The cost of a period return for a car and four passengers is typically about £65 although Red Funnel have been kind enough to offer a 15% discount on the Southampton to Cowes route for event entrants. With the ferry cost in mind I'm going to make the event as bikepacking friendly as possible. That means a marquee and some camp beds for those that donít want to bring a vehicle across. So as long as you can turn up at one of the ferry terminals with a bike, a sleeping bag and some beer money you're good for the weekend. Oh and a change of clothes if you donít want to offend other passengers on the way back. Please let me know as soon as possible if you would like to take up that option.
There are four ferry routes to choose from so here's a bit of info to help you choose:
Lymington to Yarmouth.
This route is the most westerly and shortest of the car ferry routes. Crossing time is about 30 minutes. It gives the longest ride in to the event HQ at 20 miles but if you take the off road route over the spine of the Island there are some cracking views and several 'significantí hills. There is long term parking at the Lymington ferry terminal for £8.50 per day but all the town centre carparks in Lymington specifically forbid overnight stays. If you want to avoid parking charges here youíll have to take your chances in the residential areas.
Southampton to Cowes.
The longest of the car ferry routes at an hourís crossing time. This is operated by Red Funnel and is usually the cheapest crossing for vehicles. They have been kind enough to offer a 15% discount on all vehicle bookings for entrants. The ride to the event HQ is about 12 miles of flat, traffic free, hardpack cycle routes mostly along the ĎRed Squirrel Trailí† or a similar distance by road. If you want to ride the off road route all the way youíll have to cross to West Cowes on the floating bridge just round the corner from the ferry terminal. Most parking in Southampton is pay and display but there is free parking in Totton about 5 miles away. All Totton car parks are free at evenings and weekends but if you want to leave your car outside those times use the Westfield Road car park in the centre of Totton which has no restrictions. Car parks on the Southampton University campus about 2 miles from the ferry are also free in evenings and at weekends.
To obtain the discount use the code SSUK2018 when booking online. This is valid for all crossings from Thursday 13th September to Monday 17th September.
Portsmouth to Fishbourne Car Ferry.
The crossing time is about 40 minutes and the ride in to the event HQ is about 8 miles with options of country lanes or a long gently uphill gravel bridleway which is far nicer going down (but aren't all hills?)
Portsmouth to Ryde Pier Head.
This is the passenger only fast ferry which is advertised as having room for up to 20 bikes. In my experience they are pretty flexible at busy times and within reason will pack in as many as turn up. This route has the shortest ride in at about 6 miles but with no real opportunities for doing it off road without adding a few miles.
There is parking for both the Portsmouth routes on University land at £2 per day from Friday evening to Sunday evening. This car park is just off the roundabout at the junction of the A3 and Museum Road, postcode PO1 2QQ.† All other parking nearby is the best part of a pound an hour.
∑ If you are travelling with a vehicle on the Friday evening and Sunday afternoon it is advisable to book the ferry as soon as possible as weekend crossings in September are likely to fill up quickly.
∑ Passenger prices on all the routes are about £16 return with bikes going free. Note that bikes are not carried on the hydrofoil fast ferry from Southampton to Cowes.
∑ If you require any further information on getting to the campsite please contact me via the eventís Facebook page or email keith at perfectbalancecycles dot co dot uk.
If youíre lucky enough to have access to a light aircraft the event HQ is only half a mile away from Sandown Airport.