Highland Rover ticket

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Johnny Lewis

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Hi. I am travelling up to Scotland early in May, and plan to buy a 4 in 8 day Highland Rover ticket. I shall be staying in Inverness for 3 nights, then travelling across to Fort William to stay there for 2 nights, before returning to Inverness to stay 1 more night. (This is to enable me to use my free First Class return ticket gained from East Coast's Reward scheme).

I understand that this Rover ticket is also valid on the scheduled coach services that run between Inverness and Fort William and between Fort William and Oban (once upon a time, these were Scottish Citylink, but I'm not sure now how they are branded).

My question is this: can I just turn up at the bus/coach station and expect to be able to board any particular coach that runs on that route? Or do I need to obtain some kind of reservation / boarding card in advance? Obviously there is no need to reserve particular trains in advance (subject to the time restriction of not being able to arrive in Inverness before 9am Mon-Fri), but does this apply to the coaches too?

Any clarification of this would be much appreciated. Thanks!
 
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wintonian

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I used this very good value ticket myself about 18 months ago after a trip on the sleeper.

You can use it on the coach from Inverness to Fort William - just turn up and show you ticket, its a very scenic ride as well traveling along side loch ness.

I assume this is the same for Oban being the same Stagecoach outfit, mainly Scottish City link as you say.

As for the restrictions as far as I am aware these also apply to the coach.

I recommend a trip to Kyle and a trip up the Far North line to Thurso/ Wick - bring a book, but scenic and has to be done. :)

Sent from my Xoom using Tapatalk 2
 

HowMuch?

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I'm not sure if Citylink and Megabus are exactly the same company, but they are certainly closely related. The timetable for at least one of them says "On this service your bus may be branded as either Citylink or Megabus". And you can get the journey cheaper by choosing which site to book on. I've used them quite a bit in the last couple of years and they are comfortable and often a lot faster than the more remote (and lovely) train services.

While you are travelling round, the Scottish bit of Traveline has a really excellent journey planner that really works to show how to knit a combined rail/bus/ferry/coach journey together.

They have a very good free Android app too (don't know about Iphone). It has the journey planner but there is also has a screen showing your nearest bus stop/ferry terminal/railway station and what the next departures are. I can't remember if it shows train services (I uninstalled it when I last got home) but the scotrail app does that.
 

wintonian

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I'm not sure if Citylink and Megabus are exactly the same company, but they are certainly closely related. The timetable for at least one of them says "On this service your bus may be branded as either Citylink or Megabus". And you can get the journey cheaper by choosing which site to book on. I've used them quite a bit in the last couple of years and they are comfortable and often a lot faster than the more remote (and lovely) train services.

While you are travelling round, the Scottish bit of Traveline has a really excellent journey planner that really works to show how to knit a combined rail/bus/ferry/coach journey together.

They have a very good free Android app too (don't know about Iphone). It has the journey planner but there is also has a screen showing your nearest bus stop/ferry terminal/railway station and what the next departures are. I can't remember if it shows train services (I uninstalled it when I last got home) but the scotrail app does that.
Megabus & Scottish Citylink are both owend by Stagecoach.
 

Liam

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35% of Scottish Citylink is owned by Stagecoach.

When I was up in Inverness a few weeks ago I had my lunch in the bus station cafe, as a Fort William bus was boarding and it was mobbed. This was a Wednesday afternoon. In fact all the Citylink/Megabuses that left when I was there were very busy, even the Citylink Gold service to Glasgow.

A route I have taken a few times is the 1334 train from Inverness to Kyle, arrives Kyle at 1559, then the Citylink Uig-Glasgow bus leaves Kyle at 1625 for Fort William, arrives just after 1800, into the Nevisport bar just across from the bus and railway station for a couple of pints or a meal, then either back on the bus to Glasgow (leaves 1910) or onto the sleeper for London. You can get advance 'Super Saver' tickets from Kyle to Fort William for £10, a walk up ticket is £21.30.
 

HowMuch?

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Turning up

On Citylink coaches cash buyers can just turn up, so you will be able to do that too. But if there is no seat you'll be out of luck. I think that would be VERY unlucky, except on the most popular routes at the most popular dates, and even then they lay on extra coaches when it's getting tight.

