Sailing to France? Why not go via Portsmouth, says ferry company


Why drive to Dover to cross the English Channel when you can sail from Portsmouth? That’s the question being asked by Brittany Ferries as it prepares for the 2016 holiday season.

This is, of course, a sales message for the ferry company, as it seeks to capitalise on the negative press associated with the Dover to Calais crossing. According to Brittany Ferries, if you’re west of Westminster, you’ll enjoy a smoother journey by heading to Portsmouth and crossing to either Le Havre, Caen, Cherbourg or St Malo.

The company may have a point. The opening of the Hindhead Tunnel on the A3 has shaved around 20 minutes off peak-time journeys, meaning it’s possible to drive – in traffic – from Westminster to Portsmouth in under two hours. Head to Dover and you’re likely to spend an extra 30 minutes in the car. It’s a similar story when travelling from other areas of west London.

Brittany Ferries then points to the journey times from the port of arrival to holiday destinations in France. Paris is one example, with the driving time from Le Havre some 34 minutes shorter than from Calais. Sail to Caen and you could be enjoying a drink by the trackside in Le Mans some two hours before your fellow travellers driving down from Calais.

What Brittany Ferries fails to mention is the length of time you’ll spend on one of their ferries. Leave Portsmouth at 9.30am and you’ll arrive in Le Havre at 4pm local time. With a bit of luck you’ll get to Paris in time for supper. Alternatively, leave Portsmouth at 8.15pm and you can expect to dock in St Malo at 8.15am local time.

[bctt tweet=”Wouldn’t you rather spend more time on a ferry than driving on Britain’s congested motorways?”]

But does this really matter? Wouldn’t you rather spend more time on a ferry than driving on Britain’s congested and nightmarish motorways? Have we reached a point where travelling between Dover and Calais is a game of chance?

Last year I blogged about the advantages of travelling between Plymouth and Roscoff, and while a London resident isn’t likely to venture across the whole of southern England to catch a ferry, the principle remains. More often than not, driving in France is far more pleasurable than driving in the UK, so this route suits me. And the Brittany Ferries fleet is well-equipped to make the sailing feel part of the holiday.

Sure, it won’t be for everyone. To some, the lure of a super-quick journey through the Channel Tunnel, or a short ferry crossing to Calais will be more appealing than a mini cruise. But it pays to know there is an alternative. Just because Dover to Calais is the shortest crossing, it doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. Consider your options and go from there.

For me, the Plymouth to Roscoff crossing wins every time, not least because I treat it as part of the holiday. And I can recommend a delightful crêperie in Morlaix.

What’s your favourite route across the English Channel? Let us know.

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