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Cruise the British Isles

  • United Kingdom (UK)

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 06 February, 2024

Exploring the coast of Britain and Ireland by ship is a wonderful immersion in history, culture and nature. Even to Brits themselves, the historical contrasts are a delight, from Edinburgh Castle to the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney, the Beatles trail in Liverpool and the literary scene in Dublin.

The coastal scenery is dazzling; white beaches and aquamarine shallows in the Isles of Scilly, or the basalt formations of Fingal’s Cave on Staffa. The sea passage around the north of Scotland and the Irish Sea is extraordinarily rich in wildlife, with excellent chances of spotting whales and porpoises.

While the majority of people attracted to this kind of cruise are more mature, it’s also possible to turn a round-Britain voyage into a family holiday and some of the bigger ships are well geared up to entertain kids and teens on the days at sea.

Logistics

Price from: £Varies
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around
Duration: Min 7 days

Getting there & doing it

Exploring the British Isles independently is relatively easy; the advantage of a cruise is that getting from point to point is effortless – and the scenery, particularly as you round the top of Scotland, is magnificent.

You could opt for a round-Britain and Ireland voyage, with typical stops including Newcastle, Edinburgh, Inverness, Orkney, Greenock (for Glasgow), Belfast, Dublin. Liverpool, Portland, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Southampton and Dover. Starting points include Southampton, Dover, London (for smaller ships) and sometimes, Liverpool, Edinburgh or Dublin.

Another option is to travel by much smaller ship and explore the west coast of Scotland in detail, pottering along the shores of lochs and islands and stopping for walking, castle visits and tastings at whisky and gin distilleries.

When to do it

Cruises operate from March to October. August/September is festival season in Edinburgh, so a good time to drop in. Midges are a pest in Scotland from June to September, although much less so if you’re out at sea.

Who to go with: tour operators

3

Our writer’s recommended tour operators to book with

Ambassador Cruise Line [British Isles]

  • United Kingdom (UK)

New cruise line offering cruises in British waters from London Tilbury and aimed at a cost conscious, mature British market.

Noble Caledonia [British Isles]

  • United Kingdom (UK)

Noble Caledonia operates small ships with the vibe of a country house hotel on board. UK itineraries call at small, remote ports, offering in-depth cultural tours.

Saga Cruises [British Isles]

  • Folkestone, Kent, Multiple countries

Luxury operator specialising in cruises for the over 50s, calling at off the beaten track ports. Beautiful, contemporary ships and all-inclusive style; onboard, you’ll find a quintessentially British experience.