When we were putting together our itinerary for visiting the United Kingdom, we never considered not hopping across the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. And considering that we were travelling in a car, keeping the same car and taking a ferry across made the most sense, considering dogs are not usually allowed to fly in the cabin in the UK.
With multiple companies running ferries between multiple ports (connecting Britain with both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland), we found the most dog-friendly ferry to all of Ireland to be the Stena Line ferry between Cairnryan (in Scotland) and Belfast. We travelled this route heading to Belfast.
Before travelling between the UK and Ireland with your dog after the 31st October 2019, check out my guide on what Brexit means for pet travel
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The Great Features of the Stena Line Ferry
Even if you’re not travelling with a dog, this ferry is an excellent choice. It’s such a quick journey, taking just 2 1/4 hour. Plus check-in only required 30 minutes beforehand (60 minutes if you have a pet). The ships are huge, meaning it’s nice and smooth. Plus the ships offer lots of facilities. There’s multiple lounges and restaurants to while away the short trip, or else you can upgrade to the Stena Plus lounge or book a suite. There’s even a spa! We travelled on the Stena Superfast VII and the ship felt very new, with all the facilities of a high standard.
Why this is the Most Dog-Friendly Ferry!
But why is it the most dog-friendly option? Firstly, there’s no extra charge for booking a pet, whether you are travelling in a car or on foot. This applies regardless of whether the pet is to be left in your car (if you have one) or checked into a kennel.
Secondly, it’s such a quick trip. Some of the other routes can take almost the whole day, and leave you worried about your animal holding their bladder. Plus if it’s a warm day (although not that common in this part of the world!), you’ll worry about them overheating in your car.
But best of all, if you just have a small pet (dog, cat or something else), if you keep them secured at all times in a pet traveller case, they’re allowed on the passenger deck with you! So they can travel by your side, where they’ll be more relaxed. The one hard part? I found it hard to resist slightly unzipping Schnitzel’s bag and giving him a pat – running the risk of him trying to escape! (And if you don’t keep them secured at all times, there’s the risk they’ll be sent back to the car deck.)
Find Out More
If you’re interested in travelling with a pet on this route, check out the full details on the Stena Line website. Just make sure you check the details before booking, in case anything has changed.
The Next Best Alternative?
If you’d prefer to not travel to and from Cairnryan, the next best dog-friendly ferry between Great Britain and Ireland is probably the Stena Lines route between Liverpool and Belfast. While you won’t be allowed to bring your dog on the passenger deck, you can pre-book and pay £15 to check them into the dog lodge on the Promenade Deck. Here you’ll be able to access them during the journey, and even exercise them under controlled conditions. Check out the full details here.
Rules for Taking Your Dog from the UK to Ireland
If you’re crossing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, like we were, there is no requirement to have a pet passport or anything for your pet. This crossing is the same as crossing the land borders between England, Wales and Scotland.
If you’re taking one of the ferries from Great Britain to the Republic of Ireland, you technically should have an EU Pet Passport for your dog, with your dog micro-chipped and vaccinated against rabies. But this is not always checked when boarding the ferries (although I have heard it is becoming more common), plus it wasn’t checked when we crossed the border with Northern Ireland. This may change following Brexit.
Also, while a dog initially entering the UK or Ireland needs to be wormed between 5 days and 24 hours before entry, this is not required for moving between the two countries.
Read more about travelling with a dog in Ireland
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