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Fort William to Oban by Public Transit

Hello helpful travelers, I am walking the West Highland Way and finishing in Fort William on June 5. Our next stop is Mull via ferry from Oban. We have reserved a rental car on Mull that we will pick up at the Craignure ferry terminal. My question is: how to best get from Fort William to Oban to catch the ferry on June 5? I have looked at the City Link time schedule for the 918 bus and it shows a 4 hour journey from Fort William to Oban - which seems like a lot. The RS guide indicates a journey on the City Link 918 of 1.5 hours - which is more in keeping with a direct route. What am I missing? There is also a circuitous route by train which is close to 4 hours. Can anyone here advise? Thank you in advance.

Posted by
1835 posts

The journey is indeed 1 hour 33 minutes- depart 1230 , arr 1403, and 1750, arr 1923.

This is a dummy booking showing those times-

However you won't find the actual schedule on the citylink website for some odd reason. You book through Citylink but for some reason the timetable is currently only on the website of it's operator- West Coast Motors-

This seems to be a mistake of the webmaster as it was there on citylink a week or so ago when on winter schedules.

Don't worry about that- it's just an error. Book through Citylink- the service will run.

Posted by
1222 posts

June 5 is a Monday. If you can go there Monday and catch the ferry - Fine !

If you need to stay overnight in Oban, then note that the bus does NOT run on Sunday, but only Monday to Saturday.

We missed that information last year and had to take a (100GBP) taxi :-(

Posted by
1835 posts

Or on a Sunday you would take a train on the via Crianlarich route you described, for 1/3 the price of a taxi, or even stay an extra night in Fort William. Or I would.
The timetable is perfectly clear it doesn't run on a Sunday so anyone caught out by that has not done their due diligence beforehand, or booked.

Posted by
6 posts

Hello all. I have dug into this a bit deeper and have confirmed that City Link no longer offers a direct bus service from Fort William to Oban ANY day of the week. A kind Citylink employee was able to confirm what I was seeing on their website - the Citylink bus route from Fort William to Oban requires 2 changes and takes 4 hours. I remembered to check Traveline Scotland and West Coast Motors [edited] and now I see that West Coast Motors offers direct service to Oban - travel time 1hh 46mm. A later departure / arrival via West Coast Motors appears to be 1741 / 1947. Thanks Mike (Auchterless) for catching that!
There is one train per day that takes about 4 hours as well, with 1 change in Crainlarch and a 51 minute transfer window. The cost for the train is similar to that of the bus.
There are a few taxi companies willing to make the trip (thanks for the idea @l.p.enersen) and I have received a quote that is about double the cost of train tickets for two.
I believe that with this groups assistance, I have now answered my own question and will leave this note here in case others may benefit.

Thank you.

Posted by
1306 posts

Hi, clatsop_creek,

Have you tried contacting West Coast Motors directly? Their schedule shows as still being active during your time there. It appears, from checking the CityLink/West Coast Motors website, that the last day for direct service between Fort William and Oban is Saturday, May 20th. From the 21st of May onward, CityLink will be operating the route via Tyndrum, and that will be the four hour journey to which you referred, at almost treble the cost of West Coast Motors' direct route.

If that's the case, you'd be better off on ScotRail.

isn31c, you have boots on the ground there. Can you investigate further?

I'm sure that this new schedule, if it's accurate, will throw a spanner in the works for many visitors to Lochaber.

Good luck, everyone!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks Mike (Auchterless), I see what you are saying about the 1hh 45mm journey from Fort William to Oban departing 12:01 arriving 14:07. That does seem to work in June as well. Thank you for pointing that out! I think that previously I had put in "1400" as my arrival time in Oban and came up with "no suitable journeys". If I had put in 1408, I would have gotten a better result :-)
I will double check with West Coast Motors directly to confirm. In the meantime, I will edit my post above as all is NOT lost for a direct route by bus from Fort William to Oban after all.

@isn31c I could not replicate your findings for my dates and the hyperlink you provided went to a blank "plan your trip" form. By all means, please do share any locally obtained information if you have any to add. Much obliged.

Posted by
1222 posts

anyone caught out by that has not done their due diligence beforehand

Mea Culpa :-)

Posted by
1835 posts

At the moment this seems to be breaking news.

Yesterday (26 hours ago) when I checked for 5 June the direct bus was still showing on Citylink- I checked for the specific date, not just a generic check.
The thing is that the Oban to Lochgilphead route used to be Citylink. That was withdrawn by them years ago but continued and continues to be operated by West Coast Motors on the same timetable and the same vehicles.

West Coast motors have nothing up about a service withdrawl, of what is an important local bus and is in parts a school bus. Nor have Argyll and Bute Council, who subsidise the route.

There are 3 trains a day via Crianlarich- at 0744, 1140 and 1737.

I don't know if you have noticed the length of wait at Tyndrum on the bus as well- 1 1/2 hours. The coach route is only 1 change in reality as one of the so called 'changes' is to walk across the road at Tyndrum from the southbound to the northbound stop!

But yes, if this is true, it is a big change.

The alternative, if not fast route, would be Shiel Buses 506 at 1350 via the Lochaline to Fisnhnish ferry.

