Scotland on Sunday Travel Wishlist: Set sail for UK adventures this summer
With news that domestic cruises can resume from May 17, Sarah Marshall looks at the best sea-faring tours of the British Isles.
With ships sitting idle in docks for many months, cruise companies were hard hit by the pandemic. Voyages have been repeatedly postponed, itineraries cancelled and many companies have set their sights on 2022 and 2023 instead.
But there’s good news for ship fans keen to get out on the water this summer. A recent announcement by the UK’s Department of Transport has confirmed domestic voyages can resume from May 17.
As a result, several companies have switched focus to local shores, and specialists in the market are championing their domestic departures. While some itineraries concentrate on classic ports of call, others have chosen to explore lesser-known areas. The result is a remarkably varied offering, celebrating the coastal highlights of our island nation.
Whether you’re a seasoned seafarer or new to navigation, these are some of the top choices to consider.
A sustainable sail along the east coast
Best for: Environmentally-conscious seafarers
Capture the spirit of historical marine navigation by joining a trip aboard the world’s largest tall ship. Carrying 272 guests, Golden Horizon is a near replica of an ocean vessel built in 1913. Inside, the wood-panelled boat is elegant and nostalgic, and all cabins are outward facing. Fuelled by a passion for sustainability, the ship aims to sail for 70% of all journeys without the use of motor propulsion. Departing July 1, the vessel will carry passengers on a five night Eastern Coastal Contrasts trip from Harwich to Edinburgh, visiting Whitby, Newcastle upon Tyne and Berwick upon Tweed, before arriving into Leith (Edinburgh). From £1,049 per person, including all meals. Book through Mundy Cruising (020 7399 7670; mundycruising.co.uk).
A full mast voyage of the Scillies
Best for: Nostalgic sailors
The only working Georgian port in the UK, Cornwall’s Charlestown Harbour is a designated Unesco world heritage site. A living museum of maritime beauties, it’s home to a collection of classic boats, including Anny, a 1930s Topsail Schooner, and Mascotte, the largest surviving Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter. This year, both vessels will be operating a selection of domestic voyages, touring Falmouth, Liverpool, the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall. Along with enjoying the scenery, guests can learn new nautical skills, such as hoisting sails, steering the rig and charting a navigation course. Departing on May 18 and June 1, the five-night Isles of Scilly voyage on Mascotte costs from £600 per person, including meals. Private charters also available from £3,500. Visit charlestownharbour.com or call 01726 70241.
A northern golf odyssey
Best for: Active mariners
Anyone missing the atmosphere of a larger cruise ship will be pleased to hear Azamara Journey plans to tour the UK in July. Carrying 690 passengers, the mid-size luxury ship offers fine dining, evening entertainment and plenty of time in port. Departing from Leith on July 16, the 12-night British Isles & Golf Voyage visits Dundee, Invergordon, Greenock in Scotland and aims to cover highlights of the north, before heading back down the coast via Belfast, Douglas on the Isle of Man, Dublin and Liverpool before docking in Southampton. Passengers get the chance to sample fine whiskies in Invergordon, learn about The Troubles in Belfast and discover Liverpool’s musical heritage as they go. In partnership with PerryGolf, a 7-course golf package is available, with opportunities to play championship golf courses at Scotland’s Carnoustie, Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush and England’s Royal Birkdale. Cruise from £2,920 per person, including meals. Visit azamara.co.uk or call 0344 493 4016.
A high class British voyage
Best for: Glamour seekers at sea
Relive the golden age of travel closer to home on elegant art deco ocean liner, Queen Elizabeth. In place of several cancelled international itineraries, Cunard have launched a selection of luxury staycation sailings on a ship synonymous with the glamour of travelling at sea. Dine below sparkling chandeliers, play croquet on the Games Deck or simply soak up the grand atmosphere. All sailings will depart from Cunard’s home port Southampton, and will travel through UK coastal waters. No details have yet been released, although the all-new voyages will be on sale later this month. Visit cunard.com for more information.
Expeditions close to home
Best for: Adventurous shipmates
Demonstrating it’s not necessary to travel as far as Antarctica or the South Pacific for an adventurous cruise, Hurtigruten have launched a series of expedition itineraries departing from the white cliffs of Dover. Avoiding honey-pot spots, voyages will focus on less visited parts of the British Isles and has a fleet of small expedition boats to use for landings. The 15-day Picturesque Ports, Isolated Islands & Wonderful Wildlife trip on MS Maud visits the islands of Iona and Staff, the scenic town Fort William and avian paradise St Kilda. On Iona, passengers can explore the picturesque beaches, wonderful wildlife and the beautiful St Columba’s Bay and the abbey. From there the cruise heads towards the remote beauty of the Treshnish Isles, a group of distinctive skerries home to a wealth of wildlife, including Atlantic puffins, colonies of black-legged kittiwakes, razorbills, and common guillemots, as well as Atlantic grey seals, before visiting Fingal’s Cave on Staffa. Immortalised in music by Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, it is noted for its amazing natural acoustics and on calm, clear days, it might even be possible to land and see the colour of the waters inside the cave, but its rising columns can also be viewed from the sea. Guests will also have an opportunity to take part in beach and nature reserve clean-ups as part of the company’s sustainability programme. Departures July 4 and August 1; from £3,569 per person, full board. Visit hurtigruten.co.uk or call 020 3993 3121.