The Best Eco Retreats in the UK

Laura Martin
·6-min read
Photo credit: Rebecca Douglas
Photo credit: Rebecca Douglas
Photo credit: Volvo
Photo credit: Volvo

From experimenting with home-brewing and sourdough starters to cottagecore, spending a year stuck at home has had us all questioning our modern lifestyles. Could we go back to a more natural way of life and become more self-sustainable? It’s a hard reach, but one easy place to start is with holidays; specifically keeping them in the UK, and making them greener.

Over the past few years, eco-retreats have managed to shake off the reputation of being lentil-knitting campsites with dubious sawdust long-drops. Instead, you can now pick from achingly hip boutique accommodation on offer across the country, which just happens to positively contribute to the local environment and communities, while minimising any ecological impact on the area. Nice work; now pour yourself another artisan beer while you chill in the biomass-heated hot tub.

From farms and lodges to hotels and even treehouse resorts, the one thing these ecos-friendly holiday spots all have in common is a focus on using renewable energy and water preservation, as well as working towards becoming carbon-neutral and zero waste. But they go further than just being a worthy place to rest your head. The menus at these on-site dining rooms often boast gourmet organic, seasonal and locally sourced food; many places host yoga, meditation and other holistic therapy sessions. They're all also within driving distance of wherever in Britain you might live, often through some of the UK's most breathtaking scenery (or via a stop-off at one of its underrated beaches).

Being green on a mini-break has never been easier – or more welcome.

Daylesford Organic Farm, Gloucester

Photo credit: Daylesford Farm
Photo credit: Daylesford Farm

Daylesford isn't just the first and last word in organic produce (the farm’s been running for 40 years now). The Cotswolds bolthole is the perfect place to experience a full, luxury weekend of nurturing goodness. Choose from one of the five converted barns and cottages set on their 2,500 acres of rolling countryside, and how you plan to spend your next few days is entirely up to you. Take some skills back home with an artisan cookery class or garden workshop, or get zen with a sound healing session in the Bamford Wellness Spa. The real pull here comes at sundown: start with cocktails at the botanical bar, before heading to The Trough for dinner, where you can feast on the likes of venison carpaccio with red cabbage kimchi.

Doubles from £295 p/n, daylesford.com

Swallowtail Hill, Sussex

Photo credit: Rebecca Douglas
Photo credit: Rebecca Douglas

For a eco-friendly glamping trip that’s just a short trip away from London, it's hard to look past Swallowtail Hill, set in the wildflower meadows near Rye, East Sussex. There are six wooden cabins to get rustic in – although we can’t see woodcutters of yore having the luxury of wood-fired hot tubs – and this is properly off-grid, with a few of the lodgings being totally electricity-free. The perfect excuse to leave your laptop, phone and social media behind and tap into the natural sounds of the wilderness instead.

Doubles from £105 p/n, swallowtailhill.com

West Lexham Treehouses, Norfolk

Photo credit: West Lexham
Photo credit: West Lexham

West Lexham is an idyllic setup near Kings Lynn, Norfolk, with the highlight being five leafy treehouses, allowing everyone to live out their own Mowgli fantasies. Sleeping from two to six people each, the hand-crafted wooden beds and furniture make it feel like you’re nesting alongside the birds. Activity-wise, you can swim with the fishes in a fresh water swimming lake, chill by the Japanese gardens, or take a rowing boat out for a spin. By the end of your trip, you'll be seriously considering packing it all in for a switch to the simple life.

Treehouse for two, from £206 p/n, westlexham.org

Atlantic View Lodges, Bude

Photo credit: Atlantic View Lodges
Photo credit: Atlantic View Lodges

While many people will be flocking to Cornwall this summer, Atlantic View in Bude is just the place to escape them for some solitude (well, plus five other lodges), staring out at the wild expanse of the Cornish coastline. With the beach just 10 metres away, the surf’s permanently up for long-boarders, or for the less-active, it’s red wine in front of the wood-burning stove with the floor-to-ceiling backdrop of the waves of Atlantic Ocean crashing over jutting rocks for entertainment. For those who’ve had a recent addition to the family during lockdown, dogs are very welcome to join the holiday here, too.

6-person lodges from £1,085 a week, atlanticviewlodges.co.uk

The Scarlet Hotel, Mawgan Porth

Photo credit: Scarlet Hotel
Photo credit: Scarlet Hotel

Sticking in Cornwall, the luxury Scarlet Hotel is an eco-spot strictly for adults only. Not in a dodgy Sandals-resort-type-way, more in a leave-the-kids-at-home-for-a-rare-moment-of-peace type way. You may have seen some of the envy-inducing shots from this hotel popping up on Instagram already – the hot tub with the backdrop of the sweeping bay, perhaps – and the natural wild swimming pool is pretty postable too. Elsewhere on site there’s a deep relaxation room, with the cosy pods being just the place for an excellent nap, cocooned in warm blankets, while golden hour calls for sundowners on the Retreat Terrace, while watching the world go by on the beach down below.

Doubles from £355 p/n, scarlethotel.co.uk/

Knoydart House, west Scotland

Photo credit: Knoydart House
Photo credit: Knoydart House

This award-winning spot up on the west coast of Scotland is petite – there's room for just two people, in fact – but perfectly formed. This Loch Nevis-side house feels like you’re at the end of the earth, in the nicest possible way, especially when you look up and see millions of stars shining out from the Milky Way above you, thanks to zero light pollution in the area. When you finally retire for the night, you’ll sleep like the proverbial log in a four-poster bed, dressed with crisp white linen sheets, then wake up to enjoy a range of organic products in the bathroom, too. Back outside, there’s a hot tub to soak in the solitude, and we’d recommend indulging in a seafood platter from the fresh local catch, then taking a walk to The Forge, mainland Britain’s most remote pub.

From £150 p/n, Knoydarthouse.co.uk

Treberfedd Farm Eco Cabins, west Wales

Photo credit: Treberfedd Farm
Photo credit: Treberfedd Farm

We’re back to another organic farm with the eco-cabins at Treberfedd, west Wales, and once again, sustainability is at the heart of this hideaway. The farm’s hilltop location gives an incredible vista of that green, green grass Tom Jones is always singing about, and their two luxury cabins will have you singing its praises as well. The huts offer all the usual home comforts, with underfloor heating and turf roofs to keep things toasty, as well as camouflaging them into the surrounding area.

Cabins for 2 from £219 p/n, treberfedd.co.uk/eco-cabins

To discover more about the Volvo Smart XC60 Recharge and its sustainable credentials, visit volvocars.co.uk

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