Against a back drop of rising costs of living, increasing car hire costs and airport travel caps, the UK ferry industry is offering holiday hope with the chance to win free ferry travel this Autumn. The popular public ballot ‘Big Ferry Fortnight’ runs until 29 September and is offering 394 free ferry tickets, to destinations across the British islands, Ireland or Europe from ports across the UK. A range of family tickets, crossings for a vehicle with two or more passengers, or pairs of foot passenger tickets are up for grabs.
Proving that great getaways can be done on a budget – ferry industry body, Discover Ferries has compiled its top selection of autumn breaks with a series of exciting events and festivals, most of which are free of charge and just a ferry ride away. The guide includes themed trips that will appeal to everyone from gastronomes and cultural enthusiasts, to hikers and wildlife lovers and span Half Term, Hallowe’en and lead into the festive season.
Tennerfest (1 October – 11 November) – Visitors to Jersey and Guernsey can enjoy the islands’ incredible culinary scene this autumn without breaking the bank. Tennerfest is a great value, fixed-price food festival where participating restaurants create special all-inclusive menus so diners can enjoy more at a fixed amount. Menus start at £10. Sail with Condor Ferries.
3 distilleries in 3 miles (autumn or anytime) – Whisky-loving hikers, strollers and cyclists on the Isle of Islay can enjoy a new scenic coastal pathway and savour tastings and tours at Scotland’s best distilleries of Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardberg. Starting from Port Ellen, the 5.5km route is also wheelchair accessible. Caledonian MacBrayne offers regular sailings to the Isle of Islay.
Seafood season in Normandy – Seafood is in season during months with an “R”, which makes the autumn a great time for seafood lovers to visit the Normandy coast. The area boasts a number of food festivals celebrating the region’s best catch. Villers-sur-Mer hosts a two day gourmet scallop festival (29-30 October) and Dieppe holds a Herring & Scallop festival (19-20 November), both are free to enter and visitors can sample local delicacies from the land and the sea. Travel to Caen with Brittany Ferries.
For Culture Vultures
Museum Night (5 November) – Experience Amsterdam’s version of ‘A Night at the Museum’ as the city’s famed 50 museums big and small open their doors after dark. With live music, DJs, food and drink and special events included, look forward to an atmospheric evening of culture. Tickets cost €22 per person. Travel to the city with DFDS, P&O Ferries or Stena Line.
Bremen Freimarkt (14-30 October) – Enjoy all the fun of the fair at Germany’s largest and oldest ‘Freimarkt’ in the riverside city of Bremen. Attracting worldwide visitors, amusement rides and entertainment are on offer for the thrill-seekers, and handmade crafts, regional specialities and beers for the culture-vultures. Travel via The Netherlands with DFDS, P&O Ferries and Stena Line or cross the Channel at Dover with DFDS, Irish Ferries or P&O Ferries.
Belfast International Arts Festival (5 October- 6 November) – This autumn marks 60 years since the city began hosting its annual celebration of arts. Visitors can enjoy a showcase of Northern Ireland’s best art, music and dance performances. Many events and exhibitions are free of charge including Irish Craft Heroes, a highly-visual, outdoor panel trail celebrating Ireland’s inspirational craftspeople. Sail to Belfast with Stena Line from Liverpool and Cairnryan in Scotland or with P&O Ferries from Cairnryan.
Nature lovers’ autumn breaks
Isle of Wight Walking Festival (8-16 October) – With cooler temperatures and spectacular autumn colours, the festival is perfect for ramblers, walkers and four-legged friends to explore over 500 miles of trails. Reconnect with nature and experience the island’s stunning countryside with over half the landscape designated as an Area of Outstanding Beauty. Pack your walking boots and hop aboard with Red Funnel, Hovertravel and Wightlink.
Isles of Scilly Dark Skies Week (1-7 October) – Amateur stargazers are invited to a celebration of grassroots astronomy hosted by St Martin’s community observatory. The islands’ Dark Skies Week offers talks from expert astronomers, photography lessons and stargazing beneath the most unpolluted skies in the UK. Sail across from Penzance with Isles of Scilly Travel .
Pumpkins, Ghouls, and Sparklers
Bram Stoker Festival (28-31 October) – Celebrating the legacy of Ireland’s famed author, the festival offers ‘devilish craic’ for the whole family to take part in. Deliciously dark treats, ghoulish spectacles, parades and events take place on the streets and across Dublin. Dust off your best Hallowe’en outfits and join the festivities. Cross to Dublin with Irish Ferries, P&O Ferries and Stena Line.
Hop-tu-Naa and the Wizard Express (31 October) – Families visiting the Isle of Man during Half Term can join a train ride with a difference to celebrate Hop-tu-Naa, the traditional Celtic festival of Samhain, the start of winter. Dress in your best wizard outfit aboard the ‘Wizard Express’ to test potions and meet new friends. Available 26-28 October and priced at £25 per adult and £15 per child, tickets include train travel and a ‘gruesome’ two course lunch. Visitors can also participate in local traditions across the island including singing, dancing and storytelling with turnip lanterns. Hurry to book your hop across with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.
The Bridges: Illuminated River – See another side of London by sailing beneath nine of the city’s bridges aboard Uber Boats by Thames Clippers. During the 3.2 mile journey, passengers can admire architectural icons including Tower Bridge, Waterloo Bridge and the Millennium Bridge. Travelling over Bonfire Night will also give spectacular views of the capital’s fireworks displays – for the price of a ferry ticket, or, for ballot winners, for free!
Christmas Shopping Trips
Amiens Marche (26 November – 31 December) – Northern France’s medieval town of Amiens divided by the River Somme is the perfect stop for festive shopping at the Christmas market. Over 130 chalets lining the streets and selling original handmade crafts and local delicacies. Travel with P&O Ferries, Irish Ferries or DFDS.
Winter Glow in Bruges (25 November – 8 January) – Packed with traditional and unique wintery activities, visitors can enjoy ice skating on the Lake of Love before sipping a drink in the cosy Vorst Winter Bar or shop at the city’s two Christmas markets. See Bruges’ beauty like never before by following the Light experience trail, a series of 14 light installations. Cross the Channel ferries with P&O Ferries, Irish Ferries or DFDS.
Abby Penlington, director of Discover Ferries commented:
“Big Ferry Fortnight is back! We are delighted that lucky ballot winners, will get to experience the benefits of ferry travel for themselves.
“With a wide choice of different departure ports and destinations on offer, holidaymakers can discover new destinations and participate in local events this autumn without splashing the cash. With ever tightening budgets and a yearning for stress-free and convenient travel, without limiting baggage restrictions, it has never felt more important for us to be able to highlight the great value ferry trips offer. And, with a range of low cost and free events and festivities happening around our waters, it’s a fantastic time to travel.
“Ferry passengers feel on holiday from the moment they step on board, using the journey to unwind and recharge before arrival. Whether they choose to take in sea views and spot marine life from the deck, relax over a drink or a meal, watch a film or, on services to the EU and Channel Islands, take advantage of great value duty-free shopping, travellers arrive feeling ready for their next adventure.”
To enter the Big Ferry Fortnight ballot, visit www.bigferryfortnight.com