Hi there alshasta, I am having to take a guess at the cruise you are doing, and therefore the ports of call, so if there are different ports, please let me know.
I am thinking ...
- Paris/Normandy (Le Havre)
- Edinburgh (South Queensferry)
- Inverness/Loch Ness (Invergordon)
- Glasgow (Greenock)
- Cork (Cobh - For Blarney Castle)
- Guernsey (St. Peter Port)
If you are staying in Southampton either pre or post cruise, then there is a lot of history within walking distance of the port/city centre, including many museums (art, sea, air, Titanic), the old town walls, historic buildings as well as easy transfer to Salisbury for Stonehenge, Winchester for King Alfred the Great & such, and Portsmouth for HMS Victory, the Mary Rose and other historic ships.
In Le Havre, you really have to take the tour into Paris. You can do it on your own, but it's a hectic day on the trains for little saving on cost over the well organised coach trip ( we have done both & the coach was better ). Plan ahead for Paris on what you want to see, as you will only be able to sample the top layer of the city & it's people.
For Edinburgh, you can easily take a train into the city & do your own thing ( we always take this option ) To make the most of the day, try & get on the first tender, you then have about a 15 minute walk (depending on your mobility) to the station. Once in Edinburgh, consider such things as Holyrood Castle, which has an excellent self-guided tour with mp3 players. Or if you want something a little different, the Royal Yacht is moored up a short bus, or healthy walk away from town. Plus of course Edinburgh Castle itself (if you are going on a Tattoo day, the ship will more likely organise tours from Glasgow (Greenock) for that.
Inverness, we usually get moored up at the end of a very long pier, some mile away from the small town/village, it won't take long to walk around it. Last time we were there we took the train to the head of the river & wandered around the town & countryside, but you are probably better off seeing what the ship has to offer with trips to the Highlands, Loock Ness, or Whisky trails. The ships will often get a local drum band to come on board & perform in the show lounge, and even if they don't they will almost certainly be playing alongside the ship as she prepares & sets sail.
Next we have Liverpool, we were there once on the QE2 & moored in the middle of the Mersey River using the ferries as tenders to the shoreside, but last time we were there, they had a new dock which was quite some way out of town, so hopefully a shuttle will be provided as the town is worth visiting, as is the regenerated area around the Albert Docks. If you are a 60's music fan, then Liverpool has everything you could want from the BritPop scene.
Then onto Belfast. The ship's shuttle will park up just across the road from the City Hall, and if you visit that as soon as you arrive you can sign up for a free afternoon guided tour. It has limited numbers, so you must sign up.
You can also walk from the city over a bridge straight into the history books of the Northern Ireland conflict - we were shocked at finding the scene of all the violence was right next to the city centre. The wallk still have the murals from those dark days, and when we walked the are, which still felt awkward, the dividing wall & securtiy gate was still in place. Given the recent escallation in problems in that area again, I, as a Brit, would not feel too happy there, but that's not to say don't do it, just keep to the main areas.
Then Glasgow, well Greenock. Greenock it'self is a pleasant town, but has little to offer to tourists, so you really need to visit Glasgow. Again the train in & back is quite simple, it takes some 20 minutes to walk to the station & you arrive right in the centre of Glasgow. We have been to Glasgow 3 times now, and were really scratching around for something to do on the last visit, so read the details & plan your day.
Then into Dublin (or in many cases Dublin Bay which is some distance from Dublin) Once in the City, you have everything you could want from drinking the local Stouts, to seeing the Book of Kells at Trinity College, to shopping, to watching the world go by. However our top tip here is to check out a company called Sandemans who offer FREE walking tours in many cities around Europe. They are given in small groups and work on a tips only basis. All the ones we have used across Europe have been wonderful & full of local stories, historial facts, and offer a genuine insight into the city. The one thing they will comment on is that they offer other tours for which they charge (mainly the evening pub crawl) but have never been pushy & tell people to simply ask for tickets if they want them.
Their website is NEW Dublin FREE TOUR - Edinburgh Tours - SANDEMANs NEW EUROPE
Next you are probably off to Cobh or Cork, which is unfortuately tied quite closely to both the Titanic and the Lusitania. The town itself is vibrant in both colour and life. The main reason for this stop is for transfers into Cork, or to Blarney Castle for it's 'Stone'. If you want to go to Cork, and are docked in Cobh (see note below) you can walk off the ship, round the corner & get onto the regular train.
However, and here's the note ... Last time we were there, we were 'dumped' in the port of Ringaskiddy which is on the other side of the water with a long transfer time, so if that's the same for you, I would reccomend staying in Cobh & strolling the town, the waterfront & it's imposing Church.
And finally onto St.Peter Port which is another tender port. Again the town itself has quite a lot to offer if you just want to stroll & take in the local life. If you do, then look out for the Castle Cornet which is to your left as you enter the harbour. It has a canon/gun which is fired every day at Noon - quite a surprise of you are walking under it & weren't expecting it !!! (voice of experience). The gun is fired by soldiers who are dressed formally so make a great picture of a very British Institution. If you do wander further afield, possible by the buses that run a circular route along the coastline, then you may want to get off & visit the Little China and Shell Chapel, it is a very small, but working chapel, which has all it's floors & walls covered with sea shells, or pieces of broken china, pottery, and porcelain, much with it's own story of how it got there. There is enough time between buses to enjoy this unusual site, and get back to the main road for the next bus - but remember to allow time to get back to St.Peter Port to tender back to thip - it's a long swim back to Southampton ;o)
Hope this helps,