that extra mile to help protect the environment while providing quality services. more...
The concept of sustainability has long since been at the core of the Visit Wales National Tourism Strategy. Over the years Visit Wales has supported a number of initiatives to help develop tourism in a sustainable way. more...
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The island country boasts 27 UNESCO heritage sites, including the natural and cultural treasures such as the charming City of Bath in Southern England, Neolithic Orkney in northern Scotland, and Dorset and East Devon Coast. more...
Many TIES members and partners from around the UK have contributed to make ecoDestinations UK possible. These are some of the leading voices representing responsible and sustainable tourism communities in the UK.
Cornwall Sustainable Tourism Project (CoaST)
CoaST is a tiny but tenacious social enterprise whose aim is to work towards one planet tourism; a type of tourism which provides benefits to the people, economy and environment of Cornwall, and which operates within our social, financial and environmental means. In other words, the triple bottom line.
Harold Goodwin is Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism at Leeds Metropolitan University. His research focuses on tourism, local economic development and poverty reduction, conservation and responsible tourism and teaches Masters and PhD students as well as the industry, local communities, governments, and conservationists.
Make Travel Fair
It's not about being green, tagging an 'eco' prefix onto a service being offered, nor about creating a new industry called 'responsible travel'. It's about unleashing the potential of travel to educate, engage and inspire.
Trees for Life
Trees for Life's vision is to restore the Caledonian wild forest, which is there for its own sake, as a home for wildlife and to fulfil the ecological functions necessary for the wellbeing of the land itself.
Tripbod is a bespoke trip research and planning service which connects independent travellers directly with a trusted local expert in their trip destination for before they travel. Through unlimited one-to-one interaction, personal recommendations, advice, events and general help are all delivered online by the dedicated Tripbod local expert, uniquely tailored to the individual traveller’s trip dates, interests and other needs.
Wild Scotland is the Scottish wildlife tourism operators association. The association promotes the fabulous wildlife-watching opportunities available in Scotland, from whale-watching to bird-watching and everything in between. The association also strongly promotes responsible wildlife-watching through best practice amongst the industry and by encouraging visitors to watch wildlife with recognised companies and guides.
The Soapbox: Voices of Local Stakeholders and Travellers
Stevie Christie (Director, Wilderness Scotland), Sally Broom (CEO, TripBod), Stephen Chapman (Founder, Make Travel Fair), Richard Denman (Director, The Tourism Company)
How can travellers "read between the lines" to make their visits to the UK as green as possible?
Look for companies and accommodations that hold the Green Tourism Business Scheme, which offers Gold, Silver and Bronze ratings. Use the train to travel to Scotland rather than flying from London - it's a beautiful journey and overnight sleeper trains are available. Book trips with Scottish companies if you are coming to Scotland, so that your money stays in the local communities that you visit.
[Wilderness Scotland] are delighted to launch our ground-breaking Conservation Contribution Scheme - the first of its kind in Scotland. For every booking we receive, the scheme will provide up to £10 of support to our chosen organisations: the John Muir Trust, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Trees for Life.
These organisations are funded primarily by the support of their members and Wilderness Scotland has chosen to support them due to their active involvement in conserving the wild and beautiful regions in which we operate. We will also continue our support for the important work of the Wilderness Foundation which campaigns for wilderness protection worldwide and with whom Wilderness Scotland operates a range of inspiring youth environmental leadership programmes in the Highlands.
Our practical 'on the ground' sustainable measures include: starting all trips at railway stations to encourage sustainable travel to Scotland, cutting our bottles of water with our packed (box) lunches and encouraging clients to bring a reusable water bottle instead (this measure saved approx 5,000 water bottles per year!) and working with locally owned accommodation partners who run their establishments in an environmentally sensitive manner.
Stevie Christie, Director, Wilderness Scotland
How can travellers find amazing local experiences and explore the UK responsibly?
