As the popularity of cycling continues to grow exponentially in the UK, more and more people are considering a cycling holiday and taking their bikes for the first time, and there’s no easier way than by ferry. Taking a cycling holiday by ferry allows passengers complete flexibility and freedom. Some choose to simply hitch bikes to the car, while others prefer to go the whole journey on just two wheels, strapping luggage directly onto their bike.
Ferry travel couldn’t be easier for anyone considering taking their bike on a trip with them for the first time, and what’s more it represents excellent value for money, with many operators not charging any extra for taking a bike. Often, bikes don’t even need to be booked in advance, perfect for those booking last minute breaks.
There are an abundance of incredible cycling routes to be found at hundreds of destinations by ferry, including relaxing cycles by the sea or blood pumping mountain descents. Taking a cycling holiday couldn’t be easier. With the theme of ‘Be a Ferry First-Timer’ for National Ferry Fortnight 2016 Discover Ferries has looked at some of the best cycling destinations by ferry on 75 plus routes from around the UK.
France and Spain
A trip to France normally means delicious cuisine but why not get fitter and leaner in the process. Some of the best cycling routes in northern Brittany can be found at Roscoff. Explore the picturesque towns of Pont Aven and Locronan, as well as an unspoilt stretch of the River Aulne with the freedom of two wheels. For tougher assignments take a ferry to Spain and head to the Picos de Europa mountain ranges in Northern Spain for some long distance leg burner cycle rides. Brittany Ferries provides an in-depth guide to cycling through Brittany, Normandy and Northern Spain, with trips that can all be achieved in five days, see http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/guides/cycling for more details. www.brittany-ferries.co.uk
North east France also has some great cycling. Hop on P&O Ferries to Calais and the routes are almost round the corner. The Somme coast in the Picardy region of north west France has lovely cycle paths, several of them running alongside the shore, through dune-scapes busy with migrating birdlife. To join up the dots in the meantime, the Baie de Somme railway transports bikes for free on all of its trains, including steam engines. Travellers can pop over for a healthy dose of sun, sea and cycling and come back in the same day it’s that close. France is a perfect destination for a cycling holiday. www.poferries.com
A cycling holiday is a great way to enjoy and explore Scotland’s beautiful West Coast islands and peninsulas. From leisurely cycles on flat terrain, great for beginners and younger cyclists, to more challenging routes, dedicated trails and adventures. Bikes are surcharge free to take on CalMac Ferries by car or on foot and many destinations also provide local bike hire.
A couple of great cycling destinations include the beautiful Outer Hebrides with stunning views, typically minimal traffic and easy rides around South Uist or Berneray to challenging ascents of the Harris Hills. There are also dedicated mountain bike trails including those in the grounds of Lews Castle in Stornoway.
Visitors can also purchase the Five Ferries Tour, which takes in visits to the islands of Arran and Bute as well as the Cowal and Kintyre peninsulas with impressive scenery and views throughout that can be done over a series of days and is a popular choice for cyclists. www.calmac.co.uk
It’s almost as if Orkney was created especially for cycling breaks. The landscape of many of the islands is flat and smooth with occasional hills to test your skill and stamina. The reward for making it to the top is spectacular views out over the neighbouring islands and sea. All bikes go free on Northlink Ferries and there’s no need to book passage in advance. Simply turn up and queue to board with foot passengers and travellers can cycle to their hearts content. www.northlinkferries.co.uk
Holland is famous for cycling, in particular the city of Amsterdam. Take DFDS Seaways from Newcastle direct to Amsterdam or from Harwich to the Hook of Holland and drive up. The city’s residents are all huge cycling fans and with plenty of space cordoned off for cyclists it’s safe to get around. Explore the incredible architecture, museums and canals that make up this vibrant city on two wheels. It’s the perfect place for a cycling holiday. www.dfdsseaways.co.uk
The Isles of Scilly, are our very own English Maldives and are served exclusively by The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group. Some of the best cycling can be found on the island of Tresco, which is traffic-free and barely two miles long and half a mile wide, so cycling is the best way to see it. Tresco is located 15 minutes across the bay from St. Mary’s which is the largest and busiest of the isles. Spend a day exploring the glorious, windswept shoreline in all its subtropical glory and why not stop off for a seaside picnic and swim. www.islesofscilly-travel.co.uk
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man is famous for two wheeled events. Motorcycling has always been a major attraction for visitors to the island but there is still plenty to attract those who use the slower version of two wheeled vehicles, the bicycle. The circuit which not only tests motorcyclists each year is also the ideal training ground for our cyclists, providing a thrilling mix of winding country lanes, steep climbs, and breath-taking descents. If you prefer going off-road on your mountain bike, the options are equally exciting – coastal paths, forest trails, old railway tracks and trails purpose-built for mountain biking – all showcasing the Manx countryside in all its splendour.
One thing is sure the Isle of Man is a great destination for anyone who loves cycling. If you are looking to pack up your car and bring your bicycle, you can travel with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, with a variety of short-break offers available throughout the year. Or, you can pack up a rucksack and travel as a foot passenger, and bring your bicycle free of charge. www.steam-packet.com
Take the ferry to the Channel Islands from Portsmouth or Poole and enjoy fantastic beaches, cycling and culinary delights. Jersey and Guernsey have some fantastic cycling routes with over 100 miles of cycle routes. It’s free to take your bike with Condor Ferries and the best way to explore these unique islands and learn more about life under World War II occupation. With miles of unspoilt countryside, flora and fauna make it ideal for nature lovers and the perfect way to enjoy it is from the seat of a bicycle. Enjoy a leisurely scenic ride of just a few miles, or gear yourself up for more challenging east to west and around island routes. The islands have everything you need for a perfect cycling holiday. www.condorferries.co.uk
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight was tailor-made for great cycling with over 200 miles of cycle routes through some of the most scenic countryside in the UK. With over 30 miles of Heritage Coast and half the island designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty there’s a great variety of terrain. From level countryside trails and quiet lanes to challenging hill climbs and everything in between. Wightlink sail’s to Yarmouth in the east of the island where there is a great trail that provides a great variety of terrain – an estuary-side cycleway, some delightful country lanes and a more challenging section over the downs, with the reward of stunning coastal and island views. Let the cycling holiday begin. www.wightlink.co.uk
The Irish are famous for their warm welcome and for taking life at an easier pace. The Irish culture includes a fascinating mix of music, art and literature and nowadays, Irish cities and towns blend a proud history with a modern zest for life. Ireland’s cycle routes meanwhile, traverse mountain, lakeland, national park and woodland, all the elements that epitomise the traditional Irish landscape, so it’s the perfect option for exploring the country from the ground up. The Wicklow Gap, County Wicklow has a great cycling route and is famous for the Glendalough valley with stunning natural beauty, historic and archaeological richness and local wildlife. With many cycling routes located close to, jump on Irish Ferries and experience the raw nature of Irish cycling. www.irishferries.com
There are endless cycling routes all across Northern Ireland that have the capacity to be both a gentle ride or a challenging ascent. One such route is the circular Divis Ridge trail which is located in the Belfast Hills and offers spectacular skyline views over Belfast. Other views from the viewpoint include the Mourne Mountains, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Take a Stena Line ferry to Belfast and enjoy the best the city has to offer before, and after, tackling this cycle route. www.stenaline.co.uk