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scotland first time itinerary using public transportation

here is what i have. It seems very inefficient but i'm not sure how else to fit in everything.

day 1. arrive in glasgow - sleep in glasgow

day 2. take very early train from glasgow to oban to do organized day trip to iona/mull - sleep in oban

day 3. oban to portree (basically a travel day)

day 4. isle of skye organized tour

day 5. portree to edinburgh (another travel day)

day 6. organized 2 day tour from edinburgh - glencoe, loch ness, eilean donan castle, other stuff

day 7. second day of organized 2 day tour

day 8. edinburgh

day 9. Stirling castle and loch lomond day trip

day 10. late flight from edinburgh

how would you fix this?

Posted by
1302 posts

Day 5, think of going to Inverness.
To go to Edinburgh only then the next day to go back all the the way to near enough Skye. ( Eilean Donan) is not the best use of time.Actually the travel day from Oban - Portree ,you could break it to see the castle, the Clachan pub a short walk from the castle I can recommend it.
Take a tour out of Inverness maybe, its a fine place to spend a day itself.
You might want to look at the Highland Rover pass.

https://www.scotrail.co.uk/tickets/combined-tickets-travel-passes/highland-rover
The Portree - Inverness run takes you along Loch Ness ,again you could break the journey and see Urquart Castle as the bus stops there

Posted by
6674 posts

You could switch Day 9 to Day 2, doing it from Glasgow (a far gentler Day 2 than taking a train at 0520). then Day 3 becomes Day 4.

For Eilean Donan, if all you want to do is see the outside of the Castle you could get the Inverness bus from Portree at 0900 as far as Ardelve or Dornie Bridge (opposite sides of the Bridge), see the Castle, then get back on the Glasgow bus - the 1035 from Portree. That bus gets you to Fort William at 1340. So you could then divert to Inverness as suggested above- the Fort William to Inverness via Loch Ness is hourly- so easy to add in one or two stopovers.

Glencoe can easily be independently done as a day trip on the Bus from Glasgow.

If doing so much bus travel the Citylink Explorer ticket is good value.

Posted by
124 posts

Thaks for the help. Maybe portree to inverness is the way to go with stops at Eilean Donan and urquhart castle. The problem will be that I'll have my bag all day. i stay in inverness and get an early train to edinburgh the next day.

The 2 day tour includes drivng by Stirling and Doune castles, glencoe, and glenfinnan viaduct on first day and then eilean donan and loch ness on second day. So if i do the portree to inverness route, i don't need this tour and can either find a one day tour that is similar to the first day or maybe i can go to glencoe and glenfinnan viaduct using public transportation (?) or maybe just skip the viaduct.

the stirling castle/loch lomond day trip is also an organized one. I know i can visit stirling on my own but don't know if i can combine with loch lomond using public transportation. any advice appreciated.

Posted by
6674 posts

If all you want to do is drive by Glenfinnan and Glencoe you could get the 0845 or 1000 service bus out of Glasgow as far as Fort William. Change at Fort William onto Shiel Buses #500 to Mallaig along the Road to the Isles to Mallaig, then come back on the 1615 train over the viaduct to Mallaig.

You could also get off the #500 bus at Glenfinnan, walk up to the Viaduct, see the Jacobite monument, then catch the 1615 train from Mallaig at Glenfinnan instead.

If you wanted time in Glencoe then catch the 0640 or 0845 bus to Glencoe, then the 1123 or 1243 (the 0845 and 1000 out of Glasgow) to Fort William.
All this assumes this Summer's timetables will be the same as last summer.

You will see quite a lot of Loch Lomond from the bus or train on the way to Oban or Glencoe etc (bus especially)

The easiest way to combine Stirling and a Loch Lomond cruise in a day would be Glasgow to Stirling Castle for opening time, then back to Glasgow, train to Balloch then a Sweeney's cruise from Balloch Shores.
Or do Loch Lomond first then Stirling Castle.

The timetable for the north end of the Lake is not yet available but there are also cruises from Tarbet and Luss- both stops on the Oban and Fort William buses- which you could try working in to the schedule.

