How to Get from Ireland to Scotland (And Back)

Northern Irish cliffs with blue sky and clear blue water

How to Get from Ireland to Scotland (And Back)

Planning a trip to both Scotland and Ireland means you’ll have to figure out how many of the wonderful sights in both countries you can take in during your trip. Of course, it also means you have the challenge of getting between the two countries. However, it’s actually pretty straightforward, doesn’t take long, and you have quite a few options to choose from. 

The quickest way to get between the two countries is to fly, which can take less than an hour, depending on which cities you are flying between. The ferry is the other option, with the quickest crossings taking just over 2 hours. Within the ferry option, you have the choice to take a car, bus, or train for your onward journey. 

There’s no direct train, tunnel, bridge, or otherwise, so you have to either fly or use the ferry (unless you fancy a swim, which I wouldn’t recommend!).

How Close is Ireland to Scotland?

The closest points between Ireland and Scotland are only 12 miles apart, meaning you can see across the water to the other country on a clear day. 

In terms of travel, your journey will be a bit longer than 12 miles, but it shouldn’t take long. In fact, you can even take a day trip between the two (but there’s a lot to see in both countries, so it’s not highly recommended unless you’re really short on time!). 

The distance between Edinburgh and Belfast is about 180-190 miles, while Dublin is about 300 miles from Edinburgh. 

The ferry crossing between Cairnryan in Scotland and Belfast is about 50 miles. 

Option 1: Ferry

Taking the ferry is a quick and enjoyable way to travel between Ireland and Scotland, and you’ll be ready to embark on your onward journey quickly upon arrival.

Ferry Routes Between Ireland And Scotland

There are two ferry ports in Northern Ireland: Belfast and Larne (about 25 miles north of Belfast). Both run ferries across to Cairnryan on the west coast of Scotland regularly—there are about 13 sailings every day in both directions, so you’ll never have to wait too long to catch a ferry.

The first crossing is at 03:30, while the last is at 23:59, and they run every few hours or a regular schedule.

How Long Is The Ferry Ride From Ireland To Scotland?

The ferry ride doesn’t take long; from Belfast to Cairnryan is 2 hours 15 minutes, and from Larne to Cairnryan is slightly quicker, at just 2 hours.

There is currently no ferry route between the Republic of Ireland and Scotland.

What Is The Fastest Ferry From Ireland To Scotland?

The fastest route is between Larne and Cairnryan, at 2 hours. However, if you are planning to stay in Belfast, the journey to Belfast Port instead is only 15 minutes longer. Driving from Larne to Belfast will take about 40 minutes, so it’s usually better to get the slightly longer ferry and avoid the drive.

How Much Does The Ireland To Scotland Ferry Cost? 

The cost can vary considerably depending on how far in advance you book your tickets and whether you are travelling with a car or on foot.

As a rough guide, a single passenger with no car, one way, costs around £35 from Belfast to Cairnryan. 

For the same journey with a standard-sized car, the price goes up to around £129. 

If you’d rather sail from Larne to Cairnryan, a single passenger with no car, one way, costs around £25. The same route with a car costs about £134. For all routes, the price increases further if you are travelling with a larger vehicle or towing a caravan. 

Travelling To And From Ferry Ports

If you’re taking your car on the ferry, your journey to and from the port should be straightforward. Your navigation system will show you exactly where to go. If you’re on foot and require public transport, things get a bit more difficult. 

There are no train stations at either Belfast or Cairnryan ferry terminals. To get to these ports by train, the nearest stations are: 

  • Belfast: Great Victoria Street (one of Belfast’s two main stations)
  • Cairnryan: Stranraer 

From there, you’ll need to take a taxi to the ferry terminal. If you’re travelling into or out of Larne, there’s a train station at the port, which makes it a slightly more convenient option for those without a car. 

You can also reach the ferry terminals by bus. In Belfast Port, look for Translink Metro Bus 96. From there, the journey into the city centre takes about 20 minutes. For Cairnryan, Stagecoach buses 358 and 360 stop at the port. 

