Top festivals and events to reach by ferry

Whether you are a sports fan, music-lover or a petrol-head, there is festival or event to suit your tastes (and budget). Why not pack up your car or bike and travel by ferry to our favourites for the year:

Carnival, Cologne (Thurs – Shrove Tuesday February)
During the six days of Carnival, also called the ‘Crazy Days’ Cologne is transformed into a party town with street parades, floats, music, beer stands, balls, stage shows and revelry. Most of the traditional carnival parades by the local carnival associations are held on the Friday, with the Ghost Parade happening on Saturday evening, and the colourful parade of smaller carnival clubs and schools on the Sunday. The highlight is the extensive street parade on Rose Monday, which winds its way through the city centre and attracts over a million visitors every year. On the last day the end of carnival is marked with the burning of the ‘nubbel’, a straw-stuffed effigy seen in front of many pubs, symbolising the excesses of carnival have been burned to ashes and absolving the culprits. So what happens in carnival, really does stay in carnival! DFDS, Irish Ferries and P&O Ferries sail from Dover to Calais, from which Cologne is a 4h20 min drive. Stena Line sails from Harwich to Hook of Holland, and P&O Ferries from Hull to Rotterdam, from both of which Cologne is a 3 hour drive.

St Patricks Day, Dublin (17 March)
St Patrick’s Day: Ireland’s most famous event of the year, sees over 100,000 visitors join locals in the streets of Dublin for the country’s biggest parade. The parade features colourful floats, dancers, marching bands and music from all over the world. Once the parade has finished everyone hits the bars and pubs of Dublin to continue the festivities and make new friends while partaking in the national pastime – drinking Guinness.
Irish Ferries and Stena Line sail from Holyhead to Dublin and P&O Ferries sail from Liverpool to Dublin.

Kings Day, © NBTC

King’s Day, The Netherlands (27 April)
King’s Day (Koningsdag) is a Dutch national holiday which honours the birthday of King Willem-Alexander, who was born on 27 April. The Dutch celebrate by partying in the streets from the night before and covering everything possible with orange: flags, wigs, revellers clothes – to honour the Dutch Royal family, the House of Orange-Nassau. In Rotterdam expect outdoor parties around the city featuring house, disco and hiphop, street flea markets and a great festival atmosphere.
P&O Ferries sail to Rotterdam from Hull and Stena Line sail to the Hook of Holland from Harwich.

Visit Isles of Scilly, © John Dyer

World Pilot Gig Championships, Isle of Scilly (April / May)
What’s a Pilot Gig Championship, you may ask yourself? A pilot gig is a six-oared rowing boat. Originally from Cornwall, a pilot gig was used to get a ship’s pilot out to an incoming vessel and gigs would race to get their pilot out first. Now, the World Pilot Gig Championships take place every year over the first May bank holiday weekend and feature more than 150 men’s and women’s teams racing over 3 days. It’s the Isles of Scilly’s busiest weekend of the year so book up well in advance to see this oar-some event!
Isles of Scilly Travel operates the Scillonian III from Penzance to St Mary’s from March – November.

Isle of Man TT fans disembarking the Isle of Man Steam Packet’s Mannanan, arriving at Douglas. © Dave Kneen

The Isle of Man TT, Isle of Man, (First two weeks of June)
The Isle of Man TT is a must-see event for all motorsports fans. Every year the world’s greatest motorcycle racers get together to race the 37.73 mile ‘Mountain Course’ around the island’s public roads. The event consists of one week of practice sessions and one week of racing. For those of you who want to try the course yourselves, it’s become a tradition on ‘Mad Sunday’ for spectators to tour the Mountain Course.
Isle of Man Steam Packet Company operate services from Heysham, Liverpool, Belfast and Dublin to Douglas on the Isle of Man.

Mont Saint Michel, © Commercial Photography Fredography

Bastille Day, France, 13-14 July
Celebrate with all of France on their national holiday, 14 juillet, which remembers the storming of the Bastille in 1789 – the event generally thought of, as the start of the French Revolution. Head to Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, a medieval city on an island, connected to the mainland by just one bridge. Not only is the island a great place to explore, but because its geography you’ll get an unparalleled view of the fireworks reflected in the sea.
Mont Saint Michel is a 55mins drive from the port of St Malo. Brittany Ferries and Condor Ferries operate services from the UK and Jersey to St Malo. Or drive down from Calais in 4h 40 mins from where DFDS, Irish Ferries and P&O Ferries operate frequent daily services.

Stornoway, Isle of Lewis ©Visit Scotland

HebCelt Fest, Stornoway Isle of Lewis (mid-July)
Having featured big name artists such as KT Tunstall, Texas, the Levellers, the Fratellis and Van Morrison, HebCelt Festival is firmly on the music festival calendar. Held in the beautiful grounds of Lewis Castle, overlooking Stornoway harbour, this event brings together a variety of music from around the world and quality live Celtic music at one of our favourite family-friendly festivals in the UK.
Caledonian MacBrayne sail from Ullapool to Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.

Pride Amsterdam © Unsplash

Pride Amsterdam: (end July – first week of August)
The highlight of this 9-day LGTBQ+ celebration is the world-famous Canal Parade, featuring 80 boats sailing along the canals with music and entertainment, with lots of people lining the canals to join the party. Other events include Pride walks, open-air cinema and LGTB history tours.
DFDS sail from Newcastle to Amsterdam, Stena Line sail to the Hook of Holland from Harwich and P&O Ferries sail to Rotterdam from Hull.

Cowes Fireworks © Visit Isle of Wight

Cowes Week, Isle of Wight (end July – first week August)
Cowes Week is the oldest and largest sailing regatta in the world and a highlight on the British sporting calendar. Spectators can enjoy much of the racing from the shore, with The Green and The Parade great spots to view the action from. The week culminates on the middle Friday of August in a spectacular air show and fireworks display set off from the water just outside Cowes.
Red Funnel sails from Southampton directly to Cowes. Hovertravel operates hovercraft services from Southsea to Ryde and Wightlink sails from Portsmouth to Ryde or Fishbourne and Lymington to Yarmouth.

South Bank, London © Unsplash

Christmas Festivities, London (December)
Get into the festive spirit in London. Sing along to carols under Trafalgar Square’s traditional Christmas tree, an annual gift from Norway before taking in a show in the West End. See the South Bank, Covent Garden and Leicester Square transformed into a Christmas wonderland, grab a hot chocolate and take the kids ice skating at the seasonal rinks that pop up at Canary Wharf, Greenwich, Somerset House and newly-reopened Battersea Power Station. Uber Boat by Thames Clippers run frequent services along the Thames and special Illuminated River tours, for the best views of the city. 

Hogmanay Edinburgh © Visit Scotland

Hogmanay, Edinburgh (31 December)
With its origins going back to the Viking celebration of the Winter Solstice, Scotland’s New Year’s Eve party is legendary. The city of Edinburgh turns into an outdoor party, with concerts, silent disco, a ceilidh under the castle and a spectacular firework display over Edinburgh Castle at midnight. Wrap up warm as the party lasts into the small hours.
P&O Ferries sail from Larne to Cairnryan and Stena Line sail from Belfast to Cairnryan. Edinburgh is a 2hr50mins car journey from Cairnryan.

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