22 brilliantly British ways to travel sustainably in 2022

It is possible to fly long-haul and still minimise your footprint. If you’re planning a trip to Britain, here’s how to travel slowly and sustainably and bring some eco ideas home. From swapping planes for trains and eating and drinking ethically, to paddle-boarding and forest-bathing, get your next holiday working for you and the planet, with 22 small changes that can make a big difference.

1. Get on your bike

Portrait of young man on rental bike in the city, London

One of the best ways to explore Britain’s cities is on two wheels. You can take in the sights, stop for a breather or coffee whenever you like, and the only energy it burns is your calories. You can D.I.Y. with a Santander bike in London, or take a guided tour like Red Bike Tours. Buzz along the Brighton beach front with BTN BikeShare, bike around Bristol with Bristol Cycle Shack, or mooch about Manchester with Manchester Bike Hire and its Bee Network. Cycle around Cardiff with Nextbike and ease your way through Edinburgh with Just Eat Cycle

2. Pedal to the Living Coast

Once you’ve biked around Brighton, keep coasting and head to the stunning South Downs, known as The Living Coast. This region, from Shoreham-by-sea (located to the west of Brighton and Hove), to Newhaven (on the other side of the vibrant city), is the UK’s only urban UNESCO World Biosphere Region.

3. Saddle up Shanks’ Pony

The next best thing to cycling is going on foot, also known colloquially in Britain as taking “Shanks’ Pony,” as you really get a feel for a city when you walk its streets. Whether you stroll from Westminster to Green Park in London via some of its famous landmarks like Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square, or take in the magic of Edinburgh with a hike to its ultimate viewpoint, Arthur’s Seat, make your next tour a slow, but satisfying one by foot.  

4. Go for a hike

If that inspires you, lace up your boots and head out into the Great British countryside on one of its famous walking trails, such as the South West Coast Path, Pennine Way, Hadrian’s Wall or West Highland Way. Alternatively, try a section of the England Coast Path – a 2,800-mile (4,500km) route that is the longest signposted trail in the world. It doesn’t even have to be hard-going, because you can walk as far or as long as you like, combining some of the prettiest pathways with the best accommodation. (In other words, take a short stroll to the pub…)

5. Eat vegan

If you’re one of the many people around the world adopting Meat Free Monday or full vegan diets as a way to care for the planet, Britain has you covered. From high-end cuisine like London’s The Gate, Manchester’s The Allotment and Brighton’s Terre a Terre, to fast food like V-Rev vegan diner in Manchester or vegan pizzeria chain Purezza, you’ll find delicious cruelty-free eateries all over the country.  

6. Waste not, want not

A plate of food at Silo restaurant in Brighton

Increasingly restaurants are adopting a zero-waste policy, where they use as much of their ingredients as possible. From high-end eateries like Somerset House’s Spring and the UK’s first zero waste restaurant, Silo, in London, to Angela’s of Margate, just make sure you finish your plate… 

7. Go on a climate-friendly diet

Make a conscious decision about what you eat based on the carbon-footprint of your dinner. Look for restaurants that use local suppliers, as well as eateries that opt for ingredients that produce less greenhouse gasses, such as Native and Mildreds in London and Poco tapas bar in Bristol. 

8. Drink ethically

It’s not just food – you can also choose ethical alcohol, such as slow distillery Glengoyne in Scotland, London’s sustainable Small Beer and eco-brewers Old Tree Brewery in Brighton. The Nc’nean organic whisky distillery, on the west coast of Scotland, is powered entirely by renewable energy and just became the first Scottish distillery to reach net zero emissions for production – it’s open for tours and tastings on weekdays.

9. Take the train

Steam train on the Dartmouth Steam Railway line, approaching Churston running along the coastline © VisitBritain / David Clapp

Cut your carbon footprint while travelling around the UK by taking the train. It’s often quicker than driving and more relaxing. The extensive rail network covers the nation, with more than 2,500 stations, and you can go from London to Scotland in four hours. Plus, you can enjoy some of the most scenic journeys in the country, such as the Settle - Carlisle Railway and the spectacular West Highland Line from Glasgow to Mallaig over the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

10. Book a sustainable stay

When choosing accommodation in Britain, you can still find luxury without costing the planet. Look for green hotels and holiday homes, such as the UK’s first ever zero-carbon accommodation, The Emerald boutique resort in Cornwall, or the fabulous canopy palace, Treetops Treehouse in Devon. 

