Eco-Friendly Destinations

The UK boasts a treasure trove of eco-friendly destinations across its picturesque landscapes. Whether eco-camping in Cornwall, visiting woodlands in Scotland, or attending popular green festivals happening all across the country, there is a little something for everyone, from nature lovers to adventure seekers.

To uncover the UK's most environmentally friendly areas to visit, we examined factors such as places with the most EV charging points, access to green space and walking trails, and the cost of public transport.

For those looking to be more eco-conscious with their travels, take a look at our guide to the nation’s most sustainable locations to explore.

The most eco-friendly destinations in England

The most eco-friendly destinations in Scotland

The top eco-friendly destination in Wales

The most eco-friendly destinations in Northern Ireland

The location with the most walking trails in England

The location with the most walking trails in Scotland

The location with the most walking trails in Wales

The location with the most Special Areas of Conservation in the UK

The UK location with the most eco-friendly campsites

The UK region with the most green festivals

Top equipment for eco-friendly trips

Methodology 

The most eco-friendly destinations in England

  1. Bristol, South West

Eco-friendly score: 9.27/10

Bristol tops the list as the most eco-friendly destination in England, scoring 9.27 out of 10. The green city is surrounded by the charming countryside of Somerset, Gloucestershire, and the Cotswolds. Within a 1,000 metre radius, the city has over four parks and gardens (4.5). Crowned England’s first Cycling City, Bristol supports sustainable travel, offering many bike hire shops and scenic cycling paths, such as the popular Bristol to Bath Railway Path.

Additionally, Bristol has many nature reserves, from nationally important sites such as salt marshes to wetland wildflower grassland and ancient woodlands. The city’s local nature reserves include Lamplighter’s Marsh and Manor Woods Valley.

  1. Liverpool, North West

Eco-friendly score: 9.09 /10

With a 9.09 out of 10, Liverpool is England's second most environmentally conscious destination. The city primarily focuses on sustainable transport and has a compact, walkable centre, with most shops and amenities less than 30 minutes away.

The city has also invested heavily in public EV chargers, with 53.9 charging ports per 10 square kilometres. Electric scooters and bikes are dotted around the city as a quick, eco-friendly way to get around, while Arriva and Stagecoach operate buses within Liverpool for as little as £2 for an adult single ticket.

  1. Oxford, South East

Eco-friendly score: 9.05/10

As one of the greenest cities in England, Oxford aims to reduce negative environmental effects while increasing its positive impacts. The city has an average of 12.6 walking trails per 10km2, and some of its most popular trails include the Oxford Tour Circular and the Eynham Wharf Stream and Water meadows.

Oxford also continues to invest in providing more public EV chargers, averaging 35.7 per 10km2. Earlier this year, it was announced that the local authority would be awarded a hefty £3.6 million to triple its public EV charging infrastructure, which is set to bring as many as 1,300 more chargers to the area by 2025.

 

Rank Area Public EV chargers per 10km2 Walking trails per 10km2 Average number of green spaces (1,000 metre radius) Cost of a one-way ticket on local transport Annual emissions per km2 (kt CO2e) Eco-friendly score /10
1 Bristol 12.5 13.6 4.5 £2.00 6.9 9.27
2 Liverpool 53.9 3.0 4.8 £2.00 13.8 9.09
3 Oxford 35.7 12.6 2.4 £2.00 14.1 9.05
4 Southampton 22.6 17.8 2.7 £2.00 13.4 9.03
5 Cambridge 35.6 20.5 3.8 £2.70 13.7 8.36
6 Ipswich 19.0 6.3 2.2 £2.00 11.8 7.90
7 Norwich 29.5 23.6 3.1 £2.75 12.7 7.85
8 Coventry 135.7 5.6 2.3 £2.20 13.6 7.77
9 Nottingham 31.2 10.8 3.4 £2.70 18.2 7.76
10 Brighton and Hove 50.4 7.2 2.9 £2.70 9.5 7.71

The most eco-friendly destinations in Scotland

  1. Edinburgh, Scotland

Eco-friendly score: 9.94/10

Edinburgh is the most eco-friendly destination in Scotland, scoring 9.94 out of 10. The city is reputable for its natural heritage and landscape and is a popular destination among outdoor enthusiasts across the globe. It has also adopted several sustainable practices, from opting for more low-carbon transport options to recycling waste.

The city is embracing the EV revolution and has plans to boost its EV charging infrastructure by developing 500 new public electric vehicle charge points.2 This will be an increase from the 15.1 chargers per 10 km2 currently dotted around the city and will make the destination more attractive to eco-conscious visitors.

