Five green breaks for 2010
Five eco-friendly trips we recommend for the new year, from staying in a treehouse in Tuscany to horse-riding in Sweden...
For island-hopping across the Scottish west coast buy a 'Hopscotch' ticket – a single pass for pre-planned routes across the Hebridean islands. These days the ferry service is a far cry from the old pitch-and-roll canteens – the clean, well-kept lounges serve decent food, including a range of malt whiskies, and you can admire the island views from the comfort of an outdoor deck.
• A Hopscotch ticket valid for a month for Barra, Uist, Harris and Skye costs £29.50; bikes can be taken on board for free. For the list of 27 pre-planned routes: calmac.co.uk, 0800 066 5000.
Above: Ferry hopping across the west coast islands of Scotland
Photo: Richard Hammond
Rail and ride, Amsterdam
From 13 December it will be possible to reach Amsterdam in just over four hours from London thanks to the new high-speed line from Brussels (from £105 return, 0844 848 4070, raileurope.co.uk). Mac Bikes is one of the city's largest bike rental agencies and runs two-hour guided tours from Centraal Station East. For a gourmet meal head to the stylish eight-metre high glass conservatory at the organic de Kas restaurant in Frankendael Park then bed down for the night on a houseboat, such as BK09 – a small cosy boat on the Amstel river opposite De IJsbreker.
Stay in a treehouse, Italy
Treehouse designs have come along way from makeshift shacks made of flimsy wooden planks and rope ladders. For a night in one of the most modern arboreal abodes head to La Piantata, an organic agriturismo among the lavender hills near the old Etruscan town of Tuscania. Their treehouse is set in the dense foliage of a century old oak; there's a four-poster bed, bathroom, shower and terrace, and breakfast arrives via a pulley.
• lapiantata.it, +39 (0)335 604 9630). Train from London to Orte costs from £141 (0844 848 4070, raileurope.co.uk).
Learn how to ride a horse the natural way with Olle Forsell, maverick horse-trainer, at his remote farm in south-central Sweden. It takes a day's tuition in the classroom and paddock to learn how to handle a horse that has been trained without the bit between the teeth (tug the lower part of the horse's head using a rope "side-pull" instead of a bridle). Then you're off, cantering over forested hills, across bubbling streams and through verdant pastures in 300 sq km of open land.
• sagaadventures.se, +46 (0)140 911 33. Train from London to Stockholm (via Brussels, Cologne and Copenhagen) costs from £310 return, then take the train to Tranas (three hours, sj.se) from where the owner will collect.
Yurt camping, France
Camping doesn't get much easier than at this safari-style yurt camp in oak woodland overlooking the green Averyon valley, about an hour northeast of Toulouse. The huge yurts, raised on wooden platforms, have handmade double beds with cotton sheets and feather pillows. There's an indoor-outdoor wooden shower house and open-air kitchen where you can help yourself to fresh herbs from the owner's garden. Nearby you can go off-road biking or canoeing through the Gorges de L'Aveyron then return to cool off in the camp's 20m-long natural swimming pool.
• Train from London to Toulouse costs from £109 return (0844 848 4070, raileurope.co.uk) then take the train to Lexos, where the owners can collect. lecamp.co.uk, +33 (0) 563 654 834.
This article, by Richard Hammond, was first published on guardian.co.uk