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Planes, Trains & Automobiles – How To Travel In Scotland

Are you planning a holiday in Scotland? There’s loads to see and do in this incredible country, which is why travelling around Scotland is a must for those wanting to get a true taste of the wide and varied experiences the country has to offer. But what is the best way to travel in Scotland? Do you need a car to get around the Highlands? 

To help answer some of these questions, we’ve put together a guide below to all the different ways you can explore Scotland, from the big international cities of the Central Belt to the rugged wilderness of the remotest areas of the Highlands and Islands. Without further ado, here’s your guide to travelling around Scotland!

Driving in the Highlands

If driving on the “wrong side” of the road doesn’t faze you, you’re in luck: a road trip in Scotland is a great way to explore the country. It gives you the freedom to go exactly where you want on your own schedule: if you spot a cute little village along the way or make new friends who invite you to go on a hike with them, it’s easy to take a break or throw your bags in the car and go on an impromptu adventure.

You can rent a car in any major town in Scotland. Here in Inverness, you can rent a car with any of the big names in the business, like Hertz, Avis and Enterprise Car. The southern “Central Belt” of Scotland has major roads that are clearly signposted but if you’re heading to more remote areas in the Highlands up north, we recommend you have access to a good GPS device and map to make sure you don’t get lost in the middle of a cow pasture!

From Inverness, you can embark on the epic North Coast 500 tour. This 500-mile drive takes you all around Scotland and gives you a great chance to experience a great deal of Highlands charm in a relatively short time. Read our article on the North Coast 500 here.

Bus routes in Scotland

If driving isn’t an option for you, don’t worry – getting around Scotland without a car, even the more remote parts of the Highlands, is very doable. A network of buses, trains, planes and ferries make sure that you get around Scotland without a car wherever you fancy going.

Interested in a bus tour in Scotland? Rabbie’s Tours organises guided tours for small groups to all parts of Scotland leaving from a number of cities in both Scotland and England. You can travel with a small group in a minibus or opt for a private tour if you want to travel with family or friends. This is a great way to learn more about the areas you visit from an expert guide and make some like-minded friends along the way.

If a bus tour isn’t for you, you can also discover Scotland by bus by travelling from city to city with Citylink or Megabus. The latter offers tickets for as little as £1 when you book online in advance.


glenfinnan viaduct


Train travel in Scotland

The railways of Scotland form a solid network that lets you explore the best Scotland has to offer while taking in some magnificent views through your window. In fact, some of the world’s most picturesque train rides can be found in Scotland.

For example, the West Highland Line running from Glasgow to either Oban or Fort William and Mallaig is guaranteed to give you gorgeous views of the west coast of Scotland you won’t soon forget. Choosing the latter destination means you’ll travel across the Glenfinnan Viaduct, made famous by the Harry Potter films and Hogwarts Express. This is the perfect addition to your holiday in Scotland for all wannabe wizards!

If you’re looking to travel quite a bit by train on your trip to Scotland, consider purchasing something like the Spirit of Scotland Travelpass or a Highland Rover pass. For single trips, booking your ticket in advance can help you save some cash, so check out sites like ScotRail and Trainline for deals. Booking eight or nine weeks in advance usually guarantees the biggest savings.

Travelling by ferry in Scotland

The brave wilderness of the Highlands and Islands is well worth exploring, but they can be tricky to reach by road or rail. Where trains and cars can’t go, you can travel by boat or plane. This is surprisingly easy and affordable in the Highlands.

There are over 800 islands in Scotland, only 130 of which are inhabited by humans. Large ferries operated by companies like Caledonian MacBrayne, NorthLink Ferries and Argyll Ferries connect remote areas like the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland to the mainland. As an added bonus, a ferry ride gives you a chance to spot some amazing wildlife like puffins, dolphins, seals, whales and even sharks! 

Combining your bus or train travel with a ferry crossing is the most cost-effective option. Caledonian MacBrayne offers a great deal with their Rail & Sail passes.

loch ness ferry

Air travel within Scotland

Scotland’s major airports are Edinburgh, Glasgow, Prestwick and Aberdeen. These airports connect you to major cities in the UK and abroad. Dundee and Inverness also have their own, smaller airports. All of these airports make it possible for you to reach remote areas and islands like Orkney, Shetland and John o’ Groats with small planes. 

Opting for air travel can save you not only money but also heaps of time: to reach John o’ Groats from Edinburgh by train takes eight or nine hours and several train changes, while the plane ride only takes a little over an hour. Check out LoganAir and Flybe for flights to remote areas in the Highlands.

Cycling and hiking in Scotland

For outdoorsy people, exploring Scotland by foot or bike is ideal. The compact, yet cosmopolitan cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow are perhaps best discovered on foot, while the majestic landscape of the Scottish Highlands lends itself well to some mountain biking or long-distance hiking.

Despite its name, the website Walkhighlands is a great resource for finding the best trails in every part of Scotland. On this website, you can print out or download the map of your chosen route, access step-by-step directions and read reports from hikers just like you. Looking for more inspiration? You can find five of our favourite walks and hikes in the Highlands here.

To cover longer distances in a shorter time, hire a bike. Here in Inverness, you can do just that at Ticket To Ride Bike Hire, right in the heart of town. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely ride through country roads or some more challenging long-distance cycling, there’s a trail for you in the Inverness area.

For a chance to catch a glimpse of the elusive Loch Ness monster and enjoy stunning scenery over lochs and the sea, take on the Great Glen Way. This 73-mile trek can be completed on foot or bike and takes you from Inverness to Fort William. Best of all, you can tell your friends afterwards how you trekked Scotland from coast to coast!

fort william

Your Inverness accommodation

When it comes to the Highlands, Inverness makes for a great base from which to discover this majestic area. Whether you need to rest your weary head somewhere before embarking on an epic road trip along the North Coast 500 or a home base for your day trips to places like Loch Ness, Fort William and the Cairngorms National Park, book a hotel in Inverness!

The Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa is a family-run hotel conveniently located in Inverness city centre. If you’re planning a holiday in the Scottish Highlands, why not check out our seasonal offers page and our extensive guide to Inverness and the Highlands?

For the best rates, remember to #bookdirect by calling our reservations team on 01463 22 32 43 or by emailing [email protected].




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