From trendy city hotels to hidden fairytale cottages, Liz Wootton takes us through some of the best eco-friendly lodgings the UK has to offer.
Whilst we all love to travel, by doing it we are (somewhat ironically) damaging the planet we are trying so hard to discover – with tourism accounting for nearly one-tenth of the world’s carbon emissions.
While it is pretty unrealistic to assume that people will just simply stop going on holiday (and travel is still one of best ways to learn more about the world and its inhabitants), there are still many ways in which we can make our trips less damaging on the environment. One great way of doing this is to choose a ‘staycation’ for your next break over flying away somewhere exotic. Another is to opt to stay at hotels with eco-friendly credentials – of which the UK, very luckily, has a phenomenal selection.
If the term ‘eco-hotel’ conjures up mental images of swaying treehouses or else a yurt in the middle of a field for you, then it’s time to think again. As much as we love yurts, these eco-conscious lodgings are full-on brick and mortar, with all the facilities you’d ever need for that special sustainable staycation. Some of them are even in the heart of bustling cities – eco-travel has never looked so good!
The Green House Hotel, Bournemouth
A gorgeous eco-haven nestled in a leaf-filled pocket of Bournemouth’s city centre, The Green House takes protecting the environment very seriously (just in case you hadn’t already got that from their name). Recognised as one of the leading eco-hotels in the world, sustainability is at the core of this 32-room Grade II Victorian villa, and every single aspect – from the towels and toilet paper to the restaurant’s menus and general decor – has been carefully considered and made as sustainable as possible.
We especially love the wild, verdant grounds, complete with bird and bat boxes and two beehives, which produce honey for the hotel’s kitchen. Speaking of which, visitors should not miss the opportunity to dine here – sourcing all their produce from local suppliers and artisans, the menu here is fresh, imaginative and won’t cost the earth.
As well as having great eco-credential, The Green House is sandwiched between some of the best blue flag beaches on the Jurassic Coast and the beautiful rolling expanse of the New Forest. The perfect eco escape? We certainly think so.
Hex Cottage, Wilderness Reserve, Suffolk
Although it may be small, the gorgeous Hex Cottage is definitely not lacking in the character department. With a flower-filled meadow as its front lawn, this lovely little cottage is set in its own peaceful bower – the only sound here is the boughs of the trees moving gently in the breeze. The charming thatched roof, pretty red bricks and duck egg blue door, will have you feeling as if you’ve just stepped into a fairytale – and that’s before you’ve even walked through the door.
Inside, you’ll find quirky antique furniture, wooden floors strewn with sheepskin rugs, cosy open fires, a majestic rolltop bath and a beautifully canopied bed (the kind of thing 7-year-old you always dreamed of). This fairytale feeling is heightened by the fact that there’s no electricity in the cottage. The Esse woodburning range provides hot water, whilst the gently flickering flames of candles allow you to read when night falls. As well as being undeniably romantic, being cut off from electricity for a period of time forces us to rethink the way we use it in our day to day lives and how we could cut down on energy wastage.
Hex Cottage is set in the midst of the Wilderness Reserve – a privately-owned 5,000-acre estate in the heart of the Suffolk countryside. Conservation is key at the reserve, and over the past 5 years, they have planted 600,000 trees, sown acres of wildflowers and installed 2,000 nest boxes – making the area an absolute paradise for wildlife. The charming buildings scattered across the estate have been made using natural materials and by working closely with local craftsmen and craftswomen, ensuring the preservation of traditional techniques such as lime pargetting and long straw and reed thatching.
The Pig Hotels, multiple locations
Rather than ‘hotels’, THE PIG family prefer to be referred to as ‘restaurants with rooms’, highlighting how food is at the heart of everything they do. Each of THE PIGS (there are six currently in the litter) has its own kitchen garden, and whatever they can’t grow or rear themselves, they focus on sourcing from the local area – the underlying ethos behind their ‘25-mile menu’.
By growing and foraging for food, smoking their own meat, keeping bees, recycling cooking oil and composting garden waste, the Pig Hotels make a substantial effort to cut down on plastic packaging, carbon emissions and waste in their kitchens. This ethos carries across the whole business: they recycle everything they can, don’t use plastic straws and use reclaimed and natural building materials and furniture where possible etc. Additionally, they support the local community by contributing to local charities and running apprentice schemes.
With locations in Hampshire, Dorset, Devon, Somerset and Kent, each Pig is distinctly unique, but all share the same simple rustic charm and that lovely ‘homely’ feel – inviting you to put your feet up, relax and think about nothing (apart from what you’re going to have for dinner, of course!).
Saorsa Hotel, Pitlochry, Scotland
A testament to the momentum veganism has been gathering over recent years, Saorsa 1875 is very proud to be the UK’s first ‘fully-vegan hotel’. And, by ‘fully-vegan’, they mean ‘fully-vegan’. Food is really just the starting point here. Everything, from the bedding to the toiletries, is completely free of animal products. Ideal if you’re committed to a strict plant-based lifestyle and want to relax safe in the knowledge that your values won’t be compromised whenever you go to use the bathroom soap.
