NSCR Ferries

Catching a ferry is one of the pleasures of cycling the North Sea Cycle Route.  I counted 26 in total but I probably missed a few.  Some services run for just 6 weeks in summer, so careful planning is needed to avoid long detours.

This is a rough guide to the main ferry services, but it is not exhaustive and some of the ferries mentioned are not strictly on the NSCR.

Starting from London and working clockwise:

LONDON to SHETLAND

  • Brightlingsea Ferry from Mersea Island to Brightlingsea – brightlingseaharbour.org you cycle across Mersea island down a rough lane and then have to push your bike to the end of a shingle spit. There are no signs or indication that a ferry even runs, but phone the number and they come and pick you up

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  • Harwich to Felixstowe Ferry – the Harwich Harbour Ferry harwichharbourferry.com takes you across the River Orwell and past the huge container port of Felixstowe, landing you on the beach near Languard Fort, very friendly, with a café at the Harwich embarkation point
  • The Harwich Ferry is the first of the Four Foot Ferries, see pdf http://www.suffolkcoastandheaths.org/assets/Publications/Other-Publications/2016-Four-Ferries.pdf you can then take the Bawdsey, Butley and Walberswick ferries to Southwold. This route is not strictly on the NSCR but worth a detour if the ferry times work and the weather is good.  Some run to a schedule, others you have to call.
  • The next ferry is much further north at South Sheilds (excellent fish and chips at Colman’s), a regular commuter ferry which takes you into Tynemouth

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  • Now we are in Scotland and the Cromarty ferry which runs from June to September and only recently re-established. Google Cromarty Ferry for the latest.  This saves you a longer route via Dingwall
  • There is a ‘SeaFari’ ferry from North Berwick that can take you across the Firth of Forth to Antsruther. Go to seabird.org to see if this fits your itinerary. Ideal for a bit of bird watching. This route will bypass Edinburgh if you want to avoid this busy city
  • When you reach John o’Groats, you can then take a very pleasant ferry to Orkney after perhaps spending the night at the campsite. See jogferry.co.uk
  • The overnight NorthLink ferry will take you to Shetland from Kirkwall, overnight departures 3 times a week northlinkferries.co.uk which arrive early morning
  • To reach Norwick, the most northerly point in Britain to which you can cycle, and the end of National Cycle Route 1, you have to take 2 further ferries to Yell and Unst. Wonderful crossings with a chance of seeing Orcas

NORWAY to DOVER

  • Now to Norway, the land of the ferry journey, although they have a habit of replacing ferries with tunnels nowadays, working south we start with Halhjem to Sandvikvåg ferry, which you can reach in half a day from Bergen. See fjord1.no for timetables

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  • A short trip from Langevåg to Buavåg see norled.no gets you on the road to Haugesund which has a lovely campsite
  • A pleasant ride brings you to Nedstrand and the ferry to Stavanger. The southbound ferries run at odd times, but it is also possible to catch the northbound ferry, which takes you on a very enjoyable cruise through the fjords, hopping from village to village until returning to Stavanger.  The local shop can give advice, also see kolumbus.no for hours of fun reading timetables
  • At Risør you can catch a wonderful ‘Agnes’ an old wooden ferry dating from the 1950s that will take you to Øysang. Don’t scratch the beautifully varnished woodwork

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  • At Stabbestad you catch another short ferry to Kragerø, a popular retreat for busy Olso commuters. This service runs every 2 hours or so. See fjordbat.no
  • After Sandefjord you cycle to Engø, a small marina, to decipher a timetable ferry. You can optionally stop at Veierland, a car free community island, or continue to Tenvik on the small ferry called Jutøya. visitnorway.com has details
  • GPS data downloaded from northsea-cycle.com indicated a ferry at Husøy, but this has been discontinued for 3+ years. Such a short crossing, that now involves a detour through Tønsberg to pick up the route again
  • Now you reach Horten for a huge roll-on-off car ferry to Moss, free for cyclists and runs every 30 mins. See basto-fosen.no
  • Cycling south the next ferry is a short crossing of the Glomma River at Fredrikstad to the old fortified town, one of the best preserved in Europe and worth camping nearby
  • The first Swedish ferry is at Lysekil which takes you to Fiskebäckskil (line 847) which runs every hour or so, then you reach two cable ferries to take you across Malö, which has a lovely campsite
  • The last ferry in Sweden at Varberg, which runs twice a day, takes you across the Kattegatt to Grenna in Denmark. You can stay in a former prison, now a hostel nearby to wait for the morning sailing at 07:00.  See stenaline.co.uk

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  • The first Danish ferry is at Udbyhøj a cable ferry with a great campsite on the north bank, if you peddle hard you can just reach it after you alight at Greena
  • Next the Hals to Egense ferry, another short trip, which is the last ferry on the east coast
  • The Thyboren ferry is reached on the west coast after a long cycle ride along a ribbon of land from Agger. This runs every hour, that is the last Danish until Germany
  • You can now optionally cross the Elbe at Brünsbuttel, which I did, to avoid the violent clashes at the G20 conference in Hamburg. This ferry takes you to Cuxhaven. See die-elbefaehre.de for timetables for the MV Grete
  • In Bremerhaven, after you have visited ship musuems, you cross the Weser into Lower Saxony and Nordenham (Blexen), this runs frequently and is a popular journey for shoppers
  • At Emden you cross the Emse to Ditzum, a lovely short journey before you reach The Netherlands. See landkreis-leer.de , runs every hour or so

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  • The Dutch like to build polders and huge sea barriers which carry you all the way to Ijmuiden, ferry free until you cross the river on a regular car ferry
  • At the Hook of Holland you catch a regular ferry service to the Rotterdam contaioner port, passing huge vessels being guided into their docks. At this point you could catch a ferry to Harwick in the UK, but then you would miss the Vlissingen ferry which takes you to Breskens and into Belgium
  • The last ferry is at Dunkirk, or Calais, if you choose to cycle further, but take care as the Dunkirk ferry is some 10km from the city centre to the west. Now you can cross the channel to Dover and home again

Almost all of the ferries do not charge for bicycles, or if they do, it is usually a modest fee.  The ferry terminals also bring together fellow cyclists and a chance to exchange experiences.  I plan to cycle from Plymouth to Cape Wrath soon, and will see if I can break my most ferries in a journey record.