Cairnryan to Belfast Ferry – With 2023 Timetable and Price

Time to read: 7 minutes

It’s easy to take the boat from Scotland to Belfast using the Cairnryan to Belfast ferry. I made this trip on a recent visit to Scotland and Ireland. In this post, I’ll tell you all you need to know about the ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast.

Quick Takeaway: The fastest ferry to Belfast from Scotland is with Stena Line and takes just 2 hours and 15 minutes. A ticket costs from as little as £37 ($47) for a foot passenger. Click here to book with Direct Ferries.

Reaching Northern Ireland by ferry is one of the best ways to arrive and offers fantastic coastal views of both Scotland and Ireland. If you’d rather sail from England, check out my article about the Liverpool to Belfast ferry.

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How to Take the Scotland to Northern Ireland Ferry

Ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast
Ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast

It’s easy to catch a ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast with two sailings per day taking just over two hours. You can travel both as a foot passenger or with a vehicle on the Stenaline Cairnryan to Belfast ferry.

If you’re looking to hire a car for your Northern Ireland trip, I recommend our partners at Discover Cars who are one of the top service providers in Europe. Click here to find out more.

While in Scotland, be sure to check out these amazing tours:

Why take the Cairnryan Belfast Ferry?

  • Enjoy a leisurely trip without the stress of flying
  • Cheap – tickets from just £37.00 ($47)
  • Amazing views of the Scottish coastline
  • Discover the Craic in one of Europe’s most fun cities
  • Arrive close to the centre of Belfast

There are many reasons to visit the vibrant city of Belfast. There’s so much to see and do from enjoying exploring the old Harland and Wolfe shipyard where the Titanic was built to seeing Belfast Castle and climbing Cave Hill for sweeping views of the city.

How Long is the Ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast?

The Cairnryan to Belfast ferry takes just two hours and fifteen minutes. When I made the journey recently it was on time (unlike the Holyhead to Dublin ferry which was an hour late getting into port).

Cairnryan to Belfast Ferry Prices

The Cairnryan to Belfast prices are very reasonable and a lot cheaper than flying with tickets starting at £37 for a foot passenger if booked in advance.

  • Foot Passenger: £37 ($47)
  • Bicycle: £47 ($60)
  • Motorcycle: £51 ($65)
  • Small car (e.g. Fiat Punto): £135 ($173)

You can pay an extra £5 for a flexi ticket which enables you to cancel and receive a full refund up to 24 hours before the sailing.

You can also pay extra to upgrade to the Stena Plus Lounge but for such a short journey I didn’t feel this necessary and there is plenty of available seating around the boat.

Click here to book your ticket now

Rail and Sail

A ticket from Belfast to Glasgow with Rail and Sail costs just £35 including both the train and ferry. You can book online via thetrainline and other national rail services, or direct with Stena Line.

StenaLine Cairnryan to Belfast Ferry Timetable

Cairnryan to Belfast Timetable 2023

ShipDepart CairnryanArrive BelfastDuration
Stena Superfast Vii07:3009:452h15m
Stena Superfast Viii11:3013:452h15m

Book today with Direct Ferries

How to buy tickets for the Cairnryan to Belfast Ferry

You can purchase tickets at the port in Cairnryan, however, as the route sells out it’s best to book in advance and this can be done online through companies like Direct Ferries.

Prices start from as little as €38 one-way for a foot passenger. Prices increase in summer and around holiday periods. Use the widget below to get a quote today:

How to get to the Cairnryan Belfast Ferry Terminal

The ferry departs from the passenger terminal at Cairnryan which is 80 miles southwest of Glasgow and 45 miles south of Ayr (where my grandfather was born).

There are buses from both cities and if you opt for the rail and sail deal it includes the train from Glasgow to Ayr and a shuttle bus from Ayr to Cairnryan port.

For drivers, take the A77 if coming from the north, or the A75 if coming from northern Carlisle or northern England. If you need a vehicle for your journey, you can rent a car with Discover Cars and pick it up at the Port. Click here to check prices.

Address: Station Loch Ryan Prt, Cairnryan – Belfast, Cairnryan, Stranraer DG9 8RG. Click here for directions.
Telephone: +44 (0)344 770 7070

Port Operating Hours

Monday to Sunday: 6am to 10pm

Facilities at the port

  • Stena Line ticket office
  • Coffee shop
  • Vending machines
  • Toilets
  • Passenger lounge
  • Wi-Fi


There is a short-term car park at the port for drop off/collection.

Checking In

Check-in opens 2 hours prior to departure. Foot passengers should check in one hour before departure (check-in closes 45 minutes before the sailing).

As going from Scotland to Northern Island means you won’t be leaving the UK there is no passport control, but you’ll likely be asked for some proof of identity so it’s best to have a passport with you.

After presenting your ticket and ID at the counter you’ll then go through security. Some bags will be x-rayed (random selection) and larger baggage should be put in the hold. I was able to keep my rucksack with me.

I was questioned by police who asked me where I was going, which just seemed to be random and they let me continue on my journey after asking a few questions about why I was travelling (which I thought was a little over the top).

After you’ve checked in it’s a five-minute walk from the terminal building to the boat, there is no shuttle bus as it’s such a small port.

There is a shuttle bus that takes foot passengers from the port building directly to the ferry. Wait in the passenger lounge after checking in and you will be called to the bus when it’s ready to depart. The journey takes around 5 minutes.

