Rail and Sail - The Dutch Flyer

Have you ever spent the run up to a trip thinking how much more enjoyable it would be if you didn't have to fly? If you were able to avoid the queues, airport security, the overcrowding and hassle, and to feel slightly smug about the carbon footprint of your holiday?

For many of us, especially on short-haul trips, flying can feel increasingly counter-intuitive. But while people crave alternatives, they often appear expensive and involve confusing or inconvenient connections.

But if Holland is your destination of choice then Stenaline's rail and sail service might prove to be an easy and affordable alternative.  Or that was my opinion when I tried it out for myself.  

Return tickets start from £68, which includes the day ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland, and the onward rail connection to any Dutch station! Pay ten pounds more and the ticket also includes the outward and return rail connections in the UK, from any National Express station.

The ferry takes seven hours to cross to Hook of Holland, but the boats are large and comfortable, allowing you to roam freely about and take in the sea view. If you like to be kept a bit busier than that, each ferry has restaurants, bars, a cinema and a shop. Or, if you're willing to pay a little more for a cabin, you can sleep the journey away in the effective comfort of a hotel room.

For those with very little free time but a love of travel, the overnight journey option opens up the possibility of day-tripping. Arriving in Holland before 8 a.m. with all onward rail connections sorted, is a perfect start to a full day's holiday. From there it is up to you how to spend the time.

You could explore historic Schiedam, with its museums and windmills. Take advantage of the lively atmosphere and world class restaurants of Rotterdam, under its singular, modern skyline. Or wander the cobbled streets of Amsterdam, threading your way though the canals in search of history in Anne Frank's House, fine art in the Rijksmuseum, or some serious relaxation in the city's infamous cafes.

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