Scotland: Trunk Services
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Like Éire, Scotland also has a solid express coach network at the heart of its bus system. In their case, it’s Scottish Citylink and many of the services on this page are operated by them. Despite the company’s name, some go through empty wilder parts on their way to destinations in the Highlands. There are services operated by other companies in this list as well and more may be found over time.
10: Inverness - Elgin - Huntly - Inverurie - Aberdeen
It took a weekend trip to Inverness for this long-distance coach service to reach my attention. The cause was my decision to travel to Aberdeen and see what lies between the two places. There was a train that I missed, but the bus service takes much longer, so I went for a later train instead. The whole road journey takes about three and a half hours while the train takes around two hours. Still, the frequency is at least hourly throughout the week though services start later on Sundays. Also, some journeys can be booked via the Megabus website too.
101/102/199/200: Dumfries - Thornhill/Moffat - Edinburgh
In keeping with my adding of Lothian Buses routes for accessing the Pentland Hills to my Scottish local services listing, this collection of services has to be included here. There is, however, another reason for its inclusion: all but the 102 and 200 both pass through Moffat and so land you on the doorstep of the Southern Uplands and the Southern Upland Way passes nearby too. All in all, these are invaluable services for those wanting a spot of hill wandering though it must be remembered that day trips from Edinburgh to Moffat no longer are as much a possibility with the latest timetable. Nevertheless, getting to Biggar using a reasonably regular service frequency has to have its compensations.
201/202/203: Aberdeen - Banchory - Torphins - Aboyne - Ballater - Braemar
Braemar is somewhere that has come to mind as a place to visit a few times now, and it seems that the best approach by public transport is from the east. The service frequency provided by Stagecoach Bluebird isn’t too bad either with its being hourly at certain times of the day. Even with a journey taking over two hours, the hours of operation are sufficiently long as to allow a decent length of day trip anyway, always a good thing. All in all, it looks usable.
900: Edinburgh - Glasgow
Trains are not the only high-frequency public transport option between Glasgow and Edinburgh since Scottish Citylink operates this shuttle too. Journey times are of the order of 78 minutes with a limited number of stops being made along the way too. Current advertising capitalises on oversubscribed and more expensive train travel (a Glasgow-Edinburgh service that I recently used was very busy) but I cannot say that a seat is guaranteed all the time. Nevertheless, it’s always good to have a variety of options.
901/906: Glasgow - Port Glasgow - Greenock - Gourock - Wemyss Bay - Largs
904: Paisley - Johnstone - Howwood - Beith - Glengarnock - Kilbirnie - Largs
These services interest me because they allow you to reach ferry services for islands in the Firth of Clyde from either Largs or Wemyss Bay, while both Gourock and McInroy’s Point act as access points for Dunoon and Cowal. The Paisley service frequency is hourly from Monday to Saturday and then one journey every ninety minutes on Sundays. The Sunday service frequency is near-hourly on the Glasgow routes and up to three journeys an hour on other days of the week.
909: Edinburgh - Grangemouth - Stirling - Stirling University (- Bridge of Allan - Dunblane)
This Monday to Saturday Citylink express coach service came to mind when I was adding in an entry for the corresponding First-operated bus service. Albeit with some deviations, it is an hourly daytime service that takes up to 90 minutes to travel the full route and extends as far as Bridge of Allan and Dunblane for the first and last two journeys of the day from Monday to Friday, hence the brackets above. Also, Stirling University is not served on Saturdays either.
914/915/916: Glasgow - Fort William - Isle of Skye
These Scottish Citylink services pass through some very classy country as they make their way to their destinations. The 914 is the only one not starting from or continuing to the Isle of Skye since it forms the first southbound journey of the day and the last northbound one. Otherwise, passage into countryside dominated by ben, loch and glen north of Fort William is very much guaranteed with Eilean Donan castle, Cluanie and the Great Glen being on the route. South of Fort William, good access to the West Highland Way is on offer along with such wonderful locations like Loch Lomond, the Black Mount and Glen Coe. The expanded service for the summer has ended for the winter, but I remain hopeful that it will return next year. Even though it’s now in the low season, it might be better to give the 11:00 departure from Fort William to Glasgow a wide berth since that can get very busy at times.
919 Inverness - Drumnadrochit - Fort William
Whenever I have used this, it has been for getting from Fort William to Inverness apart from a time when I went from Inverness to Urquhart Castle and back. Between all the services, there is a good spread of services throughout the day along the length of the Great Glen, which is handy given the outdoor activity possibilities around there. Connections linking Fort William with Oban are possible on service 918 too.
