In 1986 I went to and loved Ireland but missed going north to Belfast due to the time a truck driver told me it would take to cross back to the south and the UK. So fast forward to 2018.
Get this… I was in Liverpool, England, and planning to head north and to York. I didn’t have Belfast or Ireland. But one day, a woman who worked at the fabulous Sleep Eat Love hostel mentioned that her friend took the ferry over for a couple of days. So I asked — because by asking, we learn — and found out that her friend paid just £5 as a foot passenger!
Perhaps that was a student price. Had I planned ahead the travel would have been just £10, but I decided that £20 was still good. Again, as a foot passenger. I simply couldn’t resist this opportunity to see Belfast.
A few days later, at 7 a.m., Josh the hotel manager was giving me a ride to the 12 Quays Terminal in Birkenhead. I was going to Belfast!
Yep, that’s how traveling slow, long-term, independently, without a plan can go!
I had no idea what was in Belfast or any other part of the north but it was time I found out — at least in part.
I planned only 2 things.
- The 1-way ferry ticket
- 3 nights at Belfast International Youth Hostel
The StenaLine ferry from Liverpool to Belfast
I must admit that having been on ferries in other countries, I indulged in the Stena Plus Lounge. This provided me with a comfortable seat and a constant variety of satiating snacks for my day on the Irish Sea. That food and comfort made it worth the upgrade price. I also purchased a nice dinner from the cafeteria line. It was actually served to me in the Lounge though, which was so nice. (Thank you again, Atis, my lounge attendant for your smile and for taking such good care of those of us in his lounge.)
As I am all about showing the various options, I must tell you that those not in the lounge also had great tables to sit at. And one nice man I met onboard told me his bedroom for the ride was only £15 that day.
Unlike my ferry ride from Sicily to mainland Italy, StenaLine allows us to turn our luggage over to them so we’re not bothered with it during our journey. I was thrilled by this. Heck, I’d been hoping simply to rent a locker. It is so much easier to not have to watch over my bag. It was a pleasure to travel pretty much hands-free.
Arriving in Belfast though I had an inconvenient surprise.
I hadn’t realized that there is no public transportation at the Belfast destination port, especially at 6:30 p.m. (Crossing time is approximately 8 hours.) This seems to be beyond StenaLine’s control. Happily, I was able to share a taxi with a generous fellow passenger. Actually, during the voyage, several friendly people, both singles and families, offered to give me a ride by taxi.
The Belfast hostel
Belfast International Youth Hostel
22 Donegall Road, Belfast BT12 5JN, Northern Ireland
I booked 3 October nights in a 4-bed mixed dorm, not ensuite.
£39.60 ($51.16) after member discount.
The hostel wasn’t so nice, not homey. The lobby was good although a bit industrial. The room I was put in well, I have to say smelled horrible and the shower wasn’t nice. For 2 days the dishonest staff wouldn’t acknowledge this. Finally, thanks to a nice desk attendant, I found out this was an old room and that there are newer, nicer rooms on another floor when he offered to move me.
There were 4 great things about this hostel:
- The independently-owned Causeway Cafe in the lobby.
- McComb’s Coach Travel, the company that worked from an office in the lobby — which led to me taking a tour to the cost-effective and very convenient Giants Causeway and a bunch more. (£20, $26.15)
- The free walking tour handout in the lobby — which led me to take John’s tour and get to know the city well.
- The location was in town and central enough for me.
The hostel is not worth a photograph – and I can’t find them anyway.
But here’s a view of Belfast – from an amazing mall rooftop viewpoint!
In case you’re wondering, I did not return to Liverpool via ferry.
Instead, I headed down to Dublin, west to Ballyshannon (Ireland’s oldest town) and some other area towns, south to Waterford, a bit further north, then flew out of Dublin — to Germany. I did get to York though, about a year and many other places later.