The Ultimate UK Destinations for a Sustainable Staycation

International holidays are SO 2019. As lockdown continues and crossing foreign borders remain restricted, 2020 will be the year of the staycation where departing for another UK county is as exotic as a fortnight of respite in the Maldives. We so often wear our values through wardrobe decision making or perhaps eat them at the plethora of ethical eateries popping up, but when it comes to selecting hotel beds to lay your head or spas to unwind – how ethical are they?

Thoroughly considered with delicate touches, whether it’s bio mass boilers, regenerative agriculture or biophilic design, many of these locations have devised business models with sustainable development at the core of their mission.

From luxury hotels on secluded beaches, conservation countryside retreats to carbon neutral log cabins and organic farms, sustainable accommodation throughout England, Wales and Scotland underscores the possibilities of green tourism.

Conscious decision making for your sustainable staycation has never looked so chic and yet been so simple, here are the ultimate escapes that will make you an honest holidaymaker.

The Scarlet, Cornwall

Credit: The Scarlet

A luxury hotel situated on the secluded Mawgan Porth beach, the Scarlet is an embodiment of everything that is right with sustainable staycations. Since opening in 2009, their values focus on responsibility for the surrounding ecosystems, creating a positive impact for the environment as well as guests.

Every aspect of the sandy sanctuary has been considered with biophilia in mind. The on-site restaurant is seasonally led and locally sourced to embrace Fergus Henderson’s nose to tail/ root to fruit philosophy. A destination in itself, the Scarlet Spa is a slice of heaven which combines natural ayuverda practices with a Cornish twist.

Sustainability credentials include a biomass boiler, electric vehicle charging points and a natural pool with a living reed bed that acts as a filtration system. The architecture of the hotel should be noted as recycled materials have been used with deconstruction in mind – this includes the wood that frames the main building, the aluminium roof and copper cladding. Guests will also appreciate that the roof is covered in special sea thrift plants which provide natural insulation and promote ecological diversity.

Their social commitments have seen the Scarlet set up a dedicated community fund and Guest Giving Scheme to champion related charities including Surfers Against Sewage  and COAST: One Planet Tourism Network.

You can read about their 111 ways Scarlet is sustainable here.

The Green House Hotel, Dorset

Credit; The Green House Hotel

“Spoil yourself without spoiling anything else.” is the mantra of this award-winning destination on the South coast. The Green House Hotel boasts accolades including Expedia’s World Top Ten Eco Friendly Hotel (UK’s no 1) and Conde Nast Best Green Hotel 2017 – so what makes this Grade II listed spot worthy of these titles?

The foundations of their eco-credentials ae based on five core principles. These are to source locally, minimise consumption and recycle, consider lifecycles, insist on higher welfare standards and transparency. Within transparency, the hotel is bound to the BREAAM and ISO14001 environmental standards which holds the establishment to account on its practices.

Features that highlight their mission include solar thermal panels and a combined heat and power unit that generates on site electricity. Needless to say all light fixtures are energy efficient and LED. The interior design has deployed locally sourced materials including 100% wool carpets and eco-bedding which is 100% organic.  Lining the walls of bedrooms are eco paints or Forest Stewardship Council certified wallpapers imprinted with vegetable inks. Like many who read this, I am a sucker for an indulgent bath and the bathrooms are fitted with original cast iron Victorian tubs.

The Greenhouse Restaurant works with local producers in Kent, Suffolk and Dorset and the wine list is strictly organic and biodynamic – all of which can be enjoyed whilst lounging on the upcycled furniture.   Other elements that have gained its superior sustainability status include their bee hives, an ozone system which allows laundry to be done as low as 15 degrees, staff training on sustainability and a company car run entirely off bio fuel made from waste cooking oil from the kitchen!

Dive deeper into their sustainability commitments here.

