Eco Hostel wind dryed washing at Millhouse hostel

Eco Hostels and Bunkhouses;  Green accommodation in the UK

Holidays in hostels and bunkhouses by their nature have a low C02 footprint. The shared aspects of the accommodation mean more people are making use of the same resources, which make the accommodation sustainable as well as friendly. The self catering facilities allow you to source your food locally, a great way to celebrate the region you are visiting.  On top of these natural green advantages, there are added benefits to the environment if you choose to stay at an Eco Hostel. These hostels and bunkhouses have made a special effort to run their business in a sustainable  way.  The map above shows the hostels and bunkhouses in the UK who have a green ethos to their business.

bushey heath farm eco hostel in the Peak District
Bushey Heath Farm Eco Hostel in the Peak District

Guests often arrive at their accommodation by foot or cycle on a long distance trail, making for an environmentally friendly holiday.  Some eco hostels and bunkhouses provide a Green Discount for people who arrive without a vehicle.   A great way to encourage walkers, cyclists and the use of public transport.   All Stretton Bunkhouse  provide a £1 per person per night Green discount, Puttenham Eco Camping Barn provide a £3 Green discount and the  Elenydd Wilderness Hostels provide Green Vouchers for a half price stay at either of the hostel.  Just arrive on foot or by bike to get these discounts.

Over a quarter of the hostels and bunkhouses in the Independent Hostels UK network have a green ethos and a quarter of these have signed up to the Green Tourism Business Scheme.  The office of Independent Hostels UK has been awards the Gold GTBS award too. You can find out why here.

Hostels and Bunkhouses with Green Tourism Awards.

Environmentally friendly developments at Eco Hostels and Bunkhouses.

Skiddaw House Eco Hostel
Skiddaw House Eco Hostel

 Skiddaw House is an off-grid game keeper’s lodge situated one and half thousand feet up, on the side of Skiddaw Mountain in the Lake District.   Suzy and Martin, the managers, are passionate about running Skiddaw House  in an environmentally sympathetic way.  Given its location, this is not just for ideological reasons but also necessity! Skiddaw House is completely off-grid with no mains electricity, gas or water supplies. Drinking water comes from a nearby spring and electricity is almost entirely generated by solar panels  (only on the darkest days in winter is the generator fired up). Hot showers are available any time, using water initially heated by solar thermal panels to reduce the use of bottled gas.  Being situated within a SSI, home to rare species of mountain and moorland wildlife, Suzy and Martin are especially conscious of the hostel’s impact on the surrounding environment. The hostel has a private septic tank and only uses Ecover cleaning products.  The amount of waste is minimised as guests are encouraged to recycle and compost as much as possible. This is necessary as there is only one journey a week to the rubbish collection point.  The building is heated by wood burning stoves, using wood sourced from the hostel’s own managed woodland. Yearly tree-planting ensures a sustainable supply for future wardens. Sheep’s wool insulation throughout keeps the hostel cosy.  Given its location the hostel provides a surprising level of comfort. The bedrooms are carpeted with fully made up beds, and the bar sells local ale from a microbrewery just 9 miles away. The fact that all the  guests arrive on foot or by mountain bike must also reduces its  carbon footprint.

Eco Hostel conversion at BB's Bunkhouse
Eco Hostel conversion at BB’s Bunkhouse

BB’s  Bunkhouse is a new barn conversion on the north coast of Scotland, not far from Thurso and on the North Coast 500 route.  BB’S bunkhouse has been designed as an Eco hostel. Heating will be air source with solar panels. All appliances will be energy efficient and guests will be encouraged to unplug and admire the wonderful coastline, either by foot or by bike!  All produce will be locally sourced where possible and the bunkhouse has chickens, so guests can collect their own breakfast!

Bikes provided for guests at the Old Brooder Bunkhouse
Bikes provided for guests at the Old Brooder Bunkhouse

The Old Brooder Bunkhouse in Sussex is in its first year of operation. There is a whole farm approach to conservation, including energy use (solar, use of sustainable wood management etc), transport and  green incentives for guests. For example provision of 40 bikes for guests, recycling, composting, environmental education, cooking, veggie garden and plenty of conservation courses.

