The fact that Scotland can be very remote in some areas can make getting around a difficult task, away from the main routes public transport can be fairly difficult to locate, especially in remote parts of the Highlands and Islands. However if you are well prepared and plan carefully you should have no problem finding the correct transport for your destination. There is a good part to all this wilderness, you will enjoy lovely journeys around some of Scotland’s magnificent scenic roads and travel in relaxation.
Scotland by Train
The railways around Scotland can be a little fragmented in places but offer some of the best scenic journeys in the world. Scotland’s railways are owned by Network Rail but managed by Scotrail who are the current holder of the Scottish railway franchise. The areas covered by Scotrail by geographical location are, The Central Belt, The Highlands, Ayrshire, Inverclyde and Stranraer, Dumfries and the North of England, The East Coast and Fife, and Lothian & the Borders of Scotland. Within the Highlands the West Highland Line has won various awards for “The Best Train Journey in the World”. Around Scotland you will also find steam train trips that include the Strathspey Railway and the world famous Jacobite steam train that featured in the Harry Potter films. For routes and timetables visit the Scotrail website
Scotland by Bus and Coach
The main areas of the Highlands are usually well served by bus services with the main company being Scottish Citylink, other bus companies include National Express and Stagecoach. Travelling by Coach is often cheaper than the rail option, making this a popular choice on busy routes and weekends A great option is to purchase an Explorer Pass from Citylink, with this pass you have access to over 200 towns and cities across Scotland and they run up to 400 services each day, you can purchase a pass for only £41 that will cover you for 3 days travel. Other options for longer periods are also available. If you are looking to travel Scotland and other areas of the UK it would be worth your while buying a Brit Xplorer pass from National Express, you can purchase a 7 day pass for £79 or £139 for 14 days.
Local Bus services covering towns and villages consist of many companies who all offer different services, in more remote areas the local bus routes may not run during holidays and Sundays, and the more remote you get you could find they only run once a day. Between the cities and towns bus services are more frequent, for further information visit the TravelineScotland Website. Parts of the Islands and Highlands are only covered by the Postbus network, these services carry the local mail and will accommodate a limited amount of passengers, the run from the local post office and can be a slow journey, but this may be the only way you can get to your destination in the very remote areas, to find a service for your journey visit the Royal Mail Postbus route finder website.
Scotland by Ferry
Scotland almost has 100 inhabited Islands and almost half of them have a regular ferry service, most of the ferries will carry cars, vans and motorbikes with some having room for coaches and freight lorries. The main operator of Scotlands ferry services is Caledonian MacBrayne who sail to over 20 destinations running from the River Clyde and to the Hebrides, other ports that operate include Ullapool and Mallaig in the Highlands and Oban and kennacraig on the West coast. If you are planning a trip that includes ferry travel it is recommended that you book in advance to secure your place. A very good option is to purchase a Island Hopping ticket if you are planning on visiting various islands, this will give you the freedom to plan your own trip and visit the islands at your own pace, another option is The Island Rover ticket, these tickets are flexible and allow you to explore the islands at your own leisure. The Island Rover ticket is more suitable if you are visiting lots of Islands.
If you are thinking of visiting Orkney and Shetland you can book a ferry from Aberdeen with Serco Northlink Ferries, Serco Northlink operate between the ports of Aberdeen, Kirkwall, Lerwick, Scrabster and Stromness, so you will be able to find a suitable ferry for your route, but please book early as these services are very popular. Pentland Ferries also run a service from Gills bay close to John o Groats to Orkney, and during the summer months you will find a passenger only ferry run by John o Groats Ferries that visits Burwick in Orkney. Many of the Orkney islands are serviced by Orkney Ferries so all of the islands are accessible to everyone. Shetlands ferries are run by the local council and you can find inter island ferry information on the Shetland Islands Council website.
Scotland by Car
By far the most enjoyable source of transport enabling you to come and go as you please, the car gives you the freedom to stop when you like and to take roads that public transport would normally not venture down, allowing you to see more of Scotland. You do need to be careful when driving along some of Scotland roads, you will find that a majority of the rural roads will be single lane with passing places, usually consisting of many bends and narrow corners. If you are not from the UK you also need to be familiar with driving on the left hand side of the road.
Renting a car can be expensive and if you are travelling from America, Canada or Australia it may be cheaper to book in advance from a multinational company. You could find a local company when in Scotland that will give you a good deal, you can find details of car hire companies from the local tourist office if you are hiring once you reach Scotland. A reliable company in Scotland is Arnold Clark, other companies include Avis and Enterprise, shop around to get the best deal, it will generally work out cheaper the longer you hire the car for, so take this into consideration if you plan to hire multiple times. Another option is to use Easycar.com who will help you find the best deal from various car hire companies.
You can find great tips for travelling Scotland by car in the following articles: