Wales as a Pioneer of Eco-Accommodation

Lammas eco village in Pembrokeshire, Wales
Lammas eco village in Pembrokeshire, Wales | © christopher jones / Alamy Stock Photo
Rachel Mills

Wales is a pioneer of eco-accommodation, and has attracted those seeking a more self-sufficient life from around the world.

Streets ahead of England when it comes to going green, Wales is on course to become a zero-waste nation by 2050. Right now, the Welsh Assembly – which is housed in a sustainable building made from traditional Welsh materials – is consulting on a circular economy (aimed at eliminating waste) and has already launched a circular economy fund. It’s also promoting tidal and marine energy, hydro, solar and onshore and offshore wind with its Green Growth Fund. The Welsh government supports more than 250 community energy initiatives and developers are required to consider alternative energy systems (including local renewable sources).

Land and house prices in Wales are, on average, more affordable than in the rest of the UK, but large parts of the Welsh countryside, particularly Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons and the Pembrokeshire Coast are protected as National Parks, and other areas as AONB (Areas of Natural Beauty). New developments can be a challenge, but eco-credentials help. The historic One Planet legislation, that allows smallholders to circumnavigate planning rules by going carbon neutral, has attracted those seeking a self-sufficient life to Wales. Today, eco-friendly accommodation and retreats are springing up in mountains and ancient woodland, beside lakes and rivers and all along the stunning Welsh coast.

This small eco-cottage was a former croquet pavilion, and overlooks St Brides Bay in Pembrokeshire

How eco is your accommodation?

The future seems to be green in Wales. But how can you be sure that you’re booking truly eco-accommodation? How can you tell the green from the greenwash? Richard Hammond at Green Traveller recommends checking whether or not your accommodation is a member of an eco-accreditation scheme: Green Key and the Green Tourism Business Scheme are well known and well respected in Wales; and the David Bellamy Conservation Award Scheme (DBCAS) is a long-running scheme for camping, caravanning and holiday home parks. Richard also points to six key questions to assess how eco your accommodation is: are they reducing their draw on energy? Minimising the amount of waste they send to landfill? Reducing their consumption of water? Sourcing local produce? Encouraging guests to arrive on foot, by bike or by public transport? Are they encouraging wildlife biodiversity?

In a post-pandemic world, we’ll still be facing a climate emergency. As we all adjust to a new way of life, and self-sufficiency and sustainability look ever more appealing, the silver lining of lockdown might just turn out to be the value we’re placing on nature. Here are some of the most inspiring eco-accommodation in Wales.

Melangell, Pembrokeshire

The move to west Wales to set up Lammas Ecovillage was not something Tao and Hoppi Wimbush had always planned. Hoppi recalls a “clarion call in my heart like a crystal bell” and the couple let go of their old life and answered the call to create a holistic lifestyle.

The family has one of the dozen or so eco smallholdings at Lammas, where each home is made from either upcycled or local materials. Smallholders report to the council each year and are required to “substantially meet their needs from the land and demonstrate positive environmental, social and economic benefit.” Tao and Hoppi are building the Lammas Earth Centre and have a small retreat, named Melangell (pronounced “Mel-eng-eth”) after the Welsh saint. There’s a small off-grid cabin for one or two adults, with a wood burner, small kitchen and, a short walk away, a compost toilet and solar powered shower. In winter, or if it’s been cloudy for a long time, electricity might be limited. But you have access to a beautifully wild green space, with its herbery, orchard and lake. You’re welcome to book spiritual healing with Hoppi, spend your days gardening with Tao, building or doing carpentry, or simply use the space as a retreat.

Lammas eco village is located in Pembrokeshire

One Cat Farm, Ceredigion

The four wood cabins here in the bucolic meadow at One Cat Farm are well insulated and have turf roofs. The unspoiled site near Aberaeron is chemical-free and mostly single-use-plastic free; local wood is used for the wood burners and campfires. One Cat Farm uses a green energy provider and is saving for photovoltaic panels for an even greener future. From your little cabin, you can stroll along a footpath to the beach and local town, or owners Jessie and Lyndon can organise bikes for carbon neutral travel further afield.

Preseli Venture Eco Lodge, Pembrokeshire

Based on the craggy North Pembrokeshire National Park coastline, Preseli Venture (from Mynydd Preselau; the Preseli Hills) is all about sustainable adventure tourism: surfing, coasteering and sea kayaking can all be booked. The business was founded by Nick and Sophie Hurst in 1988 and they have, over time, developed an 11-bedroom hillside sanctuary with Atlantic views and a resident chef cooking up the best local produce. Up to 40 people can stay at the eco lodge, which has a ground source heat pump for heating and hot water, LED sensor lighting, photovoltaic panels, recycling and off grid sewerage. Even the water used to wash wetsuits off is harvested rainwater.

Preseli Venture Eco Lodge was founded in 1988

Cae Mabon, Gwynedd, Snowdonia

Pronounced “kai may-bon” the Welsh name means “Field of Mabon”, the Great Son of the Divine Mother. Australian-born founder Eric Maddern has been here in the heart of Snowdonia for 33 years, sharing folk tales and driving the development of this eco retreat centre and its landscape. Usually booked by groups of 15–30 people, Cae Mabon opens for a week each summer to families and individuals. Each of the seven unique dwellings is made from natural materials; straw bales, stone, thatch, turf and timber. There’s recycling, compost loos and solar power for lighting – and Eric hopes to one day harness the power of the water in the river, too. A renovated barn holds the kitchen and at the centre of it all is a Celtic Roundhouse and a fire pit. You’re immersed in nature and it would be impossible to go away not feeling uplifted and better connected to the land.

More eco-accommodation in Wales

Green accommodation shout outs also go to Tipi Valley, the original Welsh eco community just west of the Brecon Beacons in Carmarthenshire, where visitors stay in the Big Lodge tipi. The Huts in the Hills are fully insulated off-grid shepherd huts in the Brecon Beacons, with solar panels to heat water that comes from a nearby natural spring. Cultural and eco centre Felin Uchaf in Gwynedd is a community hub delivering skills training and you can book a stay in the Celtic Roundhouse or one of the cabins. Finally, Penheim is a glamping site on a hillside farm in Chepstow with woodland corridors between the fields to protect wildlife, plus water is sourced from natural springs.

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