By

Bent Johnson

Dec 07, 2022

Best Value Ferry Holidays From The UK

There’s a certain blissful calm of arriving at your destination by sea on a ferry. There are fewer, grander perspectives in travel than arriving in a new destination, your eyes feasting on the broad expanse of the harbour, being serenaded by a whirl of seagulls, with a crisp breeze in your hair. It is a world away from the stress of modern day flying – no stress of airport security, being jammed tightly into your minuscule seat with no social distancing possible, the hassle of packing all your holiday items into one cabin sized friendly bag.

For me it is finding the sweet spot between comfort, experience and good value that makes it so much easier to choose a ferry over the plane. Then there is the added benefit of choice – keep in mind the vast array of amazing day trips and longer breaks you can enjoy living in Britain. From Bilbao to The Isle of Wight, Guernsey to Amsterdam, there is such an incredible number of places you can visit by ferry. In the following guide, I’ve tried to pack in some general tips on how to get the best value from ferry travel. I’ve pulled together a wee guide to the best ferry holidays from the UK with the help of Discover Ferries, an industry body that represents 13 ferry operators in the UK, Ireland and the British island.

1.Head to the Isle of Wight – from under £20 return

Isle of Wight is serviced by three ferry operators: Hovertravel, Red Funnel and Wightlink. To choose the most appropriate service you’ll need to consider where you want to leave from (Portsmouth or Southsea, Southampton or Lymington) and where you want to arrive on the island (Ryde, Fishbourne, Cowes or Yarmouth) and whether you want to travel by foot, with a bicycle or vehicle with –Wightlink’s service from Portsmouth you can visit Fishbourne, Isle of Wight as a foot passenger for the day from £18.60 return. Journey time for this route is 45 minutes. There is also the FastCat route for foot passengers only to Ryde Pier that takes 22 mins with a journey time of 25 mins on the RedJet fast service or 55 mins on the ferry. By ferry, day return prices for a foot passenger are from  £20.20.

If you want a really unique experience Hovertravel offer the only scheduled passenger hovercraft service running in Europe, from Southsea-Ryde. The journey time to the Isle of Wight is just 10 minutes. Choose the off peak day return from £25.70 and £34.20 (90 day return) or Family ticket which costs £78 (2 adults and 3 children).

Tips for Isle of Wight

Stay in self-catering accommodation to save money on eating out and you can still enjoy a taste of luxury for less.  Create your own tasting menu using local Island produce bought from Farmer Jack’s Farm Shop – you’ll find a mouth-watering selection of local and speciality foods here. Pick from seasonal fruit and vegetables grown just minutes away, meat from their in-house butcher and pick from the deli’s vast array of local and hand-selected delights- have a look at https://farmerjacks.co.uk/  

2. Pleasure island- Visit the Isle of Man from just £31.50 return

Go for a hike up the island’s tallest mountain, Snaefell Mountain or pop into the Manx Museum (free entry) to brush up on your knowledge of the island, from its modern love of motorbike racing, back to the time when the Vikings ruled the island.

You can visit the Isle of Man for £31.50 return on a day-trip ticket as a foot passenger with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company or you might consider a short break-Isle of Man Steam Packet Holidays  is currently offering a fantastic offer of £115 return, per person for a 2 night short break on the Isle of Man. The price includes your stay at the 4 star Empress Hotel (minimum of 2 night stay on a bed and breakfast basis for 2 people sharing a standard twin/double room. No single occupancy available) return ferry travel, a full Manx breakfast to start your day, plus a complimentary bottle of wine on arrival. The offer is valid till the 31st March 2022.

3. Day trip to the Isles of Scilly from £35 return

Another pleasant day trip with a difference in the UK is a trip to the Isles of Scilly that lie just 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall. Blessed with white sandy beaches and azure blue water, a great mix of trails to explore by bike or foot, the famous subtropical gardens of Tresco and the unspoilt, rugged St Agnes – there’s plenty to see and explore on a day trip to this island.

The Scillonian III sails from Penzance to St Mary’s from March to November, up to seven days a week, from just £35 for a day return ticket booked via Isles of Scilly Travel website.

4. Travel from Tate to Tate for £7.30 with Uber Boat by Thames Clippers

One of the most unique ways to travel through central London and beat the traffic is the high speed ferry service run by Uber Boat by Thames Clippers. The service stops at 23 piers along the Thames between Woolwich (Royal Arsenal) Pier in the East and Putney Pier in the West.

