Scotland: Local Services
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This list of local services has yet to betray its focus on accessing Scotland’s classic and classy mountain scenery. That topography makes it tricky to construct a network that is more extensive than the one that it’s got, and it makes bus and coach services vitally important, especially in more remote areas where there aren’t that many of them.
To help others know what’s available, I have collected a few of these here. Of course, more await inclusion but, in the meantime, I hope that you find this list to be helpful. As well as additions, I also hope to keep what’s here as up-to-date as I can.
4: The Jewel - Hillend
City centre bus services do sometimes terminate at country parks, and the regular Edinburgh service is an example. Hillend Country Park is more than an access point for the Pentland Hills, since it is also an all-weather ski centre. The proximity of low-sized hills with good lung and leg busting climbs up to their summits is the cause of its inclusion here. The service runs all day, so there’s next to no fear of being marooned for the night.
10: Western Harbour (Leith) - Bonaly/Torphin
The proximity of the Pentland Hills to Edinburgh means that several of Edinburgh’s city centre bus services terminate on their doorstep. Bonaly has its country park only a short hop from this regular route, even when buses don’t call at Bonaly itself, and offers an excellent way into the heart of the hills.
17 Inverness - Drumnadrochit - Cannich
My interest in this Monday-to-Friday service arises from Cannich being an access point to the wild country around Glen Affric. Once, there was the possibility of there being enough coverage to allow a day trip, but cuts mean that a stay in the area is needed unless you either make use of a taxi or have your transport. That is not so ideal but the chance of getting there at all may interest those wanting to spend longer around Glen Affric or even enjoy a multi-day walk as far as the Cluanie Inn from where buses to and from Skye will convey you.
30: Aviemore - Glenmore - Cairngorm
This service makes staying in Aviemore and exploring the hills around Rothiemurchus and Glenmore a convenient possibility. While I suspect that it attracts a generous subsidy thanks to the troubled Cairngorm Mountain and its funicular railway, the hourly frequency is undeniably useful for many a day out among the hills as well as getting to and from the Cairngorm Lodge SYHA hostel.
30/30A/31/31A: Lanark- Wanlockhead
Until this bus service became known to me, the idea of savouring the Southern Upland Way or other walks around Wanlockhead did not look as straightforward, given that a walk from Sanquhar’s train station was involved. While the buses travel Monday to Saturday only and the frequency has its irregularities, more walking possibilities open up for anyone wishing to venture away from more popular destinations. A good stretch of the day is covered too, from early morning to early evening as it happens. There are six departures each way, too, with Wanlockhead not being reached by the penultimate return trip of the day. More typically, departure times are two to three hours apart, so some planning is needed, though the timetable remains very workable.
37/X37: Inverness - Carrbridge - Grantown - Aviemore
The seven-day portion of this service is the section between Grantown and Aviemore, since the Inverness to Grantown section is a Monday to Saturday operation. On Sundays, there four journeys in each direction, with a greater frequency approaching hourly on other days of the week. This is not a clock-face style timetable, so it needs attention to ensure that you can travel near enough to when you need.
52: Stirling - Alva - Tillicoultry - Alloa
This service is handy for getting you to the foot of the Ochil Hills, which is why it appears here, since it allowed me to potter about them during a stay in Stirling. The frequency is hourly on Sundays and is nearly half-hourly on other days of the week. The service is operated on an early-to-late basis as well, so you can enjoy a long day walk in some alluring surroundings.
59: Stirling - Callander
There was a time when I thought that bus services to Callander were infrequent, but a look at the latest timetable dispelled that notion. On Sundays, the service frequency is around two-hourly and covers the day from morning until early evening. The offering is better on other days of the week, with early morning to mid-evening coverage of the day and a near hourly service frequency. My interest in Callander is piqued by its position on or near the Highland Boundary Fault and the proximity of some picturesque hill country in the vicinity of the Trossachs. That, and a recent trip there, assures the route’s appearance here.
73: Galashiels - Selkirk - Bannerfield
Between this service and the X95, Selkirk is well-connected to both Melrose and Galashiels. Service frequency is hourly from Monday to Saturday and two-hourly on Sundays when hours of operation are more restricted. Given how pleasant this part of the world is, any additional travel option will have its uses.
91 Peebles - Stobo - Broughton - Biggar
93 Peebles - West Linton
Both of these are useful services for getting elsewhere from Peebles, and the reason for having them here is that I needed to use one of them to get back from Broughton after completing the John Buchan Way. Service 91 also has a use if you need to break the walk-up at Stobo, and service 93 only adds Broughton to some of its journeys from Monday to Friday. In any event, there is no Sunday service and the timings mean that attention to the timetable is needed. Still, the service level is enough to make these usable.
81/81A/81B: Kelso - Kirk Yetholm
For getting away from Kirk Yetholm after completing the Pennine Way or getting there to start it in the opposite direction, this looks like a good bet so long as you are not travelling on Sundays when it might be a case of following the Borders Abbeys Way or the road to Kelso.
302: Carrick Castle - Lochgoilhead - Arrochar - Tarbet - Luss - Helensburgh
In an area not well-endowed with frequent public transport connections, this is a useful addition. It may not run on Sundays and the times may be set up better for locals heading out for a shopping trip, but it does remain useful, particularly for returning you to civilisation after walking through the enticing countryside hereabouts.
