There are two travel options for the Belfast to Glasgow Ferry. First, by Coach, which boards the Stena Line crossing from Belfast to Cairnryan, before continuing on to Glasgow as a final destination. The other option is by “Sail and Rail” which follows the same crossing from Belfast to Cairnryan, only the connecting bus will only forwards to the convenient train lines and onward travel hub at Ayr. So we have done similar before on these Northern Ireland to Scotland sailings with Stena Line, often with travel plans continuing onward into Europe. Including our most recent travels, when we were winging it between Northern Ireland and Amsterdam (incl. Stena Line from Harwich, England to the Hook of Holland). So the Belfast to Glasgow boat is a bit like a gateway for overland travel in Scotland, Great Britain and Europe.
Belfast to Glasgow by Bus
The quickest and cheapest route for travel by the “Belfast to Glasgow Ferry” is by coach, a comfortable journey with onboard wifi, on what is really just a big luxury bus (full details here). The journey is also a thru-coach service meaning that the coach will also travel on the crossing, with initial pick-up either in central Belfast (Donegall Square West) or at the Stena Line Ferry Terminal. Prices are the same either way (full details on Hannon Coaches). They are also cheap at around £29 each way. At the same time, crossings are limited with just 2 a day (atm) with both leaving Belfast before midday. The entire journey takes around 5 hours 15 minutes with drop-off at the Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow (Stance 55).
“Sail and Rail” with Stena Line
Often called a “Rail and Sail” journey, only the trip starts with the sailing from Belfast to Scotland, before joining the rails towards Glasgow. (It would be a “Rail and Sail” journey from Glasgow). Anyway, the Sail and Rail option is great for those joining the rail lines in the U.K and Europe (e.g. for Interrail travels) and Stena Line also do various “Sail and Rail” routes from Belfast including bigger destinations in England and London etc. (popular Stena Line sail and rail routes here). But Glasgow is almost always the first major city to find on the mainland when travelling from Belfast to Scotland. However, unlike the thru-coach with travel from Belfast to Glasgow by bus, the journey is more independent and flexible, as outlined below. Advance bookings can also easily be made through Trainline.
Belfast to Glasgow by Train
I do prefer the Sail and Rail option for the Belfast to Glasgow Ferry, as it is more independent and adventurous, and I really just don’t like coaches/buses. Tickets are also not-so-different in price (around £33 each way). Anyway, below I outline the 3-part Stena Line Sail and Rail journey from Belfast to Glasgow. Where each part are included in the journey and price of the Sail and Rail tickets.
Ferry from Belfast to Cairnryan
There are 5 ferry crossings per day from Belfast to Cairnryan in Scotland, starting in the early morning (07:30) and continuing to late at night (timetable here). However, due to onward travel, only the 3 earlier departures are possible on the Sail and Rail tickets, with the latest departure at around 15:30 PM from the Belfast Ferry Terminal. The Belfast to Cairnryan Ferry takes around 2 hours and 22 minutes
Bus from Cairnryan to Ayr
Cairnryan (Stranraer) is kind of in the middle of nowhere, so it’s not really possible to arrive on foot, to then walk. But there are fortunately many onward travel options by bus/coach to the nearest main travel hub/train station in the coastal town of Ayr (44km). Journey time, from Cairnryan to Ayr by bus, is around 1 hour 15 minutes.
Train from Ayr to Glasgow
It’s still a fair stretch from Ayr to Glasgow (66.8 km by bus), so I do recommend a stopover in the charming Scottish coastal town of Ayr, with as much as half-day when travelling on the earlier boats from Belfast to Cairnryan. There are then regular trains from Ayr to Glasgow throughout the day. Trains leave Ayr every 30 minutes, and the train from Ayr to Glasgow Central Station takes roughly 50 minutes (full timetable here).
Belfast Ferry Terminal
The Belfast to Cairnryan boats leave from “Victoria Terminal 4” at Belfast Ferry Port, although it is better signposted as “Stena Line” and “Belfast to Cairnryan” in the port area. Here is the useful port information:
- Drop-Off at Belfast Ferry Terminal? Drop-off and free parking are allowed for 30 minutes at the front of the terminal building.
- Parking at Belfast Ferry Terminal? Car parks are located opposite the terminal building. Costs are outlined in the image below.
- Buses to Belfast Ferry Terminal? Translink operates daily Metro services (96) from Upper Queen Street (near Belfast City Hall).
- Is Passport/ID Necessary for travel? I.D. is not necessary to travel on boats to Scotland. Both ports are in the U.K. and no borders are crossed.