Escaping London and enjoying a cosy couple of days in the countryside, or popping across to one of Europe’s beautifully romantic cities – Bonjour Paris! – are excellent ways to spend a weekend.
But driving long distances or taking the plane, even for a short-haul journey, both have an environmental impact thanks to their C02 emissions. With a little bit of imagination and a dash of adventure, your weekend away can be a little more sustainable and considerate to the environment.
From an epic overnight train journey to cycling all the way to your destination, we’ve rounded up the most luxurious, adventurous and sustainable journeys for a memorable weekend trip away from London.
Eurostar: London to Paris
Taking the Eurostar from London to Paris is a classic weekend getaway. Not only does it whisk you from London St Pancras to the French capital in a mere 2 hours 16 minutes, it’s also an environmentally friendly option. According to research by Eurostar, taking the train cuts C02 emissions by 80% when compared to flying. Paris’ airport is also 30km away from the city, but the Eurostar takes you right into the centre so you can start exploring as soon as you disembark.
On arrival, check-in to the eco-conscious Le Citizen Hotel (a 20-minute walk from the Gare Du Nord train station where the Eurostar drops you off). Located in the picturesque Canal Saint-Martin neighbourhood, the boutique hotel has 12 rooms that overlook the historic waterways. When it comes to the environment, the hotel has implemented a number of policies to ensure their carbon footprint is as small as possible. They avoid plastic and refillable glass bottles can be found in all rooms. The hotel’s restaurant also ensures that 90% of its produce comes from local French farms and is delivered in reusable wooden crates rather than cardboard.
The best way to explore Paris’ diverse neighbourhoods is on foot, but bikes and scooters can also be rented for sustainable travel further afield. The city has recently tested flying water taxi’s from SeaBubble. If approved for public use (there are rumours it’ll be Spring 2020), the hydrofoil taxis – which create zero emissions – could be the new eco way to travel around the city.
Electric Car To Hampshire
Leaving the hustle and bustle behind and spending a weekend in the English countryside is a favourite past-time of us Londoners, but it usually requires a car. For an eco-friendly option, ditch the petrol engine and rent an electric car from E-Car Club. Just download the app, enter your pick-up and drop-off dates, and then choose where you’d like to pick it up (London has 4 pick-up points, with 3 in East and 1 in Central). The E-Car Club app also tells you where the nearest charge point is, though most electric cars can go up to 100-miles without needing a charge.
Once you’ve got your eco-wheels, head to the Hampshire Hills for a weekend at the secluded Heckfield Place hotel. The drive from London to Heckfield is relatively quick (just under 2 hours), but it feels a world away from the busy streets of the capital.
Set in a 400-acre countryside estate, Heckfield Place is the ultimate in off-grid luxury. Its stunning grounds include untamed woodland, perfectly pruned gardens, lakes, and even a small farm. In the main house (which dates back to the 18th century), expect original Georgian furniture paired with modern minimalism.
Chef Skye Gyngell heads up the 2 restaurants at the hotel, each with a farm to table approach (both their farm and vegetable gardens provide ingredients) and they focus on using simple, seasonal produce.
After a long walk around the grounds, rejuvenate at Heckfield Place’s Little Bothy Spa, which offers all-natural treatments, yoga, pilates and personal training programmes via Bodyism.
Caledonian Sleeper to Scotland
A weekend in the Scottish Highlands might not seem all that practical given its distance from London – especially if you drive the 9.5 hours from London to Fort William. But the eco-friendly and picturesque Caledonian Sleeper train ensures that the journey – along the West Highland Line – is just as exciting as the destination.
A recent £100m investment into a fleet of new trains has seen Caledonian Sleeper up their game when it comes to luxury. The most luxe are the Club Rooms and Caledonian Doubles which include breakfast and an en-suite, ensuring you arrive in Scotland feeling refreshed and ready to explore.
Ben Nevis’ huge peak towers proudly over Fort William and is the reason many people come to the area, but if you don’t fancy tackling the UK’s highest mountain there are hikes for all abilities. After a day of fresh mountain air and outdoor adventure, retreat to the Inverlochy Castle Hotel. The 19th-century castle is surrounded by lush evergreen trees, and views of the surrounding Highlands. Father and son duo Albert & Michel Roux Jr. head up the kitchen, and as with everything in the hotel dinner is an opulent affair – jackets are required for men – so make sure you pack your glad rags alongside your hiking gear.
To make it happen take the 21.15pm train from London Euston on Friday and you’ll arrive into Fort William at 09.57am Saturday. Enjoy two full days exploring the beautiful area before jumping on the 19:50pm on Sunday evening, arriving into London at 07.49am on Monday – just enough time to get the office for 9am.
Cycling to St Albans
Cycling 35-miles to your destination might not be for everyone, but the London to St Albans cycle route is a great option if you’re looking for an eco-friendly and active way to start your getaway. Ensure you stick to the London Cycle Network and National Cycle routes, the alternative is the busy A4 which although quicker, isn’t particularly scenic.
The popular route starts in South West London on Putney Bridge, it winds along the River Thames, the Grand Union Canal, and then merges onto the Colne Valley Trail with its charming lakes and views of the River Colne. As you approach St Albans take a right and head towards Cottonmill Lane, home to countryside hotel Sopwell House.
The hotel is the perfect place to unwind following your cycle, thanks to its excellent spa facilities. Sopwell House houses the UK’s first Private Members Spa – The Club at Cotton Mill – which as you’d expect is the height of luxury. Facilities include the perfectly landscaped Spa Garden with its firepits and loungers, and massaging hydrotherapy pools. Don’t let the ‘Private Members’ criteria put you off though, a day pass can be purchased for full access. There are also shared facilities including an indoor pool, steam rooms, and a sauna which all guests can use free of charge.
Rooms are smart and elegant, and there are also 2 restaurants which will satisfy any post cycling hunger pangs.