With cheap flights to every far-flung location imaginable, and enticing images all over social media of exotic locations, it's all too easy to discount the beauty and wild adventures a bit closer to home.
We were pretty busy this summer, and by the time we got round to planning a trip, I was already in my third trimester, and not too sure if airlines would even let me fly. And I really didn't fancy trying to haul all of our hiking, camping and photography gear to the airport and through security. So we started looking into where we could go without flying, and found the Shetland Isles. It was great to be able to pack the car out with every thing we needed for 2 1/2 weeks wild camping photography trip and not think about it again til we got to the beach for our first night's camp. I would definitely use ferries for adventures again, and here's why...
Cost - while putting your car on the ferry can seem expensive, if you plan to hire a car at the other side, it can work out a lot cheaper, especially if you are going for a long-ish trip. We paid about £650 for the two of us (plus our car) to get the overnight ferry (including a private cabin) from Aberdeen. Hiring a similar sized car for the 18 days that we were there would have cost around £900, and we still would have needed flights at around £350 on top of that.
Comfort - While the ferry takes a lot longer than a plane, you have a cabin, your own shower, a whole boat to wander around. There was a nice comfy bar, a good hearty breakfast.. It was a far cry from being cramped on a flight for a few hours and having every drop of moisture sucked from your body. You get off the boat after a good night's sleep ready to explore your new destination. Normally, it takes us a full day to shake off that airport feeling of stale air, and plastic food before we are ready to enjoy our trip.
Convenience - I wasn't able to carry all our luggage that we needed, having the bump to accommodate, but even if I could, there was something so lovely about taking a day to pack the car out exactly the way you wanted it - no separating toiletries for security, packing a day bag so you have something to read and eat on the plane, and worrying about your camera gear or other valuables getting chucked around or lost as they make their way eventually to the Baggage Collection zone. There was no weight restrictions to worry about, so we could bring 3 tents, 5 cameras, 6 lenses, the time lapse gear, and all the camping food we needed for 18 days.
Flexibility - Unlike most airline tickets, you can usually pay a bit extra for the ability to change your travel dates for free. Northlink, who sails to the Shetland Isles don't even charge anything extra for this flexibility. I've never bothered to pay extra for the flexi tickets with the Irish-Scottish ferries, as I've always been pretty sure about my dates before I book, but our journey home from the Shetland Isles made me realise how invaluable this could be.
We were issued warning leaflets as we queued to board that it would be a choppy sailing. If I had paid the additional £20 for a flexi fare (on our boat from Scotland back to Belfast), I would have turned around and had another nice night's camping on a beautiful beach. However, we needed to get this boat, so that we could catch our connecting boat, so we sailed on, hoping it wouldn't be too bad.
Which brings me on to the one big potential drawback of ferry travel - seasickness! Now, I've been on my fair share of choppy, nauseating flights, but they are a lot shorter. This journey was pretty bad. Without going into any of the gruesome details of the 12 hour journey, I strongly advise getting the flexi fares on all your ferry trips, and booking an additional day off after your holiday just in case you need to change your dates. That way, you can enjoy all of the advantages of ferry travel, and avoid any sickness!