Book today with Direct Ferries

About the Cairnryan to Belfast Ferry

Boat from Cairnryan to Belfast
Boat from Cairnryan to Belfast

There are two ferries that sail on the Cairnryan Belfast route; the Stena Superfast Vii and the Stena Superfast Viii. These roll-on, roll-off ferries were built in 2001 and have been with Stena Line since 2017.

Facilities on Board

  • Toilets
  • Sun decks
  • Restaurants
  • Coffee shop
  • Cafeteria
  • Children’s play area
  • Tax-free shop
  • Cinema
  • Stena Plus Lounge

Food and Drink

There are multiple places to get food and drink on board the StenaLine Cairnryan to Belfast ferries. There is a cafeteria-style restaurant serving hot meals (breakfast, fish and chips etc) and a cafe selling sandwiches and other snacks.

Expect to pay €10 to €15 for a meal, and around €5 for a sandwich. I ordered a pulled pork ciabatta (much better than the usual greasy fayre) and paid £8 including a drink.


There is free WiFi onboard which lasts for 20 minutes, but it’s pretty slow. You can also pay to upgrade to a faster connection if you so wish. Mobile phone data works when close to the coastlines of Scotland and Northern Ireland, but not out at sea.

Book today with Direct Ferries

About the Route – Cairnryan to Belfast Ferry Distance

Cairnryan to Belfast Ferry
Cairnryan to Belfast Ferry

The distance from Cairnryan to Belfast is just 62 miles (100 km) and the ferry crosses the Irish Sea. As the route is quite sheltered it’s not one of the more choppy ferry routes I’ve taken.

The boat from Cairnryan to Belfast sails through Loch Ryan for the first leg of the journey which is very picturesque. Keep an eye out for bird and sea life, though the most I saw on this occasion was a lot of large jellyfish.

Arrival at Belfast Port and Disembarkation

Once the ferry is about to dock, drivers will be asked to return to their vehicles. Foot passengers will need to wait until they are called which usually takes around 10 to 20 minutes from past experience.

The bus will take you from the ferry to the main passenger terminal (Terminal 4) for onward transport into Belfast.

Getting to Belfast from the Ferry Port

I flagged down a taxi that cost just £10 to get from the port into Belfast, which was actually cheaper than the £15 Uber was quoting me.

There is also a telephone to a local taxi company inside the terminal building, and last time I arrived in Belfast from Liverpool I use this option and it cost £11.

There is a bus stop outside the terminal with buses that run in conjunction with arriving ferries. A ticket costs £3 and the journey into town is around an hour.

If you wish to walk, it’ll take a couple of hours to get into town, and the area is pretty industrial so unless you’re on an ultra ticht budget I don’t recommend this.

Things to See and Do in Belfast

Belfast Castle
Belfast Castle

Belfast is not usually thought of as a tourist destination and most people head instead to Dublin in the Republic or Ireland. However, there’s plenty to see and do in this city which has something of a painful history during the Troubles.

I’ve been to Belfast twice now and enjoyed each stay immensely (not least the excellent pubs and bars. There is some great hiking close to the city at Cave Hill which offers panoramic views of the city, Belfast Lock and the surrounding countryside.

Here are some of the top things to do in Belfast:

Where to Stay in Belfast

On this last trip to Belfast I stayed at the Global Village hostel close to the University. It’s a ten-minute walk to the city centre, clean, comfortable with curtains on the bunks, and a very friendly vibe. Click here to find out more.

Is Belfast Safe?

Although Belfast has suffered a somewhat bloody past, it’s now a thriving European city with a vibrant centre full of shops, restaurants and bars. Provided you stick to central areas Belfast is a safe place for visitors.

You can read my Guide to safety in Belfast for a more detailed analysis.

Onward Travel

There’s lots to explore in Northern Ireland from the Morn Mountains to the Giant’s Causeway, the gorgeous Antrim Coast Road and even one of the places featured in Game of Thrones (the Dark Hedges).

Hiring a car is the best way to get around and our partners at Discover Cars have some of the best rates for hire car in the UK and Ireland. Click here for more info.

There are also hourly buses and trains direct to Dublin which take around two hours (be aware there is no border so make sure you have the correct visa for the Republic of Ireland if you need one, which Brits and EU citizens do not).

Cairnryan to Belfast FAQs

How long is the ferry ride from Cairnryan to Belfast?

The ferry ride from Cairnryan to Belfast takes two hours and fifteen minutes.

What is the shortest ferry crossing from Scotland to Belfast?

Cairnryan Belfast is the shortest ferry crossing from Scotland to Belfast. It replaces the old Stranraer to Belfast service which is no longer in operation.

Do you need a passport for the Cairnryan to Belfast ferry?

British citizens do not need a passport to travel from Scotland to Northern Ireland as both are part of the UK. Foreign nationals will need a visa for the UK which will cover both.

Can you take your car on the ferry to Belfast?

You can take a car on the ferry to Belfast as it is a roll-on, roll-off ferry that can be used by both drivers and foot passengers.

Don’t Delay, Book Today!

So, now you know everything about taking the Cairnryan Belfast ferry, what are you waiting for? Book your ticket today with Direct Ferries!

You might also like my other ferry travel articles:

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About the author:

Steve Rohan is a writer from Essex, England. He has travelled to over 60 countries, lived in China and Hong Kong, and is now living the digital nomad life on the road.

Steve prefers “slow travel” and has covered much of Europe and Asia by train, bus and boat.

Where I am now: Yerevan, Armenia 🇦🇲

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