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UK Harbour

The UK’s Top 12 Harbours

Here’s Tubber’s list of the top 12 harbors, anchorages, and marinas to visit during your sailing holiday to the UK.

1). Tobermory

Located on the West Coast of Scotland, Tobermory is by far one of the prettiest towns. The harbor was well-known even before the town was built. Legend has it a Spanish Armada ship carrying gold bullion sank in Tobermory’s harbor in 1588. Colorful houses line the waters, adding to the spectacular view as you tie up your boat. Make sure to walk along Main Street for the local pubs, shops, eateries, and art galleries.

scotland

2). Isles of Scilly

This archipelago in the UK has several islands for you to drop anchor. The best harbours in the Isles of Scilly are in St. Mary’s, Tresco, St. Martin’s, and St. Agnes.

St. Mary’s is the most tourist-oriented and has exposed moorings. The largest of the Isles, St. Mary’s has the greatest concentration of historical sites, ranging from Bronze age burial tombs to Romano-British settlements.

Tresco is more high-end with a shop resembling a Saks Fifth Avenue or Fortnum & Mason. The Abbey Gardens offers beautiful views that are well worth the £12 entrance fee.

St. Martin’s has some of the best beaches in the UK. Relax on the beach or experience seal snorkeling. Have fun swimming alongside the playful seals of St. Martin’s.

St. Agnes has a few sandy beaches that look out onto smaller islands in the archipelago. Make sure to check out the great ice-creams offered in Troytown. The ice cream is made from the milk of the local farm’s own small herd making the flavours, unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.

Bay at one of the Isles of Scilly with blue water and rocks

3). Belfast

While you’re in the Abercorn Basin Marina in Belfast, take a detour to the Titanic experience in the town centre. You can explore the men and history behind the building of the magnificent ship, as well as its first and final voyage.

Belfast during sunset

4). Caernarfon

With the many castles to view along the coast of the UK, Caernarfon offers a perfect spot to get a closer look and anchor alongside a castle. Most sailors tie up to the adjacent Victoria Dock Marina. Be wary, however, to get here you must deal with the notorious Swellies rocks in the Menai Strait. Despite their reputation, the rocks aren’t a big deal.

Caernarfon Castle with sailboats in front of it

5). Weymouth

Weymouth is a classic British seaside town with a bewitching and evocative experience for all visitors. Walkthrough the town, taking in the Punch and Judy shows, pubs, restaurants, and town beach. If you have the time, stop by the Royal Dorset Yacht Club-full of maritime history.

Weymouth with colourful houses and dark clouds

6). Lymington

One of the typical British harbour towns, Lymington has two protected marinas for you to anchor your boat. This harbour is perfect for exploring your surroundings by boat or by land. Stroll down the cobbled town of Lymington and take a break in one of the old pubs on High Street.

Lymington beach with sail yachts in the water

7). Plymouth

Famous for the Mayflower, the Hoe, Drake, and British Navy, Plymouth is full of maritime history. For the loveliest sights, stick to the coast and walk from the Barbican to the restored Royal William Yard. Along the way, there are local cafes and bars via the Hoe.

Sun shining on the houses with dark clouds in the back at Plymouth

8). London

Although you are able to sail right up to Tower Bridge, you will have to dodge the numerous tourist boats and get through the chop from their wakes. One thing to note, you will need to take the tide up and back own again as you sail through London’s harbour as sailors have done for centuries. This will be no problem with one six-hour tide if you can get up and running quickly.

Tower Bridge at night, London

9). Whitby

Whitby is one of the few harbours that is easy to enter on the East Coast. It’s a fascinating place to anchor your boat and sight-see. The inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula was inspired here at Whitby and Captain Cook got his start here as an apprentice for ship owners. St. Mary’s church is another popular sight, 199 steps up the hill next to spooky ruined abbey and pubs. If you need to stock up on groceries for your sailing holiday, there’s a supermarket by the marina.

Whitby, houses reflecting on the water
 

10). Wells-next-the-sea

As you arrive, the harbour master will talk you up the buoyed channel which completely dries out at low tide. Once you are in the pool, you’re among the old buildings, shops, and pubs. While you’re here, check out the Holkham National Nature Reserve or go on an Alpaca trekking trip.

Three alpacas  eating from the grass

11). Mousa

Mousa is a small uninhabited island located in the Shetlands. Most people probably haven’t heard much about this area. One reason to visit this lesser-known harbour is the best-preserved Iron Age (10000 BC) broch, or circular stone tower, in the UK.

Mousa Broch
 

12). North Ronaldsay, Orkney

Take a tour of the tallest land-based lighthouse in the UK, going all the way to the top and looking across the blue waters. The tour is even given by the last lighthouse keeper!

Lighthouse with beautiful sky during sunset
Madeline