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Travel well, sea more

Have you ever noticed how being in or near water makes you feel better? Whether you like exploring the hidden world of rock pools on holiday or taking a relaxing warm bath after a stressful day, there is something calming and joyful about water. 

And we are not the only ones to notice this phenomena. There has been a whole body of research into the mental health and wellbeing properties of water, from immersing yourself in it to simply looking out onto it. One of the best known books on this subject has been written by Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, a Californian psychologist who coined the term “Blue Mind”. His research suggests that being near water triggers the release of chemicals in our brains such as dopamine and serotonin, which are linked to feelings of happiness and being connected. Closer to home, Dr Mathew White from the University of Exeter has conducted research into “BlueHealth”, and how communities who live by the sea tend to be happier.

This certainly rings true for us at Discover Ferries; if you have ever swapped the London tube for a Thames Clippers river service, or tasted the salty tang of sea air on a ferry crossing to Europe or the British Islands, then you will know what we mean… But if you have not yet discovered the joy of ferry travel, we have put together a list of the 10 most beautiful places reachable by water just for you…

1. Bryher, Isles of Scilly

The smallest of the inhabited islands of the Isles of Scilly, Bryher is the epitome of small and beautiful. Despite its diminutive size (1.5 miles long 0.5 miles wide), Bryher has an amazingly diverse coastline comprising an exciting mix of white sandy beaches and rock pools teeming with marine life.

The island is located just 28 miles off the Cornish coast and visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to high-quality accommodation with options ranging from the local hotel and small guest houses to self-catering cottages and the island’s campsite.

Our favourite way to reach the island is by taking the Scillonian III ferry to St Mary’s with Isles of Scilly Travel and then hopping on the inter-island boat service.

Bryher, Isles of Scilly (c) Isle of Scilly Travel

2. Snaefell Summit, Isle of Man.

As the highest mountain on the Isle of Man, it is not hard to see why Snaelfell Summit is popular with walkers. On a clear day, you can see the ‘Seven Kingdoms’ at once: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, the heavens and the seas. Fortunately, there is also a café at the top for those in need of refreshment.

If you don’t fancy conquering the 2,034 feet summit without assistance, you want to take advantage of the tram that operates in the summer months from Laxley to the summit.

For the most relaxing way to reach the Island from mainland UK or Ireland, we recommend checking out the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, which operates a range of fast craft and conventional ferry services from Belfast, Dublin, Heysham and Liverpool.

Snaefell Summit, Isle of Man

3. Ploumanac’h, Brittany.

If you like natural beauty, we think that Ploumanac’h on the stunning pink granite coast in Brittany, northern France, might just rock your world. This former fishing village is nestled among imposing granite cliff faces and rock formations hewn by the natural forces of sea and wind, dating back some 300 million years.

We recommend sailing to Northern France with Brittany Ferries, which offers routes on its comfortable cruise ferries from Plymouth to Roscoff or Portsmouth to Saint Malo.

Ploumanac’h, Brittany (c) Luca Bravo

4. L’Ancresse Common on Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

A hidden gem, L’Ancresse Common is of great historical importance and home to fortifications from both Napoleonic wars and WWII, as well as a number of ancient burial sites. Flanked by multiple beaches, this grassy public common also boasts fantastic walkways and even has an 18-hole golf course.

Our favourite way to travel to Guernsey is with Condor Ferries on its high speed ferry, Condor Liberation, which sails from Poole to Guernsey in just three hours.

L’Ancresse Common, Guernsey (c) Visit Guernsey

5. Outer Hebrides, Scotland.

2020 marks Scotland’s “Year of Coasts & Waters”, so there has never been a better time to soak up the peace and tranquillity of this chain of inter-connected islands that make up the Outer Hebrides. Steeped in Gaelic culture and traditions, the natural beauty of these unique islands is also home to a range of fantastic birds and beasts, as well as a close knit community offering a warm Hebridean welcome to visitors. Make sure you check out what events are happening for the Year of Coasts & Waters.