Renting a car is another option, if you didn’t travel with your own. Unfortunately, there’s nowhere at Cairnryan Port to rent a car, but Ayr is not too far away and has a few options. There aren’t car rental facilities at Belfast Port either, but again you can find a few options in the city centre or nearby Belfast City Airport. The town of Larne is also home to a couple of car rental companies if you’re sailing to or from there.

Option 2: Fly

Flying between Ireland and Scotland can be a bit more convenient, especially if you are travelling without a car. It’s quick and generally quite cheap, too. And, you also have the option to fly directly into various cities in the Republic of Ireland. 

Flight Routes Between Ireland And Scotland

There are quite a few direct flight routes between Scotland and both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland:

  • Belfast – Aberdeen (1h 10m)
  • Belfast – Edinburgh (50m)
  • Belfast – Glasgow (45m)
  • Belfast – Inverness (1h 15m)
  • Cork – Edinburgh (1h 20m)
  • Dublin – Aberdeen (1h 35m)
  • Dublin – Edinburgh (1h 15m)
  • Dublin – Glasgow (1h 10m) 
  • Dublin – Inverness (1h 30m)

The cost varies depending on the route, time, and day you fly, but generally tickets are quite cheap. Ryanair is known for its low cost fares, and operates on many of the routes listed above. You might strike lucky and find a one-way ticket from Belfast to Edinburgh for just £13! 

Flights to Inverness and Aberdeen are generally operated by Loganair, and will cost considerably more. Other airlines to look at for cheap flights include Aer Lingus and easyJet. 

Onwards Travel From Airports

As with the ferry ports, there are a few options for onwards travel from the airports in both Ireland and Scotland. 


From Edinburgh Airport, you can either take a tram or a bus to the city centre directly from the airport, or hire a car (although you won’t really need a car if you’re staying within Edinburgh). 

Aberdeen Airport is well-served by buses, and is a short 2-mile taxi ride from the nearest train station, Dyce. Aberdeen Airport also has a few car rental companies to choose from for you to explore the Highlands.

Inverness Airport is also very easy to get to, with both buses and trains serving the airport directly. Car rental is available here, too.

Glasgow has two airports, Prestwick and Glasgow. However, there are currently no flights from Ireland to Prestwick. 

For Glasgow Airport, you can travel by bus directly to the airport, or take a train to Paisley Gilmour Street and get a bus or taxi from there. Again, there are a few car hire options although, like Edinburgh, it’s not really needed if you’ll be staying in the city. Glasgow now has a Low Emissions Zone in the city centre, meaning cars that don’t meet emissions standards cannot be driven in the city centre. So, it’s much easier to stick to public transport if you’re planning to explore Glasgow.


In Ireland, Dublin Airport is extremely well-served by buses, with over 1000 arrivals a day! There’s no train station, but buses can take you from Connolly and Heuston train stations to the airport. Cork Airport also has plenty of bus services, including from the nearest railway station (Kent). 

Belfast is home to Belfast International and Belfast City (George Best) airports. Belfast International flies to Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Inverness, and Belfast City operates flights to Aberdeen as well as the other three Scottish airports. I’d recommend flying to or from Belfast City if you can—it’s a very small airport so it’s an absolute breeze to get through. 

For Belfast City, the nearest train station is Sydenham rail halt, while the best bus is the dedicated Airport Express 600. The airport is just minutes away from the city centre; you can actually walk in, although the route is near a busy dual carriageway, so do take care if arriving at the airport on foot.

Belfast International has plenty of bus routes, and there is an optional add-on (known as Airlink) to take you to the airport by bus when you already hold a train ticket. 

All of the Irish airports mentioned above have plenty of car rental options for you to collect or return a hire car. 

Is It Better To Fly Or Take A Ferry From Ireland To Scotland?

There’s no one better way to travel, as it depends on your personal preferences, where you are going, and how you are going to travel around when you get there.