Posted by
124 posts

wow isn31c, you are amazing! It would have taken me hours to figure all that out, if i would have been able to at all. I am so grateful!
by the way, the plan is to be in scotland early june. Also, day 4, the isle of skye organized tour, is stuck since the tour is sold out on other days.

ok, how about something like this though it involves too much backtracking between glasgow and edinburgh.

day 1. arrive in edinburgh - sleep in edinburgh
day 2. edinburgh
day 3. edinburgh to portree (basically a travel day)
day 4. isle of skye organized tour
day 5. portree to eilean donan to loch ness to inverness (will deal with my bag)
day 6. Inverness to glasgow
day 7. self tour Glencoe and Viaduct if schedule is like last years (0640 or 0845 bus to Glencoe, then the 1123 or 1243 (the 0845 and 1000 out of Glasgow) to Fort William.) back to Glasgow, will find what return bus times are
day 8. Glasgow to oban for mull iona trip, sleep in oban
day 9. oban to stirling castle to Glasgow if that’s possible. I’ll skip loch lomond cruise and stick to views from bus. I’ll try to keep my bag in Glasgow from day 6/day 7.
day 10. late flight from glasgow

does that sound decent?

Posted by
1302 posts

I think you were on the right idea with a clockwise route from Oban and ending up in Edinburgh.
I believe West Coast Motors started a day tour last year out of Oban visting Glencoe and Glenfinnan.
You could wave the tour bus goodbye there and make your way very easily by public transport to Skye ,seeing lovely Mallaig and the short ferry crossing to Armadale .
I put Inverness in as its the most straightforward way to get back to Edinburgh as much anything and there evitably will be day tours from there saving hours in journeys up from Edinburgh or Glasgow each time.
Black Isle Hostel is excellent they have private rooms as well as dorm room.It might well be the best outfitted hostel I have ever been ( repeatably) at.
Or..when leaving Skye go to Fort William put the bag in storage and then go spend time in Glencoe .
Think the station had left luggage or have a look at the Stasher App

Posted by
6674 posts

That is not at all bad. Edinburgh to Glasgow is under an hour on the train, a bit over the hour on the 24/7/365 bus which is several times an hour- so I don't object to that shuttling. Yes that bus even runs on Christmas Day.

On Day 9 last summer there was an Oban to Edinburgh via Stirling direct bus (routed via the Trossachs) #978 at 0920, arriving at Stirling at 1205, 7 days a week.
That would suit you down to the ground.
From Stirling there are trains, long distance buses and citybuses aplenty

Also on Day 3 last year there was an Edinburgh to Fort William direct bus at 0855 via Crieff, #913, 7 days a week. That arrives at Fort William at 1326.
The bus to Portree leaves Fort William at 1350 arriving at Portree at 1654. If it doesn't run you would need to go to Glasgow first where the 1350 ex FW starts at 1000.

On Day 7 the last bus back to Glasgow left from FW last year at 1910 arriving Glasgow at 2216. That bus had come all the way from Uig (Skye) with ferry connections from the Outer Hebrides. In June that will be daylight, more or less, all the way back to Glasgow.

You could wave the tour bus goodbye there and make your way very easily by public transport to Skye ,seeing lovely Mallaig and the short ferry crossing to Armadale .

That is where people get led astray. There are 2 buses a day from Armadale- one at breakfast time, the other at 1710 only as far as Broadford, then a 2 hour wait for a bus to Portree.

If WCM started a tour to Glencoe and Glenfinnan last year that is news. There is now and wasn't anything last year about it on the WCM website.

Posted by
1302 posts

If you decide on having a full extra day on Skye the whole Island bus ticket is about £8 for the day.
The Loch Coruisk cruise is outstanding, if weather dependent.
I posted in another question Steall Falls is worth the short hike.By the time you are in Fort William the seasonal bus up the Glen would be running.

