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Travel options from Inverness to Oban

I'm in the process of building the details for our first trip to Scotland. I've got most of the details booked and ready. My last challenge is traveling from Inverness to Oban on Sunday, September 3rd. I'm past the age of feeling safe learning to drive on the opposite side of the road. Trains don't do a direct route between the 2. Buses do, but I can't find one for a Sunday. I'm open to all suggestions including a private driver. Please suggest ideas for me to consider. Thanks in advance, Rich

Posted by
6439 posts

On a Sunday the buses run from Inverness to Fort William, but there are no buses on the Fort William to Oban leg and never have been.

On a Sunday the only option is to travel via Glasgow, same as the train.

In theory you could travel from Fort William to Oban travelling via Tyndrum. In practice the connections don't work so INV-GLA-Oban is your route.

If that is unpalatable then a private driver is your only other option.

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, Rich,

Unfortunately, it appears that West Coast Motors, who do the Fort William to Oban route, don't operate on Sunday, September 3rd., or any other Sunday, for that matter. However, there are many CityLink buses which operate the Inverness to Fort William route. Your best bet, if you don't want to pay for a private car and driver, would be to take the CityLink bus from Inverness to Fort William, then take the ScotRail train from Fort William to Oban.

There is not a direct train from Fort William to Oban. You will have to switch trains at Crainlarich. The total journey time on ScotRail is just under four hours. However, about 50 minutes of that time is spent waiting on the platform at Crainlarich.

There is a 8:54 a.m. CityLink bus out of Inverness which arrives in Fort William at 11:05. The train to Oban leaves Fort William at 11:40 a.m., arriving Oban at 3:27 p.m. The train journey will be very scenic. The bus station in Fort William is a less than five minute walk from the train station.

Your other option would be to take a taxi from Fort William to Oban. Depending on how many are in your party, this may be the cheaper option. Taking a taxi all the way from Inverness to Oban would be frightfully expensive.

Stuart (isn31c) is our resident expert on all things related to timetables, so he may have a better idea in mind.

Good luck to you. You are absolutely going to love Scotland!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
6439 posts

PS- the first coach from Inverness to Oban is 0720, arriving at Oban at 1529, 2 minutes after the train.

The train route over Rannoch Moor would win any day of the week for me.

On any other day of the week you could use the Crianlarich station tearoom while waiting, but it is closed on a Sunday.

If you did take the coach all the way you wouldn't pay £62.30. You would buy a 3 days in 5 Explorer Pass for £56, or I would.

Posted by
6439 posts

The bus from Inverness leaves the Bus Station at 0900 for Fort William, rather than 0854. We've had this before when using Traveline that minor timing discrepancies kick in. Fault finding the error has driven me round the bend.
Last time we went round in circles for ages because Traveline Scotland assumed odd things unless you put exactly the right thing in, and West Coast Motors assumed something else. If you look at the Citylink website and put into Traveline Scotland Inverness Bus Station (where the Bus starts) to Fort William Bus Station (where the bus terminates) you get the right timings, and both agree.
Mercy of mercies Traveline has no fare in for this journey as the fares in Traveline tend to be a joke.

BTW Fort William Bus Station is a very grand name for a row of bus stops outside Morrisons Supermarket and opposite the Railway Station. If you dawdle the bus to train transfer takes 2 minutes.

Posted by
1376 posts

Well, at least if the OP arrives at 8:54, he and his party will not miss the 9:00 a.m. departure! :) A reservation for the 8:54/9:00 a.m. bus would definitely be in order, as other travelers may have the same idea about making their way to Oban on a Sunday.

Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: Previous posters on this forum have advised that the taxi fare from Fort William to Oban would run around 100 pounds (plus gratuity).

p.p.s.: CityLink's website is showing a price of 12 pounds 30 pence for the one way fare from Inverness to Fort William. If that's accurate, it seems like a reasonable price.

Posted by
6439 posts

p.p.s.: CityLink's website is showing a price of 12 pounds 30 pence for the one way fare from Inverness to Fort William. If that's accurate, it seems like a reasonable price.

