16 off-the-beaten-track autumn culture trips by sea

Thousands of fascinating cultural and historic breaks are just a short hop away by ferry. Discover Ferries, the industry body for ferry companies has come up with thirteen off-the-beaten-track ideas for enjoying a cultural break this autumn.

Military history

Normandy American Cemetery, France
Walk in the steps of history by visiting the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, The 170 acre cemetery holds the graves of nearly 10,000 military personnel, many of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. The Walls of the Missing in the semi-circular garden on the east side of the memorial, shows 1,557 names of those who sadly lost their lives.  The Cemetery is just a one hour drive from Ouistreham (Caen). Brittany Ferries prices from Portsmouth to Caen start from £79 each way for a car and two passengers. Visit brittany-ferries.co.uk or call 0330 159 7000.

Duart Castle , Isle of Mull, Scotland

Sail to the Isle of Mull to visit the stunning Duart Castle, home to the Clan Maclean for over 400 years and a Clan famed for their fighting skills. Standing proudly on the cliff top above the Sound of Mull, the castle is visible as you sail into Craignure.  This is one of the last privately owned Clan homes in Scotland. You’ll be able to enjoy the views from the battlements and the surrounding grounds. The castle tearoom makes great use of delicious locally sourced produce and was recently awarded Taste our Best accreditation. Mount Stuart tickets from £13.60 for adults and £8.10 for kids (including ferry travel).  Visit www.calmac.co.uk for more information.

Follow in artists’  footsteps

Claude Monet’s House and Gardens,  France
Take gardening and artistic inspiration from visiting Claude Monet’s own house and gardens in Giverny just a 90 minutes’ drive from Le Havre.Visitors have said they still feel the incredible impressionist atmosphere, whilst walking through his house and gardens.  Brittany Ferries prices from Portsmouth to Le Havre start from £121 overnight including a cabin and £79 by day for a car and two passengers. Visit brittany-ferries.co.uk or call 0330 159 7000.

The birthplace of Piet Mondrian , Netherlands

Utrecht, just an hour’s drive from the port  is home to the Mondriaanhuis;  the house where the  world-famous artist Piet Mondrian was born. The house is now a museum full of the history of Mondriaan’s life showcasing the man behind the paintings and showcasing many collections such as his early early works from the Esser collection. Entry to Mondriaanhuis starts from 10 Euros for adults and 8 Euros for children, with under 5’s going free.  Stena Line offers a two nights stay at the Batstion Hotel Bussum Hilversum, Utrecht  and return ferry crossings (Harwich – Hook of Holland) from £326 based on two people sharing one room and one car. For more information and to book visit stenaline.co.uk

Literary heroes, Isle of Wight

Follow the new Literary Heroes Trail on the Isle of Wight – perfect for a spot of autumn cultural exploration.  Visitors can explore the history and sights that continue to influence a whole new generation of authors, and experience the breath-taking scenery which inspired countless writers to bring their words to life. Notable locations along the trail include the sailing village of Seaview, where author Enid Blyton frequented; and the seaside resort of Ventnor, which Charles Dickens described to his wife as, “The prettiest place I ever saw in my life.” The trail allows visitors to navigate their way around the Island using an interactive map, linked to a host of Island hotspots, secluded villages, hamlets and seaside towns that connect back to the literary greats. Travel there with Wightlink – who offer day return fares from just £15.40. For more information on the trail and to find more inspiration for your visit, or to book your tickets, visit www.wightlink.co.uk

Marvel at medieval or prehistoric sites

Rouen Cathedral, France

The atmospheric city of Rouen just over one hour’s drive from Le Havre is home to spectacular Gothic architecture such as the magnificent Rouen Cathedral. The Cathedral is on a site that has been used for Christian worship since the fourth century and is reputed to be one of the most impressive Gothic churches ever built, with incredible stained-glass windows and flamboyant structures.  Brittany Ferries prices from Portsmouth to Le Havre start from £121 overnight including a cabin and £79 by day for a car and two passengers. Visit brittany-ferries.co.uk or call 0330 159 7000. 

