As the UK is made up of an archipelago of islands, it will not come as any surprise that there are numerous ferry services connecting the nation with mainland Europe. There are also services between the country’s own islands and between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
By far, the busiest ferry services are in operation on the English Channel, in the far south of the country. Dover, in Kent, is less than 24 miles from the French coast and this means that there are regular and short crossings that take advantage of this short distance. Dover is said to be the busiest ferry terminal in the world.
There are also some services to Ostend, in Belgium, from this part of the UK.
Moving west along the southern English coast, there are a number of other ferry terminals: Newhaven, Sussex; Portsmouth, Hampshire; Poole, Dorset and Plymouth in Devon. The majority of these services are simple connections with Northern France.
There are services from Portsmouth and Plymouth to Spain (Bilbao and Santander respectively). The best service seems to be that from Plymouth as this city is best placed for connections down to the Iberian Peninsula. Sailing from Portsmouth always adds on unnecessary additional travelling time to Spain.
Within the UK itself, there are services between the Hampshire coast and the Isle of Wight; dozens of services between the west coast of Scotland and the numerous Western Isles; between Northern Ireland and the west coast of Great Britain and to and from the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey and the British mainland.
The North Sea offers longer distance ferry services to Denmark; The Netherlands and Belgium and it is always a good idea to take advantage of an overnight sailing with a comfortable cabin for this length of journey.