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Sutherland Travel

My wife and I are planning to travel to Scotland, and in particular, go to the Northern Highlands (Sutherland County) to see ancestral lands. I am having a hard time finding any rail, bus, or even ride share information for this part of Scotland. I would rather not rent a vehicle if I can avoid it. Does anyone know a good ride share or bus route that I have not discovered yet to get us to and from Tongue? I would like to stay overnight if possible (from and to Inverness). Thank you for any suggestions.

Posted by
2566 posts

The Rome2Rio site is excellent for assessing your options in getting from one place to another. For example, here's Inverness to Tongue.

https://www.rome2rio.com/map/Inverness/Tongue-Scotland

The bus company looks like it is called Transport for Tongue and it only runs once a day. The trip takes 2 1/2 hours. Alternatively, you can take the train to Lairg and transfer to a bus; once again it's Transport for Tongue, and it's a slower trip so the bus all the way is probably your better option. Here is the website of Transport for Tongue.

http://transportfortongue.co.uk/

The Rome2Rio result indicates that the bus stop in Inverness is at Millburn, Morrison's (I assume Morrison's supermarket), so you may want to book your Inverness lodging not too far from there. But I would email or call Transport for Tongue to check on all the details before you set things up.

Posted by
1239 posts

The website above is a good place to start. All the rail is on the east coast of Sutherland connecting Inverness with Wick and Thurso also where most of the relatively small population live.

Most of the road network away from this east coast area is single track.

If Tongue is where you are aiming for and especially if you do not have a car, the best base is Thurso in Caithness. This is also where most of the buses that serve Tongue will link to as the nearest main town.

Posted by
906 posts

Hi, Chewy,

It looks as though your best bet would be to take Scotrail from Inverness to Thurso, then the 803 Durness bus from Thurso to Tongue. The 803 only operates Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. There's not a whole lot of accommodation in Tongue, but the bus schedule may require that you stay over two nights - e.g.: Tuesday and Wednesday nights, or Thursday and Friday nights.

Information on the Durness Bus can be reached at (44) 1971 511223, or you can contact them on their website, www.thedurnessbus.com/contact-us/

Scotrail runs four trains daily from Inverness to Thurso, but if you are going to catch the 2:25 bus to Tongue, the only train that will get you there in time to make the connection is the 7:00 a.m. out of Inverness. You could take a later train, then stay overnight in Thurso. Citylink operates three or four buses daily to Thurso. Your best bet would be the 8:55 a.m., which would get you in to Thurso in plenty of time to catch the 803.

Transport for Tongue operates a direct bus service from Inverness to Tongue. It picks up passengers at the Tesco and Morrison's supermarkets in Inverness at 4:00 and 4:18 p.m. respectively, arriving in Tongue at 6:48 p.m. On the Rome to Rio website, it's stated that the bus operates daily, but according to the T4T website, it only operates the last Saturday of the month. You may want to confirm this information by contacting T4T directly at info@transportfortongue.co.uk You could also take the train to Lairg. and take a T4T bus from there. However, that bus operates on Wednesday only. T4T can also be reached at (44) 1847 611766.

I've found Rome to Rio as a good website, but their information is frequently incorrect. It does, however, scratch the surface on some searches, leaving you to dig deeper to find exactly what you're looking for.

You could conceivably take the train and T4T bus to Tongue on Wednesday, and take the Durness bus to Thurso and train to Inverness on Thursday. A lot depends on how much time you require in Tongue.

Best to plan your visit to Tongue well ahead of time, to make sure that your train/bus, bus/bus or bus connections will work. You also need to confirm your lodging well ahead, as Tongue is a pit stop for the NC500. You will probably want to reserve seats on the Durness or T4T buses, as they operate so infrequently.

If all else fails, you could hire a car out of Inverness. The roads are pretty straightforward north of Inverness, once you get out of the city, and you'd be able to stop wherever and whenever you'd like.

Hope all that information helps. Best wishes for your journey.

Slainte!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
3992 posts

It’s the kind of location that would be significantly enhanced by hiring a car, even if just for a few days, as you can see from the above comments that public transport is sketchy. Driving on the “wrong” side of the road really isn’t difficult. I don’t know my left from my right and I have no difficulty driving in mainland Europe or America on the “wrong” side.

Ride sharing doesn’t really exist in the UK and certainly not somewhere as remote as this location.

Posted by
906 posts

Hi again, Chewy,

I may have come up with another solution for your journey to Tongue. As you don't want to drive, you could take the train or bus to Thurso, then a cab from there. There are at least two highly recommended taxi companies in Thurso: Highland Cabs (44) 1847 555555, and Caithness Cabs (44) 1847 895677. In order to save a bit of money, you could arrange your schedule so that you could take the Durness Bus to Tongue and the taxi back to Thurso, or the taxi to Tongue, and the bus back.

It might cost a little bit more, but with two of you travelling, a taxi might not be that much more than the bus. Plus you'd get there faster, and in more comfort.

It's certainly worth thinking about, anyway.

Best wishes once again!

Mike (Auchterless)