Posted by
124 posts

thanks again to both of you

i can do something like this:

day 1. arrive in glasgow - sleep in glasgow
day 2. take very early train from glasgow to oban to do organized day trip to iona/mull - sleep in oban
day 3. oban to portree (basically a travel day)
day 4. isle of skye organized tour
day 5. portree to eilean donan to urquhart to Inverness to Glasgow at night (this day will be rough)
day 6. self tour Glencoe and Viaduct if schedule is like last years (0640 or 0845 bus to Glencoe, then the 1123 or 1243 (the 0845 and 1000 out of Glasgow) to Fort William.) back to Glasgow, will find what return bus times are
day 7. Glasgow to stirling castle to edinburgh
day 8. edinburgh
day 9. edinbugh (could actually fly out on this night here)
day 10. flight out

richard, if there is a west coast motors tour from oban to glencoe, I'm not seeing it on their website (which i think is westcoasttours.co.uk)

isn31c, your help with bus schedules is incredible. It seems like #978 is running in 2024 also
https://www.citylink.co.uk/timetables-service-updates/edinburgh-fort-william/

if i do edinburgh to portree, the citylink website is suggesting to go to inverness and from there take a bus to portree. I was also surprised by how much it would cost. Taking actual day tours is a lot cheaper

Posted by
1302 posts

I fear you are right about WCM.
Shame, as it would have been ideal,I have sent them a message though.

Posted by
6674 posts

The cost of the bus fares is where the Explorer ticket really comes in useful.

Not to Skye but on routes like GLA-EDI, GLA/EDI to Aberdeen and Inverness the trick is to book on the Megabus website where the fares are a lot less- to travel on exactly the same buses. There is a code share arrangement between the companies, behind the scenes.

This is the partial 913 timetable as part of the integrated West Highlands timetable- https://www.citylink.co.uk/media/1e3jszxt/glasgow-uig-web.pdf

It starts operation on 22 May, and is 10 minutes later than last year. That is probably too far in the future to have fares or times loaded for. This is the route specific timetable- https://www.citylink.co.uk/media/ppedzcz1/edinburgh-oban-fort-william-web.pdf

It does show the 1350 to Skye as an official connection.

By the way on the Portree to INV-GLA day I would invest in a train for the INV to GLA leg. An advance fare on the 2020 train, back in GLA at midnight is only £14.70 (when they release tickets). The earlier trains are about £21 advance fare.

Posted by
124 posts

thanks so much for the continued help from both of you! so if I stick to this plan listed below, I think I will need to take the buses I listed at the bottom. Does anything seem off? Does this trip seem like it'll be enjoyable? I'm fine for long, tiring days but of course there is always a line where it becomes too tiring.

day 1. arrive in glasgow - sleep in glasgow
day 2. take very early train from glasgow to oban to do organized day trip to iona/mull - sleep in oban
day 3. oban to portree (basically a travel day)
day 4. isle of skye organized tour
day 5. portree to eilean donan to loch ness to Inverness to Glasgow at night
day 6. self tour Glencoe and Viaduct if schedule is like last years (0640 or 0845 bus to Glencoe, then the 1123 or 1243 (the 0845 and 1000 out of Glasgow) to Fort William.) back to Glasgow, will find what return bus times are
day 7. Glasgow to stirling castle to edinburgh
day 8. edinburgh
day 9. edinbugh (could fly out at night here)
day 10. flight out

day 2. Glasgow to oban (scotrail train) 5:20 AM to 8:35 AM
day 3. oban to fort William (918 bus) 9:30 AM to 11:05 AM
fort William to portree (915 bus) 1:11 PM to 4:50 PM
day 5. portree to dornie/bridge road end (eilean donan) (915 bus) 7:30 AM to 8:48 AM
dornie/bridge road end to fort William (915 bus) 11:53 AM to 1:40 PM
fort William to uruqhart (919 bus) 2:30 PM to 3:57 PM
uruqhart to Inverness (919 bus) 4:57 PM to 5:35 PM or 5:57 PM to 6:35 PM
Inverness to Glasgow scotrail train 6:52 PM to 10:37 PM
day 6. Glasgow to glencoe (916 bus) 6:40 AM to 9:11 AM
glencoe to fort William (915 bus)12:43 PM to 1:16 PM
fort William to mallaig boat yard (shiel 500 bus) 1:25 PM to 2:55 PM
maillaig to fort William (scotrail) 4:05 PM to 5:33 PM
fort William to Glasgow (916 bus) (7:10 PM to 10:16 PM)
day 7. Glasgow to sterling (scotrail) 8:41 AM to 9:26 AM
sterling to Edinburgh (scotrail) 12:40 PM to 1:28 PM

Posted by
6674 posts

On Day 3 the connection from Fort William to Portree is at 1.50pm, not 1.11 pm.

