Scotland is 30,000 square miles including the Scottish Islands. It has been compared in size with the Czech Republic and just smaller than the state of Maine in the USA at 35,000 square miles.
Although on the map it is small in stature, it can take many an hour or two to drive from one location to an other with the narrow and winding roads. Over the years I have heard many jokes about us Brits driving on the left hand side of the road, however It does put many people off driving in an unfamiliar country and on the other side of the road too.
Getting Around Scotland Without a Car
With that in mind I went off touring Scotland courtesy of Citylink Buses with an Explorer Pass. The pass is available for 3 days travel out of 5 days, 5 days travel out of 10 and 8 days travel out of 16. Currently in the height of high season here in Scotland, I pre-booked the bus seats for each of my travel destinations in advance. This I found out to be most convenient not only would you be guaranteed a seat on your preferred departure but if one of your connections was running late, they would have a record of you traveling on that service and would wait a few minutes before departing.
Here is an example route that covers the highlights of Scotland;
Edinburgh – Glasgow – Oban – (Calmac Ferries to the Isle of Tiree – Isle of Coll – Isle of Mull returning to Oban) – Fort William – Inverness – Edinburgh.
Getting around Scotland without a car is a great way to travel. There are so many variations of routes with lots more possibilities, such as visiting the Isle of Skye. With limited time, so much to see and on a limited budget I found that Citylink buses provided the best option. The buses come with rest rooms and some with power sockets, adding that extra convenience while on the road I found to be invaluable.
As well as the Citylink buses there is always the train however, it can be considerably more expensive and more time consuming planning your route and booking in the ticket office.
Visiting the Scottish Isles
When visiting the Islands with Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) an island hopscotch ticket can be the best option. For the above route the number 19 Hopscotch Ticket includes departing from Oban to the Isle of Tiree and then going on to the Island of Coll and returning back to Oban. Making a trip to the Island of Mull and the other islands could not be simpler, as a walk on passenger tickets can be purchased as late as 40 minutes before traveling at the Calmac reservation desk. (Boarding passes need to be completed before travel on each of the ferries except for the Isle of Mull).
When visiting the Island of Tiree there is no public transportation other than Ring n Ride bus. Which is an invaluable service! Please contact 24 hours in advance before arriving. Each journey is £1.90 no matter where your destination on the island. Locals are very helpful and if they see you walking, will stop to offer you a lift when they can.
The Isle of Coll has no public transportation but like the Isle of Tiree the locals are very helpful and will stop and offer you a lift. On the Island of Coll it is possible to book island day tours with either Lighthouse Tours via the Coll Hotel or Mini-bus Tours.
On the Isle of Tiree, Isle of Coll and the Isle of Mull a popular way of getting around is by bicycle. Bicycles can be rented on all three islands at £15.00 per day or less if renting for two days or more (the rates include helmets). However, it is much easier to get around on the Isle of Mull with West Coast Motors providing bus links from Craignure Ferry Port around the Island, including the popular town of Tobermory.
Getting around Scotland without a car can take some planning before hand but during high season I would highly recommend that accommodation be reserved in advance too!
Overall I found the whole experience and traveling solo a really enjoyable one! Not having to watch other road users or stress about directions was bliss. Not to mention enjoying the great views from the large bus windows! Getting around Scotland without a car might be challenging for some tourists but it’s definitely something I’d recommend!
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