Make a difference: check out these top eco destinations
We select the network’s greenest places to visit, perfect for environmentally conscious eating, shopping and sleeping. Make sure you take the train and make your trip as sustainable as possible.
DevonBoasting two national parks, a stunning coastline and several Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Devon has a lot to offer when it comes to the environment.
The National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth is a great fun attraction. Not only is it home to some very special animals – including giant Pacific octopus, clown fish and two humphead wrasse called Cooper and Mini – it’s also a conservation charity dedicated to helping us understand more about the ocean.
Just a couple of stops from Plymouth is Totnes, one of the most ethical places in the UK, full of eco-friendly businesses, and with a consumer body to match. Head to the family-run Hairy Barista for an oatmilk latte and vegan cakes. Or why not grab a takeaway lunch from Ben’s Farm Shop, which is full of organic local produce?
Devon also has the most ostentatiously green accommodation you’ll find in the whole country. Just a short walk from Eggesford, the Treetops Treehouse is built among the branches of an ancient oak tree, which means you can live as one with nature, just like the ewoks in Return of the Jedi. There’s a kingsize bed, a huge copper bath and a woodburner, so you can cosy up and enjoy the sound of the wind in the leaves.
CornwallCornwall has 400 miles of coast and an impressive variety of wildlife, including common dolphins, grey seals and puffins. With all this beauty right on your door step we need to take extra care of the Cornish countryside and, where possible, offset our impact with a dose of environmental kindness.
The Rock Pool Project is a Cornwall-based social enterprise that helps connect people with nature. Expert volunteers take visitors and locals on exploratory tours of the region’s finest rock pools, with loads of hands-on fun. Some events are free, while others, including one with a boat trip, are ticketed. For details visit therockpoolproject.co.uk.
Any green-minded visitor should also visit the famous Eden Project. Built with sustainability as a core principle, the attraction features two biomes housing fauna from far-flung countries, including some rare (and smelly) plants.
The Scarlet is a luxury eco hotel, complete with a restorative spa. Sitting right on the coast, north of Newquay, the hotel was designed to connect visitors with the outdoors, offering stunning views out to sea. The spa experience includes the option of a Turkish bath, body scrub, massage and a go in the clifftop hot tub.
LondonThe so-called Big Smoke might not be your first choice of green destinations, but don’t let London’s reputation for pollution put you off – the capital is far from a lost cause.
In fact, last year, London became the first ever National Park City, which has helped change perceptions of the city as a place of business and commerce to a thriving green space, full of parks, playing fields, rivers and canals.
Start by exploring London’s many parks, from Regent’s Park and Richmond Park to the aptly named Green Park. Follow the Serpentine River through Hyde Park and enjoy the view from Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath.
Shopping is not out of the question when making an eco-friendly trip, and London is full of environmentally conscious shops. Head to Shoreditch to discover Aida, which is not only a great shop, stocked full of sustainably sourced men’s and women’s fashion, but it’s also a top place to hang out and enjoy a coffee or an organic juice.
The owners of The Zetter hotel in Clerkenwell are proud of its eco credentials and have used eco-friendly materials and energy-saving technology wherever possible. They even use water pumped from the hotel’s own 1,500-foot borehole beneath the building to flush toilets and cool the property.
BrightonThere’s perhaps no British city more synonymous with eco-consciousness than Brighton. For starters, it’s home to nearly 100 vegan-friendly restaurants, which is more, per capita, than any other UK city.
One of the first and best vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Brighton, Food for Friends, opened way back in 1981 and has been much lauded ever since. It offers tasty, honest food, made from consciously sourced produce – and the porcini arancini looks excellent.
Gaze out into the English Channel and you’ll see the 116 wind turbines that make up the Rampion offshore wind park, powering up to 350,000 homes, equivalent to around half the households in Sussex.
No doubt celebrating this eco energy revolution will be Brighton House, a four-star, boutique guest house that prides itself on green living. The Regency-era building has benefited from a complete refit, helping transform an elegant piece of architecture into a stylish and environmentally friendly home from home.
BristolThe only British city to be awarded the European Green Capital Award, Bristol is a super destination for those looking for an ethical break. It’s full of great green initiatives, such as Create Centre and Ecohome, an environmental centre that is a hub of eco activities and regularly changing exhibitions.
For ethical shopping, look no further than Brothers We Stand. Set up in solidarity with those who produce the clothes, this cool new fashion retailer stocks stylish and sustainably made menswear, including pieces produced by fellow Bristolians Antiform, who source all their materials and production in the UK.
Poco Tapas Bar has received awards for its sustainable credentials and is a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, composting or recycling 95-100% of its waste. All the food is seasonal, and most of it is sourced within 100 miles of the restaurant. Oh, and the food is exceptional. Try its classics, like saddleback pork belly with fennel, and deep-fried oysters, available all year round.
Finally, The Bristol – a modern hotel in the heart of the city – sends none of its waste to landfill, has seriously cut back its emissions and recycles 64% of its water. The rooms are affordable and stylish, perfect for a short city break.