A British Isles cruise for the whole family

A British Isles cruise is a holiday experience like no other. The spectacular coastline around the United Kingdom promises vast 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 its best – cruising on a luxury liner, on an adventure through the English Channel, the Irish Sea, onto the Scottish Highlands, and beyond.

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

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

Which cruise lines offer British Isles Cruises?

Book your British Isles Cruise with one of the following cruise lines! Remember to look at the length of the cruise, and the itinerary to ensure 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 is more than just a cruise port

Located in the center of the south coast of England, Southampton is surrounded by the fantastic English countryside and spectacular coastal paths. Before hopping on your cruise ship, we strongly recommend spending 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

Dublin has beautiful beaches and green landscapes located on the east coast of Ireland. 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 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. I strongly recommend the hop on/hop off Dublin bus that takes you to all the major sights, including Guinness 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, opt for a cruise shore excursion to the Wicklow Mountains for its spectacular landscape. Alternatively, meet the locals at a sheep-dog trial event, or travel to the west coast’s Wild Atlantic Way. There are tours for Game of Thrones fans. Visit the film locations and meet some of the cast. These full-day excursions can be booked yourself via, for example, Viator. Or, for those 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 beautiful 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, the castles, and the proud Scottish traditions. It’s a busy city. Watch out for cyclists, trams, and cars, and head to the Princess Street Gardens in the city center to start your day with a tour of Edinburgh Castle.  

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Edinburgh is 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 held in August. Art, music, nightlife, and entertainment run through the city from dawn until dusk. And just outside Edinburgh are a multiple of day excursions to choose between. If you are an adventurous traveler, then Scotland is for you.

Inverness – the capital of the Scottish Highlands

Inverness is your gateway to the Scottish highlands and a great stop on your cruise around the British Isles. I strongly recommend you take your hiking shoes and head out of Inverness and into nature. Visit Cairngorms National Park or if you are a fan of the series Outlander, visit the prehistoric Clava Cairna that inspired the books and sequels 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 experience while their cruise ship is in port.

And then there is one of the most popular trips – the Scottish Highlands and an excursion to Glencoe. Stunningly beautiful, the scenery and fresh highland air will take your breath away. The valley is known 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 undoubtedly 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 to explore the Jurassic Coastline, England’s spectacular south coast. Portland lies in the county of Dorset, in the southwest of England and the surrounding countryside is an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The English seaside

Free shuttle buses take you from the cruise ship quayside to the port’s main entrance, 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 visiting 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 in the southeast corner of England. It serves cruise itineraries for ships cruising the British Isles, Scandinavia, The Baltics, Iceland, the Mediterranean, and the Canary Islands. These two enormous cruise terminals are in Dover. If it’s one of your ports of call on your itinerary, you have the chance for some fantastic shore excursions.

View of cliffs of Dover on a British Isles cruise
Majestic view of the Cliffs of Dover

Our favorite excursions from the Port of Dover are:

  • Leeds Castle is one of England’s oldest and most famous castles. Used by Henry VIII and set in spectacular gardens. This is a great day out for the whole family, with loads of activities and festivals held throughout the year.
  • Windsor Castle, the iconic British Castle and a favorite residence of the King, is located in the pretty town of Windsor, just outside of London. Explore the 900-year-old castle and the town where there is excellent shopping and historic English pubs!

Fowey – celebrating Cornwall, England’s west country

Pronounced “Foy” and not “Fow-ey,” this beautiful Cornish town is a seafarer’s dream. The beautiful deep-water port is ideal for cruise passengers to explore the traditional Cornish fishing village.

A little further afield, we recommend the shore excursion to The Eden Project. Visit the massive biomes, one of which contains the largest rainforest in captivity.

Holyhead, Wales

The Port of Holyhead lies in Anglesey on the North Sea, in 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 peaks, 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 took place in 1969 of the former Prince Charles, now King Charles III.

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 take the time to explore beyond the town 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 Cruise’s newest ship Iona is named after this beautiful island.

Transfer to London to celebrate the end of a great cruise vacation

If your cruise ship arrives back in the port of Southampton, then why not take the opportunity to stay in London after your cruise before heading home? The transfer time from Southampton is just over an hour, and we have detailed London itineraries to inspire your stay in this great capital.

Meet the author: Sarah has created and booked hundreds of travel itineraries for thousands of customers during a career in the travel industry that spans 20 years. Having worked hand in hand with cruise lines, hotels, airlines and tour operators worldwide, she offers inspiring & detailed insights in the world of travel and tourism.

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