How do you lower the carbon footprint of your summer holiday?

A guide to do sustainable travel in the UK

woman reading book on sustainable summer holiday UK

Table of Contents

Oh January.

Here again.

As soon as that last mince pie has been scoffed it feels as if it is all go go go for summer. Has an ad for a tropical beach already swooned before your eyes?

Thought so. 

Travelling abroad is wonderful, but there is so much magic just under our noses waiting to be found. Opting for a UK break is not only better for the environment, but can do wonders in helping you reconnect to this funny old island we live on.

But how can we do sustainable travel in the UK?

For our selection of eco-friendly staycations, plus some natural activities to enjoy whilst on your holibobs (mainly for free), read on…

cornish cliff with purple flowers, holiday destination
Photo of Cornish coastline by S N Pattenden, Unsplash

Leading the way for sustainable hotels, The Sanctuary’s green policy is the life-blood of this Cornish retreat. Running completely off grid, the BnB uses water from a borehole and solar power for electricity & heating (reinforced by a log gasification burner), with organic products and charity-shop finds (to name a few). Most importantly, the couple who own and run The Sanctuary live and breathe their ethos; they are dedicated to nature and passionate about their guests reconnecting to the earth in whatever way feels best. If you want to do sustainable travel, this is a great place to start.

You can find their website here

welsh coastline
Photo of Welsh coastline by Danny Thomas, Unsplash

Choosing to be judged by their green credentials rather than traditional accommodation grading star systems (which are more focused on aesthetics), this veggie-friendly estate revels in the unordinary. With different goddesses adorning each bedroom (showcasing female history and myth and legends across various cultures), this retreat can be booked as singular BnB rooms or in its entirety for big family gatherings. Events are also on offer here – such as yoga retreats.  Sustainable initiatives include: renewable energy, veggies grown in the garden, bio-friendly cleaning products and a mission towards zero-single-use-containers.

You can find their website here

Photo by Mike Erskine, Unsplash

This magical stretch of land works on the teaching: ‘slow is beautiful’. Passed down a family of naturalists and ecologists for 200 years, the current ‘owners’ act in partnership with the land, rebelling against any hierarchical dynamic. With rewilding, organic vegetable gardens, families of eclectic creatures nestled from hedgerow to tree-trunk and even a forest-school for the kids – this dreamy estate will transport you to a time-gone-by, and a glimpse into what the future could be.

You can find their website here

Perthshire landscape, perfect for a sustainable UK break
Photo of Perthshire by Sue Bell, Unsplash

 This hotel isn’t only dog-friendly, it is every-animal friendly, being the first 100% vegan hotel in the UK. Everything from the food (a mixture of foraged, local and seasonal produce), the textiles (linen, cotton) and toiletries (from ethical, local companies) are entirely vegan – swirled into a quirky and stylish hotel with buckets full of character. Perched at the edge of the Scottish Highlands, our favourite mystical animal Nessie is lounging not too far away either…

You can find their website here

Sunrise at Berwick upon Tweed, a lovely location for a UK holiday
Photo of Holy Island, Berick upon Tweed by Louis Watson, Unsplash

With a mixture of cottages, a tree house and a Shepherds Hut to choose from, this family-run haven is an antidote to the stresses of modern life. A genuine care for the natural world, a passion for wildlife and a love for the outdoors fuel this enchanting estate – with activities such as breadmaking and yoga on offer.

There are also family adventures (including map reading and hill walking), bikes to borrow, birdboxes to make and campfires to snuggle round with cheeks full of marshmallows.

The derelict cottages have all been lovingly restored as sustainably as possible, using local materials and low carbon heating and hot water systems. Other eco-friendly elements include electric vehicle charging points, planet-kind cleaning products, organic bedding and a garden compost. Laverock Law also aim to achieve a net zero carbon status by 2025. If you want to do sustainable travel, this is a pretty fantastic way to start.

You can find their website here

malvern hills for a UK sustainable break
Photo of the Malvern Hills by Damian Karpinski, Unsplash

This magical estate has been sustainably designed and created by a husband & wife team. Two beloved ash trees grow through the centre of two bespoke treehouses; they are the veins of these enchanting homes (away from homes!). Crucially, the treehouses were built super slowly, in order to protect the health and wellbeing of the trees. The houses have been built around them (rather than destruct them) and they receive regular health-check ups. These trees are cared for and loved (as they should be).

All other wood is either recycled or sourced locally. Lighting is kept low with low energy LEDS. Solar lights twinkle along the pathways. Insulation is thick to reduce heat loss. All waste is recycled or composted for the fruit & veg garden. Sustainability runs through all of this business’ branches.

Additionally, they run a work experience programme where local school children can come to learn the traditional wood crafting methods, ensuring these ancient skills are passed onto future generations. They believe that talent goes far beyond the limits of academia we are taught to value above all else – and that nurturing practical or creative skills can unleash a person’s potential.

