Festival fun by ferry

Five out-of-the-ordinary summer music experiences that are only a ferry ride away!

By TTM on 28 April 2010 in Travel Articles

You might have rocked out at Reading and grooved at Glastonbury – but have you ever crossed the sea to strut your stuff in Stradbally? Although the festival circuit in the mainland UK has plenty to offer, for the most unique and quirky parties, you’ll need to catch a ferry.

As well as the options that ferry travel opens, it’s the best way to travel to the hottest summer parties: you’re not at the mercy of trains or buses, you can take as much camping gear as you want – and you can combine your festival with an overseas holiday exploring a new destination by car.

If you love music – and love travelling at your own pace – ferries are the way forward for the festival experience.



Where: Arras, France (Hotels in Arras)
 2nd – 4th July

Just an hour’s drive from the port of Calais, the venerable market town of Arras is famous for its cloth, its wartime history and its annual music festival, which sees the town square transform into a vast concert venue for three days on the trot. Previous acts have included Coldplay, Kanye West and Kaiser Chiefs: this year’s billing includes Black Eyed Peas, Pearl Jam, Pink and Gossip. As well as three-day tickets for the whole festival (you can camp outside town from just €5 per night), one-day tickets are available for each day’s performances if you’re just passing through.

While you’re there: check out the belfry of the town hall and the old citadel - both UNESCO world heritage sites – and the First World War tunnels at the Carrière Wellington museum.

Getting there: P&O Ferries operates on the Dover to Calais route



Where: Roskilde, Denmark (Hotels in Roskilde)
1st-4th July

One of Europe’s largest and longest-running festivals, this event takes place outside the ancient town of Roskilde on Denmark’s Isle of Zealand. It’s hosted everyone from Bob Marley to the Sex Pistols and David Bowie; this year, look out for Muse, Japandroids, Florence and the Machine and Motorhead as well as a strong lineup of Scandinavian bands. There’s plenty of other entertainment as well: expect art installations, film screenings, a skating rink and rock-climbing walls.

While you’re there: check out the 11th-century longboats at Roskilde’s Viking Ships Museum and chill out on Zealand’s world-class sandy beaches.

Getting there: your journey to Roskilde will be half the adventure: DFDS Seaways operates an overnight crossing from Harwich to Esbjerg; from there, it’s a scenic drive across Denmark that includes the spectacular Great Belt Bridge to Zealand.



Where: Rotterdam, Netherlands (Hotels in Rotterdam)
9th-11th July

If you love your jazz, there’s no better place in the world to be this July than Rotterdam. The three-day North Sea Jazz Festival is considered the world’s biggest: a huge celebration of global jazz music that’s counted Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Benny Goodman among its acts in the past.  Last year saw 70,000 people visit the festival’s fifteen stages to hear everything from New Orleans jazz to blues and bebop, participate in music workshops and check out the exhibitions of jazz-themed art, photography and cinema.

While you’re there: when you’re done checking out Rotterdam’s architecture and modern art museums, it’s a short drive to the splendour of Amsterdam and Utrecht.

Getting there: DFDS sails from Newcastle to Amsterdam



Where: Stradbally, Ireland (Hotels in Stradbally)
4th-6th September

Held on an idyllic country estate south of Dublin, this medium-sized event punches well above its weight; although there’s only room for 35,000 revellers, it’s described as Ireland’s version of Glastonbury. Featuring several stages as well as a 24-hour cinema tent, a Body and Soul wellness arena and an International Comedy Tent, Electric Picnic is as renowned for its eco-friendly outlook as it is for its artists. This year’s bill includes Basement Jaxx, Alabama 3, Bat For Lashes, Flaming Lips and The Wailers.

While you’re there: take a detour to Dublin to sample a Guinness direct from the sources, marvel at the Book of Kells and enjoy the city’s famous hospitality.

Getting there: sail to Dublin from Holyhead with Irish Ferries



Where: Isle of Wight, UK (Hotels in the Isle of Wight)
9th-12th September

Round off your festival season back in the UK with one of Europe’s most talked-about and flamboyant festivals: Bestival, held at the scenic Robin Hill country park on the Isle of Wight, is an experience not to be missed. As well as a range of outlandish, family-friendly attractions including The Castle in the Sky Bonfire Extravaganza, sculpture garden and a solar-powered bandstand, you can expect to enjoy acts including Dizzee Rascal, Flaming Lips, Gil Scott Heron… and Rolf Harris. Bestival goers this year are in for a treat with the legendary Sir Paul McCartney headlining the Main Stage on Sunday 13 June.

While you’re there: enjoy a stroll through Queen Victoria’s garden at Osborne House and spend a day on the cliffs at The Needles – the Isle of Wight’s famous chalk sea-stacks.

Getting there: Wightlink and Red Funnel both offer combined Bestival and ferry tickets, with special rates for motorbikes, and children aged 15 and under



The Passenger Shipping Association’s website provides comprehensive details of ferry companies and routes from the UK to the near continent, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Isle of Wight, Scottish Isles and Ireland.

There are direct ferry routes to Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland, France and Spain as well as easy access to Germany and beyond.


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