If you are visiting London to soak up the culture, then I recommend hopping on the River Bus from Millbank (for the Tate Britain) to Bankside (for the Tate Modern), which allows you to go from Tate to Tate in just under 20 minutes. While on the boat you can tick off all the key London landmarks – Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, and St Paul’s Cathedral. The fare costs £7.30 for adults or £3.65 for children. Alternatively, you can buy the River Roamer and you can hop-on and hop-off the Uber Boat by Thames Clippers services all day.£18.40 for adults, £36.70 for a family of 2 adults and up to 3 children. Best value tickets can be bought online or via the Uber App

5. Ferries to Holland: Sail to Holland from as little as £56 return

DFDS, P&O Ferries and Stena Line all offer ferry services from the UK to Holland with a choice of different UK departure ports. All services offer on board entertainment, a range of lounges, bars, restaurants and cinemas, with DFDS and P&O Ferries ships featuring nightclubs for the night owls amongst us.

Based on 4 people sharing a standard inside 4-bunk cabin you can travel on the DFDS ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam for £56 return as foot passengers.

I’ve done the Newcastle to Amsterdam crossing a few times when I lived in Scotland and it is always a great way to visit Europe, for a few days or if you are starting your Europe trip by car, van or Interrail. The ferry leaves Newcastle at 5pm and reaches IJmuiden, the ferry terminal at 9.45am. There is a whole range of things to do on board – from cinema, live music, a casino to a bar with nightclub, where you can dance until the early hours of the night. The 4 bed standard cabins are functional and decent enough for a night’s sleep.

From IJmuiden take bus 74 from the Oranjestraat stop to the centre of IJmuiden and subsequently, hop on the bus 82 to take you into Amsterdam.

Alternatively, you can take the Hull to Rotterdam service with P&O Ferries where 4 people can also share a 4-bunk standard cabin for £75 each return, travelling as a foot passenger. If you are living in the south of England, you can hop on the Stena Line service from Harwich to Hook of Holland for as little £78 return for a foot passenger.

6. Go on a short break from Poole to Guernsey for as little as £70 per person with Condor Ferries

Just 9 miles long and 6 miles wide, the island of Guernsey with its pristine beaches and relaxed lifestyle is a great choice for a day trip or a weekend short break – you can leave on the Condor Ferries service from Poole on a Friday or Saturday and then return on a Sunday or Monday. Return fares are as little as £70 per person. The crossing takes roughly 3 hours and has great views of Sandbanks and the cliffs when sailing out across the Channel

7. Rail and Sail from London to Dublin

You can rail and sail to Dublin with Irish Ferries and Stena Line  from any station in the UK. The Rail & Sail ticket starts from £34-£50 one way depending on where you are starting your journey from and takes you all the way to Dublin from your nearest train station. Take the train to Holyhead station and from there, you can catch a ferry to Dublin.

8. How about a trip to France?

Have you been to Calais? Another idea for an easy day trip is to visit Calais. DFDS, and P&O Ferries offer day return fares from just £45 ( and /). There are lots of restaurants in Calais, bars and brasseries, specialist French food and goods stores, a lovely sandy beach, monuments, churches, museums and galleries. Checkout this excellent guide for things to do in Calais.

Or alternatively, you can take a 3 day break in Northern France with Irish FerriesP&O Ferries as well as DFDS offering services from the UK. Another great trip idea is to visit the city of William the Conqueror, Caen with Brittany Ferries service from Portsmouth to Caen. Caen is a lively university town with a fantastic market on Friday which takes over the city centre. Enjoy sample superb seafood at places like La Casiniere (10 rue aux Namps, 14000 Caen France) where you can enjoy 3-course menu for as little as €29.  Located in the vicinity of the D-Day Landing beaches, Caen Memorial Museum is another essential place to visit. One of the best WW2 museums in France focusing on the Battle of Normandy and the tragic impact the war had on the city.

9. Sail to Isle of Arran from just £12 per person with Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries

They call Arran ‘Scotland in miniature’ and it really sums up the beauty of Scotland – castles, beautiful beaches, delicious cheeses, distilleries and mountains -it has it all. You can visit Arran from just £12 per person with Rail & Sail tickets from Glasgow or just £8.20 return from Ardrossan with Caledonian MacBrayne ferries.