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Sustainable places to visit and things to do in the East Midlands

Activities and accommodation that leave a lighter footprint on the planet.

The heart of the National Forest in Leicestershire at sunset

The impact of the tourism industry on climate change has become a more prominently discussed topic in recent years. For those looking to enjoy activities, days out and short breaks with less of an impact on the environment, both Leicester and the wider county have a great offering.

Visit Leicester have highlighted some of the region’s many examples of sustainable tourism.

National Forest

Leicestershire is in the heart of the National Forest. 200 square miles of mixed habitat forest, where 8.9 million trees have been planted over the last 25 years.

Today, it is recognised as one of the most ambitious regeneration projects in the country, promoting healthier lifestyles and outdoor learning to create a sustainable tourism industry and increase outdoor facilities and experiences for visitors.

The National Forest is home to many family and individual activities including walking, cycling, horse riding, survival skills, woodland crafts, and wildlife spotting.

Timber Festival

Timber Festival is an incredible weekend festival of celebration, debate and reflection in the National Forest. Timber invites you to stand up and be counted as we rethink our relationship with trees and forests.

Join new thinkers as they challenge us to re-examine our relationship with the natural world. Gather with artists, musicians and writers, as they respond and react to the forest in bold and exhilarating ways.

Everards Meadows

The restaurant at Everards Meadows.
The restaurant at Everards Meadows.

Everards Meadows is the new home for Everards Brewery, a café/bar and cycle centre together with extensive areas of green infrastructure extending down to the River Soar.

The extensive green infrastructure covers approximately 30 hectares of greenspace open for public access in the Soar Valley floodplain. A new footway/cycle bridge has been constructed over the River Soar connecting with the national sustrans pedestrian and cycleway enabling easy travel into the city of Leicester.

In addition, a lighting upgrade project involving replacing existing lighting and introducing Chalmor lighting controls to minimise energy wastage has helped Everards Brewery to reduce its carbon footprint and save around £15,000 per annum on lighting costs.

Walking Festival

The area also plays host to the National Forest Walking Festival. Branded as one of the best walking festivals in the UK by The Guardian, the National Forest Walking Festival encourages visitors to explore the beautiful Leicestershire countryside – from the craggy peaks of country parks to ancient woodland, there's plenty to discover.

The National Forest Walking Festival will take place between Saturday 13 and Thursday 25 May 2023.

E-Bikes and Walking Holidays

The National Forest also hosts E-Bike and walking holidays that are perfect for those wishing to explore the area at their own pace and discover the hidden treasures in and around the Forest.

Shortlisted for a Leicestershire Tourism Award for Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism, E-Bike breaks range from two to six nights and include B&B accommodation, hire of top quality electric bikes, detailed routes and local support if required.

The self-guided walking holidays range from two nights to 10 days and are available as single or multi-destination breaks.


Eco Village Market Harborough wicker basket with groceries

For a (sustainable) retail fix, visit the unique EcoVillage in Market Harborough.

Set up as a Community Interest Company, the EcoVillage is a not-for-profit alternative to supermarket shopping, with the community at the heart of its vision.

It offers goods made from natural materials and organic produce, with as little packaging as possible including groceries, beauty products and home and lifestyle products.

It’s home to wonderful local artisan creators, visionary producers, and entrepreneurs with an eye for an eco-lifestyle.

Wild Minds

For a more relaxed activity, Wild Minds offers a wide range of packages and activities for all the family, teaching you how to connect with nature and experience the benefits of exploring the natural world.

Activities range from forest bathing and meditation to multi-sensory woodland adventures.

Twycross Zoo

For a family day out, Twycross Zoo is an award-winning conservation charity, with fun for the family to enjoy all year round.

Spanning more than 80 acres, there are around 400 animals of almost 80 species to see, including many endangered animals. The newly opened Gruffalo Discovery Land is a huge hit with children and adults alike.

The Zoo is part of a global community that contributes to conservation in many ways and is now renowned as a World Primate Centre with a wide variety of monkeys and apes including the UK’s only group of bonobos.


Camping and glamping holidays in England, East Midlands, Leicester by Niche Magazine

For those looking for a short break away from the stresses of modern living, sustainably conscious accommodation in the area includes camping, glamping, hotels, and B&Bs.

Surrounded by lush woodland and rolling green scenery, Wigwam Holidays Charnwood Forest is the ideal spot for some much-needed rest and relaxation. Six en-suite, luxury Wigwam® cabins, three with private wood fired hot tubs, provide the perfect spot to unwind on your private decked dining area.

Ettie's Field is for everyone who loves camping and touring in beautiful spaces. A sociable, bohemian, camping and glamping site with brand new facilities and a comfortable clubhouse space.

There are 15 spacious, grass tent pitches on a four-acre meadow and hard standing for campervans and caravans, plus two Airstream trailers to hire. As a reforestation partner of the charity One Tree Planted, a tree is planted every time Ettie’s Field receives a booking.

For individuals, couples and families looking for a true camping adventure that allow them to spend time in the great outdoors and reconnect with nature, Fire and Stars Camping offers a unique woodland camping experience.

Set in the heart of National Forest woodlands, the income generated from Fire & Stars Camping helps to manage and protect the woodlands for future generations to come.

Hotels and B&Bs

If you’re not a fan of camping, Horseshoe Cottage Farm is a truly tranquil escape in Leicestershire, providing environmentally friendly, luxury accommodation, along with a warm welcome that includes tea and homemade cake by the fireside or in the pretty cottage garden.

The hosts source local food for their delicious breakfasts, to help reduce food miles and support the local supply chain.

It also addresses many other environmental issues by a range of measures including composting garden and kitchen waste, using solar panels to heat the water for the bathrooms, and collecting roof water to use in the greenhouse and garden tubs.

Donington Park Farmhouse is a hotel with a truly green ethos, having been shortlisted for a Leicestershire Tourism Award in the category of Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism.

Set in 20 acres on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border, the hotel boasts 19 character bedrooms. 5,000 trees are planted in the surrounding woodlands each year and the park is actively managed with the help of Natural England.

The hotel has 46 solar panels to provide its electricity and is self-sufficient in its supply of wood-fuel which is used for heating and hot water. It has a reed-bed sewage system to filter water and return it to the stream and the hotel is run with green policies in all its operations including sending zero waste to landfill.

More details on places to visit, things to do, and places to stay can be found on the Visit Leicester website.


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