On Day 5, if you are not going in to Eilean Donan 3 hours is heavy overkill. I would take the 0900 bus from Portree. I have actually done that stop (at Ardelve, which I personally think is a great and uncrowded viewpoint- other's opinions may legitimately vary). The debate is whether to get off at Dornie where you have the big car park, toilets, gift shop and coffee shop or at Ardelve. At Ardelve there are toilets in the community hall and, at a weekend, this coffee shop.

Sometimes I am a tourist as well.

Either way 90 minutes is more than adequate for the view. You will thank me for the extra 90 minutes in bed.

At Inverness Bus and Train Stations are 5 minutes walk apart. On a fairly tight connection like that go out of the back of the Bus Station, cross the road into the station car park and use the back station entrance- it is signed.
The 1852 gets you into Glasgow Queen Street at 2222, not 2237. Queen Street is your final destination that night.

Day 6- I am concerned for you at an early start after a late night and a long day. I would suggest the 0845 bus to Glencoe, and in the evening stay on the train from Mallaig back to Glasgow QS- it will get you back an hour earlier and give you totally different scenery across some of the remotest train tracks and stations in the UK. That is a wise investment of money.

Day 7- The train tickets are 'open tickets' not timed. When you book you will book a time, but that is meaningless. So take any train from Stirling to Edinburgh.

I am writing as one who was meant to do 5 x back to back travelling days like this, this week, starting at 0545 daily and ending at 2200 daily. I have had to postpone that by 3 weeks at the very, very last moment , because of concerns over the effect on my body- while I am recovering from a winter cold and am also suffering from a recurrence of a knee injury. I'm at home so in some ways if I keel over it isn't important. Also it was work, not pleasure, like this.

But I want you to return with the right memories, not memories of running a marathon. We do actually have a duty of care on these boards.

Posted by
124 posts

you are very kind isn31c and I am very grateful for your help. I hope your knee and cold feel better as soon as possible :)

Let me ask you, do bus tickets need to be bought in advance? or just train tickets?
Also, is eilean donan worth going inside?

And thanks for the info on the train from mallaig going all the way back to glasgow. I was dumb and didn't even check.

Posted by
6674 posts

Yes, bus tickets can and should be bought ahead, especially on West Highland routes. Two or three weeks before will be fine.

You can buy your Explorer Pass, if that is what you opt to do on the Citylink website- go into booking and choose Explorer Pass then allow 18 days for it to be mailed to you.

Once you have it you can reserve seats by going back into bookings and choosing 'Redeem Explorer Pass'. Hopefully by then they will actually have loaded the Summer special routes into the system!!

The fare on the Fort William to Mallaig bus you pay to the Driver on the day, cash or contactless. If the fare tables are up to date that should be £7.30. That journey is not part of the Citylink ticket so the pass appears not to be valid. You can always ask, you never know, but I don't believe it is valid.
At Fort William bus station the free restrooms are inside Morrisons supermarket front door. Those in the Railway station opposite are charged.

The 100% consensus on here is that Eilean Donan is not worth going inside. That is really why your time there is cut down. It's your vacation, by all means buck the trend and pay to go in, but we- the 100% corporate we- think not. I have not been in, so I abstain. I was happy with the view.

Posted by
124 posts

thanks so much as always isn31c. I think I'll skip going inside eilean donan. I'm leaning towards getting the explorer pass. I think i have seven bus trips planned so it probably won't be a big difference either way (i'd get the 5 day explorer pass)

Posted by
124 posts

all the bus tickets are bought on the citylink site? and rail tickets at scotrail? anyone know if that's accurate?

