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Ferry Travel - Cherbourg – France –Brittany Ferries

Have you had enough of spending hours in airport cattle pens, when heading to continental Europe on holiday? Travel Editors, Hugh Taylor and Moira McCrossan are thoroughly sick of it and are investigating the possibilities of going by car and ferry. Here’s what they think of Brittany Ferries Portsmouth to Cherbourg crossing.

Portsmouth Harbour


It’s 7am on a beautiful sunny morning and we’re already parked in line for boarding. It’s been a long drive down from south west Scotland but we had other visits to make en route so Portsmouth made sense on this occasion.

We stayed overnight in the Travel Lodge just across the road from the terminal, which made the last wee bit of the journey very easy. Boarding starts at 7.45 and we’re on board by eight. No fuss, no luggage checks, no having to take laptops out of bags, giving up our bottles of water or Swiss Army knives. No silly plastic bags with minute containers of toiletries. No having to take off our boots and remove our belts then put it all back on just to repeat the process a few minutes later. We simply present our passport and ticket at the first booth, we are issued with boarding cards and an identification tag, which we have to affix to the rear view mirror of the car and we are through. Follow the various marshalls’ gesticulations and we are on board, parked and then told where the door to the passenger deck is.


Spinnaker Tower

Because we were early in the queue we are about the fifth car on board. Consequently we have our pick of seats when we get to the lounge. We choose the front row. We have a perfect view of the direction of travel and a few minutes later a splendid breakfast of croissants and freshly brewed coffee. It feels as if we are in France already. There’s a fair bit of excitement as we head out with lots of people milling about taking photographs and chattering about the various attractions. If you have time to spend before your ferry trip you can visit Nelson’s Flagship, Victory, The Mary Rose and HMS Warrior, the first iron called warship built in 1860. This is right next to Spinnaker Tower, which you pass on the way out of harbour.

HMS Warrier


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With a little bit more time Portsmouth is a wonderful town to explore and worthwhile places to see include Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, the D Day Museum which was opened to commemorate the Normandy Landings of June 1944. If you are planning to visit the D Day sites and beaches of Normandy it makes sense to come here first. Also worth a visit is Portsmouth Museum which has, amongst other things, the Study in Sherlock exhibition which contains over 40,000 Sherlock Holmes items which were left to Portsmouth in 2004 by Richard Lancelyn Green the foremost authority on Sherlock Holmes. The museum also has recreation of a 17th century bedroom, a kitchen from the 1930’s and a 1950’s living room in the Living in Portsmouth Gallery.

Britanny Ferries

The crossing is uneventful, the channel like a mill pond and the seats very comfortable. We went for a wander about the ferry, to the shop, had another coffee. It’s a short crossing and disembarking is as simple and straightforward as getting on. The ring road around Cherbourg is easy and quick and in no time we are out of the town and on our way. The trip took three hours but with France being one hour ahead it’s actually 1pm. Just in nice time to find a small restaurant and have a splendid lunch before driving on.

We have had a relaxed and enjoyable journey; we are not feeling grumpy, tired and dishevelled; this is just so much better than airtravel.


If you have time or on your return journey, spend some time in Cherbourg, it is a pleasure just to wander around the delightful harbour or visit the fish markets or fresh produce markets. It is indeed La cité de la mer, and its magnificent museum of that name is well worth a visit. There is a permanent exhibition dedicated to the Titanic, which called here and took on 281 passengers in April 2012; a simulated dive in Le Redoubtable submarine and the deepest aquarium in the world give glimpses into the wonders of undersea life. Cherbourg was the first port liberated in 1945, and Le Musée de la Libération, housed in an old fort on the Roule mountain, tells the story. If you haven't had that French specialty, moules frites, this is the place to try them, we stopped in a little restaurant on the harbour and tucked into an enormous mound of mussels as we watched the bustle of the boats. If you want to stock up with wine before you go home, the easiest way is a hypermarket stop at Auchan on the outskirts of Cherbourg, at the Centre Commerciale de Contentin. Find it on Google maps. And of course that is another great advantage of ferry travel.

Britanny Ferries








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