Visiting Ireland by Ferry with Stena Line

Discover how travelling to Dublin Port with Stena Line will get your trip to Ireland off to a relaxed start.

I absolutely love visiting Ireland, and I’ve been there many times over the years. When I was young, we used to travel there by ferry which always seemed like a fantastic adventure to me back then.

Over the last 20 years, it’s become so easy to just hop on a budget airline when I’m visiting Dublin. And I have to admit that I’d forgotten how much fun it could be to travel to Ireland by ferry.

So when Stena Line offered to take me and my family over to the Emerald Isle by ferry, it felt like a great opportunity to relieve memories of my childhood trips to Ireland.

But I discovered that in the 30 years since I last travelled to Ireland by ferry, a lot has changed. Stena Line ferries are comfortable, with plenty of facilities to keep everyone entertained during the crossing, and modern ferries have excellent stabilisation to cut down on the risk of sea-sickness.

Read on to find out more about how we travelled to Ireland with Stena Line.

Why travel to Ireland by ferry?

There are plenty of reasons why you might choose to travel by ferry to Ireland, rather than taking a plane. It may simply be that you don’t like flying, and are looking for an alternative way to travel.

Or maybe you’re planning to take a road trip around Ireland? Taking the ferry is perfect for this as you can take your own car over to Ireland, meaning that you don’t need to hire one and saving you money.

If you want to take your dog on holiday with you, then again this is the perfect way to get to Ireland. Pets travel free on Stena Line routes to Ireland, and they have pre-bookable kennels to give your pet a relaxing journey.

Or maybe you’re just looking for a more relaxed way to get your holiday in Ireland underway. Whatever the reason, travelling by ferry to Ireland is definitely something that’s worth considering.

Stena Line routes to Ireland

Stena Line operate ferries to Ireland on four different routes, so you’re sure to find one that fits in well with your itinerary for your visit to Ireland.

You can take the ferry from Cairnryan in Scotland over to Belfast in Northern Ireland. There are five sailings daily on this route, and the crossing takes just 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Or if you want to sail from Liverpool, Stena Line operate up to 12 crossings per week to Belfast. This is an eight hour crossing.

There are also two crossings to Ireland from Wales. The first leaves from Fishguard in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, and docks in Rosslare in County Wexford. This ferry runs 14 times each week, and takes around 3 hours and 15 minutes.

The final route is the one that we took on our visit to Ireland, from Holyhead on the island of Anglesey over to Dublin Port. Stena Line operate four crossings on this route every day, and the trip takes 3 hours and 15 minutes.

Our trip to Ireland with Stena Line

I love visiting Ireland, and will gladly seize any opportunity to head over to this beautiful country. And as I would be taking my car over on the ferry, this seemed like a great opportunity for Ollie and Lyle to come with me for their second visit to Ireland.

We decided to spend three nights in Dublin, which would give us chance to explore the city for a couple of days before heading off to the coastal village of Howth for our final morning.

And of course, there’s no specific weight limit for your luggage when you travel by ferry, so we were able to pack a lot more than if we’d been flying to Dublin. It meant that we could throw in raincoats and spare shoes as well as packing summer clothes. After all, the weather can be a bit unpredictable in Ireland!

So on a bright Monday morning, we loaded up the car and headed off to Holyhead port.

How to get to Holyhead Port

The journey to Holyhead Port is very simple, and you can get there either by car or by train.

The port of Holyhead is on the island of Anglesey, which lies just off the north-west coast of Wales. It’s very easy to get to by car, as you simply need to take the North Wales Expressway (A55) from Chester over to Holyhead.

If you’re travelling as a foot passenger to Dublin, you can get a train to Holyhead station. The station is a short walk from the ferry terminal.

And there is long-stay car parking available at the port if you want to drive to Holyhead but then travel as a foot passenger.

Boarding the ferry at Holyhead

If you hate the long wait and crowded departure lounge at airports, then travelling by ferry will come as a pleasant surprise!