You can find their website here

Norfolk coastline in pink and purple hues, perfect for those who want to do sustainable travel in the uk
Photo of King's Lynn by Karen Cann, Unsplash

This rainbow retreat sits nestled in an enchanting river valley overflowing with flora, fauna and animal-folk. A holistic wellness centre that believes in a symbiotic relationship with nature, you can feel the passion for what they do from spending twenty seconds on their website. With treehouses, bell-tents, cabins and more – there is a place to lay even the weariest of heads. There are plenty of yoga retreats for the yogis out there too!

In terms of eco-friendly travel, it doesn’t get much better than this.

The whole estate runs on +90% renewables & organic values. With an ethos similar to ours, they reuse, rebuild & recycle. Old buildings have been repurposed into magical places to stay. Skills learnt are passed on through social enterprise schemes, building and supporting the local community through employment opportunities (with aims to expand their charitable ventures further).A plant-based cafe serves up soulful fare from the biodynamic kitchen garden. I could go on – but I think you should get lost for a few minutes in their  whimsical website instead…

You can find their website here

If you are more of a happy camper, check out The Greener Camping Club & these eco-friendly camping sites.

SUSTAINABLE NATURAL ACTIVITIES

Wild Swimming

Every person and their great-aunt seems to have become infatuated with cold-water swimming in the last couple of years. There is so much said about this popular pursuit (and perhaps I will add my own two pennies worth here in time) – but for now, all I can do is recommend that if you are anywhere near a body of wild water on your holiday then don your costume and bobble-hat and go for it. Just make sure to keep safe, check the tide times and bring someone along with you. 

wild swimming at the beach in cornwall, a natural and sustainable activity
Photo by Annie Spratt, Unsplash

To find out if the beach you’re going to is clear from sewage, check out this interactive map from Surfers Against Sewage.

a UK forest for a mindful walk
Photo by Annie Spratt, Unsplash

Kate Mills, a successful Nature Connector and Forest School teacher, has created this easy-to-follow-guide to help us reconnect with our surroundings and boost our wellbeing. Pick any natural space near you and follow along (can be done individually or with your kids!).

Fossil Searching

There is something storybook-like about fossil-hunting. Packing up a bag of sandwiches, heading to a jagged rut of coastline where the sea-salt can sprinkle onto your crisps, and keeping your eyes earthward as you fumble over rocks. 

 

Photo by Ashleigh Joy Photography, Unsplash

Each chunk holds hope of the swirl of an ammonite or the bite of an ancient marine tooth or rib – some tangible thing that somehow connects us to sea creatures long past. There are many beaches up and down the country where you can forage for fossils – perhaps most famously The Jurassic Coast. Make sure to check the local guidelines however, as some places don’t allow you to take any finds home with you.

Foraging

foraging for blackberries in the uk
Photo by Sam Clarke, Unsplash

No matter when you go on your holiday – there will hopefully be something to forage from the wild. Whether blackberries cuddling into hedgerows, duvets of wild garlic lining the pathways, or those elusive mushrooms hidden in the forest, getting to grips with foraging is a brilliant way to reconnect with nature on your holidays. There are workshops and events to be found all over the UK to help you along your way.

Bristol-based Wild Folk have some foraging events coming up – find out more here.

 

Downloadable Nature Activities

For eco-friendly activities to do with the kids, Wildlife Watch has a large array of downloadable picture-guides to keep little ones enthralled – from heathland to hedgerow. There are also guides on lots of different nature-based crafts you can get stuck into, such as mandala-making, hedgehog-highways and and pine-cone creatures. 

bright yellow gorse along a summer's road in Scotland
Photo by Asa Rodger, Unsplash

Wherever you do sustainable travelling (or even if you just stay home this year!) – there’s a guide here to help you tune into the natural world around you.

Beachcombing

a British beach, where you could go beach combing (searching for treasure!)
Photo by Sarah Doffman, Unsplash

For the modern-day treasure hunter, it doesn’t get much better than this. Beachcombing is the art of scouring the beach for any item of interest that has washed to the shore – from marbles to sea-glass to pottery. These can then be formed into art (have you seen driftwood cottages?), collected into glass jars on display or even made into jewellery.

The practice of rescuing old and unwanted items and bringing them back to life rests snugly into the Old Green sustainable ethos. There is so much life left in so many of the things we so easily discard – but by shifting our perceptions a little, exercising our imaginations and showing mindful consideration to these items – we can find so much beauty.

Natural Candle-Making! (if you're in Dorset...)

And of course, if you come to Dorset for your holiday, you could always pop by our magical workshop for a cosy candle-making session. With sparkling fairy-lights and mugfuls of steaming coffee (or a herbal tea if that’s your cup of… you know), you will be guided through the process of natural candle-making, before blending your own essential oil mix for your uniquely-scented candle. Find out more information here.

 

natural candle making workshop uk

For more slow & sustainable storytelling

(from seasonal folklore, to our famous parsnip soup recipe, to how to upcycle your kitchen sink)

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