309: Alexandria - Balloch - Drymen - Balmaha
My walking of the southernmost sections of the West Highland Way and the Rob Roy Way in 2007 had me using this bus service, and it is McColl’s Travel that operates it on behalf of SPT. The frequency mostly is one bus every ninety minutes and coverage of the day extends from morning until night, with a later start on Sundays. The stopping point in Drymen may depend on whether the bus is going to or coming from Balmaha, but that’s a minor matter compared to not having such a service at all, and it does connect with trains at Alexandria as well.
322: Brodick - The String - Shiskine - Blackwaterfoot
323: Brodick - Lamlash - Whiting Bay - Kildonan - Blackwaterfoot
324: Brodick - Corrie - Lochranza - Pirnmill - Blackwaterfoot
All of these will get you around the island of Arran, and some can be stitched together to go right around it by bus for a handy introduction to the place. Some services get a decent number of daily departures too, which helps.
359: Newton Stewart - Girvan
What brought this bus service to my notice is its calling point of Glentrool village. The Southern Upland Way passes near here and there are other nearby walking possibilities like Glentrool Forest Park and the Merrick. There is no Sunday service, but a nearly two-hourly timetable has to have its uses on other days, so long as you keep your eye on the service timings. Connections to Ayr and Glasgow are included in the timetable for those needing them, but it is access to a place in the heart of some good walking country that caught my interest while reading Phoebe Smith’s Wilderness Weekends.
478/479: Dunoon - Tighnabruaich - Portavadie
This merits a mention because of the Cowal Way and then there’s the ferry across to Tarbert on Kintyre too. However, timings are dependent on the day of travel and, like other services in Cowal, there’s no Sunday service either with changes at Auchenbreck being another feature of the timetable. All of this makes using the service for a day trip tricky, but it could have its uses on a multi-day trek, so long as you plan around the eccentricities of the timetable. It’s probably best to keep the idea of crossing the sea to Tarbert as an option, in case you need it.
480: Dunoon - Hunter’s Quay Holiday Village
While it’s not a city, Dunoon is strung out for a few miles along the coast, so a bus service like this is invaluable when it comes to getting about. For one thing, it links two ferry ports along with areas like Upper Kirn and Milton. The service may only operate during the daytime from Monday to Saturday, but the half-hourly frequency is very useful for those with luggage.
484: Dunoon - Strachur - Lochgoilhead - Carrick Castle
486: Dunoon - Strachur - Cairndow - Inveraray
For exploring Cowal, these look invaluable, so long as you are not wanting to do it on Sundays when they don’t run. Services are not that infrequent either, and they do meet ferries from Gourock as well. Furthermore, the Inveraray service will connect with Citylink coaches to Oban and Campbeltown and offers another option for those coming from Glasgow, even if the train/ferry combination seems more sensible.
495: Craignure - Fishnish - Salen - Tobermory
This may not take you past so many hills, but a short crossing of Mull from Salen will most of the walk into them. It certainly came in handy for me when exploring the other side of the hills lining the northern side of Glen More.
496: Craignure - Fionnphort
If my memory isn’t failing me, this does pass through some delectable countryside. When I used it, I was on a Calmac tour to Iona with my brother and the wet, murky day was far from conducive to admiring the surroundings. The timings may not be perfect, but they still might have their uses when exploring Mull.
520: Castle Douglas - New Galloway - Dalmellington
521: Castle Douglas - Laurieston - New Galloway - Dumfries
My reason for including the two of these is that they both serve St. John’s Town of Dalry (as it is called on Ordnance Survey maps) and the Southern Upland Way passes near there. Service 520 is the more regular, with service 521 only having at least one return journey every day of the week apart from Sunday when there are none on either route. Still, the latter offers usable connections with Dumfries where there are regular connections with other parts of Britain, while the former meets with connecting bus services for Ayr. In addition, there are additional services on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so added care with this timetable pays its dividends.
727 Aberdeen - Aberdeen Airport
It was when I was pondering a weekend in Aberdeen that involved flying there from Manchester that this regular seven-day-a-week service came to my notice. Frequencies vary from half-hourly to six departures per hour, depending on the time of day and the day of the week. It operates from very early in the morning until late at night, so every day gets excellent coverage.
N44: Fort William - Kinlochleven
Given the fine hill country that surrounds it, Kinlochleven is undeservedly bereft of the attention that is lavished on Fort William. However, if a quieter high calibre hill day is your thing, then there are few better places to go and this service means that you don’t need a car either. The frequency is respectable, with it being as good as two-hourly on weekdays and four journeys each way on Sundays. That makes day trips there more workable than some parts of the Scottish Highlands, and the views out the bus windows along the way are hard to beat if you have weather that enlivens them.
X10: Stirling - Balfron - Glasgow
X10A: Stirling - Aberfoyle - Balfron - Glasgow
These are handy services because they connect parts of Scotland that I once believed were not so accessible. One is Aberfoyle, which can be reached from Glasgow or Stirling using the nearly two-hourly X10A six days a week (not Sundays). That there is mostly a two-hourly frequency from morning until early evening also helps.
While following the route of the West Highland Way between Milngavie and Drymen in February 2007, I passed the Campsie Fells while such places as Balfron, Killearn and Strathblane were not far away either. All of these are reachable using the X10 and the X10A, which also helps with ideas of exploring the Campsie Fells. That can happen every day of the week with the X10, with its largely two-hourly frequency that complements the X10A one.