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.
The best Eco attractions in London and the Southeast in England
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.
White Cliffs of Dover
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
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 best Eco attractions in the Southwest of England
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.
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.
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.
The best Eco attractions in Central England
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.
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.
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.
A postcard-pretty country town with a castle, a platoon of half-timbered houses and quality sustainable, slow food restaurants.
The best Eco attractions in 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.
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.
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.
The best Eco attractions in 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)
The Gower Peninsula
Welsh natural splendour at its most stunning, the Gower peninsula boasts wide-open beaches, rocky bays and steep cliffs.
The rambling moors of the Brecon Beacons are perfect for wild, lonely drives in your EV to visit thundering waterfalls and limestone caverns.
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.
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.
The best Eco attractions in Scotland
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.
The best Eco attractions in Northern Ireland
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.
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”.