A new ferry route linking Ireland with northern Spain is to begin at the end of April. Brittany Ferries will sail from Cork to Santander twice a week, with the Connemara chartered to serve the route. The company is expected to put the route on sale from the end of January.
The Santander route is the only direct ferry link between Ireland and Spain. In 2014, LD Lines began a service between Rosslare and Spain, with a stop-off in France. The route ended later that year.
Brittany Ferries has operated a service between Cork and Roscoff, France, for 40 years. The company said it will also use the Connemara to add an extra sailing on the Roscoff route.
The ship has the capacity for around 500 passengers and space for 195 cars. It will also host 2,225 lane metres of garage space. Brittany Ferries said it expects an even split between passengers and freight carried.
The Connemara has 120 cabins and the crossing will take 26 hours. It will leave Cork on Wednesday and Friday and return on Thursday and Saturdays from April until November. Prices are not yet available.
"This is a significant move for Brittany Ferries, offering haulage companies a direct route to Spain and passengers a far greater range of holiday options from Cork," said Hugh Bruton, general manager of Brittany Ferries Ireland.
The news of the additional routes was welcomed by the Port of Cork, saying it would increase tourism and freight. “The option for freight carriers to bypass the UK land bridge will be seen as very attractive as Brexit uncertainty continues,” said commercial manager Captain Michael McCarthy. “We have no doubt that both exporters and importers will make this a viable service.”
Last year there were just over two million visits to Spain from Ireland, and over 400,000 from Spain to Ireland.