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Anyone for a spot of island hopping? The wonderful ways to enjoy a fun day out on the water 


Anyone for a spot of island hopping? From hovercraft day trips to ferry rides amid glorious scenery, the wonderful ways to enjoy a fun day out on the water

  • Head to Portsmouth for a ride on the world’s only all-year hovercraft route, with day returns from around £25 
  • Boat trips from Penzance to the Scilly Isles take less than three hours and cost from £48 return
  • If rivers are more your thing, a fleet of speedy boats in London zip from one end of the Thames to the other

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Every week, our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: Autumn adventures on the water.

A quick trip on a ferry to France might be off limits for some time as quarantine rules continue to bite, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy a fun day out on the water.

How about hopping on a hovercraft for a day trip with a difference? It’s more than 50 years since this British invention first took flight, but journeys still feel as futuristic as ever.

Sail away: Boats have steamed from Penzance to St Mary's Harbour in the Scilly Isles for almost a century. Today's vessels cover the distance in less than three hours and cost from £48 return

Sail away: Boats have steamed from Penzance to St Mary’s Harbour in the Scilly Isles for almost a century. Today’s vessels cover the distance in less than three hours and cost from £48 return

Head to Portsmouth for a ride on the world’s only all-year hovercraft route. It’s a glorious, ten minute dash to the Isle of Wight, on a craft that wouldn’t be out of place in a Star Wars film.

Day returns start at about £25, while Hover Rover tickets give unlimited use of trains and buses while on the island.

Timetables can be found at hovertravel.co.uk, where there’s also information on the history and engineering behind the machines.

Once on the Isle of Wight, mix things up by returning on a highspeed Red Jet catamaran. Single tickets with redfunnel.co.uk start at £17.80. The company has a proud maritime heritage: it has been sailing the same waters for some 160 years.

Social distancing is easy as you hike on glorious Scottish islands such as Harris, Arran, Bute and Eigg. 

Get to your starting point by ferry, heading to the outdoor decks for bracing breezes and coastal views, while there is always a cosy corner inside to be found on the trip back. 

Head to Portsmouth for a ride on the world's only all-year hovercraft route. It's a ten minute dash to the Isle of Wight

Head to Portsmouth for a ride on the world’s only all-year hovercraft route. It’s a ten minute dash to the Isle of Wight

Return tickets from the mainland to Bute, famous for its seal colonies, Gothic Victorian mansion and Bronze Age stone circles, start at £6.50.

Timetables and departure ports for all the islands can be found at calmac.co.uk. The race is on to board the gloriously traditional Scillonian Ferry before its winter break starts next month. 

Boats have steamed from Penzance to St Mary’s Harbour in the Scilly Isles for almost a century. Today’s vessels cover the distance in less than three hours and cost from £48 return. Sailings begin again in March (islesofscilly-travel.co.uk). 

If rivers are more your thing, a fleet of sleek, speedy boats do more than get traffic-dodging commuters from one end of the Thames to the other – they also give canny visitors unobstructed views of some of London’s best sights.

Highlights of a cruise include the impressive Cutty Sark in Greenwich, the dome of the O2, Tower Bridge, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and Battersea Power Station. 

Buy tickets online or pay on board with contactless cards. Single trips in the heart of town start at just £7.20, or hop on and off at nearly two dozen piers with River Roamer tickets from £17.80.

Fancy sailing across London in one direction, then cycling back? Bikes are carried for free (thamesclippers.com).

If taking to the water makes you peckish, check out a Friday night fish-and-chips trip along the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. 

The cost starts at £20 and the cruise lasts about two hours as you tuck into your main meal, bread and butter and mushy peas. Alternatively, relax with an afternoon tea option, at £25, with sandwiches, scones and cake (georgiescanalcruises.co.uk).

  • Find inspiration and get details of 80 boat and ferry routes in and around the UK at discoverferries.com.

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