After a straightforward drive to Holyhead, we arrived at the terminal around an hour before our ferry was due to depart.

Check-in closes 30 minutes before the ferry leaves, so you don’t need to be at the port for hours beforehand. That makes a pleasant change from flying – as much as I love airport shopping, the day can feel very long when you spend hours in an airport!

Our details were checked at the port entrance, and we were directed towards one of the lanes at the terminal. There we parked up and got our first glimpse of our ferry, a Stena Line Adventurer.

While you’re waiting, you can get out of your car and stretch your legs or get some refreshments. The weather was wonderful on the day we sailed to Ireland, so we all got out for a bit of fresh air.

Pretty soon it was time to board, and we were directed onto the ferry. After parking, we headed up to the passenger lounges, being sure to take everything with us that we might need during the crossing.

The car decks are locked while the ferry is at sea, so you won’t be able to access your car if you forget something that you need.

On-board the Stena Line Superfast ferry

Unlike flying, taking the ferry means that there’s plenty to do during your journey, and also time to relax and enjoy the crossing.

And because we were one of the first cars on board, it gave us a little more time to look around the ferry before we left port.

Travelling in Comfort

Our first priority was to find somewhere to sit during the crossing. You’re not limited to reserved seats on a ferry, so that left us free to choose where we sat. And there was plenty of choice!

On our outbound journey from Holyhead to Dublin, we headed to the Metropolitan Grill.

There we found a variety of seating options which included some comfy booths, so we quickly bagged one of those. It was great to be able to spread out around the table, compared to the amount of space you get in a standard plane seat.

And for around 8 Euro, you can access WiFi for the duration of the crossing. Ollie and Lyle were happy to get online and chat to their friends, and I loved being able to catch up with some emails and social media.

I also liked the look of these seats which looked out over the front of the ship. They give you a great view as the ferry starts to glide out into the Irish Sea.

These seats looked pretty comfy but if you’re after even more comfort, you might like to try the Hygge lounge. These are available on the Stena Adventurer ferry on the Holyhead-Dublin and Cairnryan-Belfast routes.

The lounge is open to passengers aged 16 and over, and features reclining seats in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere. There are large windows and soft lighting, and the TVs are muted to create a laid back, peaceful environment.

Upgrading to the Hygge lounge costs from just £5 per person. If I’d been travelling without the boys, I think I’d have been very tempted by it.

Or for a real treat, you could upgrade to the private Stena Plus Lounge. You can book this as part of the Stena Premium Fare, which also includes express boarding and disembarkation. Alternatively, you can book lounge access only as an upgrade to your standard fare for £18 per person.

Access to the Stena Plus Lounge includes comfy seating and an exclusive menu with waiter service, along with complimentary snacks and drinks. There is also free WiFi and complimentary newspapers and magazines.

It’s a more luxurious way to travel to Ireland by ferry, and definitely something I’d consider booking for a future crossing.

There are even cabins available, which would be a great idea if you’re taking one of the early morning or late night crossings. As well as a bed, the cabins include a desk area and TV as well as a shower room with complimentary toiletries.

Being able to get a few hours sleep or freshen up while you’re at sea will leave you ready for the journey ahead of you.

Food and Drink

When I travel with my teenage sons, food and drink are always a priority. There were plenty of options for us on our Stena Line ferry to Dublin.

As soon as we’d settled down in the Metropolitan Grill, it was time to start investigating the food and drink options.

We were on the 2pm sailing and our journey to Holyhead had taken about 2.5 hours. So the boys were more than ready for lunch, and quickly decided to have burgers.

There were various options so Lyle went for the plain Stena burger, and Ollie opted to top his with cheese and bacon. They both came with a generous portion of chips.

I could have gone for the vegetarian burger, but decided instead to try the vegetable lasagne. It isn’t the prettiest of plates to photograph, but it tasted pretty good.

We could also have chosen from a range of sandwiches and snack, and there are kids meals and gluten-free options available as well.

