Ferry services

Whether you want to go abroad, across the Irish Sea or simply avoid traffic congestion on the way to work, a ferry service may be the answer. There is a range of ferry services that offer a good alternative to road or air travel.

Northern Ireland Ferry services

Local services run from Northern Ireland ports to England, Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Rathlin ferry

A passenger and vehicle ferry service runs between Ballycastle and Rathlin Island.

Vehicle access to the island is restricted and only those drivers eligible to hold passes are permitted to take their vehicles on the ferry.

Information about the pass system is available from Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council on:

  • phone: 028 2076 2225

The service is operated by Rathlin Island Ferry Limited. and offers nine return daily sailings in summer and five return sailings in winter. The journey time is 45 minutes by the vehicle ferry and 20 minutes by the passenger only vessel.

At peak periods demand can be greater than places available and advance booking is recommended.

For timetables, fares and booking information, contact Rathlin Island Ferry Limited.

Strangford ferry

Department for Infrastructure (DfI) Roads operates the ferry service across Strangford Lough between the villages of Strangford and Portaferry.               

To travel the distance between Strangford and Portaferry by road is around 75 kilometres and takes about an hour-and-a-half by car. By contrast, the ferry route is about 0.6 nautical miles with a typical crossing time of about eight minutes.

The ferry runs for about 16 hours each day, 364 days per year.

  • weekdays 7.30 am until 10.45 pm
  • Saturday 8.00 am until 11.15 pm
  • Sunday 9.30 am until 10.45 pm

For information on disruptions to normal service please check the Trafficwatch Northern Ireland website:

The service normally operates with one vessel, leaving each slipway at 30 minute intervals; from Strangford on the hour and half hour and from Portaferry at a quarter past and a quarter to the hour.

If you are a regular user of the ferry service, SmartCards can be purchased at:

  • Kevin Og Newsagents in Strangford from 7.15 am to 7.30 pm (Monday to Thursday), 7.15 am to 9.00 pm (Friday and Saturday), and 7.15 am to 6.00 pm (Sunday)
  • Centra, 91 High Street, Portaferry, BT22 1QU from 7.00 am to 10:00 pm (Monday to Saturday) and from 8.00 am to 10.00 pm (Sunday)

Other ferries (privately operated)

From June to September, a local service operates between Warrenpoint and Omeath in County Louth.  

  • phone: 028 4175 3425

Kintyre Express operates a service from Ballycastle to Campbelltown (Kintyre) and then from Campbelltown to Troon. More information can be found on the following website.

Manx Ferries operates a seasonal service between Belfast and Douglas, Isle of Man.

P & O Ferries operates a service from Larne to Cairnryan.

StenaLine operates services from Belfast, to Cairnryan and to Liverpool.

Who's responsible for Northern Ireland's waterways?

Waterways Ireland is the guardian of Northern Ireland's inland navigations. Waterways Ireland is committed to providing a high quality recreational environment on the waterways in their care, for the benefit of all.

Further details can be obtained from the website below:

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