UK’s top eco attractions and activities

written by Rachel Mills
updated 10/22/2021
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When it comes to the UK’s eco attractions you’re spoilt for choice. Go wild swimming in Snowdonia, drive the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland and visit rewilding conservation projects in Scotland. You’ll find teeming wildlife habitats and ancient volcanic landscapes, innovative eco-centres and entire archipelagos powered by sustainable energy. Here are just some of the UK’s top eco attractions and activities. What’s more, they’re all located close enough to an electric ChargePoint, so why not gain green credentials by driving there with an Electric Vehicle (EV)?

For the definitive guide for any green holiday in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, look out for the new Rough Guide to Green Britain and Northern Ireland guidebook.

London and the Southeast

Kew Gardens, London

Established in 1759, Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens manage the extremely difficult task of being both a world leader in botanic research and an extraordinarily beautiful and popular public park. Sustainability and the conservation of biological diversity are king at Kew. The Palm House, Treetop Walkway and 163ft-high Pagoda are all firm highlights.

Explore Epping Forest, London and Essex

Epping Forest stretches for twelve miles from east London to southwest Essex. Ramble along dappled paths on foot, ride on horseback through meadows of waist-high grass, or splash cross-country through muddy puddles on a dirt bike.

Epping Forest, London © WawroDesign/Shutterstock

White Cliffs of Dover

Immortalized in song, art and literature, the famed chalky cliffs of Dover offer fine walks and vistas over the Channel – on a clear day you may well even spot France.

Walking in the Surrey Hills

The National Trust land at Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punch Bowl is dramatic, wild and a little eerie – perfect to explore on your own two feet.

Punting in Oxford

It’s all dreaming spires and neatly tended lawns at the University city of Oxford, and punting along the river is perfectly romantic and entirely sustainable.

Seven Sisters Cliffs, Sussex © Kanuman/Shutterstock

Knepp Wildland, West Sussex

This small-scale West Sussex rewilding project – with free-grazing wild animals – is a huge success in biodiversity and one of the best eco attractions in the Southeast. Camp overnight and take a safari for glimpses of rare British wildlife.

The Southwest

Stonehenge, Wiltshire

Redolent of mystery and myth, Stonehenge is the most important stone circle in England, attracting crowds of thousands, including white-robed druids, for the summer solstice.

The Eden Project, Cornwall

Embark on a voyage of discovery around the planet’s ecosystems at this disused clay pit in Cornwall, now an educational charity and home to a fantastic array of exotic plants and crops – including the world’s largest indoor rainforest. Working towards a better future is at the heart of the Eden Project and the staff use EVs on-site. Of all the eco attractions in the Southwest, this is a must visit.

Eden Project © Kev Williams/Shutterstock

Jubilee Pool

Penzance is almost all the way to Land’s End, but it’s well worth the stunning drive – Jubilee Pool is a fully restored 1930s Art Deco lido with a sustainable ethos, future proofed with twenty-first century technology.

Surfing in North Devon

The endless ranks of rollers pounding Devon’s west-facing northern coast – above all at Woolacombe, Croyde and Saunton – draw surfers of every ability.

Dartington Hall Estate

Wild swimming on the river Dart and a buzzing café are just a couple of the highlights at this estate, where tenants farm the land in exciting and innovative ways. Look out for the talks and conservation projects that benefit local wildlife. The nearby swimming spot comes with a chargepoint.

Surfer on Westward Ho! beach, north Devon © lewislaw/Shutterstock

Wild camp on Dartmoor

Unlike in the majority of the UK, wild camping on Dartmoor is allowed, provided you stick to certain rules, such as pitching your tent for a maximum of two nights. Drifting off in this remarkable wilderness, with only a sheet of canvas to separate you from the elements, is pure bliss – and one of the simplest eco attractions.

Central England

Chatsworth House

The gardens are a real treat: there are water fountains, modern sculptures, a grotto and a folly, as well as a nursery and greenhouses. Chatsworth generates its own renewables: hydroelectric, ground source heating and solar-energy schemes operate across the estate, and an on-site energy centre is fuelled using local timber. There are charge points at both The Devonshire Arms at Beeley and Pilsley on the Chatsworth Estate.

Holkham Beach

This wide bay at Holkham is Norfolk's finest beach – acres of golden sand set against pine-dusted dunes. The closest chargepoint is at a lovely pub in Wells-next-the-Sea.

Windswept Holkham Beach, Norfolk © Margaret Clavell/Shutterstock

Spotting seals at Blakeney Point

England’s largest grey seal colony lives on this national nature reserve on Norfolk’s stunning shingle, salt-marsh and sand-dune coast. Take a boat tour to see the colony of around five hundred usually found basking on the beach.

Hiking at Stanage Edge in the Peak District

A kind of Peak District Table Mountain in miniature, four miles of gritstone cliff makes up Stanage Edge, surrounded by dry-stone dykes, historic buildings and rugged moors. Various walks take in the famous escarpment, most conveniently setting out from the village of Hathersage – the closest chargepoint is in the village of Hope, but nearby Sheffield has a ton of chargepoints.

Eco-friendly boating on the Norfolk Broads

The Norfolk Broads is the largest wetland area in the country, stretching from Norwich all the way east to the coast at Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. The best – really the only – way to see them is by boat. Cut out the engine by opting for a sail boat, canoe, kayak, or electrically powered boat.

Hiking at Stanage Edge in the Peak District © Vladis SKudre/Shutterstock

Ludlow

A postcard-pretty country town with a castle, a platoon of half-timbered houses and quality sustainable, slow food restaurants.

Northern England

Cooper King Distillery

Sustainable spirits are the order of the day at this exciting new whisky and gin distillery, which runs on 100% green energy. Take an informative tour or just stop by for a drink at the bar.

