Train and Ferry from England to Santander, Northern Spain
Updated: Mar 11
Here is Green Traveller's Guide to taking the train and ferry from England to northern Spain as a foot passenger. If you want to experience the wonderful coastline of northern Spain, but you don't want to fly or endure a long drive through France, this is the trip for you. Brittany Ferries luxurious ferries are like going on a mini-cruise, the dining is first-class, there are lots of facilities to keep the kids happy and you may see whales and dolphin on the crossing - the Bay of Biscay is one of the best places in Europe to spot these magnificent marine animals.
Routes: Portsmouth or Plymouth to Santander
Journey Time: 20-24 hours
Changes: Train to Portsmouth or Plymouth then transfer to ferry terminal for overnight ferry to Santander
Frequency of Departures: Portsmouth-Santander 2 per week (journey time is 24 hours); Plymouth-Santander 1 per week (this is the fastest service - takes 20 hours)
Carbon emissions (as foot passenger): 15kg (flight would be 311.1kg)*
Car hire at Santander: Yes
How to travel to Portsmouth ferry terminal
By Bus: The easiest way for foot passengers to reach the harbour is to take a National Express coach (e.g. from London Victoria), which stops right outside the ferry departure building. The closest train station to Portsmouth ferry terminal is 'Portsmouth Harbour' (it's a 20-minute walk from here to the ferry check-in or a 10-minute taxi ride (costs about £5). There are also local bus services to Portsmouth ferry terminal operated by Stagecoach (bus 20) and First Bus (buses 8, X4 and X9).
By train: Train services London Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour take 85 minutes and there are also services from London Victoria and Cardiff. NB between May and September, there is a shuttle bus from 'Portsmouth & Southsea' railway station to the ferry terminal.
Book a train to Portsmouth >> (train tickets provided by Trainline)
Portsmouth Harbour facilities: Bar, café, shop, bureau de change, internet access point.
How to travel to Plymouth ferry terminal
By Bus: National Express runs coach services from London's Victoria coach station to Plymouth coach station.
By Train: There is a good rail service from major railway stations in the UK to Plymouth train station. It takes 3-4 hours from London Paddington to Plymouth.
It takes about 20 minutes to walk from both Plymouth bus station and Plymouth train station to the Plymouth ferry terminal.
Book a train to Plymouth >> (train tickets provided by Trainline)
Plymouth Port facilities: Baby changing, bureau de change, café, disabled access.
On arrival at Santander ferry terminal: Bienvenido a Santander! The ferry terminal lies just one block along Avenida Castilla to Santander's main train station - if you have too much to carry, it's just a minute in a taxi. Santander's train station is well connected to the Spanish rail network, with trains running to major centres in the region and the rest of the country. Santander is the capital of Spain's verdant Cantabria region (part of the wider 'Green Spain' region, along with the Basque Country, Asturias and Galicia), with rugged mountain ranges and a beautiful stretch of coastline including the stunning Picos de Europa mountains. For ideas of where to stay, great locally run restaurants, heritage attractions and activities: Green Traveller's Guide to Green Spain
Ferry tickets provided by Brittany Ferries (NB. To book as a foot passenger, choose the 'on foot' option from the vehicle selection drop-down selection on step 1 of the ferry booking process):
See more low carbon journeys in our Flight-Free Rail and Ferry Journey Planner >>