11. Get back to nature

In addition to exploring 15 National Parks and many more Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, why not visit a back-to-nature resort? Britain’s only private nature reserve, the stunning Elmley National Nature Reserve in Kent, allows you to volunteer on a range of programmes. Or there’s the Fforest Farm in Wales, where you can stay in everything from a geodesic dome to a Georgian farmhouse and join its special adventure programmes while enjoying the nature reserve. 

12. Give back to nature

Help keep Britain beautiful by volunteering with a project like the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean events, or spend a week on a nature reserve volunteering for The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Or how about Canal Camp, a working holiday restoring Britain’s waterways for the Inland Waterways Association.

13. Try some forest-bathing

View across the landscape in the New Forest at dusk

Spending time among trees is proven to de-stress and boost your health and the good news is you don’t have to be in Japan to perfect the art of forest-bathing, or shinrin-yoku. Britain is full of forests and woodlands, including its famous ancient sites like the New Forest and Sherwood Forest. Take Forest Bathing tours through Forest Holidays or just walk into the woods and give it a go yourself, in some of Forestry England’s lovely sites around the country, like Alice Holt Forest in Surrey, or Bedgebury National Pinetum in Kent.

14. Get buzzy in the city

Help save the bees and check in to one of London’s many hotels and venues with their own hives, from Ham Yard Hotel, to The Ritz and St Ermin’s Hotel, as well as Fortnum & Mason and the National Theatre.

15. Enjoy some water-wellness in Scotland

Whether you are near it, in it, or on it, it’s proven that being around water is good for you. So Scotland, with its recent Year of Coasts & Waters, is calling. From paddle-boarding or wild swimming in a loch to a waterfall walk with a seafood dinner, coast up to Scotland and indulge in some water-wellness. 

16. Hire an electric car

With upwards of 44,000 charging points in the UK and more being added every day, you are never far from a power point. Ask your car rental company, like Avis, for their electric models and download the Zap Map for a complete guide to charging locations.

17. Join the UNBOXED celebration

Watch out for 10 outstanding projects on show around the country as part of the UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK programme. The collection of large-scale projects commissioned by leading minds in science, technology, engineering, arts and maths includes mind-bending exhibits around sustainability, life and the future. 

18. Paddle the waterways

Rather than powering along Britain’s waterways, take a slower approach. Britain has thousands of miles of inland waterways, not to mention stunning coast and islands. As well as popular pastimes like cruising the canals and Broads on a narrowboat, you could do it under your own steam on a stand-up paddleboard in the Lake District, or by taking a unique night-time kayak tour of London. 

19. Celebrate the Sustainable Commonwealth Games

View of Birmingham, West Midlands, England

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games in July aims to be the first carbon-neutral Commonwealth Games, with an ambition to be zero-waste. They are creating 2,022 acres of Commonwealth Forest and 72 mini-forests in surrounding urban areas. 

20. Buy British fashion

Invest in British statement pieces that look and do good, like trailblazer Stella McCartney’s high-fashion vegan and sustainable brand. Mulberry has a sustainability manifesto and offers a second-hand exchange service and Burberry aims to become climate positive. Even Selfridges department stores offer second-hand, rent and repair options. 

21. Go vintage shopping

One of the best ways of shopping sustainably is to buy second-hand and there are some fabulous vintage finds to be had around the UK. London is famous for its vintage stores, like Rokit, while W. Armstrong & Son in Edinburgh is one of the oldest vintage stores in the UK. But there are vintage emporiums everywhere – such as Retro Rehab in Manchester and Wolf & Gypsy Vintage in Brighton. 

22. Get a green guide

Visit Britain’s greenest spaces and stay in its greenest places by planning your low-impact holiday with a Green Traveller’s Guide, including flight- and car-free journeys. And if you are taking the train, LNER also has green city guides for Edinburgh, London and Newcastle.

More travel tips

If you want to minimise your impact while travelling around the UK, consider taking a direct flight to your city destination, rather than a connecting flight from London. Or substitute planes with trains to reduce your carbon footprint and enhance your adventure. Options include the Night Riviera Sleeper train from London to Cornwall, or the Caledonian Sleeper train from London to Scotland.

26 Nov 2021(last updated)

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