Britain’s annual National Ferry Fortnight will this year take place from 6 – 20 May 2017. Now in its ninth year, National Ferry Fortnight is run by Discover Ferries, the industry body for the ferry industry as a two week showcase of Britain’s extensive 75-plus ferry routes and the benefits of travel by sea.

This 2017 Discover Ferries’ National Ferry Fortnight campaign theme is Ferry Together – encouraging family and friends to spend more time together.  Research undertaken by Discover Ferries at the beginning of 2017 highlights how little quality time families are spending together due to the hectic nature of modern life. Results showed that the average family spends just three weeks of real quality time together each year, and just 36 minutes on the average week day. In comparison, adults spend almost four times as long – one hour and 55 minutes per day – watching TV or playing on their gadgets. Children are also staring at a screen of some kind for around two hours and 22 minutes a day.

As a result, two thirds of parents say holidays and trips away from home are the only real time they get together. Going out for meals together was found to be the best way of spending quality time together on holiday, followed by doing activities together, the evening entertainment and the journey there. And almost half of those surveyed said the entire holiday counts as quality time.

Discover a range of fantastic destinations only a ferry ride away with a great choice of different activities to indulge in. Cycle the D-Day beaches, explore the mountains and lakes of Ireland, enjoy a tipple of the finest Scottish whisky, or top up the kids’ circus skills at the Rhythm Tree festival on the Isle of Wight are a just a few of the things on offer in locations around the UK and close to home. Check out NFF 2017 offers here – www.discoverferries.com/discover/ferry-together-with-special-national-ferry-fortnight-offers/.

France

Cycle the D-Day Beaches, a 209km ride from the D-Day Landing Beaches to the Mont-Saint-Michel. History buffs and families will love this route which gives you the chance to explore the D-Day Landing Beaches and two unique UNESCO listed sites: the Bayeux tapestry and the Mont-Saint-Michel. Along the way, take in the sites at the busy fishing village of Port-en-Bessin, Arromanches with its Mulberry Harbour, Utah Beach, the wild wetlands of the Cherbourg Peninsula, the medieval masterpiece of Bayeux, the Souleuvre Viaduct with bungee jumping fun, the ‘Bocage Normand’ district with its cider and rolling hills and the magical bay of the Mont-Saint-Michel.

Brittany Ferries sails from Portsmouth to Caen and St Malo to Portsmouth from £93 per person return for a foot passenger including bicycle. www.brittany-ferries.co.uk

Another French classic only a quick hop away is of course the cosmopolitan capital Paris! Take the car with P&O Ferries on a three day short break from £70 on the Dover to Calais route – ideal for a weekend getaway. Shopping, culture, food and wine are just some of the elements that make Paris one of the best cities in the world and the perfect destination to unwind. Book by 31 June 2017 for travel between now and 10 July 2017. www.poferries.com

Ireland

Ireland has 785 recognised trails and 43 National Waymarked Trails, making it a fantastic destination for walkers, with a tremendous variety of mountain, lake, forest and coastal scenery. Among the most varied is the Kerry Way around the Iveragh Peninsula – the largest of County Kerry’s scenic Atlantic-facing promontories. The Kerry Way, at 230km is the longest of the Irish Waymarked Trails, and is a circular route that circumnavigates the peninsula, starting and finishing in Killarney, and also passing through fine Kerry towns such as Glenbeigh, Caherciveen, Waterville, Sneem and Kenmare. This makes it relatively easy to tackle this circular route in manageable sections, and use public transport to return you to your car and hotel or B&B.

The landscape the route passes through is very varied, from the lakes of Killarney to high and remote mountain moorland and the return leg passes along the startlingly contrasting semi-tropical, palm-treed south coast.

A seven night self-drive package including ferry travel and accommodation at County Kerry B&Bs costs from £358 per person, based on two sharing, before 18 May 2017.  www.irishferries.com

The famous Gobbins cliff path in Northern Ireland, located along the Causeway Coastal Route, recently re-opened for the first time since the 1900’s. For adventurers looking for a new thrill this white-knuckle walk is ideal and a great way to experience the raw nature of the coast, and is only a brief sail away over the Irish Sea. Another popular attraction is the Titanic Belfast museum, where visitors can experience the Titanic story like never before with nine interactive galleries. Stena Line sails from Liverpool to Belfast from £238 for a car and two passengers and from Cairnryan to Belfast from £214. www.stenaline.co.uk

