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Why take the Ferry?

Posted by John Sannaee at 02:06 on Tuesday 31 August 2010

A ferry crosses under the Forth Bridge. Photo: NorfolkineA ferry crosses under the Forth Bridge. Photo: NorfolkineThink back fifteen years or so, before the advent of no-frills flights. Many holidaymakers' first choice for a summer holiday was to head for the ferry ports and on to destinations across France, Spain, Benelux and beyond. Environmental factors aside, shouldn’t the ferry still be an attractive option?

Sure, you have to get to a port, but most of the UK’s ferry ports are very well connected by public transport: Portsmouth is the biggest ferry port in the country and has regular train services from London Waterloo (around 1 hour 30 minutes) and from various other destinations across the country, as well as by National Express coach services that go direct to the port.

It's a similar picture at many of the country’s other ferry ports, and at places such as Harwich and Holyhead train stations are integrated into the ferry terminal, making things even simpler. Where this isn’t the case, it’s usually a quick and easy transfer by local bus or taxi from the station to the port – and many ferry operators even lay on special shuttle buses.

In our new Ferry Journey Planner, we explain how to get to the port by public transport, and how to connect to onward trains upon arrival at your destination port. If you land from a no-frills flight at a small out-of-town airport, the public transport opportunities are likely to be far more limited or potentially complicated.

Stena Line's flagship service, the Hollandica. Photo: Stena LineStena Line's flagship service, the Hollandica. Photo: Stena LineTravel by ferry is not just straightforward, it’s also a thoroughly enjoyable experience: rather than being stuck on a plane with your knees up to your chest, you have the freedom to move around, breathe in the fresh sea air and enjoy views of the coastline of Britain and the rest of Europe. What’s more – and I can speak from personal experience here – ferries often provide the chance to see dolphins and other marine life up close: watching silver-blue cetaceans dancing in the waves is a truly special experience that no flight can ever hope to equal. Onboard too, operators have really made efforts to ensure the highest standards of comfort and pleasure: some longer voyages offer Cruise-ship standards with swimming pools, nightlife, cinemas and a variety of dining options; things you would never find on an aeroplane.

If your appetite for ferry travel isn't quite whetted, then here's the bottom line: ferries, by and large, are cheap. Ferries from the UK to Ireland or France start at around £25 each way (sometimes less with special offers), you can travel to the Isle of Wight from Portsmouth for £7.90, and even the voyage to Spain can come in at under £50.

Wightlink runs ferries between the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth. Photo: WightlinkWightlink runs ferries between the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth. Photo: WightlinkThere is of course also the green issue. The latest figures available provided by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) give the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transport as:

● Foot passenger on a ferry: 22.54g CO2e per passenger kilometre 
● Rail passenger on a Eurostar train: 17.14g CO2e per passenger kilometre
● Air passenger on a domestic flight (between UK airports): 205.15g CO2e per passenger kilometre
● Air passenger on a short haul flight (UK to Central Europe): 116g CO2e per passenger kilometre.

● Foot passenger on a ferry: 22.54g CO2e per passenger kilometre
● Rail passenger on a Eurostar train: 17.14g CO2e per passenger kilometre
● Air passenger on a domestic flight (between UK airports): 205.15g CO2e per passenger kilometre
● Air passenger on a short haul flight (UK to Central Europe): 116g CO2e per passenger kilometre.

Travelling as a foot passenger on a traditional ferry is therefore far more environmentally friendly than flying.

To find out where you can travel by ferry from the UK and how to do it, go to Greentraveller's Ferry Journey Planner.

Bon Voyage!

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