A new VisitScotland tourism guide recommends skipping Edinburgh Castle altogether and warns against the dangers of 'social media trends' such as stone-stacking and love locks.

VisitScotland’s first official guide on “how to become an eco-tourist” has been launched in the wake of growing concern about the impact of increasing visitor numbers in Scotland.

These locations include Edinburgh city centre, the Isle of Skye and parts of the Highlands, including those linked to Harry Potter or Outlander books, films and TV series.

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The official guide on how to take “eco-friendly” holidays in Scotland advises visitors not to ‘cram absolutely everything there is to see and do in Scotland’ into one trip, and was published ahead of the launch of a ten-year industry vision today,

Tourism chiefs warned holidaymakers they may face ‘unpleasant’ overcrowding at popular sites and growing concern from locals about the impact of ‘overtourism’.

It also warned that overcrowding ‘undermines the quality of life for residents’ living in the area by putting ‘stress’ on public transport.

The guide stated: “With more and more visitors travelling to Scotland than ever before, there is increasing concern about the potential negative impact of tourism on Scotland’s spectacular natural environment, as well as its iconic cities and unique towns and villages.

"Luckily, there are plenty of simple steps you can take to help combat overtourism by ensuring your visit is as sustainable as possible.”

The eco-guide features links to suggested “slow travel experiences”, advice on help keep beaches clean.

It urged people not to indulge in the 'social media-fuelled trend' of stone stacking or fastening 'love locks' to bridges due to their environmental impact.

The guide added: “Many first-time visitors make the mistake of trying to cram absolutely everything there is to see and do in Scotland into their entire trip.

"This is not only impossible, but has the unintended effect of creating overcrowding in many of our most famous and beloved spots, especially in Edinburgh where many visitors spend just a couple of days.

“Unfortunately, this not only makes for an unpleasant visitor experience, but also undermines the quality of life for residents by placing undue stress on public transport and infrastructure.”

The guide recommended travellers either book a private or small-group with a local guide to tap into their insider knowledge or do extensive research in advance.

It added: “The more time you spend on our website and our blog, the better an understanding you’ll have of the places you want to visit on your itinerary and how much time to spend at each.

“Take Edinburgh, for instance.

"Unless you have a deep interest in military history, you might want to limit your visit to Edinburgh Castle or skip it all together and instead indulge your deep and abiding love of spirit at the Edinburgh Gin Distillery.

“Learning as much as you can about an attraction or destination ahead of time will make your visit much more rewarding.”

Chris Greenwood, VisitScotland’s expert on global industry trends, said: “There is a real recognition amongst travellers that their behaviours are now having an impact on the world around them, whether it is on the environment or on local communities.

“Destinations that have significant issues with overtourism cannot just continue to attract more and more people in.

"It is about managing visitor numbers and growing tourism without having a detrimental impact.

“There are overtourism messages coming out of certain places in Scotland at certain times of the year.

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“We need to improve the seasonality and regionality of the industry.”

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “The new strategy will look to enrich the lives of those who live here and visit us, and it will protect and preserve our places, with the industry acting as pioneers for delivering responsible tourism.

"It’s a bold new approach that’ll see tourism act positively in the common interest of communities, businesses and everyone who visits and stays with us.”