Travel Jottings

Celebrating the best bits and bobs to be found while exploring Britain, Ireland and beyond. Much is inspired by real outings, whether they were walking, cycling or photographic in nature, while virtual blundering in the name of planning them has turned up some gems too. Regardless of how they were found, I hope that they keep coming so I can continue to share new things with you.

Arriving and Departing by Sea

Irish Ferries Catmaran

These days, most come and go from Ireland using air travel but there was a time when sea travel was the only option and it still persists today all around the world. When it comes to moving larger quantities of goods and people, there often is nothing better. Then, there is the allure of passing away your holiday time on a cruise and these can be as adventurous or as sedentary as you like. Touring packages visiting polar areas are becoming more pervasive and others taking in more tropical parts show little sign of going away either. It is as if sea travel can retain its sense of glamour and air of relaxation while air travel becomes ever more utilitarian and security conscious.

Even with that positive picture, weather can disrupt plans as well as making for rough sailings that may not get remembered for happy reasons. Nevertheless, being able to bring your own vehicle aboard an international ferry sailing is another attraction, especially for families, and having a cabin to yourself so you can rest or even sleep is an added bonus.

That last point brings me to the first time that I ever left Ireland. That was on a school trip to France when a return trip on the Irish Ferries route between Rosslare and Cherbourg was as much part of the adventure as spending around two weeks in a different country. The point of being in Brittany was to improve our grasp of the French language and I now wonder how much it helped even if I still can read and comprehend it. My own shyness may be a bigger barrier to my speaking it and that remains as I discovered while on a more recent trip to Switzerland.

Otherwise, my experiences have been limited largely to occasional crossings of the Irish Sea that took me between Ireland and Great Britain. After that, there have been ones between Liverpool and the Isle of Man and those complete the set though thoughts of more international ferry crossings come to mind. After all, ferry services still link Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Estonia as I have found on my Scandinavian escapades. Otherwise, there remain connections from Hull and Harwich in England to ports in the Netherlands along with the well known Dover to Calais crossings.

For now though, this remains an article specific to Irish explorations and I have a wider listing of global air connections in mind. That will not be specific to Ireland since the world of air travel is so interconnected that a listing for Ireland could replicate much of what is found in other parts. Somehow, a summary of sea ferry services feels more local for now.

Brittany Ferries

Its weekly (France to Ireland on Friday and then the other way on Saturday) overnight Cork-Roscoff route is what gets this operator included in this list but they started out as a shipper of vegetables from Roscoff to Plymouth, a far cry from what they do today with their ferry routes to Ireland, England and Spain.

Irish Ferries

This Irish company came into being when the Irish Continental Group took over the B&I Line routes across the Irish Sea ferries. Before that, it was known as Irish Continental and operated the Rosslare to Cherbourg route. Its fleet is a mixture of conventional and high speed ferries and it accepts foot passengers on most of its departures.

Isle of Man Steam Packet Company

The name may date from a different era but the vessels that it uses are modern as any. The catamaran on the Liverpool to Douglas on which I have travelled is a pleasure to use. However, the real reason that gets the Manx company on this list is its seasonal sailings between Ireland and the Isle of Man. During the summer season, it serves Dublin and Belfast using a conventional ferry so some might be tempted to cross to Ireland from Great Britain with a stopover on the Isle of Man. Having been there a couple of times, I can see the point of doing just that.

P&O Ferries

The main interest here is their Liverpool-Dublin service that takes eight hours but crossings between Scotland and Northern Ireland also form part of their offering. The longer sailing time makes it a better option for overnight sailing than shorter crossings between Wales and Ireland. Nevertheless, it is perhaps too leisurely for daytime travelling though its clientele are exclusively travelling in their own vehicles so the avoidance of tiring driving might be appreciated. Those without their own vehicle who want to travel as foot passengers will find that the Liverpool to Dublin route does not serve them at all. The Scottish routes thankfully differ so a whole range of passengers are conveyed.

Stena Line

Known as Sealink when it was owned by the now defunct British Rail, it is now a part of the Stena empire that remains a prominent purveyor of Irish Sea ferry services between Britain and Ireland. Choices are between conventional sea ferries and the speedy catamarans on its Wales to Éire and Scotland to Northern Ireland. While a good option if you want to get your car to Ireland, the temperamental nature of the Irish Sea can mean that services are prone to disruption.