Scotland Travel by Ferry, Train & Bus

We are traveling to Scotland in May for 3 weeks. Going to Arran, then Islay, then Campbeltown, then Edinburgh all on foot. My question is for those that live or have traveled in Scotland:

  1. Should we book ferry tickets & train tickets ahead of time or are there generally ample seats available on ferries and trains.
  2. If our flight is late and we miss the ferry or train do they let you onto the next available departure?
    Many thanks. This will be our 2nd trip to Scotland, we rented a car before but want to try to go carless on this trip.
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Been many many times but all pre pandemic.
I found it very easy to book as I went and often found great rates traveling like a local.
Meaning I was able to discover discount days and best times to travel.
Even managed to get senior discounts.
Trainline.com is a great way to see schedules and find best tickets.
As far as buses, National Express was my best friend.
Some tickets are flexible to different times but you have to look for that and get that type of ticket.
Rail passes and such I found no real value in comparison.
Others who have been there more recently may have more insight on the current situation.

Enjoy and travel well.

Use the website Trainline to book your train tickets. Buying them on the day can be very expensive. This site gives good discounts. I would book ferry tickets as well. They might not be cheaper but at least your guaranteed to get on. I don’t know if they let you on the next ferry but there are train tickets that can be used within certain periods but I think they are more expensive. Don’t discount the bus. It may be slower but far more scenic and less expensive. The long distance firm is National Express.
I’m actually very envious. I hope you like whiskey. The places you are visiting are full of distillers.

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buy a ‘two together railcard’ online - it costs £30 , lasts a year and gives you 30% off all train travel in the UK when you travel together.

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It shouldn’t be too busy in May.
If travelling to Arran from Glasgow by train (Ardrossan) you can buy a combined train and ferry ticket -the train goes to the Ferry terminal. You should also check out the Island hopping ferry tickets - multiple ferry journeys.
My parents lived on Arran(Loch Ranza) for a number of years and I used to get the Ferry to Brodick from Ardrossan, round the island by bus, which runs with the ferry timetable mostly, then get the ferry to Claonaig, from there you can get to Islay (Gigha is also an Island worth a visit if you are in that area ) and Campbeltown by bus, but check the timetables, there may only be one or two a day!

I think most of the ferry tickets are flexible. Check the Calmac.co.uk website.

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We feel in love with Scotland and it’s whiskey on our 1st trip in 2019. I never thought I would be a peated whiskey fan, but now more peat = love! Thank you for your help. Will check out bus schedules too

Thanks Amparo, will check out trainline and national express. I just love the thought of not driving!

@Petermac thank you for the info!

You will love Islay then. I think Barra is another whiskey producer.
I was a great disappointment to my Aberdonian father. I hated the taste of Scottish whiskey, even his single malts. I’m a rum girl.

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Thanks everyone for the great travel info. I’ve only been once, but hope to return in 2022.

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I am going to be sitting in Scotland. 3 locations from 22 June to 3 Aug. Though I would love to see all of Scotland, I doubt I would be able too as my first responsibility would be to take care of pets.

How far can I go if I am based in Edinburgh using public transport and making day trips.I have been looking at various rail cards, bus cards etc. The least I would like to do is visit Scotlands UNESCO listed sites.

Rentals has has been mentioned in many forums are expensive so I am thinking of a used car. Weighing the cost of travel from various places for sits between Scotland to Brighton.

I am an international sitter and this trip will be my first in UK. I will be in UK till end of September. So any advice truly appreciated.

Hi @Anne.323

Before making too many plans to use trains in Scotland I would keep an eye on the Scottish news.

Due to industrial action starting at the beginning of June, Scotrail services are being cut by about 30% across the network, with a number of services being withdrawn completely, and most Central Scotland (Glasgow/Edinburgh) trains not running much past 8 pm.

It may change if the planned action is cancelled, but at the moment not looking good.

There have also been a number of problems with the Ferries in Scotland over the last few months, and an ageing fleet which is struggling to cope with even the basic timetables - if one ferry has a problem, they shunt the ferries around to try to cover the issue, but recently 2 or 3 have been out of service at the same time, leaving some Islands almost cut off.

We are in Scotland now and traveling by train/bus and ferry. I did see signs at the train station in Glasgow that there may be disruptions due to labor shortages. We have been fortunate in that the ferries have all been on schedule. My advice is to map out train & bus schedules and if you are planning travel just know to add some flexibility to your schedule to allow for delays. Regarding how far you can go on rails/buses, you can go pretty far. We are traveling from Campbeltown, Kintyre by bus to Edinburg. It’s a long bus ride but for us much better than renting a car. The bus service in Edinburg is good and we’ve used the tram and train in Edinburg as well. All easy to use. Best of luck!

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That’s very sad to hear. Sad too that with the easing of travel restrictions we now have the monkeypox to worry about too.

Perhaps just local walks and hikes near the house sit is still the best at the moment. :pensive:

Thanks for the update. I do have a few places I hope to be able to visit. But I guess I will not make any firm planning until I am already in Scotland and see how things are. The nearer my trip is, the scarier it seems.

Hi @Anne.323, if it helps we were just outside of Edinburgh over New Year & found their was a great & reasonably priced bus service.
We noted too that you can purchase an all day ticket which we thought would be good for hopping on and off on a particular route.
We didnt see all the area but the bus from Edinburgh to North Berwick takes in the coast road south. I imagine the north coast would be worth a trip too.
Portobello is a good day trip if you like the beach, just 3 miles outside of the centre.
Have a nice time.

Thank you Gina. Yes I went to a few websites that has been helpful too. Scotland indeed has many beautiful historic buildings, castles and landscapes. As part of this travel, I hope to be continuously in awe of the many things that Scotland and various other parts of UK has to offer.

I read recently that experiencing awe can help you live your best life and that the emotion of awe plays a big role in our health, happiness and wellbeing.

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Thats brilliant @Anne.
I didnt know that about awe!! But it is a wonderful emotion. And yes I think Scotland i itself does bring out awe and wonder.
We are lucky because we live not so far over the border, so can have short trips there easily. I think you could keep going to different areas, there really is so much to it.
Im not sure how long you there in total & where else you are planning but its brilliant your reading up before.
And castles! I havent personally been in any of the castles but i think theyre brilliant. Enjoy.

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We did a sit in the countryside near Edinburgh over Easter. We didn’t use public transport, but we loved Dunbar, just a little further along the coast from North Berwick. Gorgeous cliffs and rock arches and a lovely harbour area.

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