As an island, England has many ferry ports that you can sail to. Although ferries emit far less carbon emissions than aeroplanes, they are obviously not eco-friendly (unless they are solar ferries!), with major operators using electric batteries, solar panels and reducing speed to try to reduce emissions. Many ferries are also designed to take cars, whereas flying often means you can walk or train around when you get there.
One study by The International Maritime Organisation found that reducing a ship’s speed from 20 to 16 knots an hour drastically reduced air pollutants (if all ships cut speed by 10%, this could reduce 25% of ferry emissions each year). P & O Ferries has added a heat recovery system, to save on fuel.
Many cabins are also wheelchair-friendly, check before booking. Some ferry operators accept pets, but this must be well-planned to avoid pets becoming stressed (some pets prefer to be looked after by family or friends, rather than go on long trips, you likely know best). Check each operator as what they offer differs. Some ferries offer pet-friendly cabins with exercise areas, others only kennels.
Let’s have a look at where you can presently sail.
Ferries to Isle of Wight
- Southampton to Cowes (1 hour)
- Portsmouth to Fishbourne or Ryde (45 mins)
- Southsea to Ryde (hovercraft – 10 mins)
- Lymington to Yarmouth (40 minutes)
Ferries to Isle of Scilly
Penzance to St Mary’s (just under 3 hours)
Ferries to Isle of Man
Liverpool or Heysham (Lancashire) to Douglas (3 to 4 hours)
Ferries to Ireland & Northern Ireland
- Liverpool to Belfast (8 hours)
- Liverpool to Dublin (7 hours 30 mins)
Most people take the 5 hour Holyhead ferry from North Wales, renowned for being so rough that ‘waves go past the window! You can also sail from Pembroke or Fishguard to Rosslare.
Can You Sail from England to Scotland?
Only if you have your own boat! There are no direct ferries to Scotland, but once you arrive, there are plenty of ferries to the Highlands & Islands. Scotland also offers ferry services to Northern Ireland from Cairnryan to Larne and Belfast.
Ferries to the Channel Islands
- Poole or Portsmouth to Jersey (5 to 8 hours, depending)
- Poole or Portsmouth to Guernsey (3 to 12 hours, depending)
Ferries from England to France
- Portsmouth to Caen (just under 6 hours)
- Dover or Folkestone to Calais (1 hour 30 mins)
- Portsmouth or Poole to Cherbourg (2 to 5 hours, depending)
- Newhaven to Dieppe (4 hours)
- Dover to Dunkirk (2 hours)
- Portsmouth to Le Havre (5 hours 30 mins)
- Plymouth to Roscoff (5 hours 15 mins)
- Poole or Portsmouth to St Malo (6 to 8 hours, depending)
Ferries from England to Spain
- Portsmouth to Bilbao (29 hours 30 mins)
- Portsmouth or Plymouth to Santander (20 to 29 hours, depending)
Ferries from England to Holland
- Newcastle to Amsterdam (almost 17 hours)
- Harwich to Hook of Holland (6 hours 30 mins)
- Hull to Rotterdam (11 hours 30 mins)
Are There Ferries from England to Scandinavia?
No, not any more. The Harwich to Esberg service stopped due to dwindling passenger numbers and environmental regulations (very strict in Sweden et al). You can take a freight ferry but it takes from 30 to 50 hours and costs over £800, so most people likely won’t want to do it anyway.
Regional Ferries Around England
England has many other regional ferries including Walberswick to Southwold (Suffolk), an affordable shortcut around the mouth of the fast-flowing river Blyth. Only a few people can travel at a time.
Cawsand Ferry (Plymouth) sails to the twin Cornish villages of Cawsand and Kingsand, renowned for its beautiful beaches. The journey takes just 30 minutes but do your homework first, as the beaches disappear at high tide (and a dog beach ban operates for some of the year).