With Aferry.co.uk enjoying a record number of bookings in 2016, it’s clear that ferry travel is again proving the popular choice for British families and the trend looks likely to continue through the winter months.
The most popular destinations booked from the UK this year – France, Holland, Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Wight – have plenty to offer between now and Christmas. Here’s some suggestions:
La Belle France – Dieppe
It should come as no surprise that France is one of the UK’s most popular holiday destinations. From famous cities such as Paris, Rouen and Amiens, to beautiful coastal villages and hidden gems well worth the hunt, not to mention its long and fascinating artistic heritage, France has everything a tourist could ask for.
For those who are gastronomically minded be sure to follow Normandy’s celebrated Cheese and Cider Route this autumn – where the only question is what nectar to sample next and how much camembert, Pont L’Évênque, Calvados and cider should you pick up along the way. Or why not visit the Fête du Cidre à l’Ancienne in Le Sap, Orne (12th and 13th November) and celebrate the ancient art of cider-making (and drinking).
DFDS ferries to Dieppe depart three times a day and takes just four hours from Newhaven.
Dunkirk – France
Dunkirk is the northernmost town in France and is just six miles from the border with Belgium making it the perfect first port of call before sampling Flemish delights. Before crossing the border and discovering the medieval charm of Bruges and Ghent or the Brussels Christmas Market which takes place from 25th November 2016 to 1st January 2017 do spend some time in the city first. Travellers will find a whole host of attractions including Dunkirk’s belfry, a UNESCO World Heritage site built in the 15th Century where visitors are rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the harbour and the city. You can also visit the Museé des Beaux-Arts with its collection of French art or the Museé Portuaire, which details harbour life in the city.
DFDS ferries to Dunkirk depart nine times a day and takes just two hours from Dover.
Walking through the cobbled streets of St Malo’s old town offers visitors a glimpse of Brittany’s important seafaring past. Watch out for the pirates however as this is sometimes referred to as the Corsair City! Their ill-gotten gains resulted in the beautiful mansions called malounières, located throughout the countryside around the port and which stand as historic evidence to the fortunes of these St Malo “ship owners”. They are unique to the area – around 100 in total – and make a lovely day out from the town.
Alternatively, take the car and head to the famous UNESCO World Heritage site ofMont Saint Michel. This most visited site in France (over 3 million visitors per year) sits on an island just 600 metres from shore which originally made it accessible at low tide for the pilgrims who visited its abbey. When the tide came in of course, it was defensible against would-be assailants – hence its later use as a jail by Louis XI. If festivals are more your thing, head inland to Rennes and the Yaouank festival (1st – 19th November). The organisers claim it’s the biggest fest-noz – “a traditional evening of Breton music and dance” – in the world.
Amsterdam – Holland
Something a little more Christmassy in Amsterdam – Sinterklaas. Saint Nicholas as we know him is a Dutch character beloved by children to whom he brings gifts… IF they have been good! His arrival in Amsterdam every year is cause for a big parade for both adults and children alike with the traditional festivities following. The big arrival parade is on Sunday 13th November this year – it is the largest in the world. The Mayor and around 40,000 visitors welcome Saint Nicholas as he glides down the River Amstel. Musical festivities continue well into the evening.
DFDS ferries to Amsterdam depart once a day and takes 15 hours from Newcastle.
Rotterdam – Holland
An outstanding architectural extravaganza awaits you in this fascinating city. For example the Markthal is a first of its kind a massive food market with over 100 stalls and 15 shops, restaurants and a supermarket. Look up as you wander around to enjoy the ceiling by Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam called the ‘Horn of Plenty’ which is known locally as the Dutch Sistine Chapel.
P&O ferries to Rotterdam depart once a day and takes 14 hours from Hull.
