Two of us are travelling in Scotland in late September. Our goal is to do trains, with bus connections only, not rent a car. We are planning Orkney Island,Inverness, Mull/Iona, Edinburgh, for sure. Has anyone done the trains there, can we get from A to B to C, etc.??? Any particular places we MUST see? We will be there for 16 days.
Trains are usually easy in Scotland. Haven't personally done Mull/Iona or the Orkneys. Inverness is wonderful. A great base for day trips. Aviemore, in the Caringorm Mts. is also nice. Check it out.
Mull is beautiful, however, it's only accessible by ferry and there's very little public transportation on the island, especially outside of summer. Thus a car is highly preferable, in particular for getting to the Iona Ferry. Iona is a full day trip as it can take a long while to get to the ferry on a single track, windy road.
Definately don't want a car in Edinburgh - it's parking nightmare here. Buses are the way to go. You can base yourself here and take day-trips to Stirling, North Berwick, Rosslyn, Glasgow etc.
You might want to decide whether you really want to do Orkney, because it takes a long while to get up to the ferry and it can be a bit weather dependent. I've heard it's spectacular when the weather cooperates, but it will take a fairly large chunk out of your trip. I also don't know whether it's easy with public transportation - perhaps it might be worth looking into one of the packaged tours.
If you can shoehorn it into your schedule, you should plan to visit Sir Walter Scott's home, Abbotsford, near Melrose, in the Borders. It will help you understand why he was a national hero, apart from being a world famous author. The Orkneys, and the Outer Hebrides, are another trip, unless you're into archeology--then focus on that. Aberdeenshire, with its well preserved castles, such as Crathes, and others, are enchanting. In planning your trip, set priorities(ruined abbeys, historic Scotland, modern Scotland, religion, etc. and save others for another trip). (We've only used cars.)
I think it's a bit much to try to do the Orkneys and Mull/Iona; Orkneys spectacular but I think you'd need a car (had one so don't know abt buses). Castle Mey (late Queen Mother's home) east of Scrabster is a lovely visit if you're an Anglophile. It's a fairly long drive from Edinburgh to Scrabster, depending on which route you take; plan to stop in Inverness for 1-2 nights so you're not exhausted. On the way from Ed. to In., stop in Birnham to visit the Beatix Potter garden w/ scupltures of Peter, Jeremy Fisher. etc. From Ed, you will have gorgeous, largely unpopulated countryside and very friendly people; hope to return.
I'd choose braemar over aviemore.Also check out the post buses, they serve tiny places and relatively cheaply.The north west, Ullapool-Lochinver and on wards is special.
This site could help you plan your travel on public transportation in Scotland. The "journey planner" feature provides suggested travel connections and schedules up to two months forward from the current date.
Hello! My husband and I did a five week self-tour of the Highlands and the Islands in 2002. We took a train from Edinburgh to Inverness, a bus to John O'Grote's, a ferry to the Orkneys. We stayed in a B&B in Kirkwall 4 days. Because I use a wheelchair, we did rent a car in Kirkwall. I was able to go inside Mae's Howe! Sure was glad to find a clean modern restroom in the visitor's center at Scara Brae. If you have not already discovered www.BritRail.com, check out their Scottish Freedom Pass which includes ferrys and some bus fares. I guarantee you the Orkney Islands will not disappoint and the journey getting there was one of the highlights of our trip. We met interesting characters on the train and ferry. I felt I had met a personal challenge by making it to the Orkney's AND enjoying every minute of it. These will be the best of memories for future years.
We will be in Edinburgh in August for the festivals. We will take the train on day trips to Stirling, Glasgow and Carlise. ENJOY!!
Yes it is doable, but think about doing day trips to supplement the local transportation. I travelled with my family this summer to Mull/Iona. You can get the train from Edinburgh to Oban (4 hours), and from Oban book any variety of day tours with Caledonian Ferries (or CalMac as they are often called). We booked a 1-day tour from Oban of Mull, Iona, and Staffa and it was fantastic! There is not much public transport, so I think the tours are the way to go - the company is Bowman's Tours. From Oban, you can choose any number of ways to get to Inverness, and from there are several companies that run tours to Orkney for 1 day tours or longer. Again, it's a combined ticket that includes ferry & bus transport. Happy traveling, kathleen
Just returned from a 2 and 1/2 week trip with most of our time in Scotland. I would suggest splitting most of your time between Edinburgh, Aviemore and Inverness. We spent 4 days in Inverness and I wish we could have had several more. You can do great day trips from there. We even did a day trip to the Orkney islands. You can go to Skye, see Ellan Donan Castle, do boat trips on the firth, etc. It is really a COOL city. Aviemore is great if you want some time for walks, "adventure" type activities, etc.