United Kingdom Cruising Guide

Books    Customs and Immigration    General Information    Tides    Weather

Caernarfon Castle, WalesSt Mawes, CornwallGiants Causeway,Northern Ireland

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to give it its full title, is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and is one of the 27 member states of the European Union (EU).  It was the dominant industrial and maritime power of the 19th century and, with a population of over 60 million, is a leading trading power and financial centre today.

In a land full of contrasts, wherever you travel, you will find a wide variety of landscapes and diverse cultures to explore.  England has around 6000 miles of beautiful coastline, including islands, with ports of call ranging from historic maritime cities to quaint fishing villages.  Scotland is a land of highlands and islands, whisky and wilderness, with a wealth of castles and historic sites.  Wales, too, has 400 castles but only one motorway so you can be sure of getting away from it all.  Northern Ireland can offer you vibrant cities and unspoilt retreats.

The UK provides a vast cruising ground with plenty of variety and challenges.  The most popular cruising areas are the Solent, England's south west and the west coast of Scotland.  There is an abundance of facilities in these areas, particularly on the south coast of England, but there are also a vast number of local boats so harbours tend to be quite crowded.  There is more space to be found elsewhere but facilities tend to be more limited.  Berthing can vary a great deal in quality and availability as well as price and, in more remote areas, can be very basic.

The most comprehensive range of repair facilities can be found in the Solent area with some of the biggest names in the British marine industry based here and spares or repairs are readily available.


UK Weather

The UK enjoys a mild, temperate climate influenced by the Atlantic and particularly the Gulf Stream.  However, the weather tends to be very changeable and quite unpredictable.  The best cruising months are from May to September, when it is generally warmer and more settled.

Met Office
Shipping forecast, inshore waters, gale warnings, latest observations, surface pressure chart and extended outlook


UK Tides

UK waters are tidal and in some areas the tidal range is among the highest in the world.  As a result, tidal streams are strong and good navigation is essential.

Admiralty Easy Tide
Tidal data for over 7,000 ports worldwide with predictions for the forthcoming week available free of charge


UK Customs and Immigration

The United Kingdom is a member of the European Union (EU).

Leaving the United Kingdom

Going to another EU Member State
You do not need to notify Customs unless you have been specifically asked to do so by a Customs Officer.
You do not need to notify Customs if you are ultimately leaving the the EU but will be calling at another port in the EU on passage.
You also do not need to notify an Immigration Officer of any voyage where the first port of call overseas is expected to be in the Channel Islands or else where in the EU.

Going to a country outside the EU
It is an offence not to notify Customs in advance when you intend to take your vessel to a country outside the EU.
Notify Customs by completing Form C1331 which can be obtained from most yacht clubs and marinas, any Customs Office, HM Revenue and Customs website ( or the National Advice Service on 0845 010 9000.
Part 1 of the form must be returned to Customs before you expect to leave the UK.  It may be returned by handing it to a Customs Officer, placing it in a Customs post box or taking it or posting it to one of the Customs Offices.
When your first port of call will be outside the EU you need to notify an Immigration Officer in advance only if you are carrying someone who has no right of abode in the EU.

Arriving in the United Kingdom

Arriving from another EU Member State
You do not need to fly the 'Q' flag.
You need only contact Customs if you have goods to declare.
However, there may be Immigration requirements if anyone on board is not an EU national.  Contact the National Yachtline on 0845 723 1110 for advice.

Arriving from outside the EU
The Channel Islands are regarded as outside the EU for this purpose.
You must fly the 'Q' flag where it can readily be seen as soon as you enter UK waters (the 12 mile limit).  Do not take down the flag until you have finished reporting to Customs.  Failure to comply will make you liable to a penalty.
You must telephone the National Yachtline on 0845 723 1110.  You will need to inform them if any of the following apply:
- VAT has not been paid on the vessel
- You have any goods in excess of the traveller's allowance
- You have on board goods which are to be treated as duty free stores
- You have any prohibited or restricted goods
- There is any notifiable illness on board
- There are people on board who need immigration clearance
- Any repairs or modifications other than running repairs have been carried out since you last left the EU
You will need to comply with any further instructions that the Customs Officer gives you.
You may also be asked to complete parts (i), (iii) and the declaration in Part 2 of Form C1331.
If you have a Form C1331 Part 2 on board from when you left the UK, you should complete part (iii).


UK General Information

Time Zone
Summer Time (from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October) = UTC +1

Pound sterling = 100 pence

Dial 999 free from any telephone for fire service, police, ambulance and coastguard

Tourist information
Visit Britain
Britain's official travel and tourism guide