I really think M&Ds needs a proper rebrand, to something more generic, like Adventure World or Big Thunder Land, or just something to let people know that it’s an actual amusement park. Because otherwise it sounds more like a high street discount store or an American burger joint. “Kids, we’re going to M&Ds!”. “Yeay! Big Macs!”. But M&D’s is otherwise quite impressive, where it is Scotland’s largest amusement park, and it just makes for the ideal gift for my 2 favourite/only nephews (10yo/30yo). Anyway, Stena Line run day-trips from Belfast to Scotland as all-inclusive, round-trip coach/ferry crossings to M&Ds. And they really are rather cheap at £28 (kids) and £30 (adults) meaning I kind of wanted to go myself. Stena Line’s Online Booking here.
The Ferry Crossing
First off, my youngest nephew loves boats, he’s a big fan of the Belfast Titanic Quarter, and he’s regularly down at Pickie Fun Park with his remote control boat. So he even spent the day before travelling talking about his closest boat experience when he crossed on the ferry to Rathlin Island, which really doesn’t compare. So the ferry to Scotland, for him, is almost as exciting as M&Ds theme park itself.
So it’s really just like a big bundle of first-time experiences for him, with his first-ever visit to Scotland, his first time leaving the island of Ireland, and the theme park is by far the biggest he’s ever seen. It would also be his first-ever assignment, where I ask him to take some photographs and share memories for this blog. (Note the 3 photos below are from our previous Road Trip to Scotland).
Leaving Belfast Ferry Terminal
I actually thought the coach would travel onto the boat from Belfast, then it would disembark again at the opposite end. Which really was a bit silly, because that means pointlessly packing and unpacking a bus at the ferry port, and unnecessarily squeezing an entire coach onto the boat to Scotland. On the other hand, it’s very easy to just arrive and embark at the port as foot passengers, then disembark at Scotland to find the coach on the opposite side. Which is how it works for these day-trips from Belfast to Scotland.
- Time of Crossing? 07:00 AM Check-in at Belfast Victoria Terminal 4
- Is Passport/ID Necessary? Boats travel between 2 ports within the U.K. and no borders are crossed. Meaning it is no different to trains or buses. So I.D. is not needed to travel on a boat to Scotland.
- Drop-Off? Drop-off is at the terminal doors and parking is free for 30-minutes if needed.
- Parking at the Terminal? The car parks opposite the terminal building which cost £9 for 8-24 hours.
Stena Line: Belfast to Scotland
It is an early start, giving more time in Scotland, so we were waking at 05:00 AM for breakfast, before a 30-minute drive from Bangor to the Belfast Ferry Port (Victoria Terminal 4) which is around 4 miles out from Belast City Centre. So my nephew had been kind of tired and quiet through the morning, until pulling up to the port, when he said, “that boat is beautiful”. So it was a good start.
They then boarded at around 06:30, and I would be back to pick them up again at 09:45 PM. Meaning it is a good 15-hour journey. And, he of course shared all the highlights later that night, where he spent much of the boat journey in the arcades, playing the free PlayStation booths, and watched Wreck-It Ralph in the cinema. So there’s plenty to keep him entertained on the way there.
M&Ds: Scotland’s Theme Park
Tickets for this Belfast to Scotland Day Trip are received when boarding the boat in Belfast. This same ticket is then used to board the bus (Ulster Bus Tours) which waits at the exit doors of the boat terminal in Scotland (Cairnryan) and everything is well connected. The same ticket is then used to enter M&Ds theme park, and it is replaced on entry with a wrist-band for use inside the park.
The actual journey between the boat and the theme park takes roughly 2 hours each way. Giving 4 hours in the park itself (12:15 PM to 16:30 PM). Where, in short, “the park contains four operating rollercoasters, two water rides, several fairground rides, an arcade, a theatre, ten-pin bowling and an indoor tropical house, Amazonia”. And here’s the official website.
The Added Extras
I was kind of worried about the weather during the day, as it was pretty miserable when leaving Belfast, and similar kind of followed throughout the day. At the same time, the crowds of locals are likely to be a lot less given bad weather, so there are advantages both ways. There are also plenty of indoor attractions to escape to, if needed, during the rainy spells.
So the Belfast to Scotland Day Trip includes an Unlimited Ride Wristband and one free game of golf at Devil’s Island. But they do not include the arcades or prize-winning activities (as expected) or admission to the indoor tropical rainforest of Amazonia. There are also sweet stands and restaurants, which are surprisingly well-priced, and there are bars and alcohol, which is something I always miss at Disney Lands and Universal Studios. So this is a huge bonus for the adults being trailed along at the park.