Scottish ferry operator, Caledonian Macbrayne (CalMac Ferries), operates a number of routes to the Outer Hebrides and is our favourite way to reach these West Coast landmarks.

Outer Hebrides, Scotland (c) CalMac Ferries

6. The rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede, County Antrim in Northern Ireland. 

At just over an hour’s drive from the ports of Belfast and Larne, the rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede is part of an exhilarating walk in this beautiful National Trust property on the coast of Northern Ireland. With its views over crystal clear waters and ancient caverns, we think Carrick-a-Rede is a real jewel in the Emerald Isle’s crown.

Lesser known than some of its neighbouring destinations, such as the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede is situated on the stunning Antrim coast. It is also easily accessible by ferry from England, Scotland and the Isle of Man via P&O Ferries, which sails from Cairnryan in Scotland to Larne, Stena Line, which operates services to Belfast from both Cairnryan and Liverpool, as well as Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, which sails between Belfast and Douglas.

Carrick-a-Rede, County Antrim (c) Discover Ferries

7. Lough Tay, Wicklow Mountains National Park. 

It is not hard to see why Lough Tay is one of Wicklow’s most iconic and photographed locations with the cool, still waters of the lake flanked on all sides by beautiful, rugged mountains. Also known to locals as the Guinness Lake, Lough Tay is said to mirror a pint of Guinness with its white sandy beach located on its northern side. The sand was imported there by the Guinness family, whose estate runs through the area.

Lough Tay is under an hour’s drive from Dublin port, which can be easily reached by ferry from Holyhead in Wales by regular services operated by both Irish Ferries and Stena Line. The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company also runs seasonal ferry services to Dublin from Douglas.

Lough Tay, Wicklow (c) Failte Ireland / Tourism Ireland

8. The Needles on the coast of the Isle of Wight. 

The Isle of Wight is synonymous with the world-renowned Needles and its coloured sands. Formed of chalk and flint, the huge stacks of rock take their name from the two steep chalk pinnacles, the largest of which reaches 120 feet above sea level.

There is lots to see and do in the area, from a chairlift ride to the beach to glass blowing demonstrations at Alum Bay. You are equally spoilt for choice when it comes to sailing to the Island as Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel offer a range of fast craft and traditional ferry services to the Isle of Wight from Lymington, Portsmouth and Southampton.

The Needles, Isle of Wight (c) Visit Isle of Wight

9. Bruges, Belgium.

The picturesque city of Bruges is famous for its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North, this Belgian city is full of charm and beauty. It is also known for its fantastic selection of Flemish culinary delights, including indulgent Belgian chocolates and an impressive array of artisan beers.

In contrast to Bruges’ historic character, the port of Zeebrugge, located around 20 minutes away, is an important centre for fishing and modern European trade.

You can sail directly to Zeebrugge port from Hull with P&O Ferries on its overnight cruise ferry crossing on the North Sea, or into Calais (40 minute drive away), with P&O Ferries from Dover. DFDS also operates services from Dover to Calais and Dunkirk, as well as an overnight cruise ferry service between Newcastle and Amsterdam in neighbouring Holland. Swedish operator, Stena Line, operates a cruise ferry service to nearby Hook of Holland from Harwich.

Bruges – the canals (c) Viist Flanders

10. Greenwich Royal Naval College and Observatory, London.

The Old Royal Naval College is hailed by many as the architectural centrepiece of Maritime Greenwich. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, and for good reason. This iconic estate is home to the Painted Hall, which recently underwent an extensive restoration project, completed last year. The Hall is an exceptional example of a Baroque interior that took British artist Sir James Thornhill almost two decades to complete. The Hall was originally intended to be a grand dining room for naval pensioners, but was quickly adopted as a ceremonial space for paying visitors and special functions.

We think the best and most fitting angle to view this magnificent building is from the river with Thames Clippers. With a fleet of 19 catamarans, Thames Clippers offers departures from major London piers every 20 minutes, including a service from Embankment to North Greenwich (The O2).

Royal Naval College, Greenwich (c) Derek Sewell