Ireland is a fantastic location to drive to, home to vast landscapes and long coastal drives, but if you’re planning to drive to Ireland from either the UK or Europe, then finding the fastest and most accessible route can be challenging.
Let’s run over driving routes from the UK and Europe to Ireland and help you to find what best suits your travel needs.
Ireland is surrounded by ocean, without any land crossings, and to drive there from the UK and the EU, you need to cross the ocean via car ferry. Crossing points are located in both the UK and Europe, and your starting location, budget, and timeframe may sway your decision on which ferry point to drive to and dock from.
Car ferries from the UK to Ireland
There are various ferry routes outlined below that will take you from the UK to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Ferry companies include Stena, Irish Ferries, and P&O Ferries. The number of ferry sailings per day/week differs depending on the company used.
Ferry costs differ depending on the type of vehicle you’re taking. Prices will generally be cheaper depending on the time of year and if booked well in advance.
Ferries from England to Ireland
- Heysham, UK, to Dublin, Ireland, 8 hr 30 min
- Heysham, UK, to Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland, 8 hr
- Heysham, UK, to Belfast, Northern Island, 8 hr
- Liverpool, UK, to Dublin, Ireland, 7 hr 30 min
- Liverpool, UK, to Belfast, Northern Ireland, 7 hr
Ferries from Wales to Ireland
- Fishguard, Wales, to Rosslare, Ireland, 2 hr 30 min
- Holyhead, Wales, to Dublin, Ireland, 3 hr 15 min
Ferries from Scotland to Ireland
- Cairnryan, Scotland, to Belfast, Northern Ireland, 2 hr 15m
Car ferries from Europe to Ireland
It’s also possible to travel directly from Europe to Ireland. Although ferry travel times between Europe and Ireland can be much longer than from the UK to Ireland, this might be a more practical option than traveling all the way from Europe to the UK to take a ferry to Ireland.
Ferries from France to Ireland
- Cherbourg to Rosslare, Ireland, 16 hr 30 min-19 hr
- Roscoff to Cork, Ireland, 12 hr 45 min-14 hr
Ferries from Spain to Ireland
- Bilbao to Rosslare, Ireland, 27 hr 45 min-29 hr
Car ferries from Europe to the UK
Traveling from Europe to Ireland, it’s possible first to drive or take a ferry to the UK and then take another ferry and cross over to Ireland.
This travel route is advisable for those who like the idea of a long drive through the UK and also taking two ferry rides to reach Ireland.
However, this option can prove costly, and once in the UK, you’ll be paying for everything in pounds, which is more expensive than euros, and you’ll also have additional fuel costs to arrive at the ports. Additionally, you’ll also have to go through 2 customs checks.
Traveling From France to the UK
- Calais to Dover via ferry, then drive to Holyhead or Liverpool ferries
- Calais to Folkestone Kent via Eurotunnel (30 min), and then drive to Holyhead or Liverpool ferries
Ferries from Spain to the UK
- Santander to Plymouth, 20 hr, then drive to Fishguard ferries
- Bilbao to Portsmouth, 20-28 hr, then drive to Holyhead or Liverpool ferries
- Santander to Portsmouth, 27 hr, then drive to Holyhead or Liverpool ferries
Ferries from Belgium to the UK
- Zeebrugge to Hull, 14 hr 30 min, then drive to Holyhead or Liverpool ferries
Ferries from the Netherlands to the UK
- Amsterdam to Newcastle, 17 hr, then drive to Holyhead or Liverpool ferries
Ferries from Holland to the UK
- Rotterdam to Hull, 11 hr 30 min, then drive to Holyhead or Liverpool ferries
- Hook of Holland to Harwich, 6 hr 30 min, then drive to Holyhead or Liverpool ferries (quickest option)
Driving in Ireland Guide
Residents of the UK and the European Union holding a valid driver’s license will be able to drive in Ireland and Northern Ireland. If your driving ID doesn’t have your photo on it, then you’ll need to carry your passport.
You’ll also need proof of third-party insurance, and carry your vehicle registration document.
To rent a car in Ireland, you must be a minimum age of 21, but most rental companies require you to be 23-25 years old and under 75 years old, although this isn’t always the case.
Driving across the Irish border
Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and The Republic of Ireland is part of the European Union.
There is a border separating the Republic of Ireland from the United Kingdom, making it the only available land crossing from the UK to Ireland and the European Union.
At the present time, citizens from the UK, EU, EEA, or Switzerland can freely travel across the Irish border.
Ireland Driving info for UK and EU drivers
- Both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland drive on the left-hand side of the road, which is the same side as the UK. As EU drivers use the right-hand side of the road, they need to be hyper-aware of their surroundings and actions in the car.
- There are many roundabouts in Ireland, and EU drivers will need to remember to drive through the roundabout in a clockwise direction.
- To gauge driving speed, The Republic of Ireland uses kilometers per hour, and Northern Ireland uses miles per hour.
- The Irish countryside features long, narrow rural lanes with sharp bends. There is also a lack of street lighting in the majority of the countryside. So, be mindful of driving in rural areas at night.
Drivers from the UK and EU will need to take a car ferry to reach Ireland and Northern Ireland, and once you arrive, you can freely travel across the border between these two destinations.
Car ferry ports are available in UK destinations of England, Scotland, and Wales, and the EU countries of France, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, and Holland.
Travel times greatly vary, and depending on your preferences, you have the option of planning a straightforward and relaxed, or lengthy and exciting journey!