The best of green travel in 2012
Greentraveller’s Top 30 Experiences in 2012, as recommended by our team of reviewers and travel writers Paul Miles, Jane Dunford, Rhiannon Batten, Juliette Dyke, Anna Shepard, Lucy Symons, Florence Fortnam and Richard Hammond.
Best for romantics: a fabulously pretty vardo (Romany caravan) in the Monmouthshire countryside, which comes with a pull-out double bed, goose-down duvet and hot water bottles for two. Read our Review.
Best hamper: at Dundream self-catering cottage in Scotland, with heather tea, local honey, 'Flowers of Scotland' seasoning and, of course, a mini bottle of local whisky! Read our Review of Dundream.
Best guest freebie: climbing the hills of the Peak District on an electric bike, free for guests staying at Wheeldon Trees Farm. Read our Review of Wheeldon Trees Farm.
Best fresh food: buying crab or lobster straight from the fishermen outside The Blue Cabin by the Sea.
Best outdoor adventure: the Via Ferrata at How Stean Gorge in Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, one of just two in the country (howstean.co.uk) and trekking with llamas, also in Nidderdale. Nidderdale Llamas has 19 of the furry camelids – and there’s a choice of treks, from an hour and a half jaunt to a full day eight-mile hike to Brimham Rocks, with a picnic and refreshments provided (nidderdalellamas.org).
Best hotel pool with a view: the salt water pool at Lefay Resort and Spa, Italy overlooking Lake Garda. Watch our video of Lake Garda taken during our visit there earlier this year as part of our SprinterRail Sporting Adventure with RailEurope.
Best shower: outdoors at The Woodman’s Hut, where you heat water on a stove, mix it with cooler water from a butt made from an old whisky barrel, pour both into a canvas sack at the end of the porch then let it gush over you, in a faintly Johnny Walker-scented stream.
Best for conservation: Lochranza Youth Hostel’s insect hostel, designed to help encourage a rich and diverse local habitat. Read our review.
Best station café: the bright and cheerful Platform One Diner at Haverfordwest. The menu sticks to typically greasy spoon fare but there's a surprising amount of local produce on offer (http://www.blipfoto.com/entry/1271685).
Best scene on arrival: The magnificent port at Honfleur, northern France. We travelled there as foot passengers via Le Havre on LD Lines ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre, then took a short bus.
Best app: Weather Pro. Includes satelitte images of weather fronts, temperature, wind speed, and the likelihood of rain in every 3 hours. We’ve found it reliable even in some of the most difficult areas to predict the weather, including coastal and mountain regions, such as Pembrokeshire and the Swiss Alps.
Best local guide: roaming Brighton with Brian Moody from Brighton Greeters; Wilderness Scotland’s new Wilderness Guide Training Programme; plus the knowledgeable Robin Ruddock (robin-ruddock.com) who leads paddles round the Giant's Causeway along Northern Ireland's new canoe trail (canoeni.com)
Best baby-friendly tent: the spacious tents at Featherdown Farms not only contain real beds but they're made from blackout tent fabric so (fingers crossed) your kids sleep for longer. Ours made it through to 8am. Read our intro to Featherdown Farms.
Best breakfast: a draw between Oriel Milgi in St Dogmaels (look out for the Foxhills marmalade, which you can buy in the deli across the road) and Paskin's Guesthouse in Brighton, where all the ingredients are sourced from Sussex farms.
Best train feature: the cinema carriage in the new Italo trains in Italy. For more info: RailEurope.
Best Bus Tour: Riding the New Forest tour is by the far the easiest and most enjoyable way to explore this stunning national park, and our writer had a blast (quite literally) riding around on the top deck all day. Be prepared for some seriously wind blown 'car hair' when you get off. Or bring a hat! newforesttour.info
Best dessert: The Bivouac’s “Yorkshire pudding” – a platter of cake, local cheese, fresh fruit, chutneys and olives designed to be eaten together. Read our review of the Bivouac.
Best B&B view: a deep gorge and passing trains on an old stone viaduct at Gallon House, in Knaresborough. Literally yards from Knaresborough station, it’s a great place to go for a ‘traincation’.
Best service: Lowthwaite B&B where owner Tine baked homemade gluten-free muffins and gluten-free bread for the coeliac among us, without a fuss (lowthwaiteullswater.com)
Best transfer: Arosa Station in Switzerland where (in winter) you can switch from train to horse-drawn sleigh for the journey to your hotel
Best hot tub: the wood-burning one at Secret Cloud House Holidays, on a hill overlooking the Peak District. Read our review of Secret Cloud House.
Best street art: the mechanical elephants in Nantes.
Best underground adventure: Beer Quarry Caves looks so unassuming when you arrive: no fancy visitors centre or gift shop. But a guided tour of the manmade caves reveals a warren of fascinating stories (beerquarrycaves.co.uk).
Best cycle: the Painters’ trail, along the rural lanes of the Stour Valley, exploring knock-out views made famous by Constable, Gainsborough and Munnings.
Best hotel grounds: the 200 acres of magical gardens surrounding the Liss Ard hotel in West Cork (lissardestate.com)
Best traffic policy: For some ten years, Guernsey has had a network of 35 miles of roads that are designated ‘green lanes’ where bikes, walkers and horses have priority over cars, which have to stick to a 15mph speed limit (http://www.gov.gg/article/2184/Ruettes-Tranquilles)
Best beach: with turquoise water and white sand, Shell Beach, on the car-free speck of an island that is Herm, draws the crowds in summer but you can have it to yourselves in spring (herm.com)
Best new travel products: the Sawyer Squeeze filter (£60) purifies water without the need for chemicals or replacement cartridges and lasts a lifetime, saving you from buying nasty plastic water bottles (sawyereurope.com) and the multi-use 60-litre 3.8kg Tonga Vaude Travel Bag (£150), can be packed like a suitcase, pulled like a trolley or worn like a pack (vaude.com).
Best (low-carbon) flight: the cable-car over the Thames soars to nearly 300ft, with fantastic views of the river, the O2, Canary wharf and boats. At £6.40 for a return ‘flight’ it’s a relative bargain as a low emissions sightseeing experience (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/modalpages/23863.aspx)
Best train journey: in April, we asked our Facebook fans what their favourite train journey is. The answers included the Black Forest Railway (sent by Sophie Collard), the Palma-Soller train in Mallorca (recommended by Steve Keenan, former online travel editor of the Sunday Times), “the delightfully slow trundle up the Douro Valley from Porto into the heart of this renowned Portuguese wine-producing region” (recommended by ‘slow holiday company’ Inntravel) and the London to Fort William Caledonian Sleeper (chosen by the world’s leading authority on train travel, Mark Smith, Man in Seat Sixty One). Read about these and all the other great railway journeys on Greentraveller's Facebook page.
Here are a few things we are looking forward to in 2013:
- Eurostar's new winter ski train to the Swiss Alps
- Eurostar’s new direct train service to Lyon and Aix-en-Provence
- Our new series: Great Weekends by Train
- The launch of Little Greentraveller...
And lots more!
A very happy New Year,
Richard, Lucy, Florence, Jane and the rest of the Greentraveller Team.
Less Carbon, More Fun!
By Richard Hammond.