Cycle touring is a great way to see the world, but it can also be a bit of a hassle and expensive to cart your bike around using planes and trains. You’ll generally have to pack it up in a bike bag or box and pay extra baggage fees.
The answer lies in ferries. You can ride right up to them, wheel your bike on board (don’t try to ride this bit, they’ll get annoyed), and head up to the deck to take in the sea air. And once you reach the end of your ferry trip, your cycling holiday can start straight away, although the first bit of the ride might not be the most exciting – busy roads around ports aren’t generally known for their glamour.
Here are four cycling destinations within easy reach of the UK to get you started, as selected by Discover Ferries. Get on board.
St Malo, France
Sail overnight from Portsmouth to St Malo in Brittany and you’ll wake up at the start of a magnificent 306km cycle route that follows rivers, canals and old train routes and takes in a series of regional highlights. You can break up the trip however you like, or even go for the full ride in one go, but there are enough scenic stopping points that it’s worth taking a few days and staying overnight in some of the towns and cities you’ll visit en route.
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The bike is king in The Low Countries and once you arrive in IJmuiden in North Holland, which you can sail to from Newcastle, you have your pick of places to ride on to via a terrific network of cycle routes – Amsterdam is two hours away by bike, the Hague is three hours and Rotterdam is four.
You can get a ferry to Santander on the north coast of Spain from either Plymouth or Portsmouth. Once there we recommend taking a day to see the city, then saddling up and riding the 110km to Potes – a great base for exploring the Picos de Europa mountain range. The roads aren’t as busy as in the cycling havens of the Pyrénées or Alps, and the scenery is just as impressive.
Ireland’s capital is easily accessible with ferries running from Liverpool, Holyhead and Douglas on the Isle of Man. Once you’re there strike out for the Wicklow Gap – a spectacular pass in the Wicklow Mountains that’s around 50km southwest of Dublin. On a clear day you can see the mountains of Snowdonia across the Irish Sea, and there’s enough impressive scenery that cycling up the pass makes for a great trip even on a wet and cloudy day.