Ten Places - Sail and Stroll

By Mark Rowe

Why not take to the water as part of a summertime walk? From car ferries to rowing-boat ferries and everything in between, our island nation offers countless vessels which can easily be incorporated into a day's rambling.

 

1. Lake Windermere, Cumbria 

A view across the water at Lake Windermere in the Lake District

The Windermere ferries are a brilliant way to escape the throngs in the eponymous and ever-popular Lake District town. Make the 10-minute journey across the lake from Bowness and get hiking immediately along the quieter west shore's woodlands and hills. 

WALK IT: Ferries sail from Ferry Nab in Bowness to Ferry House at Far Sawrey on the west shore, costing £1 for pedestrians. The Windermere west shore walk passes through deciduous woodland and parkland, with the chance to spot red squirrels. At Claife Viewing Station, coloured-glass panels have been installed to recreate the picturesque view that was enjoyed by early well-to-do tourists in the 19th century. You can walk all the way (12.5km/8 miles) to the Gothic Wray Castle before taking a boat back across the water - join Windermere Lake Cruises' Green Cruise from Wray to Brockhole or Ambleside (from £5.10 for a single ticket). 

FIND OUT MORE: bit.ly/WindermereWestWalk; westmorlandandfurness.gov.uk/parking-streets-and-transport/windermere-ferry; windermere-lakecruises.co.uk 

 

2. Tingwall to Rousay, Orkney  

Coastal view of Tingwall in Orkney

Rousay is separated from Orkney mainland by Eynhallow Sound, a 3km/2-mile-wide corridor of fast-running water, which can make for an exhilarating journey. Rousay is visually striking, with serrated hills, thrilling cliffs, vast bays and high, lonely moorland. 

WALK IT: Rousay's main draw is its Westness Heritage Walk, a fascinating 2km/l ¼-mile route of cairns, brochs and Viking settlements. Highlights include the Iron Age Midhowe Broch (pictured) and the Neolithic burial site of Midhowe Cairn, where the remains of 25 people were found. The Rousay ferry takes about 20 minutes, with an adult single costing under £3. The Westness walk is about 9km/5½ miles from the pier, so you're looking at some 18km/11 miles (4 hours) return on foot. To cut the time to reach the walk, you could hire a bike from 

Rousay's Trumland Farm hostel (trumland@btinternet.com). 

FIND OUT MORE: orkneyferries.co.uk; discoverrousay.co.uk 

 

3. Lymington to Yarmouth, Isle of Wight  

The marina in Lymington with plenty of boats on the water

The most idyllic ferry route to the Isle of Wight runs from Lymington in the New Forest to Yarmouth, a 40-minute crossing that offers views of the island's Needles sea stacks and its backbone of sweeping downland (from £20 for an adult day return). 

WALK IT: Once off the ferry, pick up a picnic from a town-centre cafe and follow the right bank of the Western Yar river upstream. You quickly leave the small town behind and follow the water's edge, where you can spot lapwing (pictured), teal and black-headed gulls. The 

path winds in and out of woodland - look out for red squirrels. A return walk from port to the Yar causeway and reedbeds is about 8km/5 miles, or you can continue to Freshwater Bay and the south of the island - a 16km/10-mile round trip. 

FIND OUT MORE: wightlink.co.uk/explorer/freshwater-way-walking-route 

 

4. Symonds Yat, Herefordshire 

An arial view of Symonds Yat

A hand-pulled ferry plies the River Wye as it threads through the borderlands of Herefordshire and the Forest of Dean. Originally thought to link Roman forts, the ferry later enabled traders to navigate the waters in relative safety. It now offers the same service to walkers. 

WALK IT: The seasonal ferry (adult fare £2) is a good 'there and back again' option to tag onto a walk up to Symonds Yat Rock on the left bank. From the Saracen's Head Inn car park, clear paths wind steeply up to the crag overlooking Symonds Yat, where you're rewarded with views of rolling hills and birds of prey: this is one of the best places in Britain to spot peregrine falcons. The Wye is laid out below. Alternatively, on the right bank of the river you can follow the Highmeadow Trail through wildlife-rich woodlands. 

FIND OUT MORE: forestryengland.uk/symonds-yat-rock 

 

5. Salcombe to East Portlemouth, Devon

A view of Salcombe across the bay.

Salcombe sits at the heart of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), amid sandy shores, rolling countryside and magnificent coastal views. From the bottom of steep steps in this South Hams seaside town, a passenger ferry runs across the estuary to East Portlemouth's jetty and glorious beaches. 

WALK IT: The ferry (adult fare £2.30) takes just five minutes, but gets very busy during school holidays. Make landfall then strike uphill through woodland and across Portlemouth Down to take in the rugged coast around Gara Rock. Head clockwise to return to East Portlemouth along the coast path, with thrilling views of formidable Bolt Head and the jaws of the estuary. 