I believe the most critical issue for the UK travel market is short haul flying. We have a national addiction to cheap flights and not enough is being done to provide alternatives. The cost of train travel both within the UK and to Europe is completely inhibitory and so we cannot blame people for choosing to fly. Government and industry must work together to support more environmentally friendly travel by British travellers (great work being done by Seat 61 and Loco2 low carbon travel).
Tips on getting the most of your UK experiences...
1. Get out of London! So many travellers visit the UK and never get beyond the border of London, or perhaps they might visit Edinburgh but never explore further. Get out there! Discover the wonderful regional parts of the UK and their fascinating history and in doing so support local tourism. Go to Cornwall and find fabulous gardens, fresh sea air, intriguing local art galleries and sustainable fish restaurants.
2. Go by train! Find beautiful train journeys to take you through the British countryside and explore. There are even traditional steam trains. You can also use traditional gondolas to travel across lakes or you may consider a biking holiday where all the family can find fresh air, adrenalin rushes and a lot of feel good fun. The Yorkshire Dales offer wonderful cycling holidays for all levels and interests.
3. Stay locally – my favourite types of accommodation are little local pubs where the food is home cooked, the ale is real and the fire always provides a cosy corner!
Sally Broom, CEO, TripBod
What is your ultimate dream or vision for the future of responsible travel in the UK?
Travel for many of us in the UK has come to mean trips abroad, flights to europe, crossing the atlantic or even greater distances. The proliferation of low cost airlines and falling fares to long-haul destinations makes it easy to understand why. We all want to escape familiar scenes. We want to escape the weather for somewhere new, somewhere fresh and exciting. It's a natural reflex when planning a holiday to think, 'where shall we go? where's nice this time of year', and it's partly this thought process that needs to change if our travel habits are to become more sustainable.
The promise of sunshine is highly sought by people in the UK when it comes to holidays, particularly this time of year; but there are also wishes for relaxation, a new environment, new experiences and general escapism from the nine-to-five grind. If we scrutinize our needs and wants more closely it can become clear that we don't actually need to climb aboard a plane. Escapism is on our doorstep, all we need to do is adjust the way we view our surroundings and pay some attention to the beauty that is within easy reach.
There have been many fantastic developments in the UK with regard to the adoption of sustainable practices and techniques amongst tourism providers. There's so much to embrace and appreciate. We have Cornwall, Wales, the Lake District, the Scottish Highlands and of course Northern Ireland and Ireland itself not far away - A trip here may be expensive these days with the Euro as it is but it's only a ferry ride away and always feels like an escape.
I'm sure we'll begin to acknowledge the richness and suitability of the UK as a destination soon. Its landscapes, rugged coastlines, history, grasp on sustainability and sense of place exceeds that of many other places around the world. As we become ever more conscious of our consumption, begin to seek out 'slowtopias' and the romance of a train journey, the proximity of Europe by rail and the rewards of staying close to home, rediscovering local gems will become much more important. Hopefully train travel will one day be able to compete with flying in terms of cost, it certainly wins in terms of an experience. This period of financial instability may just be the catalyst required to trigger a shift in attitudes towards how far from home we actually need to travel.
Stephen Chapman, Founder & Editor, Make Travel Fair
What are some of the current challenges facing responsible tourism in the UK, and trends supporting the sustainable growth of the destination?
Responsible travel has been receiving quite strong coverage in UK travel media. Research suggests that while awareness of the issues is greater than ever now, very few British people are selecting holidays on the basis of sustainability. However, the fact that destinations or enterprises are taking the trouble to care for the environment and local impact may be taken into account as a contributing influence on choice, partly because it confirms a caring attitude which may also reflect on the care shown to visitors.
The greatest change in the last few years has been the proportion of tourism enterprises, large and small, who are now involved in some degree of environmental management. The motive has been partly related to personal responsibility and interest in behalf of the owner or company, but recognition of cost saving and also market influences (notably through CSR requirements of corporate clients) can also be detected. The Green Tourism Business Scheme is the main sustainability certification programme in the UK focusing on tourism enterprises. This has seen significant growth in uptake and is the most successful scheme of its kind in Europe.
Richard Denman, Director of Tourism Consulting, The Tourism Company