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All aboard for a short ferry break

Avoid the airport crush, take the boat. Kate Simon suggests six sea-worthy trips

New for old

Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum transformed the fortunes of Bilbao, but there's much to admire in the winding streets of its old city, too.

The deal: P&O Ferries (08716 646464; poferries .com) offers return crossings from Portsmouth to Spain for a car and two passengers from £265 each way, including two nights in an en-suite cabin.

Journey time: the crossing takes 35 hours and 29 hours back; the port is a 15-minute drive from the city.

Further information: go to bilbao.net.

Tasting notes

Once a favourite destination of pirates, today's visitors come to St Malo to walk its medieval walls and gorge on the local oysters and mussels.

The deal: Brittany Ferries (0871 241 1444; brittanyferries.com) offers a two-night break in St Malo from £106 per person, based on two sharing, including return ferry crossings, with a car, from Portsmouth and two nights B&B in a hotel. Offer valid until 14 November.

Journey time: the crossing takes 10 hours and the port is a 10-minute walk from the city centre.

Further information: go to francetourism.com.

Action stations

Summer may be over, but it's still playtime for the Paris smart-set in their favourite seaside town, Le Touquet Paris-Plage. Enjoy horseriding, golf and sand-kiting – and the casino at night.

The deal: SeaFrance Dover-Calais Ferries offers three nights at the three-star Hotel Bristol in Le Touquet from £107 per person (two sharing), including return ferry, with car, from Dover, and B&B. Valid until 31 October.

Journey time: the crossing takes 70 minutes; the town is 30 minutes from the port.

Further information: go to letouquet.com.

Capital idea

Stately architecture and rich history are two good reasons to visit the Dutch seat of government, The Hague.

The deal: Stena Line (08705 707070; stenaline.co.uk) offers return crossings from Harwich, with car, for one passenger from £49; further passengers £10 each way. Valid until 31 December.

Journey time: the crossing takes six hours 15 minutes; the city is a 30-minute drive from the port.

Further information: go to holland.com.

Festive fun

Winter is a special time to visit laid-back Copenhagen, as the Tivoli Gardens get into the festive spirit with ice skating and a Christmas market.

The deal: DFDS (0871 882 0886; dfds.co.uk) offers a four-night trip to Copenhagen from £251 per person, based on two sharing, including return ferry crossings, coach transfers, two nights in a sea-view en-suite cabin, two nights B&B in a four-star hotel, and entrance to the Tivoli Gardens. Departs Harwich 17 December.

Journey time: the crossing takes 19 hours; the city is a three-and a half hour drive from the port.

Further information: go to visitcopenhagen.com.

Hit the trail

The Belfast-Stranraer ferry route offers good gateways for travellers from Northern Ireland to Scotland and vice versa. The Glens of Antrim along the coast north of Belfast are one of this area's real treasures. Meanwhile, travellers to Scotland can tour the Solway Coast, featuring Wigtown, Scotland's national book town, and the former artists' colony, Kirkcudbright.

The deal: Stena Line (08705 414141; stenaline.co.uk) is offering a two-night package to Belfast, staying at the three-star Premier Inn, for £125 per person, based on two sharing, including B&B and return crossings from Stranraer to Belfast. Offer valid until 19 December. Return crossings from Belfast to Stranraer cost from £130.

Journey time: the ferry crossing takes two hours.

Further information: go to discovernorthernireland.com and visitscotland.com.

Further browsing For more information about routes and destinations go to sailanddrive.com