British Isles Cruises for the whole family - Cruise Trail

British Isles Cruises for the whole family

A British Isles cruise is a holiday experience like no other. The spectacular coastline around the United Kingdom promises a huge diversity of stops at fantastic locations. It’s where culture, nature, history and tradition converge into an utterly unique experience. And what a way to see Britain at it’s best – cruising on a luxury liner, on an adventure through the English Channel, the Irish Sea, onto the Scottish Highlands and beyond.

Welcome onboard a British Isles cruise – we are so happy this destination made it onto your bucket list!

Many British Isles cruises lines start out from the port of Southampton or from Greenwich, London. Below we have highlighted the most popular stops on your itinerary, and the reason we think they are great.

Which cruise lines offer British Isles Cruises in 2022/23?

Book your British Isles Cruise with one of the following cruise lines! Remember to look at the length of cruise and the itinerary to make sure you find the perfect British Isles Cruise to suit you and your family.

  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Princess Cruises
  • P&O Cruise Line
  • Cunard

Popular stops on British Isles cruises

Southampton – so much more than just a cruise port

Located in the centre of the south coast of England, Southampton is surrounded by fantastic English countryside and spectacular coastal paths. Before hopping on your cruise ship we strongly recommend that you spend several days in this fabulous place. Use it as a base to explore the beaches, villages and countryside all within easy reach of Southampton. See our detailed daily itineraries and tips on how to get to Southampton and the cruise port on our “Cruise from Southampton” page.

Dublin – a warm Irish welcome for cruise passengers

Located on the east coast of Ireland, Dublin is surrounded by fantastic beaches and green landscapes. The city is small. Which makes navigating it easy on foot and makes it possible to see a lot in a short space of time. 

Pick up a tour book before you get there to be sure you do not miss anything and stick to the main tourist areas. It’s easy to plan your own excursions without paying the expense of cruise line excursions. Having been to Dublin many times, I can assure you that the city is very walkable and easy to navigate yourself. I strongly recommend the hop on/hop off Dublin bus which takes you to all the major sights including Guiness Storehouse, Dublin Castle and The Book of Kells at Trinity College. There is a great little lunch place on Nassau Street – Kilkenny Cafe and Restaurant – just a short walk from Trinity College. Or if you want lunch in Ireland’s oldest pub head to The Brazen Head but you will have to hop on a bus to get there.

Days trips from Dublin Port

If you are returning to the city and have already explored Dublin, then opt for a cruise shore excursion to Wickow Mountains for spectacular landscape. Alternatively meet the locals at a sheep-dog trial event, or travel over to the west coast’s Wild Atlantic Way. For Game of Thrones fans there are tours for you too – visit the film locations and even meet some the cast. These full-day excursions can be booked yourself via, for example, Viator. Or for those of you who like the added assurance of being back at the Dublin cruise port in good time, book a shore excursion through your cruise line.

Edinburgh – Scotland’s beautfiul capital city

Located between green hills and the blue sea, Edinburgh in Scotland is a world class destination like no other. You will fall in love with the people, their accent, the whisky, the pipes and bands, castles and tradition. It’s a busy city. Watch out for cyclists, trams and cars, and head to the Princess Street Gardens in the city centre to start your day with a tour of Edinburgh Castle.  

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Edinburgh is also a UNESCO Heritage Site. Hopefully you’ll be there during one of the many annual festivals such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival or the legendary Edinburgh Military Tattoo which is held in August. Art, music, nightlife and entertainment runs through the city from dawn until dusk. And just outside Edinburgh are a multiple of day excursions to choose from. If you are an adventurous traveler then Scotland is for you.

Inverness – capital of the Scottish Highlands

Inverness is your gateway to the Scottish highlands and a fantastic stop on your cruise around the British Isles. I strongly recommend you take your hiking shoes and head out of Inverness and into the nature. Visit Cairngorms Nationnal Park or if you are a fan of the series Outlander, visit the prehistoric Clava Cairna that inspired the books and series on TV. For history lovers, experience the historic site of Culloden Battlefield and see the story of the downfall of the Jacobites and the end of Highland life.