Here’s a quick table to help you compare the pros and cons of ferry travel and flights between Ireland and Scotland: 

blue table showing pros and cons of taking a flight from ireland to scotland blue table showing pros and cons of taking a ferry from ireland to scotland

Documents Required to Travel Between Scotland and Ireland

Some routes between Scotland and Ireland require a passport, while others require photo ID but not necessarily a passport. 

Can You Travel From Ireland To Scotland Without A Passport?

It depends on how you are travelling and where you are from. 

If you are travelling between Northern Ireland (Belfast or Larne) and Scotland, you will not need a passport if you’re a British or Irish citizen. However, adults will need some photo ID whether flying or taking the ferry, although children under 16 generally do not. Children can use a birth certificate if ID is requested. 

Non UK or Irish citizens will require a valid passport and a visa where applicable to cross the border by ferry. Passports are not required when flying, but it might be better to carry it just in case.

Anyone flying from the Republic of Ireland (Cork or Dublin) into Scotland will require a passport, even British and Irish nationals. 

Can You Fly Scotland To Dublin Without A Passport?

No, Dublin is not part of the UK, so you will need a passport to fly there from Scotland. 

Can I Travel From Belfast To Glasgow Without A Passport?

Yes, you can travel between Belfast and Glasgow without a passport, even if you are flying, as both cities are in the UK. In this case, you will need a form of photo ID, but it doesn’t have to be a passport. It can be an ID card or driving licence, or even a recently-expired passport. 

Booking Your Journey

It’s easiest to book your flight or ferry tickets online. Booking in advance will generally get you the best rates, and also consider flexible dates as sometimes flight prices can jump up dramatically from one day to the next. 

If you can travel without a car on the ferry, you’ll save around £100 each way in most cases, so this is worth considering if you’re on a budget. However, getting around with public transport could prove difficult, depending on where you’re planning to visit. 

You can compare ferry prices with Direct Ferries, and use Google Flights to find the best flight times and direct routes.

When is the Best Time to Travel Between Scotland and Ireland?

It’s likely that ferries and flights will be busier during the summer months (June to August). This is a popular time to visit, because the weather is likely to be better (but nothing is guaranteed!). 

You might find better deals when travelling in spring (April to May) or autumn (September to Ocotber), and outwith school holidays. These are both still excellent times to visit Scotland and Ireland, as attractions are generally still open and there are still (sometimes) some pleasantly warm days to enjoy the great outdoors.

Example Routes From Ireland To Scotland And Back

To help you plan a trip, let’s look at a few routes you might be interested in taking between the two countries:

How To Get From Dublin, Ireland To Edinburgh, Scotland

The quickest and easiest way to get from Dublin to Edinburgh is by flying; it takes just over an hour.

  1. Catch the bus from Dublin city centre to the airport.
    Depending on where in Dublin you’re starting out, you’ll have different options. Dublin Express operates three routes from key city centre locations to the airport. Single tickets cost €8 and the journey takes about 25 minutes.
  2. Take the flight from Dublin to Edinburgh.
    Ryanair and Aer Lingus operate direct flights between the two cities. Both airlines operate around four daily flights and two others on certain days only.
  3. At Edinburgh Airport, take a tram or bus directly from the airport to the city centre.
    Trams depart every 10 minutes or less between 06:18 and 22:48. Single tickets cost £7.50. Buses Airlink 100 and Skylink 200 and 400 run 24/7 between the airport and the city centre. Skylink services are every 30 minutes, and Airlink are every 10 minutes in peak times, and every 30 minutes at non-peak times. Single tickets cost £5.50.

How To Get From Belfast, Ireland To Glasgow, Scotland

You can either fly or take the ferry between Belfast and Glasgow.

To take the ferry:

  1. Take the bus to Belfast Port from the city centre.
    Translink operates a bus from Upper Queen Street to the terminal daily in time for ferry departures. The return service from the terminal drops you off at Donegall Place in Belfast City Centre. Journey time is just over 20 minutes and costs £2.20.
    Note, if you’re getting a very early or late ferry, you’ll have to get a taxi to the port as the buses don’t run all night.
  2. Board the ferry from Belfast to Cairnryan.
    Crossings are operated by Stena Line and run six times daily, starting at 03:30 and finishing at 23:30, every 4 hours. 
  3. From Cairnryan, you can get a taxi to Stranraer train station, then a train into Glasgow from there.
    Most trains require a change at Ayr, but some direct trains are also available. The journey takes about 2.5 hours, costs £25 or so, and you can buy tickets on the Trainline app. Trains run every couple of hours.

