Absolute Escapes December 12 2019

They say that inspiration comes from everywhere, but it was during a walk in the footsteps of the legendary conservationist John Muir that my brain really got to work.

Tasked with writing a blog about what can be done to improve the ‘footprint’ (excuse the pun!) of long-distance walking holidays, I set out to hike from North Berwick to Dunbar on the John Muir Way in search of inspiration. As I approached John Muir’s birthplace of Dunbar along the spectacular coastline of East Lothian, I realised that the answer to a more sustainable form of tourism lies in the philosophies of the man the trail is named after.

Who Was John Muir?

John Muir himself was a pioneering conservationist and mountaineer. Also known as ‘John of the Mountains’ and described as the ‘Father of National Parks’, Muir became a legend in the world of environmentalism.

Born in Dunbar in 1838, he became enthralled with nature at a very early age. This enthusiasm soon led him to the USA, where he spent time in Wisconsin, Indianapolis and Florida before finally settling down to explore in California. There, he established Yosemite National Park in 1890 and co-founded the Sierra Club in 1892, an environmental organisation dedicated originally to preserving Yosemite National Park from the damaging effects of overuse, both from sheep farming and visitors.


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Muir’s conservation work gifted to him this awareness of the damage ‘over-tourism’ can inflict on natural landscapes. His famous statement that “the world is big and I want to get a good look at it before it gets dark” is thought to be an expression of his concerns towards over-tourism, and a resulting longing he developed to explore the natural world.

It is clear that his connection with the land allowed him to predict our current problems with over-tourism a long time before they really began to be apparent.


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What Can You Do?

A walking holiday, by its very nature, is ‘sustainable’. It requires few resources other than a strong pair of boots and a hearty packed lunch.

However, there are still improvements that can be made, and the following guidelines set out six ways you can reduce the carbon footprint of your walking holiday without compromising on enjoyment.

1 – Read up on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code

 The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 was put in place to ensure everyone has the right to access as much of the beautiful Scottish countryside as possible. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code describes these rights in a bid to ensure land users can enjoy their time in the outdoors, stay safe while doing so and, importantly, look after their surrounding environment at the same time.

The Code has three main principles (this is also valuable guidance if you’re walking in England, Wales or Ireland too):

– Be considerate to other land users. The Code urges visitors to an area to respect those living, working or walking there. This can include anything from reducing noise pollution (which also disturbs local wildlife!) to ensuring you pitch your tent far enough away from private residences that you are not infringing on local people’s privacy.

– Protect the natural environment. Visitors are encouraged to leave the land as they found it. This means taking any litter home with you, and always keeping to the marked path. This is especially important as many of the soil types in Scotland are silt- or sand-based which makes them particularly susceptible to soil erosion.

– Be responsible for your actions. Remember that the outdoors is not risk-free, so please look after yourself while you are looking after the environment!



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2 – Reduce Plastic Waste

Plastic waste is a big topic of conversation at the moment, even in rural inland areas of the UK. The River Tame, near Manchester, has just been named as having the highest concentration of microplastics (tiny particles of plastic that arise from the breakdown of larger plastic items) in any river in the world.

You can help to reduce this by bringing a refillable water bottle on your holiday. To ensure you can always find somewhere to refill your water bottle, download the RefillApp onto a smartphone. This app uses your location to suggest the nearest location where you can fill up your water bottle, and is amazingly accurate!


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3 – GUIBO Navigation App

Another technological suggestion, the GUIBO Navigation app helps to save paper by allowing you to store the maps you need on your smartphone. Not only does this help the environment but it also means you won’t have to worry about your map disintegrating in the rain!

You can also see your precise location superimposed onto the map when using GUIBO, speeding up the navigation process. The GUIBO app also contains route notes and topographic profiles.



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4 – Organise Your Summer Holidays

Instead of taking a few short holidays every year, why not try to book one long holiday where you can allow yourself the time to really relax and unwind.

Plus, you can relax even more knowing this is the more sustainable option. Travelling once means fewer flights, car journeys and all the other bad stuff that comes with a great holiday!


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5 – Limit Water Use

 Limiting your water use while on your walking holiday will really help to reduce your carbon footprint.

Luckily, a hard-earned, relaxing bath at the end of a long day of walking is more sustainable than a shower! So sit back and relax in a warm bath, guilt-free, at the end of your day.


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6 – Invest In a Carbon Offsetting Program

For those travelling from far and wide to enjoy a walking holiday in the UK & Ireland, a small investment in a carbon offsetting program may be an exciting venture.

Flying is a costly activity as far as the environment goes, so many airlines are now offering customers the chance to invest in a carbon offsetting scheme to account for the emissions produced by their flight. British Airways, Qantas, Virgin Australia, Delta Airlines, Jetstar, United Airlines and Air Canada are amongst the airlines who offer such services. Why not get involved in this cool new venture on your next trip?



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There are plenty of ways to ensure your walking holiday is great fun and environmentally-friendly. Following these guidelines can help to ensure that future generations can enjoy our great outdoors in the same way we can, and it is definitely fun to get involved in!

Emily Farquhar

P.S. If you’re inspired to head out into the hills with your new sustainable tips in mind, Absolute Escapes offer self-guided walking holidays in the UK & Ireland which include accommodation, daily baggage transfers, guidebook/map, and full information pack. Send us an enquiry today – we’d love to help you plan an unforgettable walking holiday.

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