There is a wealth of eco-friendly holiday options in Britain including – environmentally pioneering youth hostels, stately homes and yurts, tipis and huts galore. In the rest of Europe, many of the best places are revamped farms and barns in the agriturismo sector, back-to-nature boutique campsites and hostels, and retreats far from tourist traps, bringing some much-needed style to the eco-accommodation movement. Scandinavia excels in wildlife ventures, Spain and France in quirky campsites and treehouses, and Italy in agriturismo, while Eastern Europe offers the chance to get back-to-basics in places that modern farming has yet to touch – eco in the real sense (off-grid, traditional farms and bothies in fields uncontaminated by chemicals).
Feather Down Farms, Various Locations
A popular choice, Feather Down provides glamping on working farms all over the the UK (and also in France, as Un Lit au Pré – see below, Ferme de la Folivraie). Eco holidays at their best, they’re easy to reach and offer home-grown produce to cook on your own wood-fired stove or a communal oven (tents have no electricity). See our feature on a family break at Feather Down Dolphinholme in Lancashire.
Higher Lank Farm, Bodmin, Cornwall
You’re only allowed to stay in this ancient, ivy-smothered place, with its farm-themed playgrounds, ponies to groom and countryside to explore, if you have small children, for whom there are also barns to play in, nursery teas, and baby-sitting. A nearby beach and steam railway make it toddler heaven, but it’s also working hard at recycling, cutting its consumption and becoming more sustainable.
Penpont, Powys, Wales
This ecologically sound stately home in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park has been a labour of love for its owners, who have planted new trees and an organic garden and created a comfy but also beautiful and inspiring place. Guests can rush around doing wholesome outdoor pursuits on the vast estate or just relax. Family camping is offered or you can rent rooms in the house (it can sleep up to 17 so is great for house parties or joint family holidays).
Ailsabeck Natural Retreats, Yorkshire
These eco-friendly but luxurious residencies sleeping up to 6, set in private woodland and ancient meadow just north of the Yorkshire Dales, meld sustainable principles with cutting-edge design and technology, for a modern way to get close to nature. Mountain-bikes can be hired. There are other Natural Retreats in Cornwall, north Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.
Loch Ossian Hostel, Rannoch Moor, Scotland
There’s always been a whiff of holy wholesomeness about the youth-hostelling association, and this hostel has it in spades – though you’re not back to the days when you had to do a daily chore, you do feel that just staying here is a righteous act. Perched on the edge of a remote wilderness, it’s a superb place for walkers and nature-loving families. Since refurbishment in 2001, it’s been at the cutting edge of environmental sustainability, with wind and solar power, grey water, dry toilet systems and even bat-friendly paint! It’s also a lovely, warm, comfortable place with spectacular scenery that will leave you and your kids feeling very refreshed… and, yes, slightly smug.
Or try these:
Cornish Tipi Holidays, St Kew, Cornwall
The original and still one of the best tipi sites: green, innovative and great fun.
Trelowarren, Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall
An extraordinary, award-winning eco-estate with cottages sleeping 6–8.
The Red Barn, near Bude, Devon
A stylish, self-catering retreat close to the Devon/Cornwall border, great for mucking around on the farm, in the fields and on the beach, and fully equipped for younger children.
Huntstile Organic Farm, Bridgewater, Somerset
Camping, self-catering or B&B on a wonderful, family-friendly organic farm.
Deepdale Farm, Burnham Deepdale, Norfolk
An award-winning backpackers’ hostel plus various kinds of camping on the north Norfolk coast.
Strattons, Swaffham, Norfolk
A boutique hotel with family rooms and resident chickens from whom children can collect their own breakfast, holder of a Gold Green Tourism Business Scheme award.
Milden Hall, Lavenham, Suffolk
An ancient estate offering family rooms or space for up to 22, a children’s farm, orienteering packs and tutor-led family environmental activities.
Ecocabin, Bucknell, Shropshire
Back-to-nature in a gorgeous self-contained cabin for up to 4.
Trellyn Woodland Campsite, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Cool camping in yurts, tipis and tents.