Isle of Man

The Isle of Man has a fascinating history, steeped in thousands of years of Celtic and Viking heritage, just waiting to be explored. There are astonishing sites all over the island to visit, including the magnificent Castle Rushen, one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Europe, and imposing Peel Castle, once a Viking stronghold and, according to local legend, haunted by the ghost of a huge black dog, the Moddey Dhoo. The Manx Museum in the capital, Douglas, is a great starting point, covering island heritage from prehistory to the more recent past, including the world-famous TT motorcycle races. Then you can head west to the House of Manannan, revealing more of the Isle of Man’s social history and Viking past, south to the 12th century Rushen Abbey in Ballasalla and north to Ramsey’s Grove Museum, showing what Victorian life was like in the Isle of Man

A five-day short break for a car and two people this summer starts from £100 each way. Visit www.steam-packet.com for details and to book.

Isle of Wight

Closer to home and a quick hop from the UK mainland, is the Isle of Wight, the perfect family destination where you can walk in the steps of the dinosaurs, or go fossil hunting in Compton Bay. If you are planning to visit the island in July, don’t miss Rhythm Tree festival an event featuring a mix of artists, workshops and traditional crafts as well as an action packed kids’ area including magic and story-telling, circus skills and a dressing up tent. Wightlink sails from Portsmouth to Fishbourne from £56 for a return fare. www.wightlink.co.uk

Red Funnel vehicle ferries and Red Jet Hi-Speed foot passenger services also run regularly to the Isle of Wight from Southampton. Red Funnel has partnered with a number of the Isle of Wight’s best attractions, to offer up to one third off entrance tickets when booked with Red Funnel ferry crossings. Visitors can take their pick from Dinosaur Isle, Isle of Wight Zoo, Seaview Wildlife Encounter, Blackgang Chine, and Wight Karting.  Return fares start from £54. www.redfunnel.co.uk

West Coast of Scotland

Are you partial to a spot of whisky? If that’s the case then a trip to some of the whisky distilleries dotted around the West Coast of Scotland could be the perfect treat. CalMac Ferries offer great value day trips, combined rail and sail options and multi destination Hopscotch tickets. Combine different distilleries over a couple of days including Arran distillery, which is the newest single malt distillery in Scotland. Then head to one of the oldest, Oban distillery, which was established in 1794. Both offer tasting sessions and tours. Visit www.calmac.co.uk and book your own west coast experience now.

Belgium

Discover Bruges, the Venice of the North, and take the children to Choco Story to taste Belgium chocolate, the best chocolate in the world. Alternatively visit Walibi, Belgium’s national pride and one of the best amusement parks in Europe. You can also explore the 67km of pristine white sand that make up the Flemish Coast and watch the kids trying their hand at kite surfing and sand yachting or, simply, just relax and watch the world go by. DFDS sails from Calais to Dunkirk from £78 return for a car and nine passengers which is less than an hours’ drive from Burges. www.dfds.co.uk

Holland

No stay in the Netherlands is complete without a visit to the lively and energetic Maastricht. Soak in the atmosphere by visiting the dozens of churches lining the city streets, or take boat trip to discover and experience the city and relax at the same time.  Go underground and visit the caves of St Pietersburg, a labyrinth of more than 20,000 tunnels. The caves also served as a refuge for the people of Maastricht during the many sieges of the city, including during the Second World War. Stena Line sails from Harwich to the Hook of Holland from £127 for two travelling by car. www.stenaline.co.uk

Isles of Scilly

Tresco is the second largest of the Scilly Isles and a subtropical gem. The island has a little bit of everything – from dramatic rocky outcrops, bronze age burial sites and romantic castle ruins, to secluded sandy beaches and, of course, the world famous Tresco Abbey Garden which was established in the 1830s by Augustus Smith. This horticultural paradise hosts a spectacular collection of more than 20,000 exotic plants from all corners of the world. A short walk from Tresco quay visitors will also find Pentle Bay. There is a large expanse of powdery white sand and crystal clear water and the oyster catchers are likely to be the only companions for the day. Pentle is perfect for families as there’s very little incline into the water and at low tide people can wade out for miles in the shallows. It’s also a spectacular bay for finding unique and intricate shells so famously found on Scilly such as rare Cowrie shells. Isles of Scilly Steamship Group sails from Penzance Harbour to St. Mary’s from £86 for an adult return and £45 for a child. www.islesofscilly-travel.co.uk