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Ferry and riverboat services

Whether you're going abroad or getting to work, there may be ferry or riverboat services you can use instead of road, rail or air travel. For a special trip or holiday, you may even want to hire a boat.

Ferry services

International ferry services run from UK ports to:

  • France
  • the Republic of Ireland
  • Spain
  • Belgium
  • Scandinavia
  • the Netherlands

There are also local ferry services that run to:

  • the Channel Islands
  • Isles of Scilly
  • Isle of Man
  • the Scottish Isles

To find a ferry service from the UK to another country, try entering 'UK ferry service' and your destination in a search engine. This should bring up the websites of service providers with various routes.

For travel within the UK, Journey Planner can suggest a range of routes using car or public transport, including ferry and riverboat services.

Commuter riverboats

Commuter river services, sometimes called waterbuses, operate in:

  • London - run by Transport for London (TfL)
  • Liverpool - run by Mersey Ferries

You can find more details and timetables for services on the TfL and Mersey Ferry websites.

Responsibility for Britain's waterways

In England and Wales, the Inland Waterways Branch of the Marine and Waterways Division within Defra has overall responsibility for the waterways. In Scotland, it's the Scottish Executive.

Defra's website explains in detail the government's policies for inland waterways in England and Wales and how the waterways are looked after.

Association of Inland Navigation Authorities (AINA)

AINA is the industry body for all waterways throughout the UK.

AINA's main members are:

  • British Waterways
  • the Environment Agency
  • the Broads Authority
  • local councils

Your local waterway

If you would like environmental information about your local waterway or want to report a polluted waterway, see 'Envinronmental quality in your area'. 

Hiring a boat

If you decide to hire a boat for travelling - whether a yacht or a canal boat - you need to know how to sail it safely. British Waterways has produced a leaflet on The Waterways Code, which covers basic safety guidelines for beginners on the water. You can download the leaflet from the British Waterways website.

The British Waterways website also includes a section on boating for pleasure on Britain's canals, rivers and lakes.

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