The Most Dog-Friendly Ferry to All of Ireland

When we were putting together our itinerary for visiting the United Kingdom with our dog, we never considered not hopping across the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Considering that we were hiring a car and dogs are not usually allowed to fly in the cabin in the UK, taking a ferry across made the most sense. But what’s the best ferry to take to Ireland with your dog? 

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive commission if you make a purchase using the links.

Ferry Options from Great Britain to Ireland

There are multiple ferries available between Great Britain and Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland), with a number of companies offering a variety of routes. On most but not all routes dogs are permitted.

At the moment, there are three dog-friendly ferry options available for travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. You’ve got the choice between the Stena Line Ferry from Cairnryan (in Scotland) to Belfast, the P&O Ferry from Cairnryan to Larne, and the Stena Line Ferry from Liverpool to Belfast.

Taking dogs to Ireland by ferry
There’s three ferry options that cross to Belfast in Northern Ireland

If you’re travelling from Great Britain to the Republic of Ireland with a dog, there’re four ferry options available, all departing from Wales. Stena Line Ferry crosses from Holyhead to Dublin and from Fishguard to Rosslare. Irish Ferries also operates from Holyhead to Dublin, plus Pembroke to Rosslare.

Note that dogs are no longer permitted on the P&O Ferry from Dublin to Liverpool. (We took this ferry when returning to England from Ireland, but found it was not at all dog-friendly, so it’s good dogs are no longer permitted.)

For more details on all of these ferries, check out my full guides on travelling to Northern Ireland with a dog and travelling to the Republic of Ireland with a dog.

The Most Dog-Friendly Ferry to Ireland

So, with seven different ferries available, operated by three different companies, what’s the best ferry to take to Ireland if you’re travelling with a dog and aren’t locked into departing from or travelling to a particular port?

I believe that the most dog-friendly ferry to take to Ireland is the Stena Line ferry from Cairnryan (Scotland) to Belfast. We took this ferry when we travelled from Scotland to Northern Ireland, and there’s a number of reason why I recommend this option to other travellers. 

Dogs on ferry to Ireland: then visit the Cliffs of Moher
Our dog Schnitzel checking out the Cliffs of Moher during our time in Ireland

Pets Travel for Free

Firstly, there’s no additional 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 or travelling in a traveller case.

A Quick Crossing

Secondly, it’s such a quick trip. The total journey time is just 2 1/4 hours, compared to an 8-hour voyage if you’re taking the ferry from Liverpool to Belfast.

On longer journeys, we all worry about our pets holding their bladder. Even if there’s somewhere for them to do their business, often they might to refuse. Plus there’s the risk of them overheating on warm days if they stay in your car. 

Small Pets are Permitted on the Passenger Deck

Unlike on some routes, if you’re travelling with a small pet on this route, you don’t need to leave them in a car. The number one reason why I’ve chosen this ferry as the most dog-friendly ferry is that small pets are allowed on the passenger deck with you!

Dogs on ferry to Ireland
Schnitzel inside his carrier bag, ready to travel on the Stena Line ferry 

Whether you’ve got a cat, small dog or other small pets, as long as you keep them secured at all times in a pet traveller case, they’re allowed to travel by your side on the passenger deck. It’s a far more relaxing option for both your pet and yourself! 

The one hard part? I found it hard to resist slightly unzipping the bag of my dog, Schnitzel, to give him a little pat – running the risk of him trying to escape! (And if you don’t keep them secured at all times, including on the outside decks, there’s the risk they’ll be sent back to the car deck.)

Note that the pet traveller case must be securable via a secure door, zipping or lock mechanism, with your pet totally enclosed. Bags are not permitted, and there is a maximum size of 80cm x 52cm x 52cm, ruling out larger dogs.

If you’re travelling with a larger dog, there’s still the option to book them into a kennel, rather than leaving them in your car. As I mentioned above, there’s no fee for any option, but an advance booking is required for any option, including carrying your dog onboard in a carrier case.

Other Facilities

The other advantage of travelling on this route are the excellent facilities onboard the ships. We travelled on the Stena Superfast VII and it felt very new at the time. All the facilities were of a high standard, with plenty of options available, including multiple lounges and restaurants, plus the option to book a suite, even a spa! The large size of the ship also meant it was a very smooth voyage. 

How to Book

If you’re interested in travelling with a pet on this route, check out the full details on the Stena Line website. I recommend double checking the details for travelling with pets, in case anything has changed, and don’t forget to add your pet to the booking.

The Next Most Dog-Friendly Ferry Option

If you’d prefer to not travel to and from Cairnryan in Scotland, 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 Great Britain 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.

Note however, this may change following the end of the Brexit transition period, after the 31st December 2020. Check out my guide for the latest updates on what Brexit means for pet travel.

Exploring the coastline north of Belfast in our car
Exploring the coastline north of Belfast after our ferry crossing

If you’re taking one of the ferries from Great Britain to the Republic of Ireland, you should have an EU Pet Passport for your dog, with your dog micro-chipped and vaccinated against rabies.

This is not always checked when boarding the ferries, but I have heard it is becoming more common, and following Brexit is likely to always be checked. 

Also, while a dog initially entering the United Kingdom or Ireland needs to be wormed between 5 days and 24 hours before entry, this is not required for moving between the two countries, so can be skipped.

Read more about travelling with a dog in Ireland

Inspired? Pin this to your Pinterest board!

