Sailing across Carlingford Lough between Greenore Co. Louth and Greencastle Co. Down, the Carlingford Lough Ferry makes for a seamless and scenic travel experience along Ireland’s Ancient East and up to the Mourne Coastal Route.  If you’re travelling between Dublin and Belfast, it’s a great scenic detour and an opportunity to explore more of Ireland.

But what makes the Carlingford Ferry such a great family experience?

Family travelling on the Carlingford Lough FerryWith a regular ferry timetable and a short journey time of around 20 minutes, it’s the easiest and fastest way to travel with the family. There is a coffee service at each terminal, so you can purchase a takeaway before you board and bring it on with you. Mums and dads will be glad of the chance to refuel.

Onboard the open-air ferry, you’re outdoors getting plenty of fresh sea air in your lungs, helping to keep you healthy. Make sure to keep an eye out for local wildlife too, including seals and dolphins.

You can take the car, bike, dog, or simply come as a foot passenger, and there’s plenty of exciting things to do in Carlingford and beyond. Scroll down for some top ideas for a family day out.

1. Carlingford Adventure Centre – Carlingford Lough Ferry – Cranfield West Beach

Canoeing on Carlingford Lough, Carlingford Co Louth

Canoeing on Carlingford Lough ©Tourism Ireland

The Carlingford Adventure Centre has loads of exciting family activities on offer, including SkyPark with an aerial adventure course and zipline, and SkyPark Junior for 5-8-year olds. There’s also a mini golf course and sandpit with mini diggers for tots.

After a day on the high ropes, take the Carlingford Lough Ferry and enjoy panoramic views as you cross. Look out for ‘Finn’ the lough’s resident dolphin!

No matter the season, going to the beach is always great fun – just dress for the weather! Grab your buckets and spades (maybe a warm coat and scarf too) and head to Cranfield West Beach, just minutes away from Greencastle Port with the beautiful Mourne Mountains as your backdrop. The sun sets all across the beach so if you’re there at golden hour, make sure to have a camera handy.

Where to eat? Try the Carlingford Arms Pub & Restaurant in Carlingford, or the Kilmorey Arms Hotel in Kilkeel.

2. Carlingford Leprechaun Cavern – Carlingford Lough Ferry – Silent Valley

Silent Valley Mountain Park

Silent Valley Mountain Park

Ever seen a Leprechaun? Listed as the Number 1 thing to do in Carlingford by TripAdvisor, Carlingford Leprechaun & Fairy Cavern is a great option regardless of the weather.  The nearby Carlingford Folklore Park has a seating area, a small playground and family picnic area.

After you’ve had a chance to visit their underground cavern and heard tales from the Leprechaun Whisperer, it’s time to board the Carlingford Ferry.

On the other side, a short drive will take you to Silent Valley. Here you can take beautiful walks, feed the ducks in the duck pond, or let the kids burn off some steam in the playground before enjoying a coffee and some treats from the café.

Where to eat? Try PJ O’Hares in Carlingford or Villa Vinci in Newcastle.

3. Cranfield Alpacas – Carlingford Lough Ferry – Slieve Foye Woods

Stock image of an alpaca

Stock image

Book a beach trek with Cranfield Alpacas or a meet and mingle (indoors if it’s raining) with Coco and Hugo. Fun and laughs are guaranteed with the friendly alpacas, and so are plenty of photo opportunities! Did you know alpacas are relaxing, soothing animals making them good with those with special needs?

Once your camera roll is sufficiently full of selfies, head for the Carlingford ferry and cross the Lough to Greenore.

Make your way towards the Cooley Mountains and over to Slieve Foye Woods. Take a leisurely stroll through the forest trails, telling the kids stories of Fionn Mac Cumhaill as you go, and getting your step count up too! If it’s a good day, pack a picnic and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding coastline.

Where to eat? Try the Kingfisher Bistro in Carlingford, or buy some freshly caught seafood to cook at home from Sea Source in Kilkeel.

4. Carlingford Omeath Greenway – Carlingford Lough Ferry – Seascope

Family Enjoying A Sea Hatchery Experience

Stock Image

Grab the bikes, scooters and the buggies and get yourselves to the Carlingford Omeath Greenway. An ideal spot for parents with small children, dog walkers, runners and cyclists (even the “wee” ones with stabilisers) – let them burn off the energy whilst you take in the views.

After a nice energising morning on the greenway, hop on the Carlingford Lough Ferry towards Greencastle Co. Down.

On the other side, make your way down the Mourne Coastal Route to Warrenpoint and to East Coast Adventure where you can try sea kayaking or even spend the night in a glamping pod!

Or, why not enjoy an afternoon of fun (and education!) at Seascope, Northern Ireland’s first ever Lobster Hatchery & Marine Research Centre. 

Where to eat? Try Fitzpatrick’s Bar & Restaurant or the Whistledown Hotel in Warrenpoint.

Okay – we’ve got a few more ideas to share!

Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails

Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails. Courtesy of Outdoor Recreation NI.

For those who are a bit older or don’t mind a longer car journey, take the Carlingford Lough Ferry south to Greenore Co. Louth and start your day at Funtasia Water Park in Drogheda, Tayto Park in Meath or Dublin Zoo.

In the north, take the ferry to Greencastle Co. Down and travel to Castlewellan Forest Park where you try out their Mountain Bike Trails (and even hire an electric bike), Murlough Beach National Nature Reserve or even the Titanic Museum in Belfast.

So, if you’re stuck for ideas, planning a family holiday, or simply looking for a great family day out, make sure the Carlingford Lough Ferry is part of your trip. Book online in advance for 10% off.

Covid Safe CharterAt the Carlingford Lough Ferry, we take safety seriously, and for your reassurance, procedures are in place to comply with government guidance on Covid-19.

Before setting off, make sure to check Covid-19 government advice to ensure you follow the latest guidance on travel here.

For the latest guidance in Northern Ireland click here.

Please note: occasionally, ferry services are impacted by adverse weather. Please check our website or social media channels for sailing times updates.