What ferry routes are available between Spain and the UK and Ireland ?

With the vast array of cheap flights and budget airlines operating between Spain, Ireland and the UK, the ferry often gets overlooked. See The Local’s breakdown of the various options and routes here.

What ferry routes are available between Spain and the UK and Ireland ?
As a new “cruise-ferry” will be launched between Ireland and Spain in November, here’s a reminder of the ferries that operate between Spain, Ireland and the UK. (Photo by MYCHELE DANIAU / AFP)

As most people take advantage of the multitude of cheap flights that operate between Spain, Ireland and the UK every day, the ferry routes between them are often forgotten about, or considered old-fashioned.

In reality, there are still regular ferry routes between Spain and the UK and Ireland with plenty of people who prefer or need to travel by sea to and from Spain rather than by air.

The Local has had a look at the options and outlined them below:

UK to Spain

There are 3 ferry routes between England and Spain: 

  • Portsmouth – Santander  
  • Plymouth – Santander 
  • Portsmouth – Bilbao 

All three routes are operated by Brittany Ferries, and offer weekly crossings all year round.

Brittany Ferries map of routes between France, Spain, Ireland and England. Map: Brittany Ferries


Plymouth to Santander

The trip from Plymouth leaves to Santander in northern Spain takes around 21 hrs and 30 minutes on what is described as a ‘modern luxurious vessel’ with everything you’d need to pass the time on the 430 nautical mile journey. There are two crossings a week.

Portsmouth to Santander

The Portsmouth to Santander route takes anything from 24 hours to 32 hours, depending on the weather and the boat you’re on. The distance between Portsmouth and Santander is 532 nautical miles.

Portsmouth to Bilbao

The Portsmouth to Bilbao ferry leaves twice weekly throughout the year, and is a 555 nautical mile journey that takes either 24 hours or 32 hours, depending on the vessel.

READ MORE: UK’s first LNG-powered ferry launches route between Portsmouth and Bilbao

How much is the ferry from the UK to Spain?

Prices are very seasonal and vary largely depending on the time of the year you want to travel. Generally speaking, tickets between the UK to Spain are cheapest during autumn and winter but can double during the peak Summer season.

During the winter season, one-way voyages can cost £200 (roughly €240), but can rise to as high as £700 (€840), according to figures on Ferry Saver. 

Ireland – Spain

The only route from Ireland to Spain goes from Rosslare in southern Ireland to Bilbao and is a trip of 553 nautical miles. Crossings usually leave twice a week on the Connemara vessel and it takes around 30 hours under normal conditions with at least one night spent on board. One way tickets range from €223 to €468 each-way. 

In November 2022, Brittany Ferries will replace the Connemara with a new “cruise-ferry” called the Galicia which brings with plenty of perks for travellers.

It can carry 1,000 passengers, far more than the Connemara as this is mainly a freight vessel – and offers a wider array of entertainment and choice for passengers including onboard shopping, cabins with video on demand, playrooms and sundecks. Fares for the Galicia have not yet been announced. 

The introduction of Galicia on the Bilbao to Rosslare route is great news for Irish and Spanish travellers. Photo: Brittany Ferries

Taking your car

Cars can be boarded on all routes operated by Brittany Ferries between the UK and Spain or between Ireland and Spain. This is a very popular way to travel, so be sure to book your tickets well in advance.

Taking your pets

Unlike the hassle of flying with pets, taking your pets with you on the ferry is a much easier experience and all routes between the UK, Ireland and Spain allow pets on board.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Spain to allow unvaccinated non-EU tourists to enter ‘in matter of days’

Spain’s Tourism Minister on Thursday announced that “in a matter of days” unvaccinated third-country nationals such as Britons and Americans will be able to travel to Spain for a holiday with proof of a negative Covid-19 test. 

Spain to allow unvaccinated non-EU tourists to enter 'in matter of days'

Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto on Thursday May 19th confirmed that it won’t be long before unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen nationals will be allowed to travel to Spain for non-essential reasons such as tourism, visiting friends or family or spending time in a second home in Spain. 

“It’s a matter of days before we eliminate a restriction that could be discouraging tourists from outside the European Union from visiting us,” Reyes told Spanish radio station Onda Cero.

“And that is that we are going to stop requiring the vaccination certificate and allow them to enter with a negative test”. 

Maroto then stated that this would have to be a PDIA test, which in Spain refers to both PCR and antigen tests. If it’s a negative PCR or similar test (NAAT-type test) it must have been issued less than 72 hours prior to arrival in Spain, or if it’s a negative antigen test, less than 24 hours before arriving in Spain.

The surprise announcement comes just days after Spanish health authorities decided to extend the ban on non-essential travel for unvaccinated non-EU holidaymakers until June 15th

Spain’s current Covid-19 travel restrictions only allow in third-country tourists such as Britons, Americans or Indians who have been fully vaccinated (including a booster shot if initial vaccination was more than nine months before travel) and those who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months. 

But for practically the entirety of the pandemic, unvaccinated non-EU tourists have been unable to travel to Spain, with only exceptional reasons for travel allowed. 

Reyes’ comments came about when asked by the Onda Cero interviewer when all of Spain’s Covid-19 travel restrictions will be lifted, as there are still other measures in places such as mask wearing on public transport (including planes) and proof of vaccination, testing or recovery.

“There’s a degree of safety with travel that we have to preserve. We’re still co-existing with the pandemic but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been gradually lifting restrictions,” Maroto argued.

The minister spoke of allowing unvaccinated non-EU holidaymakers in soon as being another way of boosting the country’s recovering tourism industry, adding that her ministry was putting the finishing touches to the legislation, which will be approved in the coming days. 

A number of EU/Schengen countries have already lifted all their Covid-19 travel restrictions, including Greece and Austria most recently, as well as Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland.

Other countries such as France and Italy, Spain’s competitors in the tourism stakes, have also already allowed unvaccinated third-country tourists in with proof of a negative Covid-19 test for more than a month now.