Take the ferry from Rosyth to Zeebrugge and enjoy the fabulous Flemish coast
As the gateway to Europe, Zeebrugge presents the perfect base for independent sail-drive travellers and for guided tours and package holidays throughout the Continent. And getting there could not be easier, especially from Scotland. Dutch ferry operator Norfolkline has reinstated the only over-sea link between Scotland and the Continent. Launched in May, the new service provides Scottish travellers with a convenient continental ferry route on their doorstep.
Holidaymakers can avoid the lengthy road journeys to England’s central ports in order to cross the channel, and your vacation can begin, stress free, the moment you reach Rosyth. The Rosyth Zeebrugge route is the ideal choice for a variety of continental family holidays, with the Flemish coast, the poppy coated battlefields of the Yser just 51 miles from Zeebrugge and bustling Brussels just 68 miles. Norfolkline has introduced a new vessel, the Scottish Viking’ built to ensure a comfortable and relaxed journey.
The ship has 107 spacious indoor and seaview cabins, each with ensuite shower, toilet and air conditioning. Travellers can enjoy a range of onboard facilities and entertainment throughout their journey, including a buffet meal in the Alba Restaurant, or enjoy a film in the vessel’s cinema. Belgium is one of the newer countries of Western Europe, having gained its independence less than 200 years ago.
For the previous two millennia it was a playground, and often the battleground, for the great powers of Europe, and virtually every one of them held sway over it at one time or another.
Major tourist attraction
For many of the older generation the fields of Flanders evoke more poignant memories. However, today’s Belgium is a major tourist attraction, with Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent, Namur and Durbuy all offering their own special attractions. The Flemish coast is itself something of a secret with 14 resorts scattered along its 67 km, each with its own distinct style and character.
The real draw on the Flemish coast is gastro tourism. Connoisseurs have long maintained that Belgium has better food than France, and the country’s coastline does not let the side down. If it’s sand and sailing that takes your fancy then De Panne is the place to be, Ostend is a cosmopolitan city on the sea while De Haan is a good old fashioned beach resort. For those seeking culture, the small city of Bruges is synonymous with art. In addition to the main museum, the Groeningemuseum, with its collection of Flemish Primitives, there is the Memling Museum dedicated to the 15th century Frankfurt born artist who studied in Bruges. Being the best-preserved medieval city in Flanders, there is gorgeous architecture to admire virtually everywhere you wander in Bruges.
The heart of Bruges, surrounded by an almost continuous ring of canals, is the best-preserved example of medieval Flanders. This city centre is known as the ‘Venice of the North’ and is known to be picture-postcard perfect with its canals, romantic atmosphere and cobbled alleys. Chocoholics beware, as Bruges is the place where all things chocolate are to be found – restaurants with chocolate menus, spas with chocolate treatments and chocolate shop after chocolate shop.
Relax on the river Dijver
One relaxing way to enjoy the city is to take a trip down the River Dijver. The style and quality of the old patrician houses that line the banks give some indication of the wealth of which the city could once boast. After years of lying in the shadows of Antwerp and Bruges, Ghent, with its quaint cobbled streets amid winding canals, is finally starting to get the recognition that it deserves. With more than 900 listed buildings, it was a wealthy city in medieval times, having been Europe’s largest cloth producer and the continent’s largest outside Paris. Lying at the confluence of the rivers Lys and Scheldt, its gilded spired buildings include the beautiful St Bavo’s Cathedral.
Belgium’s second largest city, Antwerp, is also its most hip, and there is much to do and see of a cultural nature, but it is also worth visiting for its excellent restaurants, as well as for its shopping. It has been described as the shining gem of Flanders – fine art, fabulous food, stylish shopping and loads of history making it one of Europe’s most charming cities. But wherever you go in Flanders you will not be disappointed, and there is so much to discover – and it is very close to home.
Departures from Rosyth will be at 17.00GMT on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturday arriving at 14:00 local time. The service returns from Zeebrugge on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 18:00CET arriving at Rosyth at 13.00 local time.
Norfolkline: Tel: 0844 499 0007, www.norfolkline.com
Osprey Holidays: Tel: 0131 243 8098 www.ospreyholidays.com
Visit Flanders: Tel: 0207 307 7738 www.visitflanders.co.uk