While many people head to Europe in order to experience the quintessential train ride, the train isn’t always the best option for traveling from place to place. Sometimes, for instance, there will be an entire sea in your way. If you’re mapping out a route around the British Isles in the near future, here are a few tips about the next best alternative to the European train ride: the ferry.
Traveling to Ireland and Scotland
Scotland and Ireland make for a natural travel destination tag team. They compose two of the three Celtic nations of the British Isles, and they are separated only by the rather thin and very crossable Irish Sea. There are a few flights between the two countries, but who wants to deal with the hassles of flying when traveling such a short distance? The Irish Sea is right there – might as well take advantage of it. The trip by ferry is short, easy, and relaxing, and you don’t need to pay anything to bring your suitcases onboard – even after you’ve stuffed them full of souvenirs.
Traveling with the Ferry and Britrail
Ferry travel in Europe can be enjoyable for many of the same reasons that train travel is enjoyable: there aren’t any long security lines, there is room to walk around and stretch your legs, and there are tasty bar or restaurant options to help satisfy your snack cravings.
With the Britrail Irish Sea Crossing, you’ll be able to plan out your trip in advance so that there won’t be any surprises once you arrive overseas. The voucher you’ll receive is good for the Stena Line ferries, and you’ll just need to present your voucher at the ticket counter to receive the actual ticket before boarding the ferry. The Britrail Irish Crossing is offered in US and Canadian currency so that you won’t need to deal with the international credit card fees you’d pay if purchasing your ticket locally.
With Stena Line ferries, you can take the ferry between Belfast, Ireland and Cairnryan, Scotland, or vice versa. Cairynryan offers frequent bus connections to the town of Ayr, which is just an hour train ride away from Glasgow and two hours away from Edinburgh.
The standard one-way travel time for the ferry is about two hours, with departures all day, everyday. Ferry schedules can be found on Rail Europe’s website under the FAQ section, or by clicking here. Please be aware that while we update all information as frequently as possible, timetables are subject to change at any time.
Why Take the Ferry?
The reasons for taking the ferry are very similar to the reasons for taking a train: why spend your trip cramped in a little airplane seat and pay to check your bags when you can actually take a mode of transport that you might – dare I say it – actually enjoy? Britain’s sea liners are akin to cruise liners and are therefore equipped with restaurants, bars, and lounges. The standard amount of luggage is two large pieces and one smaller personal item per person, with additional luggage subject to a fee (sometimes, if you luck out, there might not be any fee. It probably just depends on how busy it is).
When you take into account the time it would take you to get to the airport early, go through security, wait to check in, and then wait for luggage once you get off the plane, the ferry is actually much faster than flying. And depending on the airline baggage fees, taxes, and transportation to and from the airport, it’s probably a bit easier on your wallet, too.
There are so many exciting ways to get from place to place in both Europe and Britain, so why waste any time cramped in a little plane, too high up in the air to see anything as you go? Might as well treat yourself to a little bit of fun and an easy trip between the cities that you’ve been waiting so long to explore. Happy traveling!