Belfast – Northern Ireland
Belfast is an increasingly popular ferry destinations from the UK and one of the reasons for this is Game of Thrones. The immensely popular HBO series, much of which was shot nearby can be enjoyed with a tour with Winterfell Tours which offer visits in one form or other, to many of the locations used in the filming. Try the Archery Movie Set Experience or the Filming Locations Cycle Trails. Otherwise a Glamping Mini Tour may suit and there are also private visits of the Castle and grounds, including an introduction to the DireWolf Dogs, 20 locations are on offer altogether.
Stena Line heads to Belfast eight times a day from Liverpool and takes 8 hours.
Dublin – Ireland
Typical of Ireland but relatively new to Dublin, the Teeling Whiskey Distillery is a must visit as the only functioning distillery and the first to open in the city for more than 125 years. It is open daily for tours, premium whiskey tastings and exhibition viewings.
For the more active amongst us, try the Santa Dash taking place on 4th December this year – it is a five or ten kilometre run for charity. When registering, you qualify for the obligatory free running gear… a Santa outfit.
P&O Ferries heads to the Emerald Isle three times a day from Liverpool. Irish Ferriesand Stena Line both sail to Dublin four times a day from Holyhead and all these journeys take three hours and 30 minutes.
Coll – The Scottish Isles
Coll is one of the most magical islands to visit off the Scottish coast as the days shorten towards the end of the year. It is known as the Dark Sky Island as there are no street lights on Coll, the nearest one being 32 kilometres away, so the extent of the night sky is spectacular. It is particularly a wonderful place to experience the Northern Lights in the autumn and winter. It has had Dark Sky status since 2013. For more information on Coll head to www.visitcoll.co.uk.
Head to Coll daily in just three hours with CalMac from Oban and Tiree.
Osborne House, Isle of Wight – UK
“It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot” said Queen Victoria of Osborne House, her palatial holiday home on the Isle of Wight which is open year round. Furnishings and artefacts from the Royal Collection fill the rooms and corridors – a visit is like stepping onto the set of Victoria which recently ended its first series on TV. The stunning views from the garden terraces across the Solent reminded Prince Albert of the Bay of Naples.
The beach is particularly lovely and was where the royal children learnt to swim. The Queen’s bathing machine is there to see on the beach which Victoria called ‘charming’.
From 16th November guests can join a festive tour and discover the splendour of a Victorian Christmas from just £12.30 for adults and just £7.40 for children.
Reach the Isle of Wight in just 10 minutes with Hovertravel which departs every 30 minutes between 06.15 and 21.45 from Southsea or take the car with Wightlink with 25 daily crossings taking just 40 minutes.
Photo credit thanks to: Sue Lowry / M.Le Roux-offset / Allan McKechnie / George McConnachie / NBTC Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions / Nord Tourisme / Jeroen Stam / © Malouinière Ville Bague / ©La Malouinière de la Chipaudière
Why travel via ferry?
- No luggage restrictions – the kitchen sink can travel with you!
- Fido can come too!
- Huge range of routes and companies to choose from.
- Book on the move via AFerry.co.uk’s apps for both Android and iPhone.
- With families expanding more, it’s often more cost effective to travel by car and ferry than by air plus there’s no baggage fees.
- Bookings can be amended or changed on the road with AFerry’s app and iPad app access.
- Want to know what it’s like to travel via AFerry.co.uk? Check out the review section – perfect for #ferryfirsttimers.
AFerry.co.uk is The Travel Gateway’s leading on-line ferry brand, which features unique real-time comparison technology for ferries, generating over 55 million unique visitors per year and over 3,000 bookings per day. It is not just for travel to and from the UK, this handy site covers European and worldwide routes too – over 1,800 ferry routes connecting more than 140 ferry operators. Check out the AFerry app for iPhone and Android.
If you would like to use a ferry crossing as part of a travel article or have an idea about a promotion, please contact Gillian Green at Magellan +44 (0)23 92 361 426 (+44 (0) 7515 283 287) or Alexandra Pinhorn Think UK to Ireland or France or Spain to North Africa – with the global coverage offered by AFerry.co.uk, the possibilities are endless.
*All quoted fares in this newsletter were correct at the time of going to press but are subject to change