I don't know why anyone thinks that is not an accurate price. Citylink are the operator, and the only channel through which advance tickets can be bought.
The physical operator, under contract to Citylink, is Shiel Buses. But the fares are set by Citylink.

If you could catch a bus from Fort William to Oban the fare would be £11.40 rather than £32.30 on the train. Cheaper bus fares for that route used to be shown on a now removed and out of date fare chart on the West Coast Motors website [WCM being the physical operator of that leg]. Traveline will tell you the fare is £10.40 because they are using a 2019 fare chart.
We have been caught in that trap on this forum before where responders do not understand what they are reading,

Traveline also show a fare of £30.80 for the train because, guess what, they haven't updated for this year's fare increase.

In the west of Scotland citylink fares are what they are. Tickets purchased through Citylink are fixed fares. On the Inv-FW route there are no advanced fares.
But in the central and eastern parts of Scotland, because the physical operator is mainly Stagecoach, dynamic fares are also officially provided through Megabus usually starting at around 25% to 33% of the fixed fares.
On Inverness to Glasgow Citylink have a fixed advance fare of £23.30 (quota controlled, and never available at less than 2 days before travel) but when that quota is sold the full fare is £38.70. Unlike the trains the rise is not graduated. But on Megabus the dynamic fares start at £10.10 but are only available on alternate departures- they rise in steps.
From Glasgow to Oban the bus fare is £11.90- a fixed fare on the through buses- no advance fares, and no megabus fares.

So it is a very good question why Citylink charge a through fare of £62.70 for Inverness to Oban on 3 September when the sum of £23.30 + £11.90 = £35.20, and even on full fares the sum of £38.70 + £11.90= £50.60.
The answer is that the 1010 Glasgow to Oban (and 1610 return) run via Glasgow Airport, and on that departure only the full fare is £24 (that departure only also has a £16 advance fare). So £38.70 + £24= £62.70.

But from Inverness to Oban the smart buyer (on a Sunday) would pay £11.10 on Megabus (including the £1 booking fee) INV-GLA + £11.90 GLA-Oban= £23- or £23.70 on any other day as a through fare when the Fort William to Oban route is available.

Posted by
117 posts

Thank you all for the very complete answers & discussion. It is very helpful. After I re-read the responses a few times and then make a decision, I'll report back.

Posted by
117 posts

Thanks to everyone's help here, I am booked for 3 Sep 2023:
1. 09:00 Inverness Bus Stn --> 11:05 Fort William Bus Stn / Service No: 919 - booked @ CityLink.co.uk - £12:30 pp
2. 11:40 Fort William --> 13:32 Cianlarich ---- 14:18 Crianlarich --> 15:27 Oban - booked @ ScotRail..co.uk - £32:30 pp

It took me a while to figure out that the bus needed to be booked @ CityLink, not Traveline. Looking forward to our trip!
Thanks again, Rich

Posted by
6439 posts

Good,

If you can try and sit on the right hand side of the train for the gorge views as far as Tulloch station, beyond Tulloch it's views on both sides. You should be able to achieve that as 2 cars of the 4 car train start at Fort William (the other two have come from Mallaig), so they should open those cars before the Mallaig portion arrives in at 1132.
As you leave Fort William you should see the steam train for the afternoon Jacobite sat ready at the depot ready to run in to the station (on the left side of the train).
From Crianlarich to Oban the best views are on the left side of the train- but that is only a 2 car train, and everyone knows that, so whether you manage that will be down to luck.
I know you have a seat number allocated (or should have), but if the seat is on the 'wrong side' of the train, just switch to an unbooked seat. No-one minds
On the bus try to sit on the left hand side for the Loch views.

If you need breakfast Inverness bus station cafe is a local legend for the best breakfast in town. I'm not sure what time it opens on a Sunday but in the week it opens at 6.30am. It is a modern building but the business (run by Italians for many years) has been on that site since the Bus Station opened in 1952.

At Fort William use the restrooms in Morrisons store as those at the station have a charge!