The accommodation at Houghton North Farm is now heated by a wood pellet bio-mass boiler and the electricity is supplied by a 20 kilowatt wind turbine.

The Barrel Store in Cirencester is the first accommodation in Gloucestershire to achieve Passivhaus standards, making your stay environmentally friendly and very comfortable.

The Star Bunkhouse in The Brecon Beacons has covered its roof with solar panels to ensure it takes the minimum of energy from the National Grid.

Sunshine on the solar panels at The Star Bunkhouse.
Sunshine on the solar panels at The Star Bunkhouse.

Sleeperzz.com accommodation at Rogart Station in the Highlands has a green transport discount.  This unique accommodation in converted railway carriages gives a £1 discount to anyone arriving by rail or cycle.

Elterwater  Hostel has just achieved the Gold Green Tourism Award for their eco hostel self catering accommodation.  They have worked on improving sustainability steadily since buying the hostel off the YHA as a Bronze GTBS graded hostel. The goal is to operate in a low-key way and facilitate green living for guests.  New this year they are encouraging guests to make a donation towards the Fix the Fells project and Lakes Red Squirrels.  On a recent stay I was fascinated to find they have toilet twining in place in the ladies.

Outdoor Alternative in Anglesey is an eco hostel with a Gold Green Award.  They have made extensive eco improvements over the last 10 years and have been committed to sustainability since their inception 30+ years ago. Eco developments include composting on site, growing their own food, water saving devices including aerated showers, straw bale urinal for campers, electric car and charging point.

Banks of solar panels at Outdoor Alternative
Banks of solar panels at Outdoor Alternative in Anglesey

Comrie Croft has been a long term eco hostel.  In their own words, “ We can quote you lots of the things we do, for example all of our power and heat is generated onsite from renewable sources (wood for the heating, solar for the electricity), and that at least 93% of our “waste” is reused or recycled, or that we have achieved a gold award in the Green Tourism Business Scheme and are members of the world’s leading eco tourism businesses as part of the Long Run Initiative. But what we hope really makes us stand out is the core purpose of our whole enterprise and the way it runs through everything we do. We aim to help transform the local area in community, social, economic and environmental terms through symbiotic, eco tourism, enterprise and land management.”

solar pannels at Sheen Eco Bunkhouse
Solar panels at Sheen Bunkhouse

Badrallach Bothy has a green ethos and is rated Green Tourism Gold. Since taking over last year the new owners have made a few further improvements including switching to ecotricity for 100% renewable energy, transitioning to eco-friendly cleaning products, and planning the renovation of an old barn with the help of a green architect. They are also running nature-based programs for health and wellness, stress-management, and personal development with the social enterprise; EarthMind Fellowship, CIC.

Wood pellet boiler at The Viking Centre Eco Hostel
Wood pellet boiler at The Viking Centre Eco Hostel

The Viking Centre in the Lincolnshire Wolds has a wood pellet boiler to provide domestic hot water and background heat for the whole hostel.  Solar panels on the roof provide green electricity when the sun shines and guests are able to supplement the heating using coin operated electric heaters.

Solar panels and the wood pellet boiler house at The Viking Centre Eco Hostel
Solar panels and the wood pellet boiler house at The Viking Centre Eco Hostel
Solar Energy at Dolgoch Hostel
Solar energy at Dolgoch  Eco Hostel

The Elenydd Wilderness Hostels provide self catering accommodation in the Cambrian Mountains in West Wales.  Both Tyncornel and Dolgoch put a lot of effort into sustainability.  They minimize their environmental footprint and provide a Green Voucher for half price future stays to people arriving on foot or bike.  Tyncornel installed PV solar panels in 2015. Since then, the panels have generated sufficient electricity to replace more than half the mains electricity used. Since installing a log burner earlier this year Tyncornel relies totally on carbon-neutral wood as a fuel.  Dolgoch is an “off-grid” hostel with a solar-powered hot water system and solar-powered LED lights.  Dolgoch fitted a wood-burning stove and stopped burning coal almost a decade ago.

Hebden Bridge Hostel has LED lighting throughout, the heating & hot water are provided by a ground source heat pump.  All cleaning products are organic where possible and definitely Eco, all food (breakfasts) and drinks provided are 100% organic. Laundry goes to the local launderette and  local artisans and craftsfolk are employed whenever needed.