De Haar Castle, Netherlands

Utrecht is a great city for history lovers. Situated just outside the city, De Haar Castle is  a fairy-tale style castle with moats, drawbridges and towers galore. As the largest and most luxurious castle in The Netherlands, De Haar Castle dates back to 1391 when the De Haar family were given ownership of one of the greatest European houses and its surrounding 135 acres of land .The castle has served as a military fortress, housed many royal visits and welcomed the international rich and famous across the 20 century. Entry starts from 16 euros for adults and 10 euros for children with under 4’s going for free.  For those looking to reach new heights, a visit to the city’s Dom Tower is a must-do! After a steep 465-step climb visitors will find themselves at the oldest and tallest bell tower in The Netherlands . Entry to the Dom Tower starts from 9 Euros for adults and 5 Euros for children, with under 5’s going for free. Stena Line offers a two nights stay at the Batstion Hotel Bussum Hilversum  and return ferry crossings (Harwich – Hook of Holland) from £326, based on two people sharing one room and one car. For more information and to book visit stenaline.co.uk 

Cradle of Christianity, Iona Abbey – Isle of Iona

Sail to the Sacred Isle of Iona – known as the ‘cradle of Christianity’ – to visit medieval Iona Abbey, one of Scotland’s most historic sites and the burial place of 48 Kings – including Macbeth and the first king of the Scots. Beat the queues by travelling with CalMac and buy your Iona Abbey entrance tickets before you board. Iona itself is both a unique and stunning island, home to less than 150 residents, complete with pristine beaches and superb wildlife spotting opportunities. Iona Abbey tickets from £7.50  for adults and £4.50 for kids. Visit www.calmac.co.uk for more information.

Historic sites, Isle of Man

It is remarkable that an island as small as the Isle of Man, measuring just 33 miles long by 13 miles wide, can boast such a rich heritage. But almost everywhere you look you’ll see wonderfully preserved evidence of a unique history, including extraordinary prehistoric sites, reminders of the Celts and Vikings, spectacular castles, examples of Victorian ingenuity and a proud heritage of motorsport stretching back more than 100 years. Begin uncovering the Isle of Man’s heritage in the Manx Museum in Douglas, the island’s capital. Artefacts and displays explain the island’s geology and wildlife, and take you on a journey from prehistory to modern times, exploring the Manx Gaelic language, Celtic traditions, Viking invaders, tourism boom of the 1900s and the development of industries through the ages.  Throw your walking boots in the back of your car and you’ll be prepared to stop of at any of the island’s prehistoric sites and stroll between the evocative standing stones at places like Meayll Hill near Cregneash, Balladoole near Castletown or Cashtal yn Ard, overlooking Maughold in the north. You should also take the time to stop at some of the island’s old churches, where ancient Celtic crosses can be seen; there are examples in Maughold, St Adamnan’s Church in Lonan, just north of Douglas, and Jurby in the north. Visit www.steam-packet.com to get your Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ferry booked and start planning. Some sites and attractions are seasonal, so please visit www.visitisleofman.com and www.manxnationalheritage.im for opening times and advice as you organise your itinerary.

Victorian inspiration

Explore Queen Victoria’s Royal Isle 

Queen Victoria once said of the Isle of Wight: “it is impossible to imagine a prettier spot”. See exactly what HM was referring to by exploring Victoria’s Island Trail. Visitors will walk in the footsteps of Queen Victoria by visiting locations including the church her daughter Princess Beatrice married in, Victoria’s favourite Isle of Wight viewpoint, the yacht club created just for her, the gardens and history of Carisbrooke Castle, Northwood House home to many royal parties and, of course, a visit to Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s home in the later years of her life. Red Funnel offers packages including a night at the historic Belmont Hotel in Shanklin and return ferry crossings from Southampton from £222, based on two people sharing a double en-suite room and one car.

Victorian ingenuity,  Isle of Man

Visit the Isle of Man once a popular destination for Victorian tourists and see the fruits of Victorian ingenuity. Between Douglas and Ramsey on the east coast is the former mining village of Laxey which is home to one of the island’s most famous landmarks – the Great Laxey Wheel. Reputed to be the largest working waterwheel in the world, it was constructed in the middle of the 19th century to remove water from the mines beneath Laxey and today, many years after the mines closed, it is one of the Isle of Man’s most iconic structures. Fans of heritage transport will be delighted by the wonderfully preserved Victorian railways systems that criss-cross the island. If you are visiting before 5th November, when the railway season ends, you can travel between Douglas and Port Erin in the south on stunning steam trains, enjoy the coastal views as you travel on the Manx Electric Railway from Douglas to Ramsey, or stand on the island’s highest point after travelling up from Laxey on one of the Snaefell Mountain Railway electric trams Visit www.steam-packet.com to get your Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ferry booked and start planning.