Shore excursions in the Highlands

We have two firm favorites when arriving at Inverness. First there is a journey along the beautiful Caledonian Canal, which lies along the geographical fault line Great Glen. It’s a peaceful way to spend the afternoon, mingle with the locals and do some shopping. This shore excursion suits cruisers who perhaps are not so active and want a quieter way to enjoy a Scottish expereince while their cruise ship is in port.

And then there is one the most popular trips – the Scottish Highlands and an excursion to Glencoe. Stunningly beautiful, the scenery and fresh highland air will literally take your breath away. The valley is know for its waterfalls and climbing trails. It was also home to many scenes in the Harry Potter series of movies. If you are looking for that piece of paradise, you will certainly find it here. The village of Glencoe is about a 2-hour drive from the Port of Inverness.

Portland – on England’s Jurassic Coastline

If you are lucky enough to have Portland as a port of call in your cruise itinerary, don’t miss the tours on offer to explore the Jurassic Coastline, England’s spectacular south coast. Portland lies in the county of Dorset, in the south-west of England and the surrounding countryside is an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The English seaside

There are free shuttle buses that take you from the cruise ship quayside to the main entrance of the Port where you can meet your pre-booked tour guide. Alternatively there are free buses into the center of the seaside town of Weymouth. Enjoy the wide sandy beaches and the festivities of a traditional British seaside town.

If you choose to explore further afield we recommend a visit to Stonehenge or Corfe Castle. There are also fabulous walking tours of Lulworth Cove on the Jurassic Coastline to search for fossils in the cliffs which are thousands of years old.

Dover – known as England’s Lock & Key

Dover is a fantastic port located on the south-east corner of England. It serves cruise itineraries for ships cruising the British Isles, Scandinavia, The Baltics, Iceland, the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands. There two enormous cruise terminals in Dover. If it’s one of your ports of call on your itinerary then you have the chance for some fantastic shore excursions.

Our favorite excursions from the Port of Dover are:

  • Leeds Castle – one of England’s oldest and most famous castles. Used by Henry VIII and set in fantastic grounds and garden. This is a great day out for the whole family with loads of activities and festivals held throughout the year.
  • Windsor Castle – This iconic British Castle and residence of the Queen is located in the pretty town of Windsor, just outside of London. Explore both the 900 year old castle and the town itself where there is great shopping and hiostoric English pubs!

Fowey – celebrating Cornwall, England’s west country

Pronounced “Foy” and not “Fow-ey” this incredibly pretty Cornish town is a sea-farer’s dream. The beautiful deep-water port is perfectly located for cruise passengers to explore the traditional Cornish fishing village.

A little further afield we recommend the shore excursion to The Eden Project. Our children loved this place. It’s a memorable day visiting massive biomes, one of which contains the largest rainforest in captivity.

Holyhead, Wales

The Port of Holyhead lies in Anglesey on the North Sea, on the northeast corner of Wales. From here you are lucky enough to be within a short drive of Snowdonia National Park. Bring your hiking shoes if you love the great outdoors. Explore, mountains, rugged peak, gleaming lakes and sandy beaches.

There is also a fabulous coastal walk to the Southstack Lighthouse, or a visit to Caernarfon Castle, where the Prince of Wales investiture takes place, the last one being in 1969 of HRH Prince Charles, heir to the British thone.

Isle of Iona, the magic of Scotland

The tiny magical island of Iona in Scotland, is walkable in about 3 hours The village gets very busy in the summer, but try and allow time for exploring beyong the village out towards the west of the island. The views surrounding you are breathtaking, so take your time and enjoy the warm Scottish sun and the fresh, fresh air. P&O Cruises newest ship Iona, is named after this beautiful Island.

Meet the Author

Mattias has nearly 2 decades of travel industry expertise, working with cruise lines, tour operators, airlines, IT providers, hospitality suppliers and everything else in between that makes the travel industry tick. more..