THE PIG Hotels, multiple locations

Credit: THE PIG Group

If Daniel Cleaver wanted to take Bridget Jones for a weekend in the countryside, he would have taken her to THE PIG. With a smattering of locations dotted around the UK in the most idyllic of places, the group pride themselves on being ‘restaurants with room’s’. Honest, seasonal and foraged food is the aim of the game here, where produce is grown on site or sourced within a 25-mile radius. Their sustainability mission is to drive measurable impact on the wider food system through their hospitality experience. This outlook has earnt their New Forest site membership of the Sustainable Restaurant Association. Strong waste management systems, recycling programmes and minimising waste are all pre-requisites to their operations. The group produces around 17 tons of their own fruit and veg annually, subsequently reducing their carbon footprint. The team cure their own meets, have their own beehives and recycle all cooking oil. Even their mushrooms grown on site thrive from coffee grounds that are a by-product of their restaurant waste! What’s more – their partnership with social enterprise Belu Water, donates 100% of its profits to ending global water poverty. Their dining experience sees that all menus are upcycled and refashioned into coasters and napkin rings for patrons.

For guests, plastic toothbrushes are omitted and in replacement they receive strawberry seed packets.

Community is at the heart of THE PIG’s ethical purpose and they have forged an Apprenticeship Scheme to encourage young people to begin careers in the hospitality industry.

If I had to pick, perhaps The PIG at Combe would be my first choice, but see for yourself here.

Heckfield Place, Hampshire

Credit: Heckfield Place

The Georgian architecture and serene landscapes of Heckfield Place are the embodiment of concious luxury. With nearly 450 acres of land, the natural world and value of biodiversity runs throughout the destination’s setting where visitors can revel in the walled gardens and placid lakes. A biomass boiler, on-site aerobic digester and closed water system that refashions rainwater to irrigate the Home Farm, illustrate their commitment to minimising environmental impacts. Like many others on this list, Heckfield Place is built on the premise of self sufficiency and has it’s own bore hole where it extracts 70,000 litres of water daily.

For those familiar with the sustainable restaurant scene, culinary director Sky Gyngell who also leads ethical eating at London’s Spring, reimagines the culinary possibilities within the kitchen for guests. The Heckfield Home Farm harvests honest produce in clean soil, calling upon chemical and fertiliser free biodynamic principles. The flora and fauna adorning hallways and guest bedrooms are cultivated on the estate and arranged into enchanting floristry.

Head to their website to plan your stay at this country haven.

Whatley Manor, Cotswolds

Credit: Whatley Manor

Whatley Manor is a sanctuary after my own heart as they strive to integrate the 17 Sustainable Development Goals into every orifice of their hospitality business. It is no wonder the destination has been awarded the Independent Hotel Show’s Innovation Award for its sustainability actions as well as the Best Sustainable Hotel Award by Conde Nast. Under new leadership, they have reconfigured their organisation to centre around ethical practices, have set ambitious targets and have partnered with NOW, a partner of Earthcheck – the world’s leading scientific benchmarking and certification provider. At the time of writing this, Whatley Manor are the only hotel within the UK to have received the accolade of four globes under this benchmark, no small feat!

Excelling in all areas, the grown up get away boats a biomass boiler, energy efficient kitchen and on-site recycling including a glass crusher and mill baler. The building runs on 100% renewable energy and they collaborate with Southpole to encourage guests to offset their carbon emissions. Their Michelin starred eatery sources exclusively local and is an accredited member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association. Simple touches extend to toiletry refillables courtesy of Molton Brown, Better Cotton Initiative approved bed linen and sustainable mattresses from Harrison Spinks.  Even the IT policies contribute, they replaced search engine Google with Ecoasia, a service that plants a tree for every 45 searches conducted.

Training and an established green team lead the sustainability mission, you can take a look at the hotel’s commitments and book here.

Saorsa 1875, Perthshire

Credit: Soarsa 1875

Equal parts elegant and sophisticated, this 19th century gothic house is the epitome of ethical luxury. As the UK’s first entirely boutique vegan hotel, its purpose is to satiate the plant curious and provide the most decadent of guest experiences. Having rightfully won its place in the Sunday Times Top 100 Hotel’s, the plant-based destination utilises no animal derivatives in it bedding or toiletries. The restaurant offers a 5-course set menu curated with organic, foraged and locally sourced ingredients.

Nestled within vast acres of woodlands, picturesque scenery makes a dreamy backdrop to immerse yourself in nature on your stay. Soarsa 1875 has also been recognition by the Good Business Charter for responsible business.

Learn more about their approach here.

