A five-minute meander from the city centre and the sands, The Green House is a smart seaside hotel that’s been given an eco-friendly overhaul. Sustainability informs everything from the furnishings (white, woody and, of course, green) to the food – the restaurant’s Modern British dishes are among the best in Bournemouth.
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11am, but later check-out may be possible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £89.00, including tax at 5 per cent.
Rates usually include a full cooked breakfast of fresh New Forest produce.
It's worth noting that the hotel is a popular wedding venue, so be prepared for the bar and lounge to be busy until around 6pm on weekends. Parties tend to be confined to the basement so that there’s minimal disruption after this time, but it might be worth asking if there’s an event planned if you’re booking a weekend stay. Fancy an endorphin hit? Ask for a guest pass to the neighbouring gym – just £5 a day – to fit in a workout class or a weights session.
At the hotel
Small garden, DVD library (and players to borrow), free WiFi throughout. In rooms: eco-friendly LED TV, Bose iPod dock, tea and coffee (and an eco kettle), bespoke low-impact bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Ask for a room at the rear for maximum peace, and top-floor rooms are the quietest. Crab Apple, a Master Double on the first floor, has plenty of space to run around in, as well as a huge roll-top in the centre of the open bathroom. Cedar is smaller, but worth its weight in bathroom. The Small Doubles can be a bit of a squeeze, so are best kept for one-nighters.
Don’t forget beach towels if you’re here in summer: Bournemouth beach draws a crowd as soon as the sun makes its presence felt. Come by car (electric, naturally) so you can get out of the city into the New Forest and pootle around Dorest’s Jurassic coast.
One room has been adapted for wheelchair users. The hotel is a popular wedding venue on weekends, so be prepared for the bar and lounge to be busy. Check when you book to find out if there's an event on.
Welcome, although there are no outstandingly family-friendly facilities. There's a £15 a night fee for a cot (ages 0-3), £30 a night for an extra bed (ages 4-12) and £50 for ages 13 and up. Little Smiths are welcome in Arbor restaurant before 7pm.
The clue’s in the name. The Green House goes beyond the gimmicks and thinks of everything. All materials and furniture – from the bespoke bamboo-covered Hypnos mattresses to the TVs which automatically adjust picture output to suit the light level – are as green as it gets and everything the hotel does is informed by a dedicated (but not preachy) eco-friendly ethos. Electricals are all low-energy, and everything that plausibly can be is recycled (including rainwater) and/or locally sourced.
By the bay window, in the middle, where it’s brightest (by day) and free from passing elbows.
Informal, though things get suity during the week; country casuals at weekends.
It might not sound like much to say the Arbor Restaurant is the best in Bournemouth, but it’s been drawing appreciative nods from those in the gastro know since it opened. As you’d expect, chef Andrew Hilton takes sustainability seriously, tweaking the menu seasonally to take advantage of what’s fresh, tempting and readily available from the local area. The four-course à la carte menu, which gives starring roles to dishes such as glazed pork cheek with a wholegrain mustard potato cake, and crispy lamb with apricot purée, is gloriously good value, and vegetarians are very well looked after, too. Look our for the eponymous tree, an impressive centrepiece of carved oak and fibre-optic lights that casts a warming glow over the proceedings. Advanced booking advised.
Just off the lobby, the Arbor Restaurant’s snug rectangular bar area is papered in Farrow & Ball thistle-print brocade (best not mention the fact it’s upside down), and dotted with comfy toweling-topped seating in green and purple. It’s ideal for pre-dinner berry mojitos, Sunday brunchtime Bloody Marys, or just a pint of Dorset ale; there’s a wide-ranging biodynamic wine list, too.
The Arbor Restaurant serves dinner until 10pm (lunch is 12.30pm–2pm and breakfast, 7.30am–9.30am). Drink in the bar around the clock and take afternoon tea anywhere in the hotel between noon and 6pm, but the best spot is outside on the terrace.
There’s a 24-hour menu of snacks and sandwiches, with a handful of hot dishes and a tasty cheese platter.
The Green House is just on the edge of Bournemouth city centre, about five minutes’ walk from the beach, on Grove Road – a tree-lined avenue lined with hotels and guesthouses.
Bournemouth International airport is around five miles away in Hurn, and, largely thanks to Ryanair and EasyJet, serves an assortment of destinations in Europe and the Channel Islands, with a long-haul or two (such as New York) thrown into the timetable. Taxis are around £15. Most guests coming by plane, however, will land at Heathrow or Gatwick, both around two hours’ drive away.
A mile from the hotel, Bournemouth station is on the South Western Main Line that runs between London Waterloo and Weymouth. The trip to/from London takes less than two hours, and services run about four times an hour.
A car will be handy for escaping the city and exploring Dorset, Hampshire and the Jurassic coast. The Green House is roughly two hours’ drive from London, down the M3 and across the New Forest. There’s a free car park at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Beyond the beach and the shops (the best of the boutiques are in Westbourne, along Poole Road), Bournemouth’s biggest attractions aren’t actually in it. It’s an easy and scenic half-hour drive to the New Forest a rambler’s wonderland, and great cycling/horse-riding territory. Give the New Forest Cider Brewery a ring in advance to book one of their cheese and cider tasting sessions; during apple-pressing season in the autumn, you may even catch their hand press at work. Pack a picnic and catch the ferry from Poole Quay to road-free Brownsea Island, a blessedly road-free wildlife sanctuary where a young Baden Powell set up his prototype Scout camp.