The Richest Scot in the Empire , the Isle of Bute

The spectacular Victorian Gothic Mount Stuart mansion on the island of Bute recently featured in a recent BBC documentary “The Richest Scot in the Empire” and was the first home  in the world to have an indoor heated swimming pool and the first in Scotland to be purpose-built with electricity, telephone and central heating. The interiors reflect the 3rd Marquis of Bute’s passion for history, art, astrology and mythology and his vivid imagination with inspiring architecture and innovations ahead of their time. Enjoy the 300-acre estate of gardens and woodlands, which are home to native and exotic species of plants – including important botanical specimens that are endangered in their own habitats. Mount Stuart tickets from £13.60 for adults and £8.10 for kids (including ferry travel) Visit www.calmac.co.uk for more information.

Breaks for foodies and oenophiles

Adegestone Vineyard, the Isle of Wight

As the warmest spot in the UK, the Isle of Wight offers perfect conditions for vineyards to thrive. Set amongst 10 acres on the east coast of the Island, Adgestone Vineyard offerss a self-guided tour of the grape to glass experience. The vineyard tour takes roughly one hour and also goes underground exploring the history of the site as one of the oldest wine cellars in England. The vineyard also has experts on hand to help visitors perfect those all-important wine tasting skills . Tours start at £7.50 for adults and under 18’s are free. Red Funnel offers packages including a night at the historic Belmont Hotel in Shanklin and return ferry crossings from Southampton from £222, based on two people sharing a double en-suite room and one car.

Local produce, beer and vodka, the Isle of Man

The Isle of Man is renowned for incredible locally sourced food and drinks. A break to the island could include sampling beers from three local breweries, Manx ciders, Isle of Man-made juices and there is even locally distilled vodka too. After spending your days exploring the Isle of Man’s history and soaking up the island’s culture you’ll need to refuel, and you are in for a treat when it comes to enjoying some good food; there are cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to suit all tastes, with many offering menus bursting with fresh local produce. From delicious seafood, notably the famous ‘Queenies’ (queen scallops), to locally reared meats such as Loaghtan lamb, there’s plenty to enjoy – and that’s before you discover Manx-made ice cream, chocolates, sweets, pies, puddings and award-winning cheeses! Visit www.steam-packet.com to get your Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ferry booked and start planning.

Autumn gourmet break, Kilkenny Ireland

Kilkenny Ireland is a great option for a foodie autumn break  and full of history as you’d expect from a key city in “Ireland’s Ancient East” . It’s packed with great food and drink options, with a Michelin starred restaurant (Campagne https://www.campagne.ie/ ) heading the pack, but many more fabulous places to eat including Zuni and Ristorante Rinuccini.  And to drink? Kilkenny is the home of Smithwicks beer, so make sure you try some, and maybe take a brewery tour ( https://www.smithwicksexperience.com ) and drop into a few traditional pubs for a pint of Smithwicks, or a ‘drop of the black stuff’ – in somewhere like John Cleer’s Bar. Kilkenny is a medieval city built by Norman conquerors, with a castle, monasteries and abbeys to visit as well and a thriving arts and crafts scene so plenty of artisan souvenirs to browse and bring home (in the boot of your car at no extra cost when you travel by ferry). Kilkenny is more or less the same drive time, whether you choose to come into Dublin (from Holyhead) or Rosslare (from Pembroke) it’s about 90 minutes’ drive – perfect for a weekend away. Fares start at £213 return, for a car and two adults. A self-drive package with Irish Ferries is also possible. A four-night stay at the central Pembroke Hotel in the city costs from £302 per person when two people travel by car on the ferry and share a smart double/twin room on a B&B basis, travelling  from 1 October and staying before Christmas. 08717 300 400, www.irishferries.com