Posted by
6674 posts

all the bus tickets are bought on the citylink site? and rail tickets at scotrail? anyone know if that's accurate?

Bus Tickets -yes.

None of these are routes which are code shared with Megabus- who do cheaper fares on the same buses as Citylink.

Rail Tickets- in principle, yes. Some rail company websites are a bit temperamental for overseas visitors at payment stage. Scotrail seems to be OK, from other threads. But IF it does play up use another train company- LNER are the best. They all sell the same tickets at the same prices.

Posted by
124 posts

as always, thanks so much for the help isn31c

when you say none of these routes are code shared with megabus, that means megabus isn't an option and I should stick to citylink?

One last question, is edinburgh to dundee, glasgow to stirling, or stirling to edinburgh cheaper in advance? If yes, what price difference are we talking? I think megabus might be an option for some of those. Thanks so much as always.

Posted by
6674 posts

edinburgh to dundee, glasgow to stirling, or stirling to edinburgh are all megabus/cityink routes. Advance fares booked on megabus are something like 1/3 of the walk up and go citylink fares and even about 1/2 of the advance fares on citylink.

It all makes very little sense, but that is just how it works.

Normally the even cheaper option is on Flixbus- they are using almost brand new buses hired in from the well respected firm of McGills so I see no issue with Flixbus.

There is also a 4th option- Ember Bus- https://www.ember.to/ who run an all electric fleet. Their prices are more than flixbus and megabus, less than Citylink. Unlike all the others the fares are not dynamic. It is the same fare months ahead or booked online up to one minute before departure. You can buy on bus but at a £2.20 premium cost.

Posted by
124 posts

you are amazing isn31c. You know everything and have no problem sharing it with strangers for no benefit. I'm wishing a lot of good karma your way.

let me ask you, if you happen to know, if I plan on mainly going to stirling for its castle, if i want to buy bus tickets in advance, do you have any thoughts on how much time i should budget for it? An online search suggests 3-4 hours.

Also, if someone happens to know any place to store my bag in Stirling that would be greatly appreciated. I can't find information on storage at the rail station and online searches lead me to websites called stasher and radicalstorage which I am unfamiliar with

Posted by
124 posts

isn31c,
quick question in case you read this in time.

for day 6, which is tomorrow for me, i had planned to take:
Glasgow to glencoe (916 bus) 6:40 AM to 9:11 AM
glencoe to fort William (915 bus)12:43 PM to 1:16 PM
fort William to mallaig boat yard (shiel 500 bus) 1:25 PM to 2:55 PM
maillaig to fort William (scotrail) 4:05 PM to 5:33 PM
fort William to Glasgow (916 bus) (7:10 PM to 10:16 PM)

You responded by recommending to take from maillag to glasgow to provide different scenery instead of retracing my steps with taking buses (maillaig to fort william, fort william to glasgow). I have the explorer pass though so the buses are free while the train will cost 45 pounds. Do you think it's worth paying 45 pounds to go by train and see scenery i haven't seen before or should i just stick with the free (with the explorer pass) bus rides?

Posted by
6674 posts

@MD- Speaking personally, yes I do.

From Mallaig try to get a seat on the right hand side of the train for the Loch views. At Fort William the train switches direction, so you want to switch sides, as you still want to be on the right hand side of the train for the Gorge views, at least as far as Corrour. Beyond Corrour the best views keep switching sides so it matters less, although on the section from Helensburgh into Glasgow the right hand side again gives you great views of the Firth of Clyde, then becoming the River Clyde.

You are probably at Buchanan now awaiting your first bus of the day.

Just as you pull into Banavie (the station after Corpach) as you rattle over the swing bridge try to get onto the left hand side to see Neptune's Staircase (the flight of locks on the Caledonian Canal) which lifts it up from sea/loch level.

Posted by
124 posts

isn31c, i followed your advice as i have my entire trip and as always, because of you, i was able to see things I otherwise wouldn't have. Without you, my trip would have been so much worse. I'm so grateful! Thank you. I hope the karma you deserve is going your way