  1. Dundee, Scotland

Eco-friendly score: 9.87/10

Dundee is Scotland's second most environmentally friendly city, with a green infrastructure consisting of 59 parks covering 4,000 acres for visitors to explore.3  On average, the city also has 2.8 parks, public gardens, and playfields in a 1,000m radius and eight walking trails per 10 km2 to enjoy.

The city’s efforts to become more sustainable haven’t gone unnoticed after producing annual emissions of 10.3 kt CO2e per km2. It seeks to improve its energy consumption by promoting low and zero-carbon technologies. Dundee also encourages more eco-conscious ways of travelling, such as walking and cycling, and opting for public transport as a way to decarbonise transport. In addition, on average, there are 29.5 public EV chargers per 10 km2 around the city.

  1. Glasgow, Scotland

Eco-friendly score: 9.61/10

Described as one of Europe's leading sustainable tourism destinations, Glasgow aims to become net-zero carbon by 2030. As of January 2024, the city also has 400 public EV chargers, the highest number in any other area in Scotland or Wales.

According to AllTrails, Glasgow also has 10.3 walking trails per 10 km2 ideal for outdoor enthusiasts. Some popular trails include the Ben Lomond Mountain Path and the Pollok Country Park Circular. Known as the ‘Dear Green Place’, the city also has plenty of green spaces to explore, from botanical gardens to country parks.

The top eco-friendly destination in Wales

  1. Cardiff, Wales

Eco-friendly score: 9.56/10

For those looking for an eco-conscious destination in Wales, Cardiff comes top. With a target to become carbon neutral by 2030, the city aims to shift to more active modes of transport while making smarter choices to waste less and recycle more. The city currently has 11.4 public EV chargers per 10km, meaning visitors are usually within a convenient distance to a charging point should they require it. Getting some fresh air in Cardiff is easy, with 3.6 parks/public gardens/playing fields per 1,000 metre radius.

Rank Location Country Public EV chargers per 10km2 Walking trails per 10km2 Average number of green spaces (1,000 metre radius) Annual emissions per km2 (kt CO2e) Eco-friendly score /10
1 Edinburgh Scotland 15.5 4.9 4.0 8.2 9.94
2 Dundee Scotland 29.5 8.0 2.8 10.3 9.87
3 Glasgow Scotland 22.9 10.3 2.6 15.4 9.61
4 Cardiff Wales 11.4 3.0 3.6 12.0 9.56
5 West Dunbartonshire Scotland 4.2 3.3 2.5 2.1 9.02
6 Aberdeen Scotland 9.0 3.9 1.8 5.9 8.35
7 East Dunbartonshire Scotland 2.0 19.9 2.0 2.7 8.30
8 Swansea Wales 3.9 2.6 1.9 2.8 7.98
9 North Lanarkshire Scotland 5.0 1.1 2.6 4.1 7.73
10 Renfrewshire Scotland 5.1 1.8 1.9 3.4 7.69

The most eco-friendly destinations in Northern Ireland

  1. Belfast

Eco-friendly score: 9.93/10

Committed to becoming an inclusive carbon neutral city by 2050, Belfast is taking steps to ensure a greener future. The country’s capital scores 9.93 out of 10, making it the most eco-friendly destination in Northern Ireland. This is no surprise, as the city is carefully tackling climate change by encouraging electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Belfast has the highest number of public EV chargers per 10km than any other area in the country, with an average of 8.9.

This transition plays a part in ensuring it reaches its goal of being a zero-emissions city. Also, with the highest green canopy (12.6%) of any location in the country, Belfast is planting 150,000 trees4 across the city to help improve air quality, reduce its carbon footprint, and improve the health and well-being of its population.

  1. Antrim and Newtownabbey

Eco-friendly score: 8.08/10

Antrim and Newtownabbey rank as the second most environmentally friendly destinations to visit in Northern Ireland, scoring 8.08 out of 10. To tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions, this local authority has set itself an ambitious target to plant one million native trees across the borough over the next few years.

Antrim and Newtownabbey currently has an average percentage of 11% green canopy cover, which has had a relatively positive impact on its annual emissions of just 1.7 kt CO2e per km2. This is expected to improve over the years with the more green initiatives the area puts in place, making it a place of interest to eco-conscious visitors.

  1. Mid and East Antrim 

Ards and North Down

Eco-friendly score: 6.39/10

Mid and East Antrim ties with Ards and North Down in joint third place with a score of 6.39 out of 10. Interestingly, both councils are committed to becoming more environmentally conscious. Regarding green space, each has an average tree canopy cover of over 10%. However, when it comes to the average number of walking trails, Ards and North Down have considerably more for hiking enthusiasts, with 2.7 per 10km2, while Mid and East Antrim has just 0.9 per 10km2.

