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Exploring the Best of Britain on a Low-Carbon Holiday



Column from Kath Clark for Harrogate Advertiser, August 2023




Photo – RSPB reserve near Stromness, Orkney


At Zero Carbon Harrogate we have been inspired to discover the joy of living with less. Whether it’s buying second-hand, trying a new veggie recipe, or planning a day out by public transport, these small lifestyle changes can be fulfilling as well as reducing your carbon footprint.


This way of thinking inspired my husband and I to try a different kind of holiday earlier this year and we decided to visit the Mainland of the Orkney Isles in Scotland, travelling by bike, train and ferry.


This type of travel takes a bit of organising but it’s worth it, and we were rewarded with some lovely B&B stays and quality local food.


It’s free to take your bike on the train, but places are limited and get booked up early, so remember to make your reservation when you buy your train ticket. The process is a bit of a faff, having to print out tickets for each leg of the journey, so it’s important to be organised!


Overall, the train experience was excellent, and we spent a couple of hours in sunny Edinburgh before taking our connection to Aberdeen.


Whatever your age, taking a ferry is exciting! Travelling from Aberdeen to Kirkwall takes about six hours. Once our bikes were safely stowed, we settled into our reserved recliner seats, enjoyed a drink from the bar and watched a screening of a classic British film, occasionally popping out onto deck to enjoy the fresh air and view.


Orkney is rich in ancient history, packed with birdlife and dramatic coastlines, and cycling is a great way to see the island. Windy weather and an undulating landscape require good fitness levels, but car drivers were courteous, giving us plenty of road space.


Our holiday highlights were seeing and hearing the endangered snipe, the constant chatter of skylarks, and cheery exchanges with curious cows as we trundled past rolling fields. We marvelled at the sight of dolphins swimming alongside the ferry as we returned to the mainland.


A scenic coastal train trip and short ferry took us to Fearne where we joined Route 1 of the National Cycle Network, cycling along the peaceful country roads of the beautiful Black Isle.

We returned with a warm sense of achievement. Cycling over 150 miles is a lot for me these days, but leaving the car at home and embracing nature was uplifting.


If this kind of trip seems daunting, try something more manageable that you can do in a day or an afternoon. Hop on the train with your bike, get off at the next stop and cycle home, taking a nice, quiet route. A day out by bike or public transport will be a completely different experience to sitting in the car, so why not unleash the explorer within, and give it a go?


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