Escape to Europe by ferry
We’re often so desperate to get away that we tear down to our destination as fast as we can. It’s hardly a relaxing way to start a holiday. Embrace slow travel and make the journey part of the trip. You get to step out of the car for a few hours, take in the scenery and fresh sea air, all while keeping your contact with others and your impact on the environment to a minimum. You arrive a little later, but what’s the rush? You’re on holiday, after all.
A history-lovers trip to Pas-de-Calais
Journey time – under three hours. This unexplored area in the north of France, dotted with farmhouses and belfries, is the perfect break for history buffs. See ancient Châteaux and 18th Century mansions with a walk or bike ride through the Vallée du Denacre, or head to the historic city of Boulogne to see “Colonne de la Grande Armée”, Napoleon’s statue, turning his back to England.
Stay at: La Fermette at Numero Vingt, a comfy 19th century bolthole for two in the centre of a quiet village. The Seven Valleys, historic towns and sandy beaches within easy reach.
Getting there: Dover to Calais journey time 1.5 hours with P&O Ferries, onward drive to Boulogne is 30 mins
A long weekend in Quimper
Journey time – under eight hours. Known as the cultural heart of Brittany, Quimper’s bustling old town is one of the prettiest areas in the region. Explore the 12th Century Cathedral or the Musée Départmental Breton and stop off for a crêpe on Place au Beurre; a picturesque street of half-timbered houses.
Getting there: Plymouth to Roscoff journey time 6 hours with Brittany Ferries, onward drive to Quimper is 1.5 hours
Road trip to the South of France
Journey time – under 12 hours. Take the ferry to Calais and start the journey south; stopping off at Lille, Reims, Champagne, and Marseilles along the way. From here you can go on to explore the hilltop villages and secret beaches of Provence.
Stay at: One of the three self-catering spaces in Le Vieil Aiglun, houses of comfort, charm and stupendous views.
Getting there: Dover to Calais journey time 1.5 hours with P&O Ferries, onward drive to Provence 10 hours
A brilliant base to explore Brittany
Journey time – under 12 hours. Bike riding through sunflower fields, exploring unspoilt châteaux or taking a boat trip for the day; there is so much adventure to be found in Brittany and St Malo makes a perfect base for exploring the region. Thrill seekers will never be short of options on this wild coastline; try kayaking along the pink granite coast or hiking the famed clifftop routes of the Crozon Peninsula.
Stay at: La Binellerie Gites in a small hamlet on a working farm just outside St Malo, or Manoir de l’Ormelais for well-kept, comfortable family places for up to 12 with stacks of character and space.
Getting there: Brittany Ferries run an overnight route from Portsmouth to St Malo
A Spanish feast in the Basque Country
Journey time – 24 hours+. Brittany Ferries routes to Bilbao and Santander open up Spain’s Basque region without the need for flying. On our 2019 visit we were charmed by the arty cities stunning coastal landscapes and the unique gastronomy – from Michelin-starred restaurants in San Sebastian to tiny fishing villages where fresh seafood is cooked on parrillas, afternoons drinking txakoli wine and evenings bar hopping with delicious pintxos.
Stay at: The luxurious Hotel Iturregi in vineyard country.
Getting there: Brittany Ferries run routes from Portsmouth and Plymouth to Santander taking 24 hours, onward drive to San Sebastian is 2.5 hours
Find National Parks and sweeping beaches in Cantabria
Journey time – 24 hours+. Cantabria is known for its picturesque beaches, dramatic mountain scenery and natural caves. The Picos de Europa, one of the first National Parks in Europe, makes for a brilliant day trip. This rugged mountain range offers some of Spain’s most spectacular walks, and you might want to maintain a leisurely pace so you can make frequent stops to drink up the breathtaking scenery.
Stay at: Casa del Liz, where you can take the whole space for 4 in a thriving village, near fine beaches and Cantabrian hill walking.
Getting there: Brittany Ferries run routes from Portsmouth and Plymouth to Santander taking 24 hours, with an onward 45 minute drive to Casa del Liz
Europe's best secret beaches
In search of places to swap swimming pool cacophony for whispering surf, we asked our owners and the team here at Sawday’s for their secret beach recommendations
A road trip through Provence
We follow France expert Carolyn Boyd to undiscovered hilltop villages, historic wineries, lively flea markets and more.
Things we love about Europe
We’ve been in love with Europe ever since our founder Alastair turned the battered notes from his French walking tours into our first book.