The ultimate eco holiday is one that is off grid. But lest you think that means spending a night in a bivvy bag up the boughs of a tree, thanks to the great advances that have been made in renewable technology, there are lots of wonderful eco-friendly places on terra firma, from luxurious glampsites to beautifully renovated stone cottages, often in wonderful locations. The opportunity provided by these bolt holes – sanctuaries from the electronic demands of modern life – is to switch off, recharge, and enjoy the simple things: butterflies, birdsong and the night sky, where the only air conditioning is likely to be the sea breeze or the wind in the trees.
- Chaffinch Cottage, Northumberland
- The Bothy at Nether Glenny, Port of Menteith
- Laggan, Ardnish
- Blackthorn Cottage, Crickhowell
- Cosy Under Canvas, Powys
- Eco Retreats, Powys
- Birch Cottage, County Antrim
- Bulworthy Cabin, Devon
- Devon Dens, Devon
One of several holiday cottages converted from old stone houses 1,400 ft above sea level in the hills of the upper Coquet Valley in the Northumberland National Park, offering epic views and star-strewn night skies. Electricity for the estate is provided by solar panels and wind turbines, water comes from bore holes and wood burners use wood from the owners’ own wind.
The Bothy at Nether Glenny
Port of Menteith, Scotland
Found in the splendid isolation of The Trossachs on an 84-acre hillside farm in the Menteith Hills overlooking the gorgeous Lake of Menteith, The Bothy is billed as a retreat just for two. There’s no TV or Wi-Fi, just wonderful views from a wood-fired hot tub. The pine-clad interior has one double room, kitchen, and a cosy mezzanine bedroom.
A gorgeous, whitewashed cottage by the sea on the Ardnish peninsula in the north-west of Scotland that’s about as remote as it gets in the UK – there’s no road access, and the only way in is a three-hour walk or a 10-minute private boat trip. Lest you feel a little trapped, there’s a boat provided, so you can discover the marine wildlife and explore the wild coastline on foot or by sea before returning to the tranquil idyll.
A beautiful stone-roofed cottage on the slopes of the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons National Park close to the Georgian town of Crickhowell and Abergavenny, where there’s a railway station on the Welsh Marshes Line from Newport to Hereford. There’s just one room but there are day beds in the living room for extra people.
Cosy Under Canvas
A well-established glampsite in the Brecon Beacons. The roomy geodesic domes are dotted throughout the woods, out of sight of one another. Lanterns are rechargeable electric, water comes from a spring, plus there’s a wood-fired hot tub, woodland shower, and an outdoor, upcycled Chiminea woodstove with a fire pit. Founded in 2009, the kitchens are kitted out with everything you could possibly need, including a Rayburn oven – great for slow cooking stews.
This was one of the first yurt camps in the UK, on a working organic farm just outside Machynlleth, close to the Centre for Alternative Technology. Soak in the finest remote forest bathing – there are just five yurt camps (each with their own wood-fired baths) spread over 50 acres in the Dyfi Forest.
Three places to stay that are moved to a new location every 28 days to ensure the lightest environmental footprint. Inspired by the tiny house movement in the USA, owners Hannah and John Graham have converted an American school bus and built a portable ‘hidden hut’ and contemporary larch cabin that they move to remote hideouts in the Lake District.
County Antrim, Ireland
A solar- and wind-powered cottage in birch woods on an organic smallholding among the rolling drumlin hills of the Mourne Mountains. The owners of this pioneering project, Steve and Claire, have aimed to meet its energy, food, waste and water requirements themselves. They’ve become so adept at it, the farm has become a centre for practical sustainability and they now supply off-grid equipment across Ireland.
A lovely little cabin for two in its own private glade that’s part of a DIY woodland management enterprise known as the Bulworthy Project, transforming the woodland into a nature reserve. Solar power provides the electricity and the water is heated by a wood-burning stove. The owners plant a native or fruit tree for every night booked. The site is within the North Devon Biosphere Reserve, designated by UNESCO as an area of special environmental importance.
Two sustainable timber cabins in woodland close to Dartmoor and beaches, in north and south Devon and Cornwall. Solar energy provides power, loos are dry with natural water filtration systems, all waste is composted and there are lots of biodiversity initiatives, including Freedom beehives. devondens.co.uk
Extract taken from The Green Traveller by Richard Hammond, out now (Pavilion Books, from £8.99)