Coronavirus brings opportunities for car-free tourismPublished 04 August 2020 by Matt McDonald
The Coronavirus pandemic has encouraged many of us to choose to holiday at home this summer. Indeed, on 23 June the First Minister said:
“I will be delighted to encourage people to have staycations in Scotland and in all the beautiful parts of our country.” 
The First Minister reiterated this sentiment on 28 July saying:
“I wouldn’t be booking a foreign holiday just now.” 
More Scots choosing to staycation will have significant benefits for the Scottish economy as well as bringing a welcome reduction in aviation emissions.
However, research by Kwik Fit found that staycations will lead to more people choosing to drive throughout the UK and that Scotland is the most popular destination for drivers in the UK, with 2.8 million people expected. It would be counter-productive if the emission reduction benefits of reduced aviation are cancelled out by increased traffic volumes on Scotland’s rural roads, especially when Scotland offers excellent sustainable tourism options.
Many of Scotland’s best tourist attractions can be accessed by sustainable transport and in 2015 Transform Scotland created our ‘Car-Free Tourism’ website, which provides detailed instructions on accessing popular tourist destinations without having to jump between a number of travel planning websites.
Each page has all the information tourists require to travel to the site without spending time on lots of research. Walking and cycling routes are provided as files that can be downloaded to smartphone apps and GPS devices. The site also provides advice for tourism operators encouraging them to develop or improve sustainable travel options for visitors.
We would encourage users of the site to check the public transport information presented before setting off as well as the websites for each attraction for changes to opening hours and capacity during the Coronavirus pandemic.
There are significant opportunities to further develop cycle tourism and boost local and rural economies by promoting sustainable tourism in Scotland. The increase in staycations has further highlighted the need for investment to make cycle tourism safe and convenient for people of all abilities.
Our 2018 report, ‘Routes to Growth: Developing Scotland’s Cycle Tourism Sector’, set out leisure cycling could play a larger part in Scotland’s tourism economy. The report builds upon our 2013 research ‘The Value of Cycle Tourism’, which presented the contribution to Scotland’s economy from leisure cycle tourism. Later research by Sustrans Scotland found the value to be £345 million per year.
Scotland enjoys some world renowned scenic rail routes such as the West Highland Lines and the Kyle Line which as well as making for wonderful journeys also serve numerous remote stations where you will find yourself well off the beaten track. But Scotland’s main lines north to Inverness and Aberdeen also offer splendid scenery as well as taking you to two fine cities with much to offer the visitor.
For those who prefer to start in the Central Belt Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh has too many attractions to list here and is connected by rail all parts of Scotland. So Scotland’s rail network really is an ideal way to explore the country happy in the knowledge that you are travelling in a sustainable way.