6 types of touring trips in Scotland without a car | VisitScotland (2023)

Planning to explore more of Scotland’s remote locations but don’t have a car? Don’t worry! Our country is well served by rail, ferry, cycle and walking routes to keep you well connected so you don’t miss out on any of the fun. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or coming back for more, we’ve pulled together a whole list of ways you can travel around Scotland without a car.

Take the train and soak in the views

6 types of touring trips in Scotland without a car | VisitScotland (1)

Window view of the Far North Line route © @luikast

Sometimes it’s just nice to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride! In Scotland we’re truly spoilt for choice when it comes to rail routes. Major train operators including ScotRail, LNER and Lumo serve lots of city and regional destinations across the country, so it really is a no brainer to leave the car behind!

Far North Line

Want to see whisky distilleries, grand castles, and some of the finest salmon fishing rivers in Scotland? If so, we think this train journey will be right up your street! Take the train from Edinburgh Waverley to Inverness in around 4 hours.

During your journey, you’ll head north into Ross and Cromarty, bound for Sutherland and Caithness beyond. From your window, you’ll get a birdseye view of Skibo and Carbisdale Castle, see plenty of whisky distilleries including Glenmorangie and Balblair and marvel at the vast expanse of the Flow Country, one of RSPB’s prize peat habitats. Whether you choose to set up base in Thurso and explore by taking the short bus ride to John O’Groats or take the ferry to Orkney, the north of Scotland is full of exciting possibilities.

Find out more about the Far North Line

Borders Railway

Operated by ScotRail, enjoy a picturesque journey to the Scottish Borders. Catch the train from Edinburgh Waverley where you’ll head south and pass through old mining villages including Newtongrange, home to the Scottish Mining Museum, or stop off at Galashiels and discover the long history of textiles. The overall journey takes less than an hour to where the train finishes at Tweedbank, a perfect opportunity to explore the pretty nearby town of Melrose or visit Abbotsford, the home of well-renowned Scottish author, Sir Walter Scott.

Find out more about the Borders Railway

The Caledonian Sleeper

When it comes to travelling in style, we’ve got just the ticket! Head to the land of nod and be whisked off during the night to a magical Scottish destination the next morning. Running six days a week from Sunday to Friday, catch the train from London Euston and take your pick from a fabulous selection of destinations to visit including Edinburgh, Fort William, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen. End your evening with a nightcap at the Club Car where you can try a selection of Scottish gins and whiskies with snacks available if you’re feeling that little bit peckish. There is a variety of rooms available onboard which you can book up to 12 months in advance, so book early to secure your cabin.

Find out more about the Caledonian Sleeper

Find more epic rail journeys across Scotland

Travel the most scenic routes on two wheels

6 types of touring trips in Scotland without a car | VisitScotland (2)

A bicycle fitted with a child seat is parked on the Isle of Cumbrae with scenic views behind

Swap four wheels for two and pedal to your heart’s content. From rolling hills, mysterious woodlands and stunning coastal paths, Scotland really sets the scene for a magical bike ride. It’s a great way to stay active and with lots of cycling routes to choose from, you’ll never be short of ideas for your next cycling adventure.

Five Ferries Cycle Route

Set sail with CalMac ferries on an unforgettable island-hopping adventure. Whether you’re a cycling enthusiast or beginner, you’ll be introduced to the Clyde Coast and the Cowal and Kintyre peninsulas which will provide stunning views for your bike ride.

Start off in Brodick and cycle your way to Lochranza. Next, catch the ferry to Claonaig on the Kintyre Peninsula and jump on your bike to cycle to Tarbert where you’ll take the ferry to Portavadie on the Cowal Peninsula. Hop off the ferry and head north-east for Tignabruaich on the other side of the peninsula. You’ll face everything from flats, climbs and descents until you reach the relatively flat road to Colintraive for the next ferry to Rhubodach.

Cycle the gentle route from Rhubodach to Rothesay and refuel your energy levels before the final leg of the journey. If you’re feeling up to the challenge, gear yourself up and catch the ferry from Rothesay to Wemyss Bay and take on this tough but rewarding bike ride.

Some routes operate on a turn up and go basis, but we recommend booking your ferry tickets in advance where possible, so you don’t miss out.

Find out more about the Five Ferries Cycle Route

Coast to Coast Scotland cycle route

This 126-mile route starts in the west at the coastal town of Annan on the Solway Firth and finishes on the east at the Forth Road Bridge near Edinburgh. It takes around 3-7 days to complete and we recommend road, hybrid or MTB bikes along this route.

Find out more about the Coast to Coast Scotland cycle route

West Loch Lomond Cycle Path

Explore the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond by bike. The 28 km route connects Balloch to Tarbert and boasts impressive views across to the islands of Loch Lomond and Ben Lemond. The cycle path is mostly flat and smooth making it suitable for all levels of fitness. Electric and non-electric bikes can also be used along this cycle route.

Find out more about the West Loch Lomond Cycle Path

The NCN 754 – The Union Forth & Clyde Canals

Beat the traffic and cycle at a leisurely pace across central Scotland. Starting at Fountