Getting to and from Cairnryan
Cairnryan is not directly accessible by train. The nearest station is a few miles down Loch Ryan at Stranraer.
There are bus services from Cairnryan to Glasgow, Ayr and Stranraer.
Cairnryan is close to Stranraer at the tip of Dumfries and Galloway. Take the A77 north to Ayr and Glasgow, or the A75 east to Dumfries, Carlisle and the M74 and M6 motorways. There is a free long term car park in the town of Cairnryan.
Six scheduled daily return crossings connect the Port of Belfast with Cairnryan's new Lough Ryan Port that opened Nov 2011. And the recent launch of the Stenaline Superfast Vll and Superfast Vlll ferries - the largest vessels ever to sail between Scotland and Northen Ireland - make this 2hr 15mins journey a stylish and seamless affair. Each of the Stenaline ferries can accommodate up to 1200 passengers and 660 cars, and Stena Plus customers can indulge in the Pure Nordic Spa with sauna and Jacuzzi.
Free wifi and the multi-sensory POD Lounge with games, internet and music keep you connected and entertained. And you can relax or catch up on the latest news in The Living Room TV and magazine space before the open road beckons once again. The on-board food and drink options, shopping, cinema and kids' area ensure your journey with Stenaline ferry is well catered for.
Cairnryan is a linear settlement looking across the main A77 road to Loch Ryan. It was established as Lochryan by 1701 when Lochryan House was built at the northern end of today's village. The house was remodelled in the 1820s and the imposing structure just visible from the main road today was the result.
Until the 1800s Cairnryan was an important staging post on the coach route to Ayr, with half a dozen inns along this short stretch of coast. It also achieved a less desirable reputation as a haunt of highwaymen preying on that same passing traffic.
Today it appears to approaching ferry passengers as a long low line of mainly white-harled cottages and houses, set against a beautiful green hillside. With the Merchant's House restaurant and coffee shop (open from March to November) and the year-round Homestead Shop & Takeaway, plus a number of accommodation providers, Cairnryan retains a range of services for residents and passing ferry passengers.
In the 1860s the railway came to south west Scotland and nearly terminated at Cairnryan, which would have turned it into the main port for passenger services to Northern Ireland. But the railway went instead to Stranraer, swiftly followed by the ferry traffic wishing to connect with it.
In the 1940s Cairnryan was turned into a military port by the Americans, and it still has the 700m long jetty built at the time. Its main role was to allow the construction of the Mulberry Harbours, the floating ports on which the allies depended after D-Day. And for a short time Cairnryan was also served by a railway, albeit 80 years late.
In the 1960s the military railway was dismantled, but the WWII port allowed the growth of a new industry, shipbreaking. This culminated with the dismantling here of the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal in the late 1970s.
Being significantly closer by sea to Northern Ireland than Stranraer, the attractions of Cairnryan as a ferry port led to the building by P&O of a roll-on roll-off terminus here in the 1970s, offering a shorter crossing to Larne. In late 2011 the other main ferry operator, Stena, als moved its services from Stranraer to Cairnryan.