But for journeys on Bank Holidays, or from the Lowlands northward on Fridays (or back there on Sundays). I would definitely ring CityLink to make a reservation. Their web booking page does have a box for what I THINK are still freebies up there, Elderley/disabled cardholders, but not for railrover holders. (Hmm......).

I GUESS this must apply also to Megabus coaches running on shared Citylink/Megabus routes. Haven't a scooby about Megabus-Only routes allowing walk-ups (I've only ever BOOKED those).

Planning

The Citylink website is good for timetables, but it's weak on maps. So until you have the placenames roughly located in your head, it can be a bit difficult to visualise the connections. However, they do duplicate the connecting services on different timetables, so you don't often have to cross-reference between separate pages.

Local Bus timetables (which can mean three-hour, hundred-mile, shopping runs that could easily be part of a highland tour) are excellent in every way but one. Services are very different at different times of the year. So every column has multiple codes telling you which days that service runs. And the key explaining those codes has to be very complicated. If you think you're good at reading a timetable faultlessly - Good luck. If you get it wrong, it's cold, dark, and raining. And there's no cafe or pub (or house!) in sight. And the next bus is in three days (or is it?).

The way around this is to use the traveline scotland journey planner. It will decode the codes and just show you the buses for the day you are travelling. En-route, the android app is brilliant for showing you the next few buses. If you can get a data connection on your phone (who's on Three? That bloke who's just missed his bus!)




Coach stations

- Inverness coach station is a bit tucked away, but not far from the station and I don't remember having trouble finding it.

Fort William 'bus station' is v. close to the station, next to the big supermarket (Asda?). The town centre is close by, once you've found the tunnel under the road.

- Oban bus stances are next to the station and ferry terminal. Yes, that IS where the coaches stop!

- Kyle of Lochalsh is annoying. The traveline Scotland journey planner told me I had 10 minutes from the arrival of my train from Inverness and the departure of my bus onto Skye. The train arrived 5 minutes late, and we all piled off in a scrum onto a station with as many facilities as a car park. 1 minute later, everyone had disappeared in the cars that had been parked there or come to meet them, and I was left alone in the freezy/windy/gloaming (which starts about 1 minute past noon up there in January). There was no bus stop and no sign for one (integrated transport, eat my shorts). My trusty Android Google Maps led me on a five minute walk/jog to a stop from where the coach was disappearing in the direction of the Skye Bridge.

Connections

Generally, "connections" is a concept still understood in the Highlands (NOT the
Lowlands). Both in the ordinary sense that because transport is scarce it is timetabled for dirrerent things to MEET other things. But also in the (apparently impossibly old-fashioned to achieve in England) sense that things supposed to be meeting other things will WAIT for them.

- Trains wait at least a short while for delayed trains, They ALWAYS wait at Crianlarich, because the Oban/Fort William trains divide/join there (and smokers to dive off for ten minutes bliss).
- Local buses wait for connecting buses/coaches/ferries/trains.
- Almost everything (possibly even trains in rare cases) waits for the big ferries (at least the infrequent ones). The purser will ring the bus company up before arrival to tell them how many pax to expect.
- Smaller ferries wait for buses and coaches (at least if they can see them coming).
- BUT don't rely on trains to wait for anything, or for coaches to wait for trains.

Reliability

Highland transport is remarkably more reliable (weather permitting) than city transport, or English rural transport, because
- The Scottish Government seems to care about transport (not a party political point, ANY Scottish government would have to care about local transport).
- Local bus companies really ARE local and the managers and drivers know (and live near) all their regulars. Even coach drivers on four-hour runs know regulars by name. So if a bus didn't run, MrsMcMiggins would know who to have a sharp word with.
- Buses are infrequent and therefore very precious. One bus not running might mean no shopping for three days. And Mrs McMiggins' word would be VERY sharp.
- Long-distance coaches often serve as local buses. So Mrs McMiggins will be waiting outside her house for the coach to arrive. She will not be pleased if she has to wait an extra ten minutes in the rain.
- Roads are quiet, and timetables are realistic, with buffer stops built in for contingencies like late ferries.

