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Advertisement Brittany Ferries

What's the greenest way to get to northern Spain?

Posted by Richard Hammond at 10:08 on Saturday 27 January 2007

It's a choice between a 20-hour ferry crossing or taking the Eurostar and whizzing 700 miles across France by TGV. Flying just doesn't compare carbon-wise; one person's Heathrow-Bilbao return flight emits 280kg of carbon dioxide, whereas a Portsmouth-Bilbao return ferry trip is only 90kg and the return train journey is 110kg, according to co2balance.com.

Ferries go from Portsmouth or Plymouth to Bilbao or Santander, where there are good onward connections throughout Asturias as well as to Santiago de Compostela and the rest of Galícia and the Basque Country by bus (alsa.es) and train (renfe.es). The shortest crossing is 20 hours Plymouth-Santander; from March there's a twice-weekly service, which costs £42pp return (plus £16 with a bike) plus £14 for a "reclining seat", or £59pp for a two-berth cabin (08705 360360, brittany-ferries.co.uk). A Portsmouth-Bilbao ferry leaves every three days and takes 36 hours. Look on the bright side, treat it as a mini-cruise - in good conditions, the Bay of Biscay is one of the best places in Europe to spot whales and dolphins. A return trip costs from £235.25pp including a cabin (08705 980333, poferries.com).

If that sounds like a pitch and roll too far, you can go by train from London to San Sebastián, in the Basque Country in a day: take the 10.10am Eurostar to Paris (from £59 return, eurostar.co.uk) then TGV from Montparnasse to Hendaye on the Spanish border from €25 one-way (voyages-sncf.com). A local train service connects from Hendaye to San Sebastian, arriving just after 10pm. The return journey from San Sebastián can also be done in a day, arriving in London at a civilized 7.25pm.

This article, by Richard Hammond, was first published in the Guardian.

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