Saorsa 1875 is also a fantastic option for those who are not necessarily ‘vegan’, but who are looking to offset the environmental damage caused by their weekend away. With the meat and dairy industry causing astronomical amounts of damage to the environment, experts are now suggesting that adopting a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do for the planet. Even if you’re only going plant-based for the weekend, every little bit still counts, and, with the amazing menu here, even the heartiest of cheese and meat lovers won’t feel like they’re walking away from dinner short-changed.
And the plant-filled fun doesn’t stop there: the hotel itself is surrounded by two acres of enchanting woodlands and charming gardens, which overlook the pretty Victorian town of Pitlochry. There’s plenty of space for you to walk about and reconnect with nature in the hotel grounds, however, if you fancy venturing further afield then the majestic mountains, peaceful forests and gently-sloping glens of the surrounding landscape are just begging to be explored.
Organig Parc, Llyn Peninsula, North Wales
A little pocket of eco-luxury in the heart of the Welsh countryside, Organig Parc is a collection of five lovely holiday cottages, scattered around a working organic farm. Nestled on the slopes of Sugar Loaf Mountain (best. name. ever.) the farm and cottages are surrounded by verdant fields and National Trust woodlands, overlooking the lovely market town of Abergavenny.
The farm has been part of the surrounding landscape for centuries, and the family who own it recognise the importance of peacefully co-existing with nature, rather than damaging it. The buildings themselves have been constructed with natural materials, in the most sustainable way possible, using lime mortar, natural stone, locally-sourced Welsh slate and oak and salvaged beams from a disused watermill.
Step inside one of the cosy cottages and you’ll find the eco-friendly ethos continues: sheep’s wool has been used for insulation, organic paints for the walls, AGAs to cook and provide the hot water and the towels and sheets are all 100% organic cotton. The Welsh oak floors are strewn with bespoke wool carpets from Snowdonia mountain sheep and the private patios, with their beautiful lawns, are fed by pure spring water cascading down from the mountain. This is a truly glorious spot, in the heart of the Welsh countryside, where the eco-conscious can spend a peaceful weekend surrounded by an abundance of nature and not much else.
The Scarlet, Newquay, North Cornwall
If you’re at all familiar with the eco-hotel scene then you’ll definitely have been expecting the Scarlet to be cropping up on this list. And with very good reason too. On its dramatic perch atop a series of wild and windswept cliffs, this is definitely Britain’s (not so hidden) eco-hotel gem.
Every aspect of this eco-paradise has been designed in line with nature: from the reed-filled natural pool and the clifftop barrel hot tubs to the far-reaching ocean views of the restaurant and spa, nature takes precedence here. As does the Scarlet’s commitment to sustainability, which runs through every little detail throughout the building. Starting from the ground up, every element of the hotel, from the construction to the decor to the bedding to the menu at the restaurant and the treatments in the spa, has been carefully considered in terms of the environment.
They take pains to use natural, organic and recyclable materials where possible and to source their food, drinks, arts and any additional products locally. They even provide discounts to guests who have reduced their carbon footprint by travelling to the Scarlet via bus, train, bike or foot, rather than by car – handy to bear in mind when planning your next staycation!
The Zetter, London
Super hip and quirky and with a great central location, The (oh-so-cool) Zetter proves that staying sustainable doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style.
A converted Victorian warehouse located between Clerkenwell and Farringdon, this beautiful boutique hotel has been designed to be as energy-efficient as possible. As well as the usual features, the building actually has its own 1500-foot bore-hole underneath, which helps make the building self-sufficient in terms of water and which also naturally cools it down.
Even though they are already doing great things, the ‘Green Team’ behind The Zetter refuse to rest on their laurels: instead, they hold a monthly meeting in which the ensure standards and being met and discuss new initiatives. This hunger to keep evolving and improving their eco-friendliness really sets The Zetter apart from other London hotels, as does their fantastic service, ideal location and exquisitely-comfortable rooms. If you do want to make your next trip to the Big Smoke a little more sustainable then we’d definitely recommend giving them a try.
Bloomfield House, Bath
Wander around the beautiful Roman city of Bath, admiring the history-laden architecture and quaint streets, until you end up in the leafy paradise which surrounds Bloomfield House. On arrival, the friendly owners (Rob and Karen) will welcome you to their lovely eco-guesthouse with open arms and so begins one of the most relaxing staycations you’ve ever had.
With its stunning grounds, splendid views and decadent decor throughout, Bloomfield House is certainly eco-elegance at its finest. The Georgian guesthouse has been tastefully furnished with antiques, fine art and towering four-poster beds, giving you the sense of having stepped back to a simpler, more romantic, time.
As well as sourcing their decor second-hand, rather than new, Bloomfield House boasts a variety of other eco-credentials. The ingredients for their Full English (or vegetarian/vegan) breakfasts are organic, Fair Trade and supplied by local growers, they are powered by Ecotricity, the UK’s leading green energy supplier, in their driveway you’ll find electric car charging points (which you can use for free) and they refill their toiletries to fight plastic waste. The owners also co-founded Bath Farmers Market, which takes place on a Saturday (9 am – 1.30 pm) – if you’re visiting while it’s on then you should definitely head down to check it out.