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10 Easy Ways to Travel Scotland by Public Transport

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Scotrail Highland Explorer crosses the head of Loch Awe on the Glasgow-Oban line near Dalmally © Scotrail

Scotrail Highland Explorer crosses the head of Loch Awe on the Glasgow-Oban line near Dalmally © Scotrail

Many of us are looking for simple things we can do to make travelling more sustainable, and exploring Scotland by public transport is an easy way to get started. Scotland’s public transport network is both reliable and cost-effective, and a great way to soak up the scenery and get a feel for the country.

Have you heard of the ‘slow travel’ trend? It’s all about decreasing your carbon footprint, whilst enjoying a deeper sense of place when you travel. On your next trip to Scotland, consider slow travel by taking public transport.

Even if you’re not planning a cross-country road trip, there are plenty of easy journeys you can make by public transport. Here are ten ideas to get you started.

1. Edinburgh to North Berwick

North Berwick, East Lothian

Mode of transport: Train

Length of trip: 35 mins

Ticket information: ScotRail

You’ve seen Edinburgh Castle and hiked up Arthur’s Seat, strolled along the Royal Mile and stopped for a drink in an Edinburgh pub: what’s next? How about a day trip to North Berwick?

This pretty seaside town is only a 30-minute train ride from the capital and it offers the chance to walk along the beach, play a round of golf or simply take in the coastal scenery. Kick back at the Lobster Shack at North Berwick harbour and enjoy fresh local seafood cooked to order.

2. Edinburgh to St Andrews

St Andrews, Fife

Mode of transport: Bus

Length of trip: 2 hours

Ticket Information: Stagecoach

From an ancient city to an ancient town, getting from Edinburgh to St Andrews couldn’t be easier. Departing from Princes Street in the city centre, the bus to St Andrews takes 2 hours. Once in St Andrews, Scotland’s famous home of golf, you’ll be able to see historic buildings, enjoy the beach and golf courses, and try some award-winning fish and chips.

Check out these 11 amazing things to do in St Andrews

3. Edinburgh to Galashiels

Galashiels, Scottish Borders

Mode of transport: Train

Length of trip: 50 mins

Ticket information: ScotRail

The Borders Railway has transformed travel to the south of Scotland. The line connects Edinburgh with Galashiels and Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders. There are lots of things to see along the route including the majestic Lothianbridge Viaduct and the beautiful Redbridge Viaduct near Tweedbank. The journey takes around 50 minutes, and you’ll find plenty of attractions in Galashiels, such as Old Gala House which dates back to 1583.

4. Glasgow to Fort William

Fort William, Highlands

Mode of transport: Bus

Length of trip: 3 hours 5 mins

Ticket information: Citylink

Visitors to Glasgow will be pleased to know that in a little over 3 hours on the bus they can be in Fort William, the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’. This low-cost and environmentally friendly excursion will give you access to some of the finest landscapes in Scotland, a wealth of outdoor activities and unique places to stay. From quiet country walks to Munro climbing, mountain biking and watersports, there’s lots going on around Fort William.

5. Glasgow to the Isle of Bute

Isle of Bute, Argyll & The Isles

Mode of transport: Train, Ferry

Length of trip: 1 hour 30 mins

Ticket information: Trainline, CalMac

Staying in Glasgow but keen to experience Scottish island life? The Isle of Bute is one of Scotland’s most accessible islands, only 90 minutes from Glasgow. There are regular trains to the ferry terminal at Wemyss Bay from Glasgow Central Station and Paisley St. James Station. The ferry takes around 35 minutes and no booking is required. The island has some fantastic standing stones and bronze age burial sites to explore, as well as diverse flora and fauna, places to eat and activities to enjoy.

6. Glasgow to Balloch

Treezone, Balloch

Mode of transport: Bus

Length of trip: 1 hour 5 mins

Ticket information: First Glasgow

Glaswegians are a lucky bunch, they have all kinds of natural spectacles on their doorstep. Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park is a short bus ride away from the city, easily accessible from the pretty village of Balloch. It will take you just over an hour to reach Balloch from Glasgow and nearby things to do include Treezone, an aerial adventure course, and the Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre. The restored paddle steamer, the Maid of the Loch, is moored at Balloch Pier too.

7. Glasgow to Skye

Isle of Skye

Mode of transport: Bus

Length of trip: 5 hours 30 mins

Ticket information: Citylink

It’s quite a long journey from Glasgow to Skye, roughly 200 miles, but the route will take you along good quality country roads with lots to see. OK, it will take over 5 hours, but you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. At the end of your bus journey, you will be rewarded with one of Scotland’s best-loved destinations. Skye has mountains, miles of dramatic coastline and fascinating history to explore. Be sure to take a sturdy pair of boots to this magical island.

8. Perth to Aviemore

Aviemore, Highlands

Mode of transport: Train

Length of trip: 1 hour 30 mins

Ticket information: Trainline

Surrounded by mountains, lochs and forests, Aviemore is a popular year-round destination for a huge range of summer and winter activities. An excellent base for exploring the Cairngorms National Park, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do. From Perth, the train takes around 1 hour 30 minutes.

9. Inverness to Aviemore

Aviemore, Highlands

Mode of transport: Bus, Train

Length of trip: 40 mins

Ticket information: Trainline, Megabus

Aviemore is also easily accessible from Inverness via bus or train. With the journey time coming in at around 40 minutes, you could easily spend the day in Aviemore before heading back to Inverness to spend the night. Along with adventure activities, Aviemore is the gateway to a walker’s paradise. There are over 280 km of footpaths across the Cairngorms National Park that pass through almost every type of walking route imaginable.

10. Rail & Sail to Orkney and Shetland

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

Mode of transport: Train, Ferry

Length of trip: 6-12 hours

Ticket information: ScotRail

Orkney and Shetland might seem remote but there are great travel links to these two island archipelagos. For Orkney, take a train to Thurso along the scenic Far North Line. From there it’s a quick taxi ride to Scrabster and a ferry across the Pentland Firth to Stromness. Additional ferry services between the Scottish mainland and Orkney also operate further east of Thurso from Gills Bay to St Margaret’s Hope and from John 0’ Groats to Burwick.

To get to Shetland you’ll need to take the train to Aberdeen and catch a boat to Lerwick. This sail takes around 12 hours, but sea travel is a great way to unwind. Both Orkney and Shetland are famous for their ancient history and rugged seclusion.

Go with the flow on your next trip to Scotland and try out public transport. Slow travel is easier and more rewarding than you might think.

Why not add an eco accommodation experience to your trip too?

Useful Links

ScotRail tickets

Getting around Scotland by bus

Getting around Scotland by train

Getting around Scotland by ferry

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