Planning to fly after our two week river cruise from Basel to Edinburgh on October 2nd 2021 and start our 7 day tour of Scotland and Highlands. Would like to take a tour from Edinburgh or Glasgow through the West Highlands. Would like to take trip on the scenic train which is ranked one of the best in the world. This trip would start on Oct 2nd 2021. Could we do this on our own or would it be best to book a tour through the Highlands.? We will not use a car in Britain. We would have to rely on Train and Bus and we would have a Britrail Pass as we will leave for England when we are done. We would be traveling in Scotland from Oct 2nd thru the 9th. There will be four of us, two traveling from Switzerland and two traveling from Ireland. We are all seniors from 68 to 72.
Western Scotland is a bit challenging via public transportation, though it will be easier if you don't want to go over to any of the islands. I managed, with some difficulty, but I was traveling in July. I'm afraid some of the transportation options I depended on will be less frequent in October.
The company Rabbies gets good reviews for its small-group (van) tours, though I don't know how often they are offered in October. Then again, your group of 4 would fill up a lot of seats, and it's possible a private tour wouldn't be grotesquely expensive.
There are other companies in the Scottish market, but Rabbies seems to be most often mentioned. When I last looked at its website, the basic tour prices didn't include lodging, because you are allowed to pick from multiple quality/price options. I'm not sure how much the Rabbies tours cover besides the transportation links laid out in the descriptions, but then again, it's the transportation that's the major challenge.
A week is a painfully short time for Scotland, and October wouldn't be my choice of time of year for a trip going beyond Glasgow and Edinburgh. The risk of chilly, wet weather would be too great for me. Have you taken a look at weather statistics for Scotland? There's a summary chart on most cities' Wikipedia pages, and you can see the (highly recommended) day-by-day historical data on timeanddate.com .
Are you sure a Britrail Pass makes economic sense for you? I don't think it will cover buses (and you may need several in Scotland). UK train fares can be surprisingly reasonable if you buy tickets way in advance, though I acknowledge that in the current environment there is an elevated risk involved when buying non-refundable train tickets.
Another option is the senior rail card, for which each of you would qualify. I believe it's 30 GBP per person. Or a Two Together rail card for the same price covers two people who will always be traveling together. I think either of those cards provides a 30% diacount on rail fares. That's not as low as an Advance (non-refundable) ticket, but it would allow you to buy your tickets quite a bit later.
railcards can also give the 30% discount on Advance fares. Two Together isn't valid before 9:30 M-F, but is an excellent value. If most days you expect to take long trips which are on a weekday and have an early start you will get better value with Senior railcards.
Just have an extra piece of toast at brekkie and travel after 9:30. No such limit on weekends or Bank Holidays (not many Bank Holidays in October). Not much sun either, probably.
I have traveled quite a bit through the HIghlands without a car. There are some very nice train rides but they don't go to some of the best places. For those, I booked day trips with Rabbie's. I'm considering, when allowed back, to do a multiple day tour with them. They take a maximum of 16 people.
The Train from Glasgow to Fort William and then on to Mallaig is considered one of the prettiest journeys anywhere. It's called the West Highland Line.
Depending where you want to go, keep in mind that Scotland has a robust network of bus routes that will take you places where the train doesn't go. I believe CityLink is the main bus company outside the major cities; you see them on the scenic roads that access some lovely small towns. In Edinburgh we bought an all-day pass on Lothian Bus which we used to go to Roslyn Chapel and back, and then later to get around town and to go out for dinner that evening.
Thanks for the responses. It sounds like a good idea to take day or multi day trips from either Glasgow, Edinburgh or Inverness. I really want to take the West Highland Train Line. Hopefully we will be able to do the Isle of Skye.
There's also the Highland Rover area ticket, 4 days travel out of 8 consecutive days.
It's £95 ,but have a feeling if you have a Seniors or Two together card you can get a 33percent reduction
I did a day trip with Rabbies from Inverness to the Isle of Skye. Our kilt wearing driver/guide, an avid proponent of Scottish Independence, was very good. When we got to Skye, he took us up to some secluded mountain tops where a full size bus couldn't go. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. Because the weather was so good, he asked if he could show us the long way back which meant we would arrive back in Inverness a little later than planned. (And no backtracking.) We all agreed. It was terrific.
My first trip to Scotland was a circle trip from Glasgow to Inverness to Edinburgh. I took the West Highland line north, then a bus from Fort William to Inverness and then the train down to Edinburgh. It wasn't enough and I have returned a few times. And I plan to go back--eventually. Scotland is one of my favorite places.
Rabbies look like a good option for tours. I think I will do the circle trip from Edinburgh 2 Days to Inverness 2 Days. Then take the Kyle Train line from Inverness to Kyle of Lockalash and Isle of Skye 2 Days and the West Highland Train Line to Glasgow 2days. I could reverse it the other way. This will give us 8 days in Scotland and then will be off for England. I have never visited the Highlands before but I have been to Glasgow and Edinburgh a few times. What do you think of this itinerary? We could always adjust if we need to.
Thanks for all the Info
How to you plan to see Skye without a car? Public transport is all but non existent (the bus timetables are based around school timetables) and certainly don't cover the whole island. Rabbies do tours that include Skye and there are also local, small companies such as Skye Jeep Tours who can create a bespoke itinerary based on your interests and the weather.
Thanks for the tip on Jeep tours or Rabbies for the Island of Skye. We are four seniors so I'm sure there will be some changes. Deannie who is traveling with us has relatives in the Highlands so she has an interest of where she comes from. I thank everyone for there tips its been very helpful.