To fly:

  1. Catch the bus from Belfast city centre to Belfast City Airport.
    The Airport Express 600 bus takes you there from the Europa Buscentre in just 10 minutes, and services run every half hour. Tickets are £2.20 one way.
  2. Take the flight from Belfast City to Glasgow.
    easyJet and Aer Lingus operate direct flights between the two cities. Aer Lingus operates two daily flights, while easyJet flies from Belfast to Glasgow on four days a week.
  3. At Glasgow Airport, take a bus directly from the airport to the city centre.
    The Glasgow Airport Express 500 bus operates 24/7 and can get you to the city in just 15 minutes. Tickets cost £10 on the bus, or you can buy on your mobile in advance.

Things to Remember When Going Between The Two Countries

Both Northern Ireland and Scotland are part of the UK, so there shouldn’t be many noticeable differences when travelling between the two. 

However, the Republic of Ireland is not part of the UK, so there is one important thing to keep in mind if travelling from there to Scotland. This is the currency: ROI uses the Euro (€), while Scotland uses the Pound Sterling (£). Don’t try to use the wrong currency in either country! Both use three-pin plugs, so no adapters are needed.

A Last Word…

Travelling between Ireland and Scotland is fairly simple with a little bit of planning. The journey won’t take more than 2.5 hours, and can take just under an hour, depending on where you’re travelling between. 

While the ferry offers a relaxing journey and the option to take your own car to explore the ‘other side’ at your leisure, flying between the two is often quicker and cheaper. 

At the end of the day, it’s up to you and your travel plans as to which is the better option. 


Can you get a train from Ireland to Scotland?

You cannot take a train directly between Ireland and Scotland, as there is no tunnel or bridge between the two. You can take a train from near both countries’ ferry ports onwards to your destination, but there aren’t train stations at the port on either side. So, you’ll also need a taxi to get there.

How do people get from Ireland to Scotland?

Many people take both ferries and flights between the two countries. There are dozens of flights and ferries running between Scotland and Ireland every day on a number of different routes. 

Can you fly from Belfast to Scotland without a passport?

Yes, as Belfast and Scotland are both part of the UK, you can fly between the two without a passport.

Is there a ferry route between the Republic of Ireland and Scotland?

No, the only ferries between the Republic of Ireland and the UK are Dublin – Liverpool (England), Dublin – Holyhead (Wales), Dublin – Douglas (Isle of Man), and Rosslare – Pembroke or Fishguard (both Wales).  

What is the cheapest flight from Scotland to Ireland?

The cheapest flights from Scotland to Ireland are usually those operated by Ryanair, which can cost under £15 one way. Prices vary depending on the day and time of travel, and there will be additional costs to reserve a certain seat and to carry luggage in the hold.

Can I rent a car at Edinburgh Airport?

Yes, Edinburgh Airport has eight car rental companies on-site. You can book your hire car from the airport on their official website.

Are there direct flights from Belfast to Inverness?

Yes, Loganair flies from Belfast to Inverness a few times per week. Schedules change regularly, and flights generally cost more than from Edinburgh or Glasgow.

How far are Dublin and Glasgow from each other?

Dublin and Glasgow are just 1 hour and 10 minutes apart by air. 

Are there any travel restrictions or quarantine rules for travelling between the two countries? 

No, travelling between Scotland and Ireland is fairly simple and there are no restrictions in place. Check before travelling with pets in case there are additional rules, but for humans, the journey should be straightforward. Usual customs rules apply for what you can and cannot carry in your luggage at the airport.

Owner and author at Scotland in a Week, born and bred in Scotland. Emily has travelled extensively across the country and is eager to share her knowledge with everyone planning a trip to this magical country.

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