Full of history and trend-setting culture, the British Isles are a wonderful destination for small and mid-size cruise ships. In addition to the main islands of Great Britain (which contains England, Wales and Scotland) and Ireland, there are more than 6,000 offshore islands, including the Hebrides, Orkneys, Shetlands and Channel Islands. The major islands offer more than 19,000 miles of coastline, much of it accessible to smaller ships; the islands themselves are wonderfully scenic, offering everything from rolling green countryside, historic ports, dramatic cliffs and craggy mountain peaks.
Cruises of the British Isles range from 3- to 14-nights, and the relatively compact size of the islands means you’ll have a port call almost every day.
What can you expect to see?
London, England, isn’t a sea port; it’s on the River Thames, and only the smallest cruise ships can actually dock in London. It’s more common for London to be a pre-cruise, post-cruise or shore excursion destination, with nearby Southampton serving as its sea port. The city is not to be missed: there are fantastic museums and galleries, amazing historical sites and royal palaces, plus great shopping and dining in the many charming and quirky neighborhoods. As you sail the English coast, you might also call on Dover, Newcastle or Liverpool, England; Holyhead, Wales; or Guernsey in the Channel Islands.
Edinburgh, Scotland’s Medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town are shadowed by the impressive Edinburgh Castle. Stroll down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace, an official residence of Queen Elizabeth. Golf fans will want to visit Fife and St. Andrew’s Links, one of the oldest courses in the world. Your ship may also call on Glasgow or Invergordon, Scotland.
Belfast, Northern Ireland, is a must for fans of the television show Game of Thrones; scenes are filmed at the Castle Ward Estate, where you can take a behind-the-scenes tour. Or, visit the shipyards where the Titanic was built and the award-winning Titanic Belfast, with five stories of history and artifacts. You may also call on the Irish ports of Dublin or Cork.
You can sail the British Isles all year. Summer is the peak season, with the warmest weather and long hours of daylight, but the countryside is lovely in spring and colorful in fall. Winter weather can be chilly, especially in northern England and Scotland, but it brings the warmth of Christmas markets and other seasonal events on shore. For more information about cruising Britain, talk with your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.