Times have changed from when going on an eco holiday meant a weekend of hedge-laying. Nowadays, there are any number of great places to stay that are as classy and cool as they are low impact, so you don’t have to sacrifice on creature comforts to go green. From cosy self-catering cottages and home-spun B&Bs to luxury campsites, contemporary treehouses and urban design hotels, what this new breed of green accommodation have in common is owners who have gone the extra mile to reduce the impact of their business on the environment. Here are some of my favourites:
A classic timber-framed beach shack on the Lincolnshire coast, Twentysix is an original, energy efficient ‘Anderby Chalet’ that has been given an unfussy modern makeover. It comes with two bedrooms, a kitchen, a cosy wood-burning stove and a living area that looks out onto a small lake and, beyond, to dunes (from where it’s a short walk to a sandy beach). It's a great bolthole for two, though it sleeps up to five. Get there by public transport: Train to Skegness, then a 20-minute taxi ride.
2. The Bivouac
Yorkshire's newest glampsite (it opened in April), Bivouac consists of 8 yurts (with running water), a bunkbarn and several off-grid log cabins tucked away in a small plantation. A vast wood chip boiler supplies all the camp’s heating and hot water and the design makes the most of recycled and salvaged pieces. Kids' ‘forest school’ programmes are organised in the woods behind the camp, while adults can enjoy circular walks over to the Druids Temple stone circle, before returning to the camp for delicious local food in a cosy on-site cafe. Get there by public transport: Train to Northallerton or Thirsk, then a 25-minute taxi ride.
3. Dome House
An ultra-contemporary designer B&B with panoramic views of Lake Windermere, Dome House has all the architectural chutzpah that you’d expect of a place that was featured on Channel 4's Grand Designs: an arching geodesic grass roof, wooden cladding, a vast, heat-storing slate wall and deep insulation. The rooms aren’t exactly conventional, either, with jewel-coloured bedspreads laid over superking beds and, in some of them, free-standing wooden bathtubs. Locally sourced breakfasts are delivered in a wicker hamper each evening. Get there by public transport: Train to Windermere, then a 20-minute walk.
4. The Blue Cabin By The Sea
A self-catering cottage in a picturesque private harbour on Scotland's southeast coast, the Blue Cabin is reached via a short tunnel cut through red sandstone rock. A truly unique interior designed by its architect owner (look out for his sculptor wife's seaweed-shaped coathooks) helps make this cosy bolthole everything you could want for a week-long (or more) retreat, including a small kitchen, two bedrooms (one double, one bunkbed), a shower and even wifi. Get there by public transport: train to Dunbar, then a 20-minute taxi ride.
5. Melin Trehilyn
A Grade II-listed mill in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Melin Trehilyn was stylishly converted by TV presenter Griff Rhys Jones using some of the most up-to-date green technology, including ground-source central heating, thick sheepswool insulation and rain-water recycling. Don't pack a hair shirt here, though. With interiors this smart, socks and sandals aren't really the thing. Get there by public transport: the Strumble Shuttle bus (404) from Fishguard stops close by.
Richard Hammond is the founder of Greentraveller, which features over 700 green places to stay and over 2000 holidays reachable by train and foot passenger ferry services.