And if you’re travelling in the morning, the breakfast menu has everything from pancakes and granola to pancakes and even a full Breakfast Grill.

On the deck above the Metropolitan Grill, you’ll find the Metropolitan Bar. This area is very bright and airy, and there’s plenty of seating.

They serve a range of beers and wines here, so you can relax with a drink and watch the big screen TV during your crossing to Dublin.

Or if you prefer a coffee, the Barista Coffee lounge serves hot drinks and a range of sandwiches and snacks.

So whether you’re after a full meal at the end of a long journey, or just a quick snack to keep you going til you reach land again, you’re bound to find something to suit.

Duty-Free Shopping

If you love shopping at an airport, the good news is that you won’t miss out if you travel to Dublin by ferry.

It’s true that you won’t be able to do duty-free shopping at Holyhead port. But you won’t miss out, because there’s a duty-free shop on board your Stena Line Ferry.

You’ll find a wide range of fragrance and cosmetics, electronics, gifts and chocolates. And there are some really good bargains, with discounts of up to 50% off RRP.

And if you forgot to pick up some souvenirs or gifts while you were in Dublin, you’ll even find a range of those available on board!

One thing to bear in mind is that the ferries don’t have an ATM or bureau de change. You can pay on-board using cards, but it is a good idea to take at least a few Euro along with you for when you reach Dublin, especially if you plan to use the toll roads.

On-board Entertainment

Travelling by ferry to Dublin obviously takes longer than flying to Ireland, but there’s plenty on board to keep you occupied.

If the food menu and on-board shopping doesn’t keep you occupied for the duration of your crossing, you might be interested to check out the entertainment options.

The bars and lounges on board have TVs, to help keep you entertained throughout the crossing . But if you’re travelling with young children, you might need more than just the TV to keep them occupied for 3 hours.

Luckily, Stena Line have thought of this, and they’ve laid on plenty that will keep them from feeling bored. There are play areas to let them burn off steam, fun and games with Captain Stena, and even a free cinema which shows family friendly films.

If your kids are a little too old for balloon modelling or ball pits, they might enjoy the Teen Zone with its range of computer games.

But for me personally, there’s nothing better than just watching the sea slip smoothly away, knowing that we’re getting closer to Ireland all the time.

And I was amazed by just how smooth our crossings were. In fact, most of the time I could hardly tell that we were out at sea at all. It’s certainly completely different from the ferry crossings I remember from years ago!

Arriving at Dublin Port

The three hours seemed to slip by very quickly. And as we approached the Dublin coastline, the announcement came for car passengers to return to their vehicles.

If you’re travelling as a foot passenger, you’ll be taken on and off the ferry on board a Stena Line coach. There’ll be a separate announcement telling you when to get ready to leave the ferry.

We piled back into our car, and got ready to disembark. I’d never driven in Ireland before, but as they drive on the left hand side of the road, it was a lot less daunting than when I’ve driven in Europe before. And having my own car meant that I didn’t have to drive an unfamiliar hire car. That always takes me a little while to get used to!

There are a few differences that you need to be aware of if you’re planning a road trip in Ireland. Not least of these is the fact that all the speed limits are in kilometres rather than miles.

And if you’re taking your own car over on the ferry, don’t forget to check with your insurer to make sure that you are covered when you’re driving in the Ireland.

Our Visit to Dublin

It was lovely to arrive in Ireland feeling relaxed and refreshed after our ferry crossing. Once off the ferry, we had a short drive to our base for the next three days.

We stayed at the Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge, which is in a quiet suburb of Dublin. It’s only a 20 minute bus ride into town, so for me that gave us the best of both worlds.

You can read my full review of the Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge here

During our stay in Dublin, we visited several of the capital’s fascinating museums including Dublinia, which explores the city’s Viking past.

We also paid a visit to the Jeannie Johnston, a replica of one of the emigrant ships which carried people to North America during the Great Famine of the mid-19th century.

