Your first ports of call on a British Isles cruise may be to some of our neighbouring countries, providing a wonderful opportunity to sample the diversity and contrasts that surround it. Head south and east to explore The Channel Islands, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Denmark, or venture to the north and west to visit the wilds of Ireland, Scotland and the Scottish Isles.
As you sail, note the circumstances that have shaped each country’s culture. The Anglo-French aura of the Channel Islands gives way to the Scandinavian and Viking influences of Orkney and the Celtic heritage of the Scottish Isles and Ireland. The Outer Hebrides offer up Stornoway; Lewis was ever a landing point for seafarers through the ages. Kirkwall, the largest town in the Orkneys, has an imposing cathedral, many museums and a world-renowned whisky distillery. Belfast, Cork and Dublin present more familiar cityscapes with urban bustle, a vibrant feel and plenty to see and do during your cruise stopover - as do Scotland’s major cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Just as the towns and harbours offer contrasts so, too, do the dramatic landscapes
Across the English Channel lies the west coast of the European mainland. Le Havre, the second largest port in France, was decimated in the Second World War but has since been rebuilt and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Further north in Belgium, is Antwerp. Dubbed the ‘Diamond Capital of the World’, Antwerp is currently more visited by precious stones than tourists; the town itself is a jewel for the discerning visitor enjoying a British Isles cruise. Museums and galleries feature the work of the city’s most famous ‘son’, Rubens, while the narrow backstreets are buzzing with small bars and bistros. Zeebrugge, a small seaside resort on the Belgian coast, has a pleasant seafront promenade backed by lovely cafes, bars and restaurants.
If your cruise ship visits the Netherlands then your port of call will surely be the vibrant city of Amsterdam, famed for its splendid canals and the tulip fields beyond. Further east lies Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg, known as ‘The Gateway to the World’; its size and affluence a testament to the success of its bustling docks.
So, remember - it is not necessary to cross continents or travel to far-off lands to experience a wealth of fresh experiences; a British Isles cruise will show you that captivating culture is closer than you think.