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Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland, will host COP26 from 31st October to 12th November 2021. The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties takes place at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC). The COP26 summit will bring together delegates from all over the world to discuss how best to speed up worldwide action towards the goals of the 1995 Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In view of this event, VisitScotland has become the first national tourism organisation in the world to sign the “Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency” initiative. This in turn will become the “Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism” at COP26, forming a global agreement to cut emissions caused by tourism in half and eventually reach net zero before 2050. So, ahead of making travel plans, let us have a closer look at my top five sustainable hospitality businesses in Scotland.

The Torridon

The Torridon is set within a 58-acre estate, surrounded by a magnificent sea loch and impressive Munros on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands. Local vegetables, fruit and herbs are grown in the two-acre kitchen garden for use in their 1887 Restaurant. Highland cattle and Tamworth pigs are reared on their Torridon Farm. The hotel is committed to nurture and grow at least 60% of their local produce on the farm and in the garden so they are as self-sufficient as possible. In order to support the bee population each guest receives a gift of wildflower seeds to sow when they return home.

The whole Torridon resort runs on biomass energy created on-site from local woodchip and timber, whilst pure water is extracted from a bore hole on the estate. Extra insulation has recently been added in the roof space and energy-saving LED bulbs help to reduce energy usage. The Torridon Green Team is at the forefront of their sustainability efforts which have been recognised by both the Carbon Trust and the Green Tourism Business Scheme. The Torridon also supports the Wester Ross UNESCO Biosphere, an organisation that promotes and celebrates how people and nature connect to inspire a positive future.

Dunnet Bay Distillers

A strong belief in sustainability can be found at this award-winning, family-run distillery for gin and vodka. They have recently introduced a recycling scheme for their Rock Rose Gin, the first gin available in fully recyclable, refill pouches. These pouches allow customers to refill their iconic Rock Rose collectable ceramic bottles and the empty pouches can be returned to the distillery via the Royal Mail freepost service.

Dunnet Bay Distillers use foraged botanicals sourced from the spectacular cliffs of the Pentland Firth and Dunnet Forest or grown in the distillery’s own garden. They generate their own electricity, using solar panels on the distillery roof, and they also provide much needed employment in a fragile rural economy in the remote village of Dunnet on Scotland’s north coast. Supported by their visitor centre they promote tourism to the whole of Caithness.

Glenapp Castle

Biodiversity and literally “stellar”, breath-taking views are at the heart of this magnificent 5-star castle hotel in Ayrshire located near the Galloway Forest Park. The night sky here is one of the darkest in Europe. Over 7,000 stars and planets are visible to the naked eye from the Forest Park, and the bright band of the Milky Way can be seen arching across the sky. Glenapp can arrange for an astronomer to provide expert identification of the night sky from the castle.

The hotel sits in the transitional area of the Galloway and South Ayrshire biosphere reserve. Biospheres are places with world-class environments that are designated as learning sites for sustainable development, where communities collaborate to live in harmony with their environment. The biosphere status also recognises the huge variety of wildlife, birds, butterflies and fish which thrive in the clear rivers. For cyclists, walkers and naturalists the biosphere offers an unrivalled haven to see the unspoiled Scottish countryside at its best.

Glenkinchie Distillery

Glenkinchie Distillery, the Lowland Home of Johnnie Walker, is located in East Lothian just outside the Scottish capital; it has recently received the top Gold Award for Green Tourism. The team at Glenkinchie has been working on a nature sustainability strategy for many years to encourage pollination and to protect wildlife in the area. This includes the installation of beehives, bat houses, bug boxes, and planting to attract, feed, and shelter insect pollinators, birds, and other native creatures.

As part of their efforts to reduce CO2 emissions the distillery offers a shuttle-bus service from Edinburgh to their visitor centre so that guests can leave their car at home and enjoy an entertaining whisky-tasting. A free water-dispenser is also available at the distillery so visitors can refill their water bottle. The latest of their eco-friendly initiatives are the “Whisky in the Wild” tour where a dram will be enjoyed at the Kinchie burn which supplies the water to make the whisky and the “Flowers and Cocktails” class where you will learn how to garnish your cocktails with fresh herbs and flowers.

Kinloch Lodge, Skye

Wildlife is one of the biggest draws of the Isle of Skye. With over 400 miles of beautiful, unspoiled coastline, it is home to varied populations of puffins, eagles, porpoises, dolphins, minke whales, seals and, of course, the ever popular but elusive otter; hotel guests are sometimes lucky enough to see otters pottering around the shores of Loch na Dal. Kinloch Lodge has teamed up with the International Otter Survival Fund and some of their otter experts to guide guests through a full day immersed in nature, breath-taking scenery and otter-spotting.

The Lodge’s own guide Mitchell will be delighted to share his local knowledge about bountiful foraging on the Isle of Skye. While the crop obviously depends on the season, there is always a tasty treat to be uncovered in the natural environment. Guests may find edible mushrooms, wild garlic and sorrel in the nearby forest, and delicious seaweed, mussels and samphire can be found along the shoreline in front of the hotel. The more adventurous should try the unappetising-sounding, but absolutely tantalisingly scrumptious, scurvy grass.

Some of these unique Scottish hospitality businesses can be nicely combined in an ultra-luxurious holiday. In order to get the most out of such a tour, it is best to hire a fully electric vehicle with a driver-guide or chauffeur so that you can enjoy the dramatic scenery without worrying about the driving on the left side of the road.

All of the above hotels already have charging points for electric vehicles so you can start each day with confidence that you will reach your next destination. If travellers want to tour Scotland in an eco-friendly way, they can start with a visit to Glenkinchie Distillery just outside Edinburgh and then enjoy touring along the amazing west coast – from Glenapp Castle in the South West via the ever-so-popular Isle of Skye (Kinloch Lodge) to the Torridon Hotel in the North West.

There is nothing better than finishing a tour of Scotland with a proper tasting of Rock Rose Gin at Dunnet Bay Distillers on the north coast. Claire and Martin Murray will talk about their strong ethos on sustainability, with theirs being the first gin to be available in fully recyclable refill pouches. You will say farewell to Scotland with fond memories of very friendly and most welcoming people, yet hardly leaving a carbon footprint behind – even more so, if you also volunteer to offset the carbon emissions of your flights.

Dorothy Welsh is the CEO of Luxury Scotland. Luxury Scotland offers true Scottish hospitality, culinary delights and unique experiences.

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