Our contributors reveal their favourite summer cruising grounds, from West Sweden and North Brittany to the Isles of Scilly
Author and journalist Peter Cumberlidge picks his favourite cruising ground…
Surely a slice of paradise: St Peter Port on the east coast of Guernsey, with the summer sun rising over Sark, Herm and Jethou – the exquisite smaller Channel Islands across the water.
Our yacht, Stormalong, a 1936 gaff cutter, was moored here en route for North Brittany. For me, this place gives a first taste of the Breton experience. Jane, my wife, and I were in the cockpit sipping tea as the harbour slowly woke up. Through the pierheads we watched the island silhouettes take shape across the glittering Little Russel channel.
For us, St Peter Port is a natural jumping-off base for a North Brittany cruise, only 70 miles from our homeport of Dartmouth. But yachts from all over Europe gather too with the same plan in mind. There were Dutch and German ensigns nearby, and a red-and-white Danish swallowtail.
Setting the mood, St Peter Port town looks slightly foreign. White colonial villas mingle with Normandy-style houses and the ornate belfry of St James could almost be a minaret.
We left on a perfect morning, the ebb sluicing us down the Russel and a flukey north-westerly starting the day gently. Splashing through overfalls off St Martin’s Point we turned more westerly and were off. Next stop: Île de Bréhat and the Trieux River.
The low coast between Paimpol and Les Héaux lighthouse is one of my favourite corners of Brittany. The landfall is out of this world as you converge with Île de Bréhat’s pink granite shores. This idyllic island is scattered with neat Breton cottages and fringed with islets, rocks and beacons galore.
A direct line from St Martin’s Point to the Trieux is 35 miles south-south-west, but with Roches Douvres and Plateau de Barnouic in the way you have to dog-leg one side or the other. It’s important to pass these dangers downtide in case you snag a crab-pot line or pick up some drifting fishing net. You never know.
As Guernsey dropped astern we soon spotted the slim finger of Roches Douvres lighthouse and gradually the jagged fangs lifted above the horizon. We passed west-about the lighthouse, three miles off. Built of Breton granite, this elegant 65m tower is a stylish outpost of the Côte de Granit Rose.
You need to watch for cross-tide when approaching the Trieux, but today clear visibility was making things easy.
Île de Bréhat and Lézardrieux
The Trieux is a wonderful cruising area, with Bréhat as its picturesque centrepiece. Cocooned by friendly reefs, you feel far from the sea and can potter for days. Many rocks are steep-to, so you can tack fairly close when sailing about. La Croix lighthouse is almost a logo for this estuary, white on its seaward side with a red castellated top.
The Lézardrieux River has wooded banks reminiscent of the West Country, but with shuttered Breton cottages amongst the trees. A couple of miles upstream you’ll find cosy marinas, visitor buoys and a sleepy old village.
The wind was forecast to die, so our first stop was Port de la Corderie, a classic Trieux anchorage on Bréhat’s west side. You enter between a green and two red spars, and at Springs deeper draught yachts fetch up just beyond these beacons to stay afloat. Bilge-keelers can continue well into the inlet and settle on golden sand as the tide seeps away.
Lingering several days, we anchored off Bréhat’s south-east corner and cut through Chenal de la Trinité into the glorious Anse de Paimpol, where acres of oyster bed withies emerge on the ebb. Later, cruising west, we followed the sheltered Moisie Passage at high water, cutting inside Les Héaux lighthouse to reach the Tréguier River.
Narrower than the Trieux, this peaceful valley snakes inland, first between mud-banks and then woods and lush farmland to the medieval cité of Tréguier. As the town’s soaring cathedral spire appeared we heard its great bell tolling in the evening calm. This coast is magical. It makes you feel you want to stay all summer.
Leave your boat or change crew: Lézardrieux inner marina. No weather gets in here.
Don’t miss: Fresh seafood.
Don’t forget: Fisherman’s anchor for weedy bottoms, plenty of chain and nylon warp. A heavy ballast weight snubber. Spare anchor light bulbs.
Best adventure: If you are cruising east-about Roches Douvres, approach the lighthouse from due south, where a sheltered sound leads to a quay. You can lie alongside here briefly and wander around one of the English Channel’s most dangerous reefs.
Springs or Neaps? Spring tides and neaps each have advantages for cruising:
At Springs: You savour the full dramatic character of this coast. Fascinating short cuts are possible around high water, with rocky dangers safely covered. At low water, many pool anchorages are virtually landlocked by exposed reefs.
At Neaps: Passages are simpler and you can push a foul tide if necessary. You can find secret anchorages with safe low water depths. Eerie tidal overfalls are less worrying for family crews.
Columnist Matt Sheahan on the allure of Ireland’s wild west coast
The rugged, exposed scenery of the west and north-west coasts of Ireland, and the Atlantic swell that bounces back off the shore and runs a couple of miles back out to sea at times to produce an unusual and sometimes tricky sea state, leaves you in no doubt that you are on the edge of the Atlantic. It’s not quite a wilderness but you’re acutely aware that you are somewhere different.
The harbours are quiet, unspoilt and a complete contrast to the more developed harbours of the south and eastern coasts.
You do need time. There are many more places to visit than we had time for in two weeks sailing from Kinsale westabout Ireland to Scotland.
A particular highlight were the Aran Islands, west of Galway, with their 300ft cliffs. Then to Ballynakill Harbour and Broad Haven in Mayo, where we had the anchorage all to ourselves, before rounding Malin Head to Portrush and Rathlin in Northern Ireland.
Make sure you’re prepared to fend for yourself for the trip. You don’t just pop into town to get a meal at the local pub – the best bits are often pretty remote. But it is absolutely beautiful and part of its charm is that there is barely anybody there at all.
Best advice: Allow time, keep a good eye on the weather. For a remote coastline, the phone signal is very good, making it easy to get good weather online.
Leave your boat or change crew: Cork, Galway or Portrush.
Best adventure: Cliff walk on Inishmore, Aran Islands, rounding Mizzen Head and Malin Head, Ireland’s most south-western and north-western points.