Bunkorama  Bunkhouse was converted 3 years ago and makes the most of good insulation, power generated by solar panels and gravity fed water supply from a mountain spring.

Palace Farm Eco Hostel in Kent
Palace Farm Eco Hostel in Kent

Palace Farm Eco Hostel in Kent has achieved the gold award from Green Tourism Business Scheme for their self catering accommodation.  Low energy lighting, thermostatic radiators, where possible exceeding the insulation requirements, solar water heating and a “clean burn” log burning stove to burn waste wood from the farm. In the conversion of the granary of the eco hostel, the farm were determined not to use fossil fuels for heating. Completed in 2011 the building is very successfully heated using an air source heat pump with under-floor heating and solar panels for all the hot water.

Solar energy capture on the bike shed at Puttenham Eco Camping Barn
Solar energy capture on the bike shed at Puttenham Eco Camping Barn

Puttenham Eco Camping Barn is a wonderful old listed building which has been sympathetically restored to be environmentally friendly. They have rainwater harvesting, solar electricity and solar hot water. The restoration carried out enables you to see traditional and sustainable construction methods.

Broadrake Bunkhouse.  A wood pellet boiler provides hot water and underfloor heating in the bunkbarn, as well as providing hot water in the adjacent farmhouse for heating and domestic use.  There is sheeps’ wool insulation on all external first floor walls. The foul water treatment plant  is fuelled by small wind turbines to circulate the waste, rather than electricity. All domestic waste is either recycled or composted in a wormery.  Guests are encouraged to arrive by public transport with  a free pick up service  from the local station at Ribblehead Viaduct, or Ingleton Community Centre if using buses.   The bunkhouse is an agricultural building  which was converted and thus saved from falling into dis-repair.  Finally the use of the bunkbarn is maximised by using the open-plan upstairs living space as a venue for workshops during the quite days mid-week.

Argyll Backpackers have up-scaled old table tops to make their hostel signs.  They are actually locally recycled table tops edged with cycle tyres, and lettering ordered online. Being attached to the fence they go nowhere!

Recycled signs at Argyll Hostel
Recycled sign at Argyll  Eco Hostel

Deepdale Backpackers.   Always keeping the environment in mind, Deepdale has the Gold Green Tourism Award and Gold David Bellamy Award.  They use  eco friendly cleaning materials across the whole business. They provide recycling facilities for guests and commission  promotional products, like frisbees, made from recycled materials.  The majority of  hot water comes from solar thermal panels and two large arrays of roof mounted solar PV produce most of the electricity for the site.  A lot of time has been spent this winter planting hedges and trees, with more planned for this coming winter, to produce great habitats for wildlife and reduce the impact both visually and chemically of the hostel and campsite.  The farm runs conservation weekends and other green activities to help teach the guests about their impact and how to manage it.

Knoydart Bunkhouse is  not only green, but community-owned and working to a responsible tourism policy.  The bunkhouse uses local hydro green energy and is active in recycling and composting.  Guests can only arrive in a sustainable manor; on public transport by boat or on foot after a long wilderness hike.  The bunkhouse provides lots of info to guests about local green issues.

Saying goodbye is always hard to do at Edens Yard Backpackers, itself a recycled stable yard.  So much of the hostel is enjoying an upcycled role – and that goes for the hosts too!  Edens Yard Backpackers also has a fabulous upgraded solar system in which every precious panel does its best come sun, cloud or shade.  Repurpose and renew at Edens Yard.

Helmsdale Hostel, famous as the last stop on the LEJOG cycle route,  is currently closed for development including sustainable and renewable energy heating and water systems.  Helmsdale  Hostel should be re-opening late May 2018. The ethos of Helmsdale Hostel is to protect and respect the natural environment.

THE LONG BARN in Tefi Valley in South Wales is heated with wood grown on the farm.  The  bio-mass boiler runs the hot water and radiators.  There are also 2 wind-turbines and solar panels which provide electricity and heat for all the accommodation on the farm including the Cow Shed,  the Annex and the large Long Barn itself.


Sustainable accommodation in eco hostels and bunkhouses