FIND OUT MORE: salcombeinformation.co.uk/advertiser/salcombe-ferry-3 

 

6. North Woolwich to Woolwich, London

View of tide control at north Woolwich

The end of the long-distance Thames Path is elegiac, but also testament to the power of walking access to open up overlooked areas. Using the free Woolwich Ferry allows you to see the remnants of a river steeped in history. 

WALK IT: Once off the ferry, turn right (west) and follow the river's south bank upstream along cobbled walkways and past working wharves and converted warehouses. You can't miss the Thames Barrier (pictured) or the sweeping dockland views that give way to the Canary Wharf skyscape. Call it a day in Greenwich (7km/4½ miles) or continue along the Thames Path all the way to Tower Bridge (11km/7 miles). 

FIND OUT MORE: tfl.gov.uk/modes/river/woolwich-ferry; nationaltrail.co.uk/en_GB/trails/thames-path/trail-information/ 

 

7. Harris to Berneray, Outer Hebrides  

A sea view at Harris in the Outer Hebrides

You reach Berneray from Leverburgh via a dreamy ferry journey across the Sound of Harris (adult fare £4.25). The Loch Partain navigates 24 switchbacks as it slaloms between skerries and shallow water; one moment you're looking at Harris's hills, the next Skye's mountaintops. You're guaranteed to see gannets and seals, and perhaps even golden and white-tailed eagles and basking sharks. 

WALK IT: The ferry journey takes an hour, with multiple crossings daily. The return walk from the port to West Beach (pictured) is about 4km/2½ miles. From the tiny port by the causeway, take the road uphill, signposted Brusda. Berneray's western flanks are dominated by sea meadows known as 'machair': billiard-table-smooth grassland that's transformed during the summer into a rainbow of wildflowers, including orchids and corn marigolds. Beyond lies West Beach, an unbroken strip of glistening shell-sand running the whole of the west coast. 

FIND OUT MORE: calmac.co.uk; visitouterhebrides.co.uk 

 

8. Warkworth, Northumberland

A view across the lake at Warkworth castle in Northumberland  

Few places in Britain are more elemental than the Northumberland coast. One of the few - and also one of the more unusual ferry crossings in the county - is hidden inland, at the end of a walk from Alnmouth to Warkworth. Here, in a county renowned for its religious importance and pioneering monks, you'll find Warkworth Hermitage, an exquisite chapel carved out of sandstone, reached by passenger ferry. 

WALK IT: After following the coast path from Alnmouth to Warkworth (11km/7 miles), pick up the River Coquet south of Warkworth Castle. Walk for about 1km/½ mile upstream alongside the river and take the tiny hand-rowed ferry across to Warkworth Hermitage on the left bank. Hermits have long vacated this substantial site, but an altar, effigy and sleeping quarters remain. The hermitage and ferry are seasonal and managed by English Heritage - buy tickets at Warkworth Castle (free for members; from £5 per adult otherwise). 

FIND OUT MORE: english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/warkworth-castle-and-hermitage 

 

9. Walberswick to Southwold, Suffolk 

A sunrise shot of Walberswick in Suffolk

The characterful Walberswick Ferry allows walkers to briefly rest their feet while being rowed across the River Blyth. You're following in ancient ebbs and flows: a ferry has operated here since 1236, saving journey times and providing safe passage across this natural but marshy haven for those heading up and down the coast. 

WALK IT: The walk from Walberswick to Southwold is about 3km/2 miles. You can take the rowing-boat ferry one way (£2 per adult) and return via the Bailey footbridge. If you'd like to extend the walk, go north following the Suffolk Coast Path to Southwold Lighthouse, or head further south to explore Walberswick's adjacent marshes. 

FIND OUT MORE: walberswickferry.com/info.html 
 

10. Barmouth Foot Ferry, Gwynedd

A small fish boot on the water at Barmouth Foot in Gwynedd  

William Wordsworth described Barmouth as having 'a fine sea view in front, the mountains behind [and a] glorious estuary'. Two tiny passenger boats, Seren Wen and Emily, make the short trip across the mighty River Mawddach, in one of Wales's most impossibly scenic locations. 

WALK IT: Enjoy a gorgeous walk south from Barmouth towards Fairbourne by crossing Barmouth Bridge (honesty toll: £1) over the Mawddach estuary one way and returning by the ferry. The route follows the Wales Coast Path along the Fairbourne sea defence, with breathtaking views of Cardigan Bay and, inland, Cadair Idris. The ferry crosses back to Barmouth from Penrhyn Point. Operating from Easter to October, crossings cost £2.50. 

FIND OUT MORE: barmouth.org.uk; facebook.com/barmouthferry. Last year, Ramblers Cymru worked with Transport for Wales to create a guide to a 7km/4¼-mile walk along this route - see bit.ly/TFW_BarmouthWalk 

 

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