Belfast we are here! We are half way through the Scottish school holidays so the kids and I have escaped Glasgow where pretty much all our friends are off to warmer climates to thaw out and get some Vitamin D. We on the other hand have run away to the ‘sunny’ city of Belfast where the weather might be cool but the people are warm enough to make up for it. A combination of Lyla’s GoTo seat being snapped in half the last time we flew and a great deal on Stena Line ferry prices led me to change things up and drive over from Scotland instead of flying. I’d forgotten how fantastic it is to be able to chuck everything in the car and just go. You want to take your scooter? Sure, chuck it in! You ’need’ to bring your Playmobil camper van and three build-a-bears? Sure, chuck them in! No need to worry about taking a minimalist wardrobe for our clothes horse, Lyla, there’s plenty of room, chuck it all in.
Blair and Lyla were really excited for their first time on a big boat however they were less excited about being woken at 7am, having clothes thrown on and then being chucked in the car half an hour later. The drive from Glasgow is about 2 hours and we got a straight run through to Cairnryan, possibly due to it being 7.30am and the middle of the school holidays. Poor Blair had a wee moment about 20 mins away from the boat which meant we had to pull over and let him lie on the grass verge for a few minutes. A combination of the early start, refusing breakfast and winding roads I think. He picked a gorgeous spot for it though, blue skies and sunshine on the west coast beside the sea, stunning.
My memories of getting the ferry to and from Scotland when I was at uni, before EasyJet started flying that route, are pretty dire. The Irish Sea can be a cruel mistress and the ferries really weren’t designed for travellers, more for truckers and just getting you from A to B. Inevitably I was travelling with a hangover which was always horrific even without the rough seas. I was relieved to find out that the ferries have improved dramatically since those days, to compete with EasyJet I imagine. They have cafes, a cinema, even a fricking spa and a special area you can upgrade to for peace and quiet with no kids and free refreshments. The Irish Sea however is unchanged, you gotta just take your chances and hope that the seas aren’t too rough.
Travelling with a child with special needs is always a little more stress inducing than usual but arranging special assistance at the Stena Line port was no problem, we were given a big A sign to hang off our rear view mirror and guided into one of the first lanes. I had emailed their customer service department as soon as I booked but I think if I had just rocked up and said we needed special assistance the response would have been the same. After a quick stop for a wee and a coffee in the ferry terminal cafe it was time to drive the car onto the ferry, this bit blew Blair’s mind.
The big A meant we were guided in right next to the lifts and with a good deal of room at the side of the car to get Lyla into her wheelchair stroller. It made a nice change from waiting to get the ambulift up to the plane, carrying Lyla on board to our seats, asking other passengers to move to let us in before figuring out how to get Lyla into her GoTo seat while she screams and then going through it all again when we land.
Once on board the ferry, we explored the cafes and cinema, we bumped into Curious George the monkey who totally freaked Blair out, then we found seats next to a window and watched as we sailed across the Irish Sea. It was so nice to be able to walk around, get Lyla to have a sleep, have another coffee, get Blair ice-cream. There may have been a minor Blair meltdown over my refusal to buy a toy (yes this may have been in part due to the ice-cream) but apart from that both kids were really well behaved and loved the novelty of it all. With Nana and Grandpa only 20 mins away from the port in Belfast we were at their house by 2.15. Result!
We’ll definitely continue to fly over to Belfast when it’s just for a short break or to see Lyla’s ABM therapist, but the ferry is always going to be the better option for extended holidays like this one. 3 weeks and two kids requires a lot of stuff and I can’t deny its lovely to have my car here with me.
Keep your fingers crossed that the journey back is as much of a success as the journey here was.