For a low-cost getaway, climb aboard a ferry and cruise gently to the British Isles and mainland Europe.
Voyage Portsmouth-Bilbao (35hrs)
Although it’s not the most scenic of cities, Bilbao is the gateway to Northern Spain. Check out the Guggenheim art gallery – inside is less impressive than outside – before continuing on to foodie capital San Sebastián and the cradle of Basque culture, the village of Guernica.
Head to Britain’s nicest island and buy a locally brewed ale with Guernsey pounds in one of St Peter Port’s lively pubs. The capital is still a busy little hub, framed by tiered gardens and criss-crossed by worn steps and hidden alleys. Don’t miss the fresh Guernsey ice-cream.
Get a Stenaline ferry to the Hook of Holland, for quick and easy access to the country’s main cities. Catch the train to the Hague, the Dutch seat of government; take in the historic houses of parliament and the Peace Palace, and do a tram ride before heading to the North Sea resort of Scheveningen for some kitesurfing and sunworshipping (and, if you want it, naturism). Rotterdam, Haarlem and Amsterdam are also all within easy reach of the Hook and the Hague.
Zeebrugge looks on to the beaches of the Belgian coast, and is only a drive away from Bruges, Oostkamp and Northern France. It’s an interesting town in itself and the huge wholesale fish market means the local restaurants serve up fresh catches every lunchtime. The Seafront Zeebrugge maritime theme park is full of piratethemed exhibitions and interactive gizmos for the kids, as well as historical displays for adults.
Read more about Dublin's best restaurants, attractions, museums and more on Time Out Amsterdam.
Voyage Holyhead-Dublin Ferryport (1hr 49mins)
It’s hard to avoid the clichés of Guinness and folk bands in Dublin, so why not embrace them and head to the Guinness Storehouse museum – pull a pint and then sip another one while enjoying views of the city from the Gravity Bar. After dark, head to Temple Bar for a knees-up.
Read more about Dublin's best restaurants, attractions, museums and more on Time Out Dublin.
Isle of Wight
Voyage Portsmouth-Fishbourne (40mins)
The tiny village of Fishbourne is the arrival point, and lies between the yachting hub of Cowes and Victorian Ryde. The Isle of Wight is the best ferry option for those seeking a peaceful break – breathe in fresh air while gazing at the Needles and the colourful sands of Alum Bay.
If you fancy searching in rock pools for sea creatures and collecting fresh mussels for dinner, then St Malo is for you. A town by the sea, it’s a handsome, stone-walled place filled with restaurants, bars and shops.
Shetland isn’t just full of small ponies, it has lots of trout too. In fact, the island has an array of watery activities from fishing to scuba diving to surfing, as well as plenty of wildlife and dramatic landscapes. Although it’s a long slog to get there – an overnight ferry from Aberdeen to Lerwick– the change of pace from bustling city life to idling island life makes it well worth it.
Denmark’s fifth largest city is built around one of the country’s most important North Sea harbours. Take a trip to the Fisheries & Maritime Museum to learn about its history before taking a look at the city’s newest landmark – four chalky white giants, by Svend Wiig Hansen entitled Man Meets the Sea. Stroll around one of Esbjerg’s parks to see wild deer and roe.
Plan your perfect trip with this inspirational compendium of failsafe holiday suggestions. It's packed with fresh ideas for traditional breaks, from beach idylls to winter sun and family camping, along with great suggestions for trying something different – all around the world. Whether you're looking for a weekend break or the trip of a lifetime, Time Out's worldwide team of travel specialists can take you there.