Cabin Cariad, Cenarth, Wales
A groovy, award-winning log cabin in a beautiful place, sleeping 4.
Fronlas, Llandeilo, Wales
A green boutique B&B, with space for children’s beds.
Ur Natur, Ödeshög, Sweden
A wonderful back-to-basics community camp for playing in the woods and sitting round the fire at night, with grass-roofed log cabins, a treehouse and a charcoal hut. Cabins have 1-4 beds.
Hotel Kong Arthur, Copenhagen, Denmark
A smart, carbon-neutral city hotel with bags of charm and family facilities, conveniently situated near Copenhagen airport but also close to the lakes.
Ferme de la Folivraie, Normandy, France
One of the Lit au Pré sites (a French version of Feather Down; see above), this organic dairy farm near the coast is only an hour’s drive from the ferry port of Caen. Staying in an electricity-free tent, you can cook the home-grown veg on your wood-burning stove. See our feature on a family break on a Lit au Pré.
Hotel Les Orangeries, Poitou-Charentes, France
A charming, self-sufficient hotel near Poitiers, with a swimming pool plus croquet and other old-fashioned games.
Camping Mille Etoiles, Languedoc, France
One of the original yurt camps, drawing the same crowd year after year for its clever mix of French chic, Gallic cuisine and the chance to sit back, feel the fresh air and stare at the starry night, in a beautiful spot in the Gorge d’Ardèche.
La Source Eco Chalet, French Alps, France
An eco alpine and yoga retreat high in the mountains at Samoëns, offering skiing and snowboarding in winter and yoga and hiking in summer. The family adventure week includes donkey riding and canyon climbing. You can rent the whole property on a self-catering basis.
Cerro de Hijar, Malaga, Andalucia, Spain
A beautiful, environmentally sensitive mountain lodge offering riding and hiking and great food at reasonable prices.
Muxima, Aljezur, Portugal
A colourful eco-retreat close to beaches, with an African vibe, organic food, a wood to play in and a resident donkey to ride.
Casa del Grivò, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
A warm, family-friendly house-stay on an organic farm near Udine, with excellent evening meals, a large family room and reasonable rates.
Fattoria Barbialla Nuova, Tuscany, Italy
An organic agriturismo with cookery courses, animals and swathes of stunning scenery. Large family rooms are available, or you can rent the whole farmhouse with friends.
Lama di Luna, Puglia, Italy
A hotel on an 18th-century fortified estate north of Bari, offering an escape from it all amidst an organic fruit farm, vineyards and olive grove, and mixing stylish eco chic with earthy pursuits for the kids. The suite sleeps four.
Agroktima Boukouvala, Peloponnese, Greece
A family-friendly farm on the beach in Vathi, with got everything a small child could want: a wide, safe beach, warm water, pet rabbits, family BBQS and a huge fruit (olive, fig, orange) farm to raid.
Bourazani Wildlife Resort, Epirus, Greece
A fascinating, eccentric hotel in an environmental education park in northern Greece, plus self-catering for families.
Milia Traditional Settlement, Chania, Crete
A lovely mountain community of renovated local houses in stunning countryside.
Aquacity, Poprad, Slovakia
Named the ‘World’s Leading Green Resort’ in the World Travel Awards 2007, this amazing complex of geo-thermal swimming pools, spas, hotels and restaurants is virtually self-powered, using solar as well as geo-thermal energy. There are a million flumes, slides and jets for water babies, but also childcare for those who want some spa pampering. In winter you can ski too. Come here to see the future today.
Pristava Lepena, Triglav National Park, Slovenia
Traditionally built log huts with all mod cons, in a flower- and wildlife-filled valley, with pools and riding on offer. Large family apartments are available.
Farm Stay, Western Carpathian Mountains, Romania
A place to farm in the traditional Romanian way, milking the cows, riding the horses and climbing on the hay cart. Full board is available.
Chateau Mcely Spa Hotel and Forest Retreat, Czech Republic
An award-winning place offering pampering for parents but also spa treatments for kids, kids’ menus, playgrounds and fairytale horse-drawn carriage rides through the woods.
- Perfect pitch: Experts pick their favourite campsites (telegraph.co.uk)