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Last week I returned home from my first ever roundtrip in Scotland and I absolutely loved it! For those of you that are as terrified as I am with driving on the left side of the road, or just like to relax while making your trip, I wanted to write a quick breakdown post of how I travelled in hopes to help out. I'm going to make a next attempt next summer for East Scotland and up to the Orkneys, this is more the west.
I flew in to Glasgow, but you could definitely do it from Edinburgh as well, whatever you prefer.
From Glasgow I didn't waste any time since I was returning there on the last day, and I took the Airport Express bus, which stops at a few places around the city, including the train stations Central and Queen Street. In Queen Street I hopped on the train to Stirling.
(If you get there in the afternoon you have a chance of an offpeak ticket, cheaper!) I didn't prebook this ticket as you don't have a real set time... my plane for instance had an hour of delay. (Bummer!) Glasgow-Stirling takes about half an hour, I believe Edinburgh Stirling is about the same.
While you could very well stay in Stirling for the day, I dropped off my bag and then went on to Linlithgow to see the castle ruins. You can buy a return ticket and with a little luck off peak as well. Was about 8 pounds.
My next day I spent in Stirling, walking around and using the hop on hop off bus (4 pounds) to go to places like the William Wallace monument which is a bit of a walk out of the town centre. It is doable, I walked up and used the bus to go back.
In the afternoon I took the train to Inverness. This one I did prebook as you can get it cheaper that way, it was about half price if booked earlier. Do check with your accomodation if you can check in late cause it's quite the trip. It's a very lovely, scenic route and I got the 'silent' train with plug ins for phone and strong wifi. Yay!
Inverness is a late arrival, so it was just off to the b&b. My full day I spent with going to Culloden battlefield by bus. (It does not start at the bus station but at the Queen Street post office! 4 pounds). From Culloden you can walk to the Clava Cairns, it's about 2 miles but it's a nice walk and not too hard to do. When back in Inverness, go up to the Castle, visit the Leaky's bookshop or do the Ness walk. I combined all three but was pooped by the end of the day.
Next morning I had prebooked the train to Kyle of Lochalsch with an additional reservation of the Citylink bus to Portree on Skye. This trainride is promoted as one of the most scenic routes and it is definitely not a lie. About 2 hours on the train and an hour by bus and you are in Portree, giving you an afternoon to spend there. I did some hiking, with a bit of luck you can also take the bus to a location, but public transport is not at it's best on Skye. I opted for a guided tour with Skye Bus tours and was absolutely amazed at all of Skye's beauty. It's a full on tour stopping at Fairy pools, Fairy Glen, Neist point (I opted for Dunvegan castle and the seal trip), old man of storr, Curraing etc...
From Portree I took the bus to Fort William which took about three hours. Prebooked once again. Here you could also take the bus and catch the ferry to Malaig instead, I opted for Fort William. Did some hiking and a bit of souvenir hunting.
My last stop was Glasgow. I hopped on the train from Fort William to Glasgow and spent my last day there before having to board the plane again to go home.
Things went very well and apart from a ten minute delay of one train it was all amazingly on time work.
I saw a hell of a lot and am so stoked I want to go back when I can.
I hope this gives some inspiration for trips by public transport!