A Cruise Round the UK and Ireland

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cruise round the uk cobh harbour

A Cruise Round the UK and Ireland

by Roger Crow

So, you’re a Brit who wants an overseas break but aren’t keen on spending hours either at airports or on a plane. Or, if you just don’t get on (with) planes, what do you do? Well, if a staycation isn’t your cup of tea, you could always nip off to some must-see destinations around the British Isles…

If you’re one of the millions of British tourists that rubber bands between Florida or Europe every year, then you may have grown weary of those long or relatively short haul flights with the same old trappings. Yes, you can get some bargains to the Sunshine State, but there’s plenty for Brits to explore in their own backyard.

Based in Yorkshire, it’s a little off the beaten track for the south coast, but thanks to early online booking, I found a one way train to Southampton for around £60 and a trip from Liverpool for around £40. Obviously, if you use economy coaches you can save even more cash.

I have a few days to spare and want to check out three major ports, a couple which are magnets for British tourists seeking a short break, and one which is an Irish hidden treasure.

“A picturesque revelation”

cruise round the uk cobh statue

A statue in Cobh harbour, with the cruise ship in the background.

Around 153-miles from Southampton is Guernsey. The picturesque St Peter Port is bursting with life, even first thing on a Sunday morning. As a first time visitor it is a welcome surprise. Whether watching yachts leave port or getting lost in the town, it is a great way to kill a few hours. It doesn’t hurt that the weather was glorious and a Sunday market adds to the experience. You can rent a car and drive round the island in a few hours or take a bus tour. But I prefer a long walk.

While it may be a mere 15-miles from Cork, I’ve never heard of Cobh. Then again I’ve only been to Ireland once before, five years earlier. I sail over 300-miles from Guernsey to find this gem, and I am immediately smitten (harbour pictured above). Though Cork feels like Dublin’s twin, Cobh is a picturesque revelation, from the minute I arrive in port to walking the streets and scaling the steep steps. If Titanic history is your thing, an exhibition may appeal. A dockside museum helps put Cobh in focus while assorted pubs help blur it again.

Of course if you want to visit Cork, a train can have you there and back in no time for a little under 10 Euros.

“It is good to retrace old haunts”

After a chat with fellow rail travellers Jim, a local fisherman, and his wife, I enjoy a five mile walk round Cork (my first trip). I soak up culture in the (free) art gallery; potter round the shops (real book shops) and watch the world go by over a coffee at the Opera House.

cruise round the uk caribbean princess cruise liner

Caribbean Princess cruise liner at dock.

Following a lazy afternoon of sunbathing (legs like lobsters after falling asleep), we are off again as a band play us off from the dockside. I am glad to get in plenty of walking because the free on-board food is a little too good.

Though I have done Dublin before, it is good to retrace old haunts even if the rain is a bit of a washout.  A hop on/hop off bus is one of the best and cheapest ways to get around town. Yes, it will take in the Guinness factory and all the other major points. Take a lightweight raincoat to be on the safe side. Guinness is a great tour, though I’m not a fan of the stuff itself. As a paying customer at both attractions, I prefer the Jameson’s whisky tour at the other end of town.

“The wanderlust shows little sign of abating”

cruise round the uk sunset liverpool

Sunset as the cruise heads to Liverpool from Dublin.

We sail from Dublin to Liverpool, the last leg of my mini break, and it is inevitably poignant. As the rain-lashed Liver building welcomes me and my fellow travellers, my mental batteries recharge even after a few days, but that wanderlust shows little sign of abating.

Though I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last few decades travelling the world, taking a trip round my own country is a breath of fresh air. Sometimes the best things in life are under your nose.

Obviously you can book each port visit as an individual trip, though Princess covers Guernsey, Cobh, Dublin and Liverpool, as well as Belfast, Glasgow, Orkney Islands, Invergordon, Edinburgh, Paris and Normandy over 12 days.

Travel Facts: In the spring and summer of 2017 Caribbean Princess will be back in the UK to sail the British Isles again.
Sample itinerary:
Sunday June 18, 2017 – 12 nights
Southampton | Guernsey (St Peter’s Port) | Cobh | Dublin | Liverpool | Belfast| Glasgow (Greenock) | Orkney Islands (Kirkwall) |Invergordon | Edinburgh | Paris/Normandy (Le Havre).

Prices start from £1,499pp (based on two people sharing an inside stateroom).

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