So Highland long-distance coaches run on time. EXCELLENT, until you breeze up assuming they will be late.

By the way, ferries are very cheap for foot passenges. For instance if you spent two nights in Oban, you could spend a cheap day going to Mull and back on a nice big ferry, including a bus (yes, it connects nicely) to Balamory (yes, it really exists) and a visit to the distillery (yesh, there ish one).
 

Deerfold

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By the way, ferries are very cheap for foot passenges. For instance if you spent two nights in Oban, you could spend a cheap day going to Mull and back on a nice big ferry, including a bus (yes, it connects nicely) to Balamory (yes, it really exists) and a visit to the distillery (yesh, there ish one).
Although if you want to visit Balamory look for Tobermory in the timetable. Expect to see the houses with coloured doors but not the pink castle. The local pub (the MishNish) is a bit of a legend - it's amazing how far afield I've seen people wearing their T-shirts.
 

Johnny Lewis

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Thanks everyone, particularly to HowMuch, for that incredibly detailed information.

From what has been said, it looks as if I can just turn up at Inverness on the Friday to take a coach to Fort William, and I will be very unlucky then if I DON'T get a seat on this journey?

As things stand, I think I am going to have to use the Rover for travel on Wed/Thu/Fri/Sat, so I'll need to buy a coach ticket to travel from Fort William back to Inverness on the Sunday. I guess I really need to book this journey in advance, assuming that Sunday frequencies are lower than weekday ones?

Thanks again for the info though - really useful!
 

MKD

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Do check whether you really would save money with the Rover ticket. Eg I'm being offered "Half Svr" fares again on some routes/dates up there ie £15.65 to/fro Wick; £18.6x Kyle. Then Megabus MAY give you cheap & reserved coaches etc. Worth a quick compute anyway.
MKD
 

wintonian

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Do check whether you really would save money with the Rover ticket. Eg I'm being offered "Half Svr" fares again on some routes/dates up there ie £15.65 to/fro Wick; £18.6x Kyle. Then Megabus MAY give you cheap & reserved coaches etc. Worth a quick compute anyway.
MKD
Remember Saver Halfs need to be booked with another advance single going in the other direction.
 

Liam

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From what has been said, it looks as if I can just turn up at Inverness on the Friday to take a coach to Fort William, and I will be very unlucky then if I DON'T get a seat on this journey?
I wouldn't be so sure.

I had lunch in the bus station cafe a couple of weeks ago and I noticed the Fort William bus was very, very busy. So much so that the driver wasn't sure everyone would get on, so it was ticket holders first, then 'walk ups'. Also the M91 slow Edinburgh bus and the Citylink Gold bus were also very busy when they left. This was a Wednesday lunchtime and public transport tends to be busier on Fridays.
 

HowMuch?

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Friday night is perhaps a bit dodgy for not reserving. Can't do any harm to ring Citylink to see if they will book you a seat. The Traveline journey planner might give you the name of a local company that is actually running that particular service.

Can't stress enough how useful Traveline Scotland's journey planner is for working out connections. It seems to be able to work out journeys with up to about six multi-mode legs, including ferries. But it's also very reassuring to just look up a single leg to check you've read the operator's PhD-level timetable right, taking account of school holidays, bank hols, etc.

For any day that you aren't using your Rover, do book ahead if your plans are definite. You can get very cheap fares. Check both the Citylink and Megabus sites, I had a trip last summer where every leg seemed to cost around the same, about 6 quid. But I did book well ahead. Booking on line with Citylink gives you a print-at-home ticket. Megabus gives you a big code to write down.
 

Welshman

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Local bus companies really ARE local and the managers and drivers know (and live near) all their regulars. Even coach drivers on four-hour runs know regulars by name. So if a bus didn't run, MrsMcMiggins would know who to have a sharp word with.
- Buses are infrequent and therefore very precious. One bus not running might mean no shopping for three days. And Mrs McMiggins' word would be VERY sharp.
- Long-distance coaches often serve as local buses. So Mrs McMiggins will be waiting outside her house for the coach to arrive. She will not be pleased if she has to wait an extra ten minutes in the rain.
I think I've met your Mrs Mc.Miggins!

Thank you for a full and amusing answer. :)
 
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