The Zetter, Clerkenwell London

Credit: The Zetter

The capital boasts its fair share of innovative sustainable architecture and this theme translates into The Zetter. Hidden in Clerkenwell, the city’s design district, biophilic ideals has been brought to life. This modern hotel has a closed loop energy system which has contributed to a 20% energy saving in the last year. Through their 1500-foot bore-hole that lies underneath the building, water is pumped which enables the site to be self-sustaining as it flushes loos and cools the building. As well as sustainable timber that frames the hotel, interior decisions including occupancy detection systems diminish excessive energy usage.

Their dining facility is Sustainable Restaurant Approved and the weekend brunch is enticing.

I enjoy the hotel’s frank openness that its sustainability strategy is in its infancy as this exemplifies transparency. Their commitments to energy, waste and supplier management are sure to reap the rewards and already have earnt them a Gold in Green Tourism. Guests are also able to rent their own bikes, promoting clean transport.

Discover more here.

Organig Parc, Llyn Peninsula, North Wales

Credit: Organic Parc

Travel to the Welsh mountains and retreat to Organic Parc. Pioneering the concept of eco-friendly cottages, this Soil Association Certified organic farm is dedicated to working with the land in harmony and nature. With over 300-acres, this family owned escape has utilised eco-construction to convert its various stables and guest houses. The renovations centred around recycling materials on the land and low energy intensive processes. For example, the lime mortar and natural stone have been used in the buildings and the floors comprise of locally sourced Welsh slate. Old beams that frame the cottages originate from the watermill and the paths and patios are from reclaimed slate. Wooden patios that line the site have been sourced sustainably from Romania. Additionally, wool sheared from the farm’s sheep contribute to building insulation and organic paints line the walls.

For occupants, environmentally conscious behaviours are encouraged where fallen trees are used for wood burning to warm the cottages. Guests are provided with organic cotton linen; chemical free toiletries and the staff shine the properties with responsible cleaning products.

For the environmentally curious, the Centre for Alternative Technology is an hour and a half journey from the farm.

Run, do not walk to this gorgeous Welsh paradise.

Old Lands, Monmouthshire, Wales

Credit: Old Lands

This breath-taking family owned estate belongs to the Bosanquet’s, a clan of ecologists and naturalists that have loved the land for over 200 years. Set across 80 acres, the lake and woodlands are a conservation site in partnership with the Gwent Wildlife Trust. Well versed on the urgency of adopting environmentally attuned operations, Old Lands has had solar water heating since the 1970’s! Their sustainability ethos ripples through their bountiful wall gardens and rewilding programmes. Guests will not regret a visit their honesty shop which sells seasonal produce.

On Monday’s, nature walks are conducted by the resident naturalist and visitors can leisurely row the lake or adventure into the Wye Valley, Forest of Dean and neighbouring Black Mountains. The team at Old Land’s host forest school adventures for children, solidifying the importance of education for the young about the value of the natural world and food production.

Perfect for a weekend of peace, reservations can be made here.

Eagle Brae, Scotland

Credit: Eagle Brae

Disconnect up in the Highlands at this luxury log cabin 8000-acre estate. Travel to Inverness where the team at Eagle Brae are working to protect the surrounding Wild Glens. Conserving energy, they use a 75KW turbine to generate all electricity on site including the heating of water for the cabins. The cabins use bio mass pellet burners that are produced from locally fine wood dust. Eagle Brae have initiated their own carbon payback scheme for visitors where for £24 you are encouraged to plant a tree close to the village. Your tree will have a numbered stake and you can watch this flourish over time!

Learn more about how to book your trip to Scotland’s most sustainable cabins here.

Swallow Tail, Sussex

Credit: The Roundhouse

Camping by its very nature will produce the smallest carbon footprint however Swallow Tail einvents glamping on a truly sustainable scale. The 40-acre conservation site comprises of meadows, woodlands and ponds and is enriched with biodiversity. 31 of these acres sit under the higher-level environmental stewardship scheme.  Various plots of the land are dedicated to traditional flower meadows, grasslands to encourage invertebrates/small mammals as well as chemical free treatment of other areas. The Roundhouse is an entirely off the grid retreat powered by solar panels, they are climate neutral and work only with climate neutral suppliers. I am ever so slightly obsessed with the long view luxury cabin.

You can read in full detail their sustainability policy here.

NOTE: If you would like to learn more about biophilic design and architecture head here.

You can also read my guide to London’s most sustainable restaurants in London on Culture Trip.

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