Are you planning on taking a car ferry to the UK, or Europe from Ireland this summer? Whether you are a seasoned ferry traveller, or someone heading off on your first ferry adventure, we hope you find this article helpful.
And there has never been a better time to consider the benefits of a ferry trip, with recent travel chaos at airports, combined with increased air fares and restrictions in airline capacity.
Car Ferries to the UK
Let’s start with a look at the options closest to home. As a first time Ferry traveller, perhaps a car ferry trip to the UK will provide a nice introduction to the joys of ferry travel. Because of its relative closeness by Ferry, it is even possible to use the Ferry for a return day trip.
There are several route options available, depending on where you want to depart from.
- Dublin – Liverpool: One of the most popular ferries to England, this ferry route is a great starting place for exploring Liverpool, Manchester, and the surrounding areas of Northwest England.
- Dublin – Birkenhead: Similarly, the Birkenhead ferry offers easy access to Manchester and onwards through the Northwest and to the Midlands region of England.
- Dublin – Holyhead: One of the shortest crossings from the Republic of Ireland and one of the most popular.
- Dun Laoghaire – Holyhead: Similarly, this quick car ferry to the UK, docks in North Wales and offers a great starting point for a tour of Wales, or further afield.
- Rosslare – Fishguard: This is another popular crossing into Wales.
- Rosslare – Pembroke: Like Fishguard, both ferries offer a great gateway into England, especially for those who use the UK as a land bridge to Europe, perhaps travelling onwards to Plymouth, Portsmouth, or Dover.
- Cork – Swansea: The only car ferry route offering direct access to the UK from Cork.
from Northern Ireland
- Belfast – Liverpool: One of only two ferries with access to England from Belfast. The second travels via the Isle of Man.
- Belfast – Douglas (Isle of Man): Always a popular touring destination, especially during the Isle of Man’s TT racing festival, usually held in May or June each year.
- Belfast – Stranraer: Another short crossing from Belfast to Scotland.
- Larne – Fleetwood: This ferry from Northern Ireland gives good access to Manchester, Leeds, and the Yorkshire countryside, renowned for its beauty and tourism trails.
- Larne – Cairnryan: Another route into Scotland and the North of England.
- Larne – Troon: The perfect entry point for a tour of Scotland, with easy access to Glasgow and Edinburgh, or as a gateway on your tour of the most famous Scotch Whisky Distilleries.
Considerations when travelling to, or through the UK by Ferry
Since Brexit some travel requirements have changed.
- Irish Citizens arriving in the UK don’t have to show a passport to a Border Post officer, although they may be required to confirm their identity and nationality by using their passport. The best advice would be to bring your passport, or passport card. For further information see the UK Governments guidelines regarding the Common Travel Area.
- Driving an Irish car on holiday in the UK is permitted once a valid insurance disc is displayed. The Green Card requirement no longer applies. A valid insurance disk will also suffice for travel within the EU. If you are planning on travelling abroad for an extended period of time, please check with our Car Insurance Help Desk for further information.
- Duty Free is back! As a result of Brexit visitors returning to Ireland from the UK mainland will have new improved allowances for Duty Free products. See Revenue.ie for more details.
- It may seem trivial to mention the following but having left one legal and monetary jurisdiction for another, possibly arriving late at night and after a long journey – The UK operates using the imperial system of MPH (miles per hour) for their road speed limits and with the pound sterling, as their currency.
Getting the Car Ferry to the UK – The main providers
Taking a Ferry to Europe from Ireland
Travelling a little further afield adds some more complexity to your travel planning. You may be planning on taking ferries to England and then travelling onwards into France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, or even Denmark. Or you may be planning to sail off on a direct car ferry from Ireland to France, or Spain.
Whichever destination you choose, you will have a very different experience from that of flying. And if you love to drive on the open road (well for most of the time!) then you will really get the most out of getting a car ferry to Europe from Ireland.
Here is a selection of some of the most popular car ferries to Europe from Ireland, and via the UK land bridge.
- Cork – Roscoff: The most direct ferry link with France, arriving on its North-west coastline.
- Dublin – Cherbourg: Another great direct ferry option to France.
- Rosslare – Cherbourg: Bringing you further East along the French coastline to Cherbourg.
- Rosslare – Bilbao: This relatively new car ferry from Ireland to Spain, opens up the Iberian Peninsula to Irish ferry traffic.
via UK Land Bridge
- Plymouth – Roscoff: Bring you to the North-west coast of France.
- Plymouth – Santander: A great option for accessing Spain and Portugal without the need to drive through France.
- Portsmouth – Bilbao: Another popular route to access the Iberian Peninsula.
- Portsmouth – Caen/Cherbourg: Well located for those travelling onwards, having gotten an Irish ferry into Wales, or Liverpool.
- Dover – Calais/Dunkirk: A good option for those looking to incorporate a visit to the London region while on the way to France.
- Harwich – Hook of Holland: Bringing you close to the Hague and Rotterdam.
- Newcastle – Amsterdam: Another popular route to Holland with easy onward access to Germany and the rest of Europe.
Considerations when travelling in Europe
Once you enter Continental Europe, a few things to note!
- The most obvious is that you will be driving on the other side of the road. Instead of the driver’s position being on the outside of the road/traffic lane, it will be on the inside (closest to the kerb/beside the slower lane). Once you get used to this, it becomes easier. However, always be cautious when you first leave the ferry terminal. While driving, take extra care when overtaking and make good use of your mirrors.
- Another consequence of the changed road position is the need to adapt your headlight beams. Vehicle beams are designed to throw more light to the driver’s side of the road. This avoids the worst of the blinding effects on oncoming travel. By fitting a headlamp convertor, this redirects the beam to mimic a left-hand drive vehicle. This is a legal requirement throughout most of mainland Europe. See here for examples of convertors.
- Make sure you have your car insurance documents, logbook and valid driving licence. It is also important to carry your passport, or appropriate ID when driving in most European Countries.
- Items like a first aid kit, emergency triangle, Hi-Viz bibs, and a fire extinguisher are not only useful to have, but are legal requirements in many Countries.
- It goes without saying, but we will say it anyway! As you will be travelling for long distances, and in varying road conditions, it is vitally important to have your vehicle in good condition. Look at having it serviced, if appropriate. Certainly, have it looked over, along with the spare wheel, and the tools to change a wheel if required.
Car Ferry to Europe from Ireland – The main providers
A few things to note about the Ferry journey
- Once your vehicle is loaded on the ferry and you depart for the upper decks, you will generally be unable to return to the vehicle. Ensure that you have brought everything that you need for the duration of the voyage.
- Take note of the vehicle’s location and always follow the direction of the ferry staff when embarking/disembarking.
- Depending on the duration of the journey, you may have a cabin as part of your booking. Make sure that before you disembark, the driver is well rested and hasn’t consumed alcohol for an appropriate period beforehand. Even if you are only travelling a short distance after arrival, you will still need to be at your sharpest to negotiate the busy disembarkation process and a busy port environment.
Stay Safe and Enjoy the Ferry Experience
As you sail the high seas, with the wind in your hair, relax and recharge for the journey ahead. Some ferries only offer a basic entertainment and hospitality experience. Others will offer a mini holiday experience, in its own right. Whichever is the case, embrace it and enjoy the ferry experience.
On the open roads of Europe, enjoy freedom hard to replicate, on a package, or self-build holiday. When you reach your destination enjoy having your own trusty vehicle with you. Go to the beach, or go sightseeing, or simply to do a shop for the family. You might even bring the family pet along for the experience.
A ferry holiday to Europe from Ireland will always be memorable.