926: Glasgow - Campbeltown
This shares its route with the Fort William/Skye services up as far as Tarbet where it then turns towards Inveraray and then down the Mull of Kintyre to Campbeltown. Along its way, it passes through Arrochar, offering a good way into the hill country of South Argyll. I have never been beyond Inveraray so visiting the Mull of Kintyre remains outstanding and its charms unsavoured. After a bus war between Citylink and West Coast Motors, sense has prevailed with WCM now operating the Citylink contract like they did earlier this year. It’s always good to see madness abating.
976: Glasgow - Oban
Between Glasgow and Inveraray, its route is identical to the 926 so the same comments apply. Beyond Inveraray, it calls at Dalmally and Taynuilt, allowing to get to the likes of Ben Cruachan, Glen Orchy and Loch Etive. Oban’s being a gateway to islands like Mull make the route even more valuable. As per the 926, the same comments about timings at intermediate stops apply, and it’s good to see that the bus war that also affected this route has come to a satisfactory end with WCM operating things as they did before.
M90: Edinburgh/Glasgow - Perth - Pitlochry - Aviemore - Inverness
The introduction of what became known as the “Saltire Cross” to Scottish Citylink and Megabus route diagrams following the institution of the joint venture between the two companies not only resulted in changes to the way the services were operated but also aroused the concern of the Competition Commission. The result of that attention was that Parks of Hamilton bought out some of the services to operate under their name, though they still work side by side with Citylink/Megabus.
Despite all these changes, Citylink/Parks remain the main bus/coach operators for services to the likes of Pitlochry, Blair Atholl, Calvine, Dalwhinnie, Newtonmore, Kingussie and Aviemore from the south; changes at Perth usually are needed. To my mind, that allows access to the hill country that surrounds these places and a two-hourly frequency may not seem outstanding, yet it is better than many parts of the Highlands. One fly in the ointment might be that it doesn’t make a good option for a day trip that requires an early start, but there are alternatives such as the National Express 588 service from Glasgow and there are always trains from ScotRail too. I’ll certainly be keeping my options open for any future excursion to an area to which I haven’t devoted much of my time to date.
X62: Melrose - Galashiels - Innerleithen - Peebles - Penicuik - Edinburgh
It has been to get to Peebles hill country that I have used this service. Handily, Monday to Saturday daytime frequency is half-hourly, and it is hourly at other times. It operates from early until late too, so it qualifies as a trunk service even if it is operated using buses and not coaches.
X74: Dumfries - Moffat - Glasgow
This service has improved vastly since I first got to know of it. The Monday to Saturday frequency is as good as hourly and there are four departures in each direction on Sundays that offer better coverage of the day than once was the case. As if that was not enough, it is complemented by local service 74 between Dumfries, Beattock and Moffat for greater usability. It is my interest in the hill country around Moffat that draws my interest and day trips from Glasgow become more workable than those from Edinburgh, which was not always the case.
W10: Stornoway - Balallan - Tarbert
W10A Tarbert - Leverburgh - Rodel
Harris plays host to fine hill country that proves that hills lower than those on Skye or the Scottish mainland can still look magnificent. As if that were not enough, there are fine beaches to be enjoyed too. Of course, you need to be able to get to these attractive places and this bus service means that the car can be left after you. While you need to watch the times of the last buses of the day, the summer frequency very usefully seems to be next to two-hourly even if that is reduced for the winter. There is no Sunday service because sabbath observation is very important to the people of the Western Isles, but that same comment applies to other things there as well.
W16: Berneray - North Uist - Benbecula
W17: Benbecula - South Uist - Eriskay
The Uists are joined by causeways from Berneray as far south as Eriskay and this bus travels over the whole extent with North Uist, Grimsay, Benbecula and South Uist being crossed on the way. South Uist has its hill country and its machair while lochs are found all over the place. Since the landscapes are worth seeing, there are many advantages to going by bus and this bus route links the lot from top to bottom. Unlike the W10 which is run by one company alone, the W16 and W17 are shared between different companies, so there are changes of vehicle en route and the use of different operators depending on the time at which you are travelling. It all sounds eccentric, yet it does work in a way and care with the last buses is a must since later services are run by request only. You won’t find a bus running on a Sunday, but that is a practice that should not surprise anyone with any knowledge of the Western Isles.