PackThePJs felt like doing ‘something different’ for our pre-Christmas getaway this year. Restricted by the number of clear days between school breaking up, and Christmas Day, we decided not to cross the channel into France. Instead we crossed a different channel – the Solent – on a Wightlink ferry and spent a few days exploring a very quiet Isle of Wight.
Our accommodation on the Isle of Wight was located not too far from Yarmouth, so it made sense to take the Wightlink ferry from Lymington in Hampshire to Yarmouth. We did have other options – we could have crossed from Portsmouth to Fishbourne or Portsmouth to Ryde (but this one is for foot passengers only).
I love the New Forest, and any opportunity to visit – even if it’s only to drive through it – I’ll take it! To maximise our time on the Isle of Wight we scooped the kids up from school at 3:30 and drove straight to Lymington, stopping in Lyndhurst briefly for a leg stretch and a bag of chips dinner! Our crossing was booked for just after 9pm. We arrived at the port at 8:30pm.
Our Outward Crossing
I should mention that Jack and Izzy the spaniels travelled with us too. We were the only car at the ferry dock when we arrived, so we parked at the front of the line and took our paperwork into the office. We were told to sit tight and wait for instructions once the ferry arrived. It was very “stressless” … yes it was dark, and we were booked on the last crossing of the day, but it was so lovely and sedate. No rushing. No pushing or shoving …
There was a total of 11 vehicles on our crossing. We were loaded quickly and we took the dogs out of the car boot and headed to the top deck. The ferry left on time and as we watched the lights of Lymington fade away, we realised it was too cold to be outside so headed down to the passenger lounge for the remainder of the 40 minutes journey.
PET FRIENDLY Ferry!
As a rule, we rarely travel anywhere by ferry. The reason is that we don’t like leaving our dogs in our vehicle during even short crossings. When we visit mainland Europe, we always cross via Eurotunnel. Our dogs are fidgets, and they set off our car alarm – which sets off their barking as it scares them. We once tried leaving the vehicle unlocked, but ended up having items stolen from the back seats. This was on a Dover-Dunkirk crossing – we were just grateful they didn’t let the dogs out; but lesson learned.
What appealed to us with the Wightlink crossing is that most of the ferry is dog-friendly. The only area that is ‘out of bounds’ is near their food/drink concession (entirely fair enough). We tucked the dogs under a table, and enjoyed the warmth of the passenger lounge while chatting to other dog owners doing the same. In fact, on that crossing we counted 7 dogs (from 11 vehicles!) Other travelling dogs (the trusted ones!) did stay in their cars. Another huge plus is that there’s no additional cost for the dogs.
Even though the ferry is quite compact, there’s a good choice of seating. Out on the top deck (for warmer months) there’s plenty of benches to sit on …
And an area where there’s fixed seating around small tables …
Inside you have the concession/coffee shop:
Along with large sofa tables for larger travelling groups …
… as well as fixed seating in 4s around a table:
Arriving in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight
The crossing is only 40 minutes, so in no time at all we were being called back to our vehicles. Because the ferry is compact, we only had to go down two short flights of steps to reach the car deck – when you have two energetic spaniels to manage, the fewer steps they pull you down the better!
In no time at all, with a wave and a smile from the ferry unloading staff, we were on the Isle of Wight and heading towards our accommodation. Alas, being a night journey, I can’t comment on the scenery as there wasn’t any! This is the best I could do:
Lunchtime Return Journey
After three action-packed days on the IOW we had to reluctantly head home. This time we were on a lunchtime crossing (again from Yarmouth to Lymington). We arrived early and were told to join the line – however there was a crossing before our booking, so we were prepared to wait. A really nice man asked us if we wanted to catch the earlier crossing – of course we did – and we ended up being the first car loaded!
We were on the ‘upper deck’, which was an experience. You are loaded as usual, but you then have to stay in your vehicle as the whole floor lifts you up towards the roof! The benefit was that we only had 1 flight of stairs to climb with the dogs to reach the passenger lounge! We settled by a window to watch the ferry leave Yarmouth.
The children went off, having raided my purse, to buy themselves a drink. They came back with a lovely hot latte for me, which I shared with Huw.
As we reached the half-way point of the crossing, Toby and I went out to the open top deck. Millie stayed with Huw and the dogs, as she’d started drawing …
… and the dogs were happy looking out the window:
Lymington wasn’t far away, and it looked so quaint and lovely. It’s a very typical Solent harbour, with lots and lots of sailboats, a clear winding passage for the ferry to sail through, and lots of activity on the water. We watched some sailors in small dinghies get a little too close to the ferry for our liking. Luckily, they knew what they were doing! It must be a little scary in such a small boat and being that close to a much larger ferry.
Again, in no time at all we were being told to return to our cars. Even though we had to wait for the lower deck vehicles to leave, we were still setting the car sat nav as we were lowered down and invited to drive off. Another casual, stress-less ferry journey.
Overall Thoughts …
Going to the Isle of Wight, instead of France, was a really good decision. We loved our trip away, and Wightlink was the perfect company to cross with. Our dogs weren’t stressed, which meant we weren’t either. It was so ‘easy’. The online booking process is quick and simple – just print off the paperwork and turn up ready to cross. There’s no need to check in as the ferry staff walk down the line to check and scan your printed ticket. The staff were really friendly too.
Would we recommend them? Heck yes! We’ll book with them again when we return to the Isle of Wight to visit all the sites we didn’t have time to on this quick trip.
PackThePJs was invited to travel with Wightlink in return for an honest review.