Distribution of Airbnb Short Term Lets in Scotland

Map of Airbnb in Scotland – Short Term Lets

Across Scotland there are currently 28,100 listings on Airbnb comprising all property types: houses, flats, rooms, cabins and caravans. Of these, some 17,560 are listings where the entire property (mainly houses or flats) are available on a short term let basis.

See below for the location of each Airbnb short term let (STL) using information available on the Airbnb website. Property listings are distributed across the whole of Scotland and are absent only from mountainous regions that are sparsely populated. There are high concentrations of listings around Edinburgh, Glasgow, Skye and Fife.

Note that Airbnb are known to vary the positional accuracy of a location by up to 200 meters from the actual location of the listed property so positional accuracy at ta detailed street level will be affected.  While this page will render on mobile phones it is best viewed using a laptop or workstation monitor.

Figure 1 Distribution of Airbnb Short Term Lets in Scotland

Zoom in to a local area using the [ + – ] buttons and drag the map move around .

Data Generation
Airbnb do not make an API available to researchers to access to listings data. Consequently the only means to obtain data is systematic search of listings on their website to obtain the data from each web page. The Airbnb website was scraped by searching distinct and small geographical areas over several days in April 2021 to provide a url for each listing in the area. The web page describing each listing was subsequently visited to extract detailed information from each, including, type of listing, number of occupants, number of reviews, date of last review and geo-coordinates.  The data was cleaned to remove duplicates then council authority, street and postcode information was obtained from Open Street Map using their Nominatim API. Finally, properties outside Scotland (Cumbria and Northumberland) were removed.

A total of 28,100 unique listings were found by the web scraping survey.  The number of properties described as entire property where the property was a flat or house  were 17,559. Data cleaning ensured that entire listings for cabins and caravans were excluded from these results. The percentage of listings described as entire properties is 63% of all listings.  Highland LA (3,603) has the highest number of STLs followed by City of Edinburgh (3,533), Argyll and Bute (1,249), Glasgow City (1,174) and Fife (1,016).  Many LAs have small numbers of STLs (West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian, East Ayrshire, Falkirk, Midlothian, Inverclyde, Clackmannanshire, East Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire) have fewer than 100.

The city authorities have the highest density of STLs  especially the City of Edinburgh (129 per 1000 Hectares) and Glasgow city (67 per 1000 Hectares).  It should be stated that even for these cities the local concentration will be much higher as STLs tend to be concentrated in the city centres.

Fife (7.4 per 1000 Hectares) which also has high total numbers of STLs is the highest of the rural authorities.  Both Highland and Argyll & Bute which were in the top ten for SLT listings have low densities as a result of their large geographical areas.

list of short term lets by local authority in scotland
Figure1: Airbnb short term lets by Scottish LA Council

Scottish Islands

Of the Scottish islands, Skye appears to have disproportionality high numbers of STLs (654) compared to the other large islands (Harris, 200; Lewis, 127; Arran, 99).

Comparison to Published Data

The Scottish Government (ScotGov) published data on the impact of Airbnb in Scotland based on a survey conducted in May 2019.  Their study found 31,884 listings of which 22603 (69%) were entire properties. The Datamap Scotland study found lower total properties and proportionately lower entire property listings, however during 2020 and early 2021 owners may have de-listed their properties in order to comply with Covid-19 restrictions in place across the country.  It will be interesting to repeat the survey later in 2021 to determine whether listings recover to the numbers found during their 2019 survey.  [See  https://www.gov.scot/publications/research-impact-short-term-lets-communities-scotland]


list of airbnb short term lets on Scottish islands
Figure 2: Airbnb short term lets on Scottish islands


Getting a foothold on the property ladder for first time buyers has never been harder as a result of:

  • high prices in the south east and London
  • increased purchase of second homes in desirable rural areas pushing up process beyond what locals can afford
  • ease of letting out holiday homes on airbnb platform

In the past ten or so years high property prices in London and the South East have priced most young people out if the market and forced them into the short term rental market at monthly rents that limit their ability to save a deposit that will get them their fists purchase. More recently, the growth of the internet property rental app, airbnb has made it easy for owners to let out properties and or rooms for short term lets. This has resulted in an increase in the purchasing of properties either as second homes or as commercial purchases to be used as exclusively as short term lets. In Scotland this has led to airbnb hot spots in Edinburgh and Glasgow as city centre lets but there are large numbers of short term lets across the country in rural areas leading to distortion of the property market and pricing young local people out of the market. In England this trend has already reached crisis point in some areas with locals priced out of ownership and now unable to find properties for rent: in Cornwall during May 2021 there were 10,000 plus properties listed on airbnb whereas there were only 62 properties available for rent on Rightmove’s property website (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jun/21/the-guardian-view-on-second-homes-put-main-homes-first).

In Scotland there is still time to prevent a Cornwall style property meltdown but the Scottish Government must act now:

  • Over the past thirty years the numbers on new homes built has been far below what is required to stabilise the housing market.  A massive building program is required to make low cost but quality housing available for locals to buy or rent
  • Homes for families and full time occupation must be prioritised over second homes and holiday lets by way of meaningful tax disincentives for second home owners
  • Planning legislation to prioritise full time occupation by owners or tenants over holiday homes and short term lets, a requirement to apply for change of use for short term lets and to ensure such properties meet environmental and safety standards such as those required by landlords


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