Ferries are sailing to the rescue for would-be travellers concerned about using crowded airports

Wave goodbye to the holiday blues: Ferries are sailing to the rescue for would-be travellers concerned about using crowded airports and squeezing on to planes

  • Ferries can swiftly get you to Northern Ireland for a great adventure 
  • If you have been craving the Caribbean, travel by ferry to the Hebrides
  • Take a ferry to the Isles of Scilly, where you can swim with seals in clear waters

Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: Fantastic ferry routes for summer.

Ferries are sailing to the rescue for would-be holidaymakers concerned about using crowded airports and squeezing on to planes.

Passenger numbers have been cut on many routes so there is more room to spread around on wide-open upper decks – and plenty of fresh air to keep you safe and blow away those lockdown cobwebs.

A Stena Line ferry enters the River Mersey on its way back from Belfast

A Stena Line ferry enters the River Mersey on its way back from Belfast 

And the plastic screens, hand-sanitising stations and one-way systems we now expect on land are all present at sea.

Take a car and you can avoid terminal buildings altogether and drive straight on and off the ferry in socially-distanced style. For a longer trip, families can remain in their bubble by booking en suite cabins. 

Flexible tickets are available on most routes, so if needed you can change dates or cancel. Better still, you don’t even need to leave the UK to find a world-beating holiday experience with a ferry.

Missed out on a great American road trip since US borders closed last spring? Ferries can swiftly get you to Northern Ireland for an awesome alternative – the Causeway Coastal Route.

A six-day, family-friendly drive starts in Belfast (home of the Titanic museum), and takes in the Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick- a-Rede rope bridge, Rathlin Island, the medieval Dunluce Castle and plenty of Game Of Thrones filming locations before ending 130 miles away in Londonderry.

Stena Line sails to Belfast from Liverpool in about eight hours, or from Cairnryan in Scotland in just over two. Return ferry tickets for two adults in a car, plus a suggested itinerary, directions and six nights in hotels along the Coastal Route, cost from £400pp (stenaline.co.uk).

Caledonian MacBrayne ferries can take you to the beaches of Berneray, Canna, Colonsay from Oban (pictured)

Caledonian MacBrayne ferries can take you to the beaches of Berneray, Canna, Colonsay from Oban (pictured)

If you have been craving the vibrant sea and sand colours of the Caribbean, a ferry can take you to the Hebrides, where white-sand beaches and rich blue waters easily match those of Bermuda, the Bahamas or Barbados. And strong winds, part of the Gulf Stream, make Scottish islands a great place for windsurfing and kitesurfing.

From Oban, Caledonian MacBrayne ferries can take you to the butter-white beaches of Berneray, Canna, Colonsay and more in under three hours. Foot-passenger fares for two adults and two children start at about £45 return (calmac.co.uk).

If it’s snorkelling and sea creatures you’ve missed, take a ferry to the Isles of Scilly, where you can swim with seals in clear waters. From Penzance, expect amazing views of the Cornish coastline on the two-hour 45-minute voyage to St Mary’s. Day-return fares start at £30 for adults and £15 for children, while dogs go free (islesofscilly-travel.co.uk).

Easy does it: A ferry from Penzance in Cornwall passes St Michael’s Mount on its way to the Isles of Scilly

 Easy does it: A ferry from Penzance in Cornwall passes St Michael’s Mount on its way to the Isles of Scilly

World-class star-gazing normally means heading to distant locations such as the Canaries, South Africa or New Zealand. Yet a ferry can take you to the Isle of Man, one of the UK’s best spots to see the Milky Way and planets. The island, due to reopen to tourists by July, has more than two dozen ‘dark sky discovery sites’ and tours led by astronomers.

Travel on the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company from Liverpool or Heysham in Lancashire in about three hours. Foot-passenger fares are £18.75 each way, or return fares for two in a car start at about £108 (steam-packet.com).

Find inspiration on dozens of other ferry routes and holiday ideas at discoverferries.com.

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