Guide to taking a bike on a ferry

Caledonian MacBrayne ferry with Isle of Mull
Combining your bike trip with a ferry journey is a great way to travel. Photo: Isle of Mull, Caledonian MacBrayne
As a seafaring nation, it only makes sense for the UK’s cyclists to combine cycling with a ferry trip. With this simple guide Cycling UK’s Sam Jones provides some tips on what to expect and where you can travel with your bike

When it comes to travelling with your bike, there are few methods more convenient than going by ferry. In most cases, it’s simply a case of rolling into the port, walking on board pushing your wheels and then heading to the passenger deck. It’s that simple.

Unlike arriving by plane, your cycling tour begins as soon as you disembark at your destination. You’re immersed right into your destination from the start – surely a major reason for anyone’s decision to travel. Many of my most memorable cycling adventures have begun and ended with a ferry, and the only thing I’ve ever needed to worry about is making sure I’m riding on the correct side of the road when I ride off.

Living on an island, the ability to take the sea lanes is a blessing as it really does open up our horizons for cycle travel without the hassle of boxing up a bike for flying or worrying whether there is sufficient space on the train.

Whether you’re planning a trip to the Western Isles or the Isle of Wight, or to our European maritime neighbours in Ireland, France, Spain and the Netherlands, all of these destinations are easily accessible with a bike and often affordably so too (fares start from £5).

Map of ferry routes from the UK. Credit Discover Ferries

With more than 80 routes from the UK and with multiple operators working the lines, Cycling UK has been working with Discover Ferries (the industry body that represents 13 ferry operators in the UK and British Isles) to produce a guide for the cycle-ferry traveller.

Together, we’ve come up with a handy breakdown of some of the operators and their destinations which you can download (accurate as of April 2022), as well as practical advice for travelling by ferry whether you’re just going with your cycle or are planning on attaching it to your vehicle.

There are numerous private operators, too, within the UK that provide crossings for rivers, lakes and lochs. These have not been included in this guide.

If on your travels you do have any thoughts (positive or negative) relating to the information we have provided, Cycling UK wants to hear about it – just pop any comments you might have in the box below (login required).

Looking for inspiration on where to ride? Head to our routes page for some suggestions!