The question of ecological damage caused by tourism has been a topic of great discussion in recent years. Our carbon footprint has been increasing exponentially as travel has become a common occurrence rather than an annual treat. In a bid to tackle the ramifications that tourism has on the environment we are seeing key players in the hospitality industry start to take action.
The Irish Centre for Responsible Tourism stresses that responsible tourism is all about maximising the benefits from tourism and minimising its negative impact. This approach emphasises that all stakeholders in tourism are responsible for the kind of tourism they wish to develop or engage in – including visitors, local communities, businesses and government.
In recent years we have seen a noticeable shift in thinking, not only from accommodation providers, but from tourists looking to lower their carbon footprint.
Power is sourced from a wind turbine, hot water is provided by solar panels at Limepark Cottages
Sustainable building practices, greener energy sources and a commitment to environmentally friendly products are just some of the measures being taken by hotels, guesthouses and campsites.
Here are just some of Ireland’s eco-friendly places to stay that prove you don’t need to sacrifice comfort and luxury when you go green.
1. Hemp Cottage, Co Down
If you are looking for a quiet rural getaway then this self-catered riverside cottage in Co Down might be just the ticket. In the middle of an orchard, on the edge of Ballynahinch River, hens wander freely around the grounds of this idyllic retreat.
The timber-framed cottage is flooded with natural light and was built with hemp walls and natural insulation.
Outdoor activities in the area are plentiful, with the Mourne Mountains on your doorstep for hiking and biking. Or if you prefer the water, you can take yourself down Strangford Lough in a canoe.
The cottage, which sleeps four, is situated only two miles from Crossgar village where you can find pubs and cafés. It’s a 30-40 minute drive from the coast and superb beaches.
Minimum stay is three nights and they are open all year-round. Prices start at £75 (€86) per night. irishcottagesdown.com/hemp-cottage.html
2. Limepark Cottages, Co Antrim
Located in the heart of the Causeway Coast and Glens, this is the perfect getaway for those looking to combine eco-friendly with luxury. This converted 17th century Georgian farm is exquisitely decorated and offers five-star comfort.
Power is sourced from a wind turbine, hot water is provided by solar panels, emissions are minimal and eco-friendly products are used throughout.
Walkers can enjoy glorious trails right from the front door. Alternatively you can venture further afield to the Causeway Coastal Route which offers an abundance of fantastic coastal walks and cycling routes. There is also a tennis court, games room and library on site.
Prices start at £53 (€61) for the smallest cottage, aptly named the Cupboard, or £73 (€84) for one of the larger two-person cottages per night. limepark.com
3. Croan Cottages, Co Kilkenny
Croan Cottages are situated between the villages of Dunamaggan and Knocktopher in Co Kilkenny. The five self-catering cottages provide for a relaxing, eco-friendly getaway with an abundance of attractions in the surrounding areas. These include the historic towns of Kells and Cashel and a number of beautiful walking routes. It is also a wonderful spot for kids and animal lovers alike as Croan Cottages are home to ducks, pigs, goats and lots more.
Croan Cottages were selected as one of the Top 10 Eco Breaks in Europe by Tesco Greener Living, and their climate impact awareness is present all through their working processes. Renewable energy sources, recycling, composting and product awareness are only some examples of their eco-friendly practices.
Each of the self-catering cottages has its own fireplace, BBQ-area and private patio. Pets are welcome. croancottages.com
4. Gregan’s Castle Hotel, Co Clare
Gregan’s Castle Hotel in the heart of the Burren is one of those special places where you feel yourself instantly relax as soon as you cross the threshold. Maybe it’s because of the open fires, or perhaps the exceptional service and gourmet food. And one cannot forget about those glorious views that stretch all the way from the Burren hills to Galway Bay.
Outdoor lovers are well catered for in the area. Whether you opt to go surfing at Fanore Beach, rock climbing in the Burren or for a wander around the quaint villages of Ballyvaughan and Doolin, you won’t struggle to work up an appetite for the delicious fare that awaits upon your return to the hotel.
Gregan’s are founding members of The Burren Ecotourism Network and use a long list of eco-friendly practices in the hotel which include the use of electricity generated from Irish windmills and super-efficient combi condensing gas boilers. They encourage their guests to walk or cycle during their stay, and they were one of the first hotels in Ireland to install an electric car charging point.
Rooms start at €245 per night. gregans.ie
5. Ard Nahoo, Co Leitrim
This little slice of heaven located in a little-known area of Ireland is the perfect spot to escape the madness of everyday life. Bringing it back to basics, this WiFi-free zone invites you to enjoy the beauty and simplicity of country living in a comfortable environment.
Ard Nahoo is an EU Flower and Greenbox Certified Eco Retreat offering a range of courses and workshops (including yoga, meditation, Reiki, detoxification and vegetarian whole food cookery).
If you fancy doing things at your own pace, you can also opt for a self-catering family holiday or break with friends in one of Ard Nahoo’s Eco Cabins. If that sounds very back-to-basics, think again: this is eco-luxury. Built with sustainable cedar from Donegal, the cabins are insulated with hemp, have wood pellet stoves, decking with picnic tables, and all the mod cons essential for a comfortable stay. You can even avail of Uisce Hour – private use of the property’s outdoor sauna and hot-tub.
Those who fancy a bit of fresh air can opt to take on one of the many walks in the North Leitrim Hills or venture to the coast which is just a short drive away.
Prices start from €250 for 2 people for a mid-week two night break self catering. ardnahoo.com
Heather Snelgar edits the outdoor and adventure website www.outsider.ie