Bournemouth’s not yet known for its foodie scene, but it’s working on it, and there are a few feathers in its culinary cap. Slap-bang by the shore, West Beach is a gently nautical, family-friendly fish joint that’s just as reliable for lobsters and langoustines as it is with beer-battered cod. For an evening of tapas-style Thai food, check out Koh Thai. Half an hour outside Bournemouth in New Milton, Vetiver at Smith-approved Chewton Glen has been widely praised for its classic British menu, which draws heavily from local produce and meat (there’s a trolley of roasts in the evenings). The wine list is even more impressive, and the restaurant often hosts special wine dinners, matching vintage to victuals. Beachside Neo is the place to go for seafood-centric meals with a view.
Bournemouth’s bar scene can be boisterous, especially in the summer stag-do season, so steer clear of the swagger and head to 1812 Lounge Bar & Restaurantfor classic cocktails and live music.
I won’t lie. There was a small sigh of relief as we entered our Bournemouth boutique hotel. More Bognor than Bilbao, this South Coast town is not always celebrated for its attractive architecture and the Green House Hotel is sandwiched between a Sixties’ block of flats and a red-and-white concrete abode named (rather ambitiously?) the Celebrity Hotel. Perhaps this is all deliberate – the build up makes first impressions of this stay all the more memorable.
Large conifers hide the hotel strip beyond, and sports cars fringe a palm-dotted front lawn with soft grey steps lead up to a gleaming, white mansion. For one of the most eco hotels in the country, the Green House Hotel’s grandeur is impressive. Our delight only grew stronger as we were led to our room via a beautifully restored Victorian staircase, decorated in a soft leaf-print wallpaper. (Not these, but a lot of the wallcoverings were designed exclusively for the hotel by Royal College of Art students which put paid to our hopes of buying them for our own home.)
Up to the second floor and across to the far side of the hotel and we had reached Silver Birch, our home for the next two nights. With below-freezing weather in store, the room was going to be the real clincher. I could barely contain my excitement on entering a room perfectly proportioned for an indulgent, lazy weekend with Mr Smith. Open plan, half of the room is dominated by an organic cotton mound of a bed, while the other gives centre stage to a stand-alone Victorian bath. It was also spotless (vital for relaxing, given mild OCD tendencies) and cosy (vital for romance, given the temperatures outside). Having dreamed about the roll-top bath all week, it was very tempting to stay put for our first night. But we felt we should at least give Friday night in Bournemouth a try and, more importantly, we were starving and although room service is 24/7, the room had no minibar.
Despite my previous comments about the surrounding architecture, the Green House Hotel is in a pretty good spot. Two minutes’ stroll and you are on the seafront, gazing along a seven-mile stretch of sandy beach. Closing my eyes and ignoring the February chill ripping through my soul, I could just about imagine stepping out in a floaty summer number and ambling barefoot through warm sand in search of seaside cocktails. But in reality, with stomachs rumbling and hands numb, we hurried towards the town centre and dived into the first restaurant we came across.
There are some atmospheres you just can’t find in London, and this was one. A grand piano hosted a silver fox blasting out his piano rendition of Bryan Adams while a waiter in black tie ushered us to a candlelit table. The restaurant was full of the celebrating and celebrated of Bournemouth, all dressed to the nines, guffawing the night away with full glasses, platters of seafood and red faces. ‘This is amazing!’ I whispered to Mr Smith, in the way that you do when you’re an outsider really excited to be at someone else’s ‘normal’. With two AA rosettes the Crab at Bournemouth is said to be the best seafood restaurant in town, and I’m not going to argue. Having popped out for a quick snack and some drinks, we couldn’t resist a full-blown feast.
After a lie in, a warming bath and locally sourced (and also very tasty) breakfast, we decided to head into some of the surrounding countryside this part of Dorset is so famous for. The area is a mecca for GCSE Geography case studies: Durdle Door, Old Harry Rocks, Purbeck Hills, Swanage Bay, Chesil Beach. The lure of a geeky trip down memory lane aside, we were both excited at the prospect of cliffs, sea breezes and a pint of local cider. Our ‘since we’re by the sea, perhaps the sun will poke out’ hopes sadly didn’t manifest, but the West Country cider provided more than the necessary warmth.
Back at the hotel we walked straight into the warming and excitable atmosphere of a wedding, giving us the perfect excuse to go the whole hog when it came to drinks and six-course tasting menu at the Arbor Restaurant. With bridesmaids and pageboys hiding from merry parents and a flushed bride and groom having a romantic moment in the garden, we settled in at the bar to start our night of beautifully prepared and responsibly sourced food and drink. A bottle of English sparkling wine in (which could almost have been champagne) and I was declaring the Green House Hotel the most wholesome and relaxing place to spend a Saturday night in the whole of Dorset. And when it comes to Bournemouth, frankly, this place is a lifesaver.
Slightly sore heads tempted us back to the beach on Sunday morning. With the sun breaking through dark grey clouds it was just as beautiful as it would be in summer. Bournemouth has hosted leisure seekers for more than a hundred years and in some ways, with its deck chairs, promenaders and piers, that morning it felt unchanged. Until we stumbled into a jazz-filled seafront bar where Bournemouth’s media set were getting stuck into some punchy Bloody Marys.
Environmentally friendly hotels so often fall into two camps – the corporate and efficient hotel room with as little soul as it has carbon, and the preachy hippy with so much eco-chat that you spend the whole time scratching at your hairshirt and walking on eggshells. Not so here. The Green House Hotel is genuinely better for its subtly delivered organic and responsible credentials, and it leaves you feeling all the better for it.