Ireland United Kingdom

The Most Dog-Friendly Ferry to All of Ireland

Dog friendly ferries to Ireland

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 December 2020, check out my guide on what Brexit means for pet travel

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

The Great Features of the Stena Line Ferry

Exploring the coastline north of Belfast in our car

Exploring the coastline north of Belfast in our car

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!

Dogs on ferry to Ireland: then visit the Cliffs of Moher

Schnitzel enjoying the view at the famous Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

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.

Dogs on ferry to Ireland

Schnitzel testing out his travelling bag

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?

Taking dogs to Ireland by ferry

The colourful Duke of York pub in Belfast (with its dog-friendly laneway for sunny days)

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

Inspired? Pin this to your Pinterest board!

Dog-Friendly Ferry to Ireland pin

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  • Reply
    Lorraine Lyle
    November 2, 2018 at 9:19 am

    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
      November 2, 2018 at 12:33 pm

      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
        Samantha Gallagher
        January 3, 2019 at 10:57 pm

        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
          January 4, 2019 at 7:33 am

          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
    January 6, 2019 at 6:41 am

    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
      January 7, 2019 at 7:37 am

      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
    February 14, 2019 at 5:36 am

    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.


    • Reply
      February 14, 2019 at 10:31 pm

      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:

      • Reply
        February 15, 2019 at 9:57 am

        Hi did you look at the amazon link?

        • Reply
          February 16, 2019 at 8:26 pm

          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
    Hugo's Adventures
    March 12, 2019 at 11:56 pm

    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
      March 13, 2019 at 5:35 pm

      That’s great to hear, it’s a wonderful option.

  • Reply
    Kiyo taga
    July 18, 2019 at 9:56 am

    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
      July 18, 2019 at 11:46 am

      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: Plus I’ve covered the rules for dogs on trains in France here:

      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
    Maggie Fookes
    March 2, 2020 at 10:44 pm

    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
      March 10, 2020 at 8:53 am

      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.

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