Three ways to reach Spain by ferry from the United Kingdom.

Option 1. Portsmouth to Bilbao

Brittany Ferries

Brittany Ferries

This service was previously operated by P&O Ferries but was discontinued because they decided it was uneconomical to renew their then outdated ship the Spirit of Bilbao. The service was subsequently taken over by Brittany Ferries using a newer and substantially faster ship the Cap Finistère which has taken the travel time down to 24 hours from 36 hours previously.

The Cap Finistère sails to Bilbao twice a week (on Sundays and Fridays at 10pm) but the Sunday departure makes a service stop as Roscoff for 1.5 hours on the way making it a two-night sailing, getting you into Bilbao on Tuesday morning. Passengers cannot get off at Roscoff. In the low season departure can be on Tuesdays.

Portsmouth is very easy to reach from London either by rail or by car taking roughly 1.5 hours by either method. The rail station (Portsmouth Harbour) is adjacent to the harbour where you can board the ship. Passengers travelling without a car should book their train well in advance to get the lowest fares. Bear in mind the latest checking-in time is 45 minutes before departure so allow plenty of time to arrive and transfer to the ferry terminal. Allow also for delays, particularly on Sundays when National Rail do engineering works on the lines.

Bilbao is an industrial town in the Basque Region of Spain. Its main draw for tourists is the World-famous Guggenheim Art Gallery which is very much worth visiting, particularly if you decide on this route for a mini-cruise. From Bilbao you have easy access to San Sebastian, Biarritz, and the Pyrenees. A drive to Madrid would take about 4.5 hours and to Barcelona about 5.5 hours.

Fares: If you are taking a car prices start at £235 return based on a car and four-berth cabin. If you are travelling peak season expect to pay a lot more.

Book these ferry tickets online at Brittany Ferries website or by telephone on 0871 244 0744. The call centre is open Monday – Friday: 0830 – 1930, Saturday: 0900 – 1700, and Sunday: 0900 – 1630.

Option 2: Portsmouth or Plymouth to Santander

The alternative route into Spain is to Santander, a worthy holiday destination in its own right with three large sandy beaches and a very pretty old town. Brittany Ferries operate two ships to Santander, the Pont Aven and the Cap Finistère with two return departures from Portsmouth each week departing late afternoon on Tuesdays and at around midday on Wednesdays.

Plymouth is much more convenient for passengers from Wales and the South-west of England, while Portsmouth is quick and easy from London and the South East of England.

Santander is further west than Bilbao offering a more convenient way to reach Portugal and North-West Spain. Madrid is 5 hours away and La Coruna 5.5 hours. Porto in Portugal would take about 6.5 hours driving.

Book these ferry tickets online at Brittany Ferries website or by telephone on 0871 244 0744. The call centre is open Monday – Friday: 0830 – 1930, Saturday: 0900 – 1700, and Sunday: 0900 – 1630.

Option 3: St. Nazaire to Gijón

In summer 2011 LD Lines opened a new route from St. Nazaire on the Atlantic coast of France to Gijón in Northen Spain aboard their GLD Atlantique ferry. Travellers from the UK then benefit from a “land bridge” deal combining a Portsmouth to Le Havre crossing with the St. Nazaire to Gijon in one price. The drive from Le Havre to St. Nazaire takes roughly 4.5 hours on a very good stretch of Autoroute with very few Peage, and very little traffic.

The first crossing from Portsmouth leaves at 23:00 arriving in Le Havre at 08:00. You then have all day to drive across France towards St Nazaire where you can enjoy the Loire Estuary for some hours until you board the ferry for Gijón for a departure at 21:00. This gets in to Gijón at midday. On the way back the ferry leaves Gijón

It is more or less a 36 hour journey to get right across to Gijón which is much closer to the North-West of Spain and to Portugal. A drive to Porto would take about 1.5 hours less than it would from Santander and 3 hours less than from Bilbao.

The price with a car for this method can range from about £350 upwards depending on the time of year, whether you opt for seats or a cabin, and many people you have, but it can all be booked online at the LD Lines Website or by calling them direct on 0844 576 8836. It is in most cases the cheapest way of reaching Portugal by land.


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