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.

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. 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.

1 Like

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.


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 website.


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.

1 Like

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