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18-20 days in Scotland; public transportation only; advice on the itinerary needed

Hello,
I am planning a trip to Scotland in August and was wondering if you might advise if the following itinerary looks feasible on public transportation only and I am not cramming too much in at once.
If it is relevant, it's my first time travelling through Scotland (I only visited Edinburgh briefly once before); I'm not much into extensive hiking; more interested in architecture and culture and love nature as a sort of background; and prefer not to switch hotels too frequently.

Edinburgh - 6 nights (with day trips to Stirling and St. Andrews)

Train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen; stay for 3 nights in Aberdeen (visit Dunnottar castle, Drum, and Crathes as day trips)

Train from Aberdeen to Inverness; stay for 3 nights in Inverness (day trips to Aviemore or Nairn, Castle Urquhart & Loch Ness)

Bus from Inverness to Fort William; stay for 3 nights in Fort William (take a train to Mallaig and back or take a bus to Glenfinnan Viaduct and back; day trip to Glencoe on bus; possibly day trip to Oban)

Train or bus from Fort William to Glasgow; stay for 3-4 nights in Glasgow

Thank you for your help!

Posted by
5 posts

To Camborne2018: Yes, I have already reserved a place to stay in Edinburgh in advance as I know it will be busy in August.

Posted by
7012 posts

If you're going as far as Nairn, and you can manage it, Elgin Cathedral is wonderful to see.

You can also get a bus from Aberdeen up to Cruden Bay, which is a charming place and then take a walk to Slains Castle (about 10-15 away), which is a gorgeous castle ruin that sits right on the coast. It is beautiful there.

Posted by
6708 posts

Well it certainly works on public transport. There are good bus services to everywhere you want to go to (except Glenfinnan).

In the case of Dunnottar I would suggest walking there along the cliffs from Stonehaven (train or bus from Aberdeen) then the hourly coach-bus back.

Likewise Nairn can be done one way by coach-bus, the other by train.

For Glenfinnan there are only a few buses a day- but if you took the 10am bus you would be there in time for the steam train passing, then take the lunchtime train to Mallaig, and the mid afternoon train back to Fort William.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks a lot, isn31c and Mardee! Great advice re the morning bus to Glenfinnan and visiting Cruden Bay!

Posted by
28 posts

Check out The Chaotic Scot too! I follow her on instagram- she travels around Scotland using only public transportation: https://www.thechaoticscot.com/

I hope you have a LOVELY trip! If you're an ice cream lover, Mary's Milk Bar in the Grassmarket is delicious :)

Posted by
2063 posts

What are you intending to do in Nairn? It's a pretty sea side town but there isn't a lot to do there, apart from the museum, walk along the river and possibly a boat trip. You could possible add a trip to Elgin which is bigger and has a ruined cathedral. Alternatively there is Culloden Battlefield, site of the last battle to be fought on British soil which put paid to any hopes of the Stuarts returning to the throne. Quite close to the Battlefield is Clava Cairns. They date from 3000-40000 years agao (older than stonehenge or the Pyramids) and were part of a Bronze Age cemetery. If you are Oulander fans, they are thought to have been the inspiration for Craig na Dun. Best visited first thing or later afternoon after the visitors have gone and the low light is much more atmospheric , they are a magical site.

Think about doing a cruise on Loch Ness. (There are different companies and departure points, do a google search...) Urquhart Castle is best seen from the Loch. It is always very busy. don't bother with the Nessie tourist sites.

What are your expectations of Aviemore? I'm assuming you want to do more than wander round the town? There is the Strathspey Steam Railway which is a pleasant run to Boat of Garten and Broomhill. If the timetable allows, you could always break journey at Boat of Garten. If it is a sunny day and you like walking, you could catch the Aviemore Adventurer (Service 30) to Loch Morlich where there is an easy walking trail around the Loch as well as the Boathouse Cafe.

Fort William - the bus follows virtually the same route as the train to Mallaig, so unless you are desperate to visit Glenfinnan Viaduct , you are repeating the same route on both days. It might be more interesting to use that day to do something else?

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks for the tip about the Loch Ness boat tour, wasleys! I might actually do that instead of taking a bus to Urquhart Castle.

Re Nairn: I am actually considering it as my base stay in the area instead on Inverness as it's much less expensive while also being only a 30 min. bus ride to all points of interest. Clava Cairns is definitely on my list - thanks for the advice!

Think about doing a cruise on Loch Ness. (There are different companies and departure points, do a google search...) Urquhart Castle is best seen from the Loch. It is always very busy. don't bother with the Nessie tourist sites.

I actually don't know much about Aviemore - it was recommended to me as a backup option for a pleasant day trip. So again, thanks a lot for all the suggestions!

Re Fort William - Mallaig trip, I really wanted to see how the steam train crosses Glenfinnan Viaduct. So I might follow the earlier advice on the forum and take the morning bus to Glenfinnan, then board a non-steam train to Mallaig, and then come back on the train or bus to Fort William in the afternoon. So it will be done on one day.

Posted by
6708 posts

If you go from Nairn to Elgin there is actually a bus again from Elgin to Aviemore (after a gap of a good few years), changing at Dufftown. Then you can return on the Aviemore to Inverness via Grantown bus if you want (or the other way round) so that can be made into a great circular day out.

Both those buses also call into Boat of Garten for the steam train

Posted by
672 posts

Slaines Castle was closed a few weeks ago due to rock falls, so check before you go. Still interesting, without getting inside.

Posted by
7012 posts

You can still see Slains Castle from the outside (if it's still closed off by then) and quite frankly, the outside is more impressive. I only spent a few minutes inside but the outside is just gorgeous especially with its location right on the cliff. And the walk from Cruden Bay is lovely/

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks a lot everyone for your helpful recommendations and suggestions!!!