Dog-Friendly Ferry to Ireland pin

16 thoughts on “The Most Dog-Friendly Ferry to All of Ireland”

  1. Hi we are relocating from Belfast to Wales. My dog has been neutered wormed vaccinated and microchipped do I need to get him the rabies injection and a passport. We will be travelling Rosslare to Fishguard thankyou

    Reply
    • Lorraine – As you’re travelling through Ireland, you should get your dog a passport and have him vaccinated for rabies, at least 21 days before crossing into Ireland. This is a requirement for crossing country borders within the EU. However, the odds are no-one will check this, certainly not driving into Ireland and probably not even on the ferry crossing. (This is based on my own experience and other reports I’ve read.) However, it could happen, so it’s best to be prepared. Note that the worming treatment usually required to enter the UK or Ireland with your dog isn’t required for travelling between the two countries.

      Reply
      • We have travelled to Ireland from the UK and our dog’s passport was checked on every occasion. Don’t take any chances. Ensure the vaccinations are all up to date.

        Reply
        • Samantha – Thanks for letting me know! Perhaps they’re becoming stricter on this, compared to the reports I read. I will be adding more details on this, particularly with the changes from Brexit.

          Reply
  2. Hi, I love your blog, it’s great, thanx for all the information 🙂
    I have a question: my partner and I will be travelling from Switzerland to Ireland probably in February with our 9kg dog. She hates kennels and we would like to stay with her as much as possible. Can I remain in the car with her during the ferry crossing from Cairnryan to Belfast or Liverpool to Belfast if needed? Thanks a lot for your answer and Happy New Year!

    Reply
    • Thanks and have a great time on your trip! Unfortunately, the ferries that I’ve taken my car on, usually don’t allow human passengers to stay in the car. This happened on our reverse trip from Dublin to Liverpool, plus elsewhere in Europe. I would check with the ferry company directly, to see if they will let you to stay. If not, I would choose the quickest voyage (probably Cairnryan to Belfast) and make your dog comfortable with her bed and familiar belongings.

      Reply
  3. Hi. We want to travel on the cairnryan to Belfast ferry. Our dog is quite a nervous traveller, and where possible we want to stay with him. After his operation two years ago we bought a doggy stroller, it’s essentially a dog carrier on wheels similar to a child’s pushchair. Can be found on amazon under dog stroller. Please take a look and confirm if your are happy to accept a dog on one of these, I often have walking issues and I can use the carrier to assist me instead of cumbersome crutches. Thank you for your help

    Amazon link. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B077W38CHX/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_2fhzCb284AHP5
    Regards

    Sarah

    Reply
    • Sarah – Stena Line stipulates that dogs inside the cabin must be in a pet carrier that is a maximum of 80cm x 52cm x 52cm, that needs to be secured by a secure door/zip/lock mechanism and your pet is to be totally enclosed. So unfortunately the pushchair alone wouldn’t qualify, unless you have a carrier case that sits in the push chair. If you require further information, I recommend sending a message to Stena Line directly, such as through their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StenaLineUKIE

      Reply
        • Sorry – I just realised I only looked at the main photo showing the dog sitting up, without being enclosed. I didn’t realise that the top also zipped shut. I’m not sure if it will be okay, due to the maximum size specified. I would check directly with Stena Line.

          Reply
  4. Thank you so much for this post! We’ve been wanting to travel to Ireland for a while but, thinking our only option would be leaving our pugs in the car or on board kennels, we haven’t. We’re now looking at travelling with Stena later in the year!

    Reply
  5. This site has been so helpful. I am relocating to the UK from the US and need to take my 2 small dogs as carry on. Ireland allows dogs to be with the passenger as carryon, how easy it to get from Ireland to Paris on the ferry as long as you have your vaccination papers and etc? I’ve been doing so much research and stumbled on your site, any tips, insights are greatly appreciated!!!!

    Reply
    • There’s direct ferries from Ireland to northern France, and then you can take a train onward to Paris. I’ve written about these ferries in this post: https://travelnuity.com/taking-a-dog-to-ireland/. Plus I’ve covered the rules for dogs on trains in France here: https://travelnuity.com/dog-friendly-france/

      When heading to France, it’s unlikely your paperwork for your dogs will be checked, based on my experience. (The reverse is the case when returning to Ireland or the UK – including checking the worming was done.) Your EU health certificate you use to travel to enter the EU is valid for 4 months, so you could just rely on that. (Although sometimes the local staff aren’t familiar with it, mainly when checking in for flights.)

      I recommend getting an EU pet passport for both your pets. Take along your EU health certificate to the vet and have them transfer the details. Sometimes they will copy across the rabies vaccination, otherwise they might require a new rabies vaccine. To travel around the EU then you just need the pet passport, with a valid rabies vaccine at least 21 days beforehand.

      Reply
  6. Stena services to Ireland are not dog friendly. If you find it acceptable to leave your dog I your car for two hours minimum something which on land would get you prosecuted and fined then you can take your dog. The exception is Liverpool Belfast where you can leave them in a cage and get access to them during the voyage but this us also the longest crossing. For truly dog friendly Ferries go to the Scottish Islands with Calmac where they have a separate “doggy class” on the passenger deck which is a passenger lounge where dogs are allowed on leads. And having travelled with them many times I have never seen any problems with the canine passengers on deck. Hopefully other Ferry companies will follow suit. I am sure there is a strong business case for them to do so to attract back passengers like myself who won’t use them till they do

    Reply
    • It would be great if the ferries would allow more dogs on board, I’ve experienced this elsewhere in Europe. With this particular ferry I was specifically referring to the arrangement where smaller dogs in a carrier are allowed to be carried on board, which is what I was able to do with my dog.

      Reply

Leave a Comment