Rank Location Public EV chargers per 10km2 Walking trails per 10km2 Average green canopy cover Annual emissions per km2 (kt CO2e) Eco-friendly score /10
1 Belfast 8.9 2.9 12.6% 12.8 9.93
2 Antrim and Newtonabbey 0.7 1.1 11.0% 1.7 8.08
3 Mid and East Antrim 0.3 0.9 10.9% 1.4 6.39
4 Ards and North Down 0.5 2.7 10.7% 2.1 6.39

The location with the most walking trails in England

  1. Sheffield

Walking trails: 186

According to AllTrails, Sheffield has the most walking trails in England, with 186. The city has approximately 5.1 trails per 10 km2, meaning there is plenty of green space and picturesque trails for locals and visitors. One of the best walking trails In Sheffield is Rivelin Valley, a nature and heritage trail surrounded by stunning waterfalls, bridges and stepping stones. Located in the Peak District, Padley Gorge is another excellent destination to visit.

Rank Location Region Walking trails
1 Sheffield Yorkshire and the Humber 186
2 Bristol Southwest 150
3 Reading Southeast 107
4 Norwich East of England 92
5 Birmingham West Midlands 91
6 Southampton South East 89
7 Stoke-on-Trent West Midlands 85
8 Cambridge East of England 84
9 Leeds Yorkshire and the Humber 84
10 Leicester East Midlands 82

The location with the most walking trails in Scotland

  1. Highland

Walking trails: 950

Situated in the Scottish Highlands, Highland’s local authority has the most walking trails in Scotland than anywhere else, with a total of an impressive 950. Not only is there a diverse range of walking trails, but there is something to suit everyone. From family-friendly walks to scenic views. This area's most popular walking trail is the Ben Nevis mountain track, the UK’s highest mountain.

The location with the most walking trails in Wales

  1. Gwynedd

Walking trails: 470

Gwynedd has the most walking trails in Wales, with 470. Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa in Welsh), the highest mountain in Wales and England, is one of the country's most famous and recognisable landmarks. With plenty of walkable routes, it offers a balance between amazing views, rocky paths, and challenging terrain, all within the tranquillity of nature.

Rank Location Country Walking trails
1 Highlands Scotland 950
2 Gwynedd Wales 470
3 Aberdeenshire Scotland 452
4 East Renfrewshire Scotland 433
5 East Dunbartonshire Scotland 346
6 Powy Wales 322
7 Perth and Kinross Scotland 302
8 Argyll and Bute Scotland 270
9 Conwy Wales 212
10 Fife Scotland 187
10 Scottish Borders Scotland 187

The location with the most Special Areas of Conservation in the UK

  1. Highlands and Islands, Scotland

Special Areas of Conservation: 152

Due to the area's rich natural beauty and abundant biodiversity, it's no surprise that the Highlands and Islands has the highest number of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in the UK, with 152 in total. These areas, including Ardgour Pinewoods and Cairngorms, help protect both habitats and species, especially as the diverse ecosystems, rugged landscapes, and unique wildlife dwelling in these areas typically require special attention and protection to be well-preserved.

Rank Location Country Special Areas of Conservation
1 Highlands and Islands Scotland 152
2 West Wales Wales 66
3 The Valleys Wales 66
4 Eastern Scotland Scotland 65
5 Northern Ireland Northern Ireland 54
6 East Wales Wales 39
7 Southwestern Scotland Scotland 34
8 Cumbria England 31
9 East Anglia England 26
10 Somerset England 24

The UK location with the most eco-friendly campsites

  1. Cornwall, England

Eco-friendly campsites: 27

Cornwall has the highest number of eco-friendly campsites, totalling 27. From Mount Pleasant Eco Park to Canna Farm Campsite, Cornwall offers plenty of options for eco-conscious families looking to go camping. These sites are often nestled within the peaceful countryside and close to beaches, but they also offer amenities such as plant-based cafes.

Rank Location Country Eco-friendly Campsites
1 Cornwall England 27
2 Devon England 22
3 Pembrokeshire Wales 16
4 Powys Wales 10
5 Norfolk England 9
5 East Sussex England 9
7 West Sussex England 9
7 Somerset England 8
9 Dorset England 7
9 Cumbria England 7
9 Carmarthenshire Wales 7

The UK region with the most green festivals

  1. London

Green festivals: 13

London tops the list with the most green festivals across the UK. The largest city in the country has an estimated 13 green festivals. There are plenty of eco-friendly festivals for families and friends, including the London Green Film Festival, an annual event celebrating environmental films.

The London Permaculture Festival is also an environmental festival with several workshops, market stalls, and even a ‘families at the festival’ zone, perfect for kids to get involved.

