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Train Tours

Can’t wait to return to Scotland!! Planning to return in May, 2020, but do not wish to drive. Has anyone taken a train tour? If so, what company did you use and which tour. Do you recommend this type of touring in Scotland?
Thanks, Gladys

Posted by
886 posts

A number of us have taken, and recommend, Rabbies tours. 16 passenger mini-busses the get to many more places than would be possible by train.

Posted by
3045 posts

We did parts of Scotland by train and bus as independent travelers. It worked fine. For tours, consider the Rick Steves Tour or the Rabbies tours.

Posted by
4183 posts

Greatrail.com is the major rail holiday company in the U.K. I always drive, so cannot comment on Rabbies or rail holidays.

Posted by
119 posts

I was in Scotland for 16 days this past September with a friend and we chose not to drive this time as I found it stressful in the past. We first took a 6 day Rabbies tour to visit some islands and combined that with train travel on our own. We went to Ft. William, then Inverness (had to take a bus there, but it was very easy and we had it booked ahead of time) then by train to Aviemore and then back to Edinburgh to fly home. Between the busses and trains we saw everything we wanted to see and had a great time. It can definitely be done on your own if you want to. I've also used the trains on my past 3 trips to Scotland. We chose to book our longer trips ahead of time to take advantage of cheaper fares, but we bought shorter day trips the day of so that we could be more flexible with our timing.

Posted by
17636 posts

The problem I had with using public transportation in Scotland this July was the weather; I think bus tours would have the same limitations, though they'd be more efficient (if less flexible) and probably get you to some places that would be difficult or impossible by public transportation. We needed to book trains, key buses, and a day-tour on Skye ahead of time, and we were not able to react to bad weather by heading in a different direction, as we could have done with a car. Weather is not much of an issue in the cities because there are so many indoor sights, and in any case we didn't encounter heavy rain in Glasgow, Dundee or Edinburgh. Unfortunately our problematically rainy days occurred while we were staying in Oban and Portree and wanted to enjoy the scenery.

Posted by
927 posts

Hi, Gladys,

Acraven brings up a very good point. If you're travelling by public transportation, you are at the mercy of the weather. Your lodging may not be within a short walk of the train or bus station, and not every train or bus station has a taxi waiting to meet you. Fortunately, May is one of the driest months in Scotland.

You didn't say whether you were travelling alone, and how long you're going to be in Scotland. Travelling by public transportation can get you just about anywhere in Scotland, but it requires very careful planning. As far as ticketing goes, the Spirit of Scotland rail/bus pass is a good option, but you have to be extremely careful, as you can't travel every day using this pass. For instance, with the 15 day pass, you can only use it on eight out of the 15 days. So if you're travelling from place to place, only staying one day in each place, you'd need two of those passes, which would cover 16 days. Some of the smaller bus companies don't honor the pass, so you'd have to pay individual fares for those journeys. As I said, it requires careful planning.

You may find that some (not all) B&B owners will make accommodation to meet you at your train or bus station, and/or return you there when your stay has ended. They're very good about that, especially as you get farther north. It doesn't hurt to call ahead and ask.

Trains will take you from Glasgow and Edinburgh to places like Dundee, Perth, Aberdeen, Elgin, Inverness, Fort William, Mallaig, Oban, Balloch (for Loch Lomond), Kyle of Lochalsh, Plockton, Strathcarron, Wick, Golspie, Thurso, and many places in between. Using a combination of trains, long distance and local buses, ferries, and taxis, you can reach just about anywhere you'd like to go. You mention that you've been to Scotland before, so there will be places that you want to revisit, and places that you want to see for the first time. You need to make a list, then connect everything using train, bus, and ferry schedules. If you want to get there, you're bloody well going to get there!

Getting back to weather - you need to travel light and carry a lined waterproof poncho, large enough to cover you and your luggage. It may never rain while you're in Scotland, but best to be prepared.

Have yourself a wonderful time on your return to Scotland, and best wishes for a Happy Hogmanay!

Mike (Auchterless)