When. IF confirmed, RS needs to be informed, as his guidebook is correct at the moment.

I wonder if Shiel plan to pick the route up if WCM have pulled out.

I can check bus route registrations in England and Wales, but don't know how to do that in Scotland.

Posted by
1835 posts

PS- I have also e mailed WCM for clarification. This is an important matter.

If it is withdrawn the irony is that 22-28 May is Scottish Bus Week!!

Posted by
1835 posts

I have had a response from West Coast Motors.

The 918 will be continuing beyond May, it is just that it is no longer part of the Citylink network. The timetable is to remain as is, at least for now. So you just buy on the bus, contactless if you wish.
Just not book ahead as Citylink allowed.
If they do change timings it will be a few minutes here or there, nothing major and will be on the WCM website or app. Do a final check a week or two before travel.

So for those of long memory it will still be possible to go from Inverness to Campbeltown down the west coast- simply not on Citylink branded bus as it used to be- 3/4 of the route is now on West Coast Motors.

PS- I don't know where your 1201/1407 timetables come from. The bus runs from Fort William Bus Station to Oban Bus Stances- the times from original departure point to final arrival point remain at 1230/1403. Both traveline and WCM agree on that.
Maybe you are walking from your hotel in Fort William at 1201. The 1407 arrival time adds on the 4 minute walk from the Bus Stance to the Ferry Terminal- I have just guessed that and checked on traveline.

I don't think there is any need to amend the guidebook. I. personally, would not be surprised to see it resurface on Citylink sometime.

Posted by
6 posts

The 1221/1407 schedule comes from ONE of the West Coast Motors "plan your journey" pages. Eeegads. Another of the WCM search query tables gives the 1230/1407 timetable. I sure hope it isn't this confusing when I finally get to Fort William! Thanks for helping me untangling this. Due diligence indeed.

Posted by
1835 posts

I am still pursuing the matter quietly with Citylink as to why no word was given of service withdrawl, and why the timetable is missing now, when the service still has 2 months to run, also there have been further changes today without fanfare to barely issued summer schedules on other routes.
I have pointed out to them the confusion and worry caused.
Citylink have been making much of a new route introduction elsewhere, and the start of 24 hour service to Aberdeen, yet not a whimper about closure of a service (closure which isn't closure!).
I have just looked at the WCM journey planner. I never use that, knowing the route numbers. Yee giddy ants. If you just put in Fort William to Oban it starts you from some unstated point in the Fort (between The Museum and the Cinema in the town square by blowing the map right up, in the pedestrianised main street) then makes you walk from the Cinema in Oban (deeming that to be the town centre) along the promenade to arrive at the bus stance after the bus does!. You actually have to know to put in Fort William BUS STATION, and then the correct stance number at Oban Station (out of 4 possibles) to get the right answer. As if anyone knows stance numbers.
You absolutely could not write this as the script for a movie- it would seem too far fetched.
Caveat absolutely emptor!

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for the validation that I am not crazy! It's pretty darn confusing.
I fear that I will spend more time figuring out the correct time and bus stop location after the end of my longest day on the WHW and I am not looking forward to that.

Posted by
1835 posts

The triumphal WHW arch is down almost at Loch side. Just walk straight up the pedestrianised main street away from the Loch following the signs to the Railway Station. You will pass the West Highland Museum and the Episcopal Church, both on your right, and eventually reach the Duncansburgh MacIntosh Memorial Church (Church of Scotland) with the Alexandra Hotel next door, also on your right, with a small row of shops on your left.
You then go through an underpass under the main road. On the other side is the Railway Station to your right and Morrison's Supermarket opposite on your left. Avail yourself of the restrooms in Morrisons, and the 'Bus Station' is just a row of stops outside Morrisons.
When you are part way up the main street you may or may not see what looks far more like a Bus Station to your left. Those are the local services stands and are not where you want to be.
This all illustrates what I detest about journey planners. They are fine if you know what to ask, but to a stranger who can't recognise poor quality data and doesn't know the questions to ask they are a xxxx nightmare.
If lost just ask- the Fort is a small place, folk will be very helpful.
And have a dram on the bus! (or I should say the hotel, not encouraging drink driving)

Posted by
1835 posts

Further to this matter, and subsequent correspondence with Scottish Citylink, the 918 service Fort William to Oban has now been restored to their schedules and can now be found again on their booking system.
There was an error originally in not posting the summer schedule information.
It does rather seem that "right hand did not know what left hand was doing"
So this question is now resolved.

Posted by
8 posts

Hello all! I will be going in the opposite direction this July - Oban to Inverness. After reading this thread, I am guessing I should look at West Coast Motors for Oban to Fort William? And then what from Fort William to Inverness? Thanks for help!

Posted by
1835 posts

Carat Cameron.

No- this can now again be booked as a through ticket on Citylink (when bookings open, it is too far out currently), as they have now corrected their website.
Oban depart 0930 on Service 918, Fort William arrive 1105, change coach and depart at 1130 on Service 919, Inverness arrive 1335.
The through fare is £23.70

The afternoon coach is Oban depart 1557, FW arr 1732, depart 1740 Inverness 1942.

This connection looks tight, but they know to wait for each other. You are just short of time to use the restrooms in Morrisons store, next to the coach stop!