We rose at 6:30 and left home at 8:45 to cycle to Bangor station for the 9:32 to Holyhead. This gave us two hours at the ferry terminal but the next train would have left only 40 minutes, which would have been tight for the 30 minute minimum check in. We booked return tickets to Larne which cost £70.40 each. The ferry crossing alone on Irish Ferries “Jonathan Swift” fast ferry is £34 each way, so the rail part is almost free. The Irish Ferries website states £9 each way for bikes, but when we tried to pay at Holyhead, we were told that you didn’t need to pay if you have a rail ticket. The weather was warm and sunny and the sea was calm, a pleasant relaxing crossing.
We cycled from Dublin Port to Connolly station, arriving at 14:20 with an hour to wait for our train north. Knowing that Irish Rail charge for bikes but Northern Ireland Railways don’t, we enquired as to whether bike tickets were required on the cross border Enterprise service to Belfast. The booking clerk told us that as our train (the 15:20) would be staffed by a northern crew, there’d be no charge. If we’d caught the next one we’d have had to pay! We loaded our bikes into the driving van trailer and boarded. This was our first experience of the Enterprise, passenger accommodation was very comfortable and the train was clean and punctual. The scenery is attractive with sea and mountain views, one of the more scenic Irish lines.
At Belfast a smart change of platform was needed before scampering aboard a Castle class railcar bound for Larne. There was a compartment behind the driver with space for bikes and buggies so we were able to stow them away from other passengers. It’s a pity that later units aren’t so well designed, these date from 1985. We alighted a couple of stops before Larne, at Ballycarry, as we’d booked a hostel there. We rode the half mile or so and locked our bikes in their shed for the night. We were the only customers, it’s a working farm with an impressive range of animals and birds – sheep, donkeys, ducks, geese, hens etc. There were no blinds on the Velux windows so we woke early but otherwise it was a very pleasant place to stay.