One of the hottest travel trends right now is cruising from the UK. Here’s a selection of some of the most exciting cruise holidays on offer from British ports around the UK and Eire

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St Martins Beach, the Isles of Scilly © Robert Birkby Photography

Of the 1.7 million of us who took a cruise last year, 962,000 chose to cruise from British ports – and that figure will hit the million mark this year. Not only is a no-fly cruise hassle-free, but with so many departure ports to choose from, transfers are relatively straightforward. 

There is an abundance of unexpected treasures on our doorstep. In a relatively small space the British Isles manages to contain a fusion of weather-beaten castles, historic country estates, sweeping landscapes, dramatic coastlines and jaw-dropping vistas. And approaching these gems from the sea creates a whole new impression – a real-life picture postcard. Cruises that circle around the entire UK take you on an all-embracing voyage, dipping in and out of the rich heritage and dramatic coastlines of the British Isles.

Voyages of Discovery have joined forces with the National Trust to offer the National Treasures of the British Isles 13-night cruise with highlights including shore excursions to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Durham Cathedral and a visit to Tresco in the Isles of Scilly (from Portsmouth, 4 May 2014, from £1,472pp, voyagesofdiscovery.co.uk).

Meanwhile, Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ nine-night British Isles Discovery voyage will take you to Honfleur and Guernsey, before continuing with an island visit to St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly, then on to Dublin, and finally gracing Scotland’s Tobermory, Stornoway and Invergordon (from Newcastle, 22 August 2013, from £779pp, cruiseandmaritime.com). Meanwhile Celebrity Cruises offer 11-night voyages around Britain (from Harwich, 5 August 2013 from £1,919pp, celebritycruises.co.uk).

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View towards Ben Nevis in the Scottish Highlands

But of course you don’t have to circumnavigate the British Isles to get a taste of its beauty; some cruises provide an ideal snapshot. For example the Queen’s favourite, Hebridean Island Cruises, will take you to the breathtaking Scottish Highlands, from deserted, sandy beaches to towering peninsulas – with champagne on tap. The nine-night Orkney to the Outer Hebrides voyage sails from the east to the west Highlands (from Invergorden, 27 July 2013, from £7,240pp, hebridean.co.uk).

Or take in Scotland’s historic past on a five-night Highlights of the Argyll Cruise to explore lochs, ruined castles, great houses and Britain’s smallest cathedral, (from Greenock, 11 November 2013, from £2,000pp). And for the perfect combination of Scottish and Northern Irish charm see their Gaelic Trilogy eight-night cruise (from Oban, 5 August 2013, from £4,650pp).

Noble Caledonia’s nine-night Islands on the Edge Cruise starts by exploring Stromness, and calls at the remote Scottish outpost of Canna, known as the Garden of Hebrides (from Aberdeen to Falmouth, 6 July 2013 from £2295pp, noble-caledonia.co.uk). For the flower lovers among us there’s the Britain & Ireland in Bloom 11-night cruise, visiting some of the finest gardens in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, (from Poole, to Oban, 25 April 2014, from £4,295) and the Sailing to the Isles 10-night voyage combining lush gardens and country estates (from Dundee – with a night in Edinburgh beforehand – to Oban, 22 July 2014, from £5,695pp).

You can explore coastal waters, estuaries and seabird life on Noble Caledonia’s 10-night Bird Quest cruise on the 84-passenger Ocean Nova, with their Zodiac landing craft enabling access to the most remote places. Ports of call include the Highlands, Portrush, Holy Island, Lundy and the Isles of Scilly (from Plymouth, to Oban, 2 May 2014, from £2,995).

Magna Carta offers Heart of the Highlands cruises on Lord of the Glens, with a seven-night cruise calling at the world-famous Loch Ness (from Inverness, to Oban, 10 September 2013, from £1,561pp, lordoftheglens.co.uk), and a longer 10-night voyage, which makes a complete transit of the Caledonian Canal (from Kyle of Lochalsh, 26 August 2014, from £2,000pp). Or, for a bit of added variety, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 10-night Celtic Charms voyage calls at Edinburgh, Invergordon, Kirkwall, Portree, Belfast, Dublin, Milford Haven and St Peter Port in Guernsey, (from Southampton, 2 September 2013, from £5,659pp, rssc.com).

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Green Bay in the Isles of Scilly

There are a number of cruises around the UK which can offer even more breadth, for example, both Crystal Cruises’ Castles and Kilts seven-night voyage (from Dover, 19 August 2013, from £2,934pp, crystalcruises.co.uk) and Carnival’s 12-day cruise, (from Dover, 13 September 2013, from £833pp, carnival.co.uk) venture out to Stavanger in Norway, before setting off around the British Isles; with Carnival visiting Edinburgh, Invergordon, Glasgow, Belfast, Dublin and Le Havre for Paris, and Crystal focusing on Newcastle, Edinburgh, Douglas (Isle of Man) and Dublin.

Silversea adds France to their 10-night round Britain itinerary, calling at Saint-Malo and Honfleur, plus Geurnsey, as well as including the Channel Islands and Skomer Island (from Portsmouth, to Greenock, 16 May 2014, silversea.com).

If you’re looking for a short getaway Fred. Olsen offer a two-night Liverpool Highlights round-trip from Belfast to Liverpool on Boudicca (from Belfast, 15 October 2013, from £199pp, fredolsencruises.com) and their Dublin & Cork four-night cruise calling at Cobh and Dublin (from Liverpool, 26 August 2013, from £299pp).

If you have adventure in mind, then look no further than Hebridean’s seven-night mystery cruise, the Hebridean Surprise, along the west coast of Scotland, with each port of call a ‘captain’s choice’ a treasure trove of hidden destinations await you (from Oban, 8 October 2013, from £2,890pp).

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