Spurn National Nature Reserve

Commanding the Humber Estuary, Spurn Head is an eerie finger of land occupied only by millions of migrating birds. Park at the Spurn National Nature Reserve Visitor Centre and walk or cycle to Spurn Point.

Hiking Hadrian’s Wall Path

Walk this atmospheric Roman monument, which snakes its way for 84 miles over rough, sheep-strewn countryside. There are charge points so you can top up your Electric Vehicle (EV) along the route.

Spurn Point lighthouse in Yorkshire © Erni/Shutterstock

Stargazing at Northumberland National Park

At nearly 580 sq. miles, the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park is the largest protected Dark Sky in Europe. The dark winter nights are best for viewing galaxies, while on clear summer nights, the Milky Way is at its most vivid. There are twelve dark-sky discovery sites in the park, including the astronomical observatory at Kielder Water.

Gliding at Sutton Bank

See one of the most spectacular views in Yorkshire by glider. The Yorkshire Gliding Club will “aero-tow” you into the sky, and on a clear day the whole of the Vale of York spreads out beneath your wings.

Visit Manchester

Check out Manchester’s Northern Quarter for its ethical and independent shops and café-bars. Peruse the community market in Levenshulme on a Saturday for local produce, street food and crafts. Also, linger for a few hours at the eco-friendly, state-of-the-art Whitworth Art Gallery.

Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester © Alastair Wallace/Shutterstock

continued below

Wales

Pembrokeshire Coast Path

If you don’t want to tackle the full 187 miles of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in one big push, break it up into a series of short drives and day-walks to enjoy some of Wales’ wildest coastal scenery.

The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)

CAT is an eco-centre in mid-Wales that’s unmissable for anyone interested in sustainable development and a zero-carbon world.

The Gower Peninsula

Welsh natural splendour at its most stunning, the Gower peninsula boasts wide-open beaches, rocky bays and steep cliffs.

View of Three Cliffs Bay from Pennard Castle, Gower © Billy Stock/Shutterstock

Brecon Beacons

The rambling moors of the Brecon Beacons are perfect for wild, lonely drives in your EV to visit thundering waterfalls and limestone caverns.

Climbing Snowdon

Hike one of half a dozen demanding tracks to the top of Snowdonia, Wales’ highest mountain – or take the train and sip a beer at the sustainable summit café.

Cardiff

Ground-breaking architecture, top-notch culture and pulsating nightlife in the cool Welsh capital – plus a raft of eco-friendly places to eat and sleep.

Climbing Mount Snowdon @ Simon Bennett/Shutterstock

Scotland

Findhorn Foundation

This community by the sea in Scotland has been spreading a gentle message about communality and eco living since the 1950s, and warmly welcomes visitors. The Findhorn Foundation has been acclaimed by the UN for their near-zero carbon footprint.

Hiking and driving around Glen Coe

Spectacular, moody, poignant and full of history – Glen Coe is a glorious spot for hiking or simply driving on the scenic and imposing A82.

Driving North Coast 500

Scotland’s answer to Route 66 loops around the entire north and northwest Highlands; the dramatic scenery makes for a truly unforgettable road trip.

Dolphin spotting on the Moray Firth

Europe’s most northerly school of bottlenose dolphins can be seen from the shore or on a boat trip. For a cruise, choose an operator which is a member of the Dolphin Space Programme’s accreditation scheme.

Go Orkney sustainable tours

Learn more about this fiercely independent archipelago made up of seventy or so low-lying islands, by taking a guided renewable energy tour. All of the islands’ electricity demands are met by wind, solar, wave and tidal generation.

Kylesku Bridge on the North Coast 500, Scotland @ Helen Hotson/Shutterstock

Northern Ireland

Lough Erne

Cruise the waterways and visit the islands of dreamy Lough Erne, the second-biggest lake system in Northern Ireland.

Belfast

Bustling and vibrant, Belfast is a city reborn, the Titanic Quarter – the redeveloped docklands – in particular, where you’ll find a profusion of sustainable vegan cafés.

Giant’s Causeway

Marvel at the eerie but entirely natural basalt formation of the Giant’s Causeway and discover the myths and legends that surround it in the award winning, environmentally sensitive visitor centre.

The Giant Causeway in Northern Ireland © Kanuman/Shutterstock

Rathlin Island

Northern Ireland’s only inhabited offshore island, Rathlin offers exhilarating walks and views, top-class birdwatching opportunities and insights into a thriving local culture. A great time to be here is the end of May for the Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival.

Walking the Gobbins Cliff Path

This is one of the most hair-raising walks in Europe. The guided 2.5-hour Gobbins Cliff Path walk crosses spectacular bridges, climbs jagged rock staircases, and follows a narrow path along a breathtaking cliff face.

Walls of Derry

A circuit of these seventeenth-century defences, some of the best preserved city walls in Europe, is an essential part of any visit to the “Maiden City”.

The walled city of Derry in Northern Ireland © Lucky Team Studio/Shutterstock

For more on green holidays and travel in the UK, read: UK’s best eco friendly hotels & restaurants and Electric car travel: everything you need to know.

Header image: Mount Snowdon @ Simon Bennett/Shutterstock

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written by Rachel Mills
updated 10/22/2021
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Rachel Mills is a freelance writer, editor and broadcaster based by the sea in Kent. She is a co-author for Rough Guides to New Zealand, India, Canada, Ireland and Great Britain a contributor to Telegraph Travel, the Independent, AFAR, DK Eyewitness and loveEXPLORING.com and an expert in sustainable, responsible tourism. Follow her @rachmillstravel on Twitter and Instagram and listen to her show Over Here on ramsgateradio.com.

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