Last update on March 11, 2019

Travel between mainland Europe and the UK has never been easier, and if you’re sick of air travel there remains the classic option: take a boat.

Did you know the English Channel is only around 35km wide at its narrowest point? Considering the drama of airport security, it seems obvious the best way to dash across the water is just to put on your Speedos and swim. Well, maybe for the professional swimmers. For the rest of us, let’s say the second-best option is by boat.

Brittany Ferries

Brittany Ferries offer a wide choice of convenient channel crossings to France. With departures from Portsmouth, Plymouth or Poole to Cherbourg, St Malo or Le Havre, they offer a speedy and relaxing way of travelling to your holiday destination.

An alternative to flying: taking the ferry from the UK to mainland Europe and beyond

satellite image of the English channel

Ferries nowadays offer extensive routes between the British islands and mainland Europe, all the way to Southern Europe or Scandinavia. So, jokes about swimming the Channel aside, there are also the options of flying, driving, or taking the train, each having its pros and cons.

With the ferry, whether you’re travelling from the south of England or from Ireland, there are routes to take you directly to various European port cities, which can be practical if your final destination is nowhere near a national airport but close to a coast.

Ferry companies in the UK and throughout Europe know that their competitive edge over other modes of transport is to make your trip as fun and comfortable as possible, so they offer extensive on-board services. For example, Brittany Ferries offer on-board dining, a bar, shopping options, a cinema, some spa services, sundecks and pools, and even some live performances to entertain both adults and kids.

The advantages of taking the ferry to and from the UK

English Channel ferry

Flexible timetables

Ferries run during the day and overnight, and there are even some high-speed options. You can either enjoy the ocean views, or if you’ve got a longer ferry route planned, be lulled to a good night of sleep while the ship does all the work and arrive refreshed rather than ravaged. Or, put succinctly by Brittany Ferries: “Why drive through the night when you can sleep through it?”

A large variety of flexible routes

The wide choice of ports of departure and ports of arrival is only one of the advantages of ferry travel; it’s also easier to mix-and-match your ports on return journeys: depart where you want, arrive where you want.

I’ve got baggage

If you’re carrying a lot of baggage, travelling by ferry is ideal. You can load up your car and get across without worrying about the overweight baggage fees on flights. Ferries are especially a great option when you are moving across the Channel, as you can bring as much freight as you need: cross with a van or a trailer.

Stay connected

Many modern European ferries offer Wi-Fi while on board, so you can stay connected en route without fear the signal will crash the craft.

Bring your pet

If you’ve got pets, you might be worried about travelling abroad with them. On a ferry, there are options to keep you at ease about your pet’s safety during the trip. Brittany Ferries participates in the Pets Travel Scheme and offers plenty of pet-friendly accommodation.

Ferry companies from the UK to mainland Europe: a wide choice of destinations

English Channel ferry

Among the ferry lines, there are many options, each offering different routes, different amenities and of course different prices. Whether you are going on holiday or have a van-full of furniture to bring to your new home country, the coast of mainland Europe, from Spain to Norway, is very well covered by dozens of daily ferries:

Brittany Ferries ferry to France service offers the widest choice of ferry crossings departing from Portsmouth, Plymouth or Poole and travel to Cherbourg, St Malo, Caen, Le Havre or Roscoff. They also offer ferry services to the Northern Spain ports of Santander and Bilbao in Spain.

DFDS Seaways travels from Newcastle straight to Amsterdam, but also offers ferry lines between Dover and Calais or Dunkirk, and between New Haven and Dieppe.

P&O Ferries serves the North Sea with a 90 minute trip from Dover to Calais and two routes from Hull, towards Zeebrugge in Belgium and Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Stena Line offers service between Harwich and Hook of Holland, but also has many routes throughout Northern Europe and Scandinavia, from Germany to Sweden, Norway and even Latvia.

You can check out a ferry route comparison website such as Direct Ferries. There are often package deals and you may benefit from early purchase discounts.