Of course, our visit to Dublin wouldn’t be complete without popping into Temple Bar, a vibrant part of the city that’s packed with lively pubs and bars.

But we also enjoyed the peace and quiet of St Stephen’s Green, and wandered around the stunning State Apartments of Dublin Castle.

Having a car with us gave me the option of driving into the city rather than taking the bus. It also meant that we could head out of the city to spend a morning in the nearby coastal village of Howth.

I’ll be writing more about our visit to Dublin soon

If you’re planning a visit to Ireland, you may well have plenty of plans for things to do. Taking a Stena Line ferry to Dublin opens a gateway to everything that this wonderful island has to offer.

Whether you choose to visit Cork and the south of the island, take a trip to the wild West Coast and Galway, or maybe head up to the incredibly beautiful landscapes of Connemara, you’re sure of a warm welcome.

Travelling to the UK by Stena Line

All too soon, our visit to Ireland was over, and it was time for us to head back to Dublin Port to catch our ferry back to the UK.

After spending a relaxing morning in the beautiful village of Howth, we drove back to Dublin Port, arriving around an hour before our 2.50pm sailing. We had a short wait in the car until we were able to board, and just look what we were parked in front of.

Apparently even time machines travel by Stena Line ferry!

It was Lyle who spotted the DeLorean first, and I nipped out to ask the owner if I could take a photo. Pretty much every person who pulled up nearby came over to do the same. I guess the owner is used to it by now!

That helped pass the time until we were given the instruction to start our engines and board the Stena Line Superfast X back to Holyhead.

Dublin to Holyhead on-board the Stena Line Adventurer X

We were one of the first cars on the ship this time, and most of the facilities on-board the Superfast X were pretty similar to the Adventurer.

This time we didn’t need to get lunch as we’d already eaten in Howth.

So we found a comfy spot in the bar and enjoyed a cold drink while we watched some TV. I nipped up on deck a few times to watch as the ferry travelled further away from the Irish coast. We were heading homewards once again.

We’d been pretty lucky with the weather during our stay in Dublin, with only a few short showers.

As our ferry slipped back across the Irish Sea to Holyhead, I watched another Stena Line ferry heading into what looked like quite heavy rain en route to Dublin.

On the other side of our ferry, looking towards Wales, the sky was much clearer and there was a little sunshine peeking through.

But I couldn’t help feeling a pang of envy thinking of all the people on board that ship, on their way to Ireland. I want to go back already!

Travelling to Ireland with Stena Line: My Review

We enjoyed ourselves so much on our trip to Ireland, and travelling with Stena Line helped with that.

Slow travel makes you slow down and relax. The journey becomes a part of your holiday rather than just a means to an end.

The facilities on board a Stena Line ferry increase this feeling of relaxation. And of course it’s great to be able to stretch your legs and get some fresh air rather than being confined to your seat.

There are excellent facilities for passengers with children on board a Stena Line ferry. I’m sure this must make travelling with kids so much easier. And children aged up to 3 travel free of charge, which is another bonus!

Not only did travelling by Stena Line help to make our journey feel more relaxed, it also meant we could take our car over with us. This made packing easier as well as giving us more options for the time we had in Ireland.

The Cost

Our return crossing on the Holyhead-Dublin route was complimentary, but a standard crossing for a small car and two adults would normally cost around £374.

This is more than you’d pay for a budget airline flight to Dublin, but if you’re travelling in a larger group, the cost per passenger starts to come down. The benefits of being able to travel around Ireland without the cost of hiring a car also need to be taken into account.

And there are special offers available on the Stena Line website, including low cost short breaks for foot passengers. These would be great for a weekend eating, drinking and shopping in Dublin.

I’m already thinking ahead to my next visit to Ireland. And one thing is for sure, it definitely won’t be another 30 years before I take a Stena Line ferry again!

Visit the Stena Line website to check prices and crossings for any of the Stena Line routes.

Thank you to Stena Line for taking us to Ireland on board your fabulous ferries!

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