Rank Country/Region Green Festivals
1 London 13
2 Southeast 11
3 Southwest 10
4 Yorkshire and the Humber 9
5 Wales 8
6 North West 7
6 West Midlands 7
8 East Midlands 6
8 East of England 6
10 Scotland 5

Top equipment for eco-friendly trips

Tent – An essential for those visiting one of our eco-friendly campsites with variations such as eco tents available for a friendlier environmental choice. Heading out to a green festival? Pick out the perfect festival or pop-up tent for easier pitching.

Gas BBQ - This generates less carbon dioxide than its charcoal counterpart; if you’re looking for a tasty meal with friends and family, the gas BBQ is considered a more eco-friendly choice.

Walking Footwear: Once you’ve picked out your trail of choice from our eco-friendly destinations, get the perfect boots or shoes to protect your feet from rain and mud, offering exceptional control for a more comfortable walking experience.

Reusable Water Bottles - Stay hydrated with a reusable bottle, a more sustainable solution than plastic single-use drink options. 

Methodology

To find the most eco-friendly destinations in the UK, we created a list of local authorities across each country sourced from the Office for National Statistics estimates of the population of the UK, England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland from mid-2022.

Because England has the highest number of local authorities, we used over 50 of its most populated local authorities, not including countries or regions. We only used local authorities with sufficient data for each country for each factor to ensure a strong data set.

We then reviewed the following factors, ensuring we created a dedicated section and ranking for locations within each country.

Using the Department for Transport’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure statistics from January 2024, we sourced the number of EV chargers in the UK, including England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. This data was also calculated per 10 km² using the ONS estimates of the population of the UK, England (excluding London boroughs), Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

We looked at the average number of parks, public gardens, or playing fields within a 1,000 metre radius using the Office for National Statistics’ access to gardens and public green space in Great Britain from April 2020. Due to a lack of available data, this data was included for all sections (England, Wales, and Scotland) except Northern Ireland.

Using AllTrails, we sourced the number of walking trails for each local authority (excluding London) normalised per 10 km². This data was completed on 22/04/2024.

We also sourced the average cost of a one-way ticket on local transport in each English local authority using Numbeo. This factor wasn’t included in any other section due to a lack of available data. This data was collected on 18/04/2024.

To find out the annual emissions for each local authority, we used the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero’s UK local authority and regional greenhouse gas emissions national statistics, 2005 to 2021, looking at yearly emissions per km² (kt CO2e) as of 2021.

To unveil the best overall eco-friendly destinations, we created a total ‘eco-friendly’ score, giving each local authority a normalised score out of 10 for each factor, including the number of public EV chargers per 10 km², the number of walking trails per 10 km², the average number of parks, public gardens, or playing fields per 1,000 metre radius (excluding Northern Ireland),  the average cost of a one-way ticket on local transport (England only), and annual emissions per km2 (kt CO2e). We then calculated the average score out of 10 across all factors for each local authority.

We weighted all factors equally except for the annual emissions per local authority, which has a 0.25 weighting in each country ranking, as local emissions are less impactful on the travel experience of eco-tourists compared to all other factors included.

Using AllTrails, we gathered data on the number of walking trails for each local authority in England, Scotland and Wales and ranked them to find the locations with the most walking trails in each country. This data was completed on 22/04/2024.

We used the Forest Research UK Urban Canopy Cover to highlight the average percentage of green canopy cover for each local authority as an alternative source, accessed 30/04/2024.

We used Campsites.co.uk to gather data on the names and locations of 200+ eco campsites across the UK. We completed the data collection for this section on 26/04/2024.

JNCC’s UK National Site Network (SAC and SPA): site summary details spreadsheet 2023 was used to source the number of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in various local authorities across the UK, including England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. We removed areas labelled as ‘extra-regio’ as these are areas not designated to local authorities. This data was completed on 25/04/2024.

We also looked at various sources, such as Eco-age and Bio, to build a list of green festivals. We then noted which region each festival was in to reveal which is home to the most eco-friendly festivals. Data collection for this section was completed on 29/04/2024.

References:

1. https://news.oxfordshire.gov.uk/electric-vehicle-charging-boost/

2. https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/news/article/13661/plans-to-boost-electric-vehicle-chargers-across-edinburgh

3. https://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/Dundee%20Green%20Network%2016.12.2016_A.pdf

4. https://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/investinbelfast/why-belfast/sustainability

5. https://antrimandnewtownabbey.gov.uk/residents/community-initiatives/plant-a-million-trees/#:~:text=About%20the%20Initiative&text=In%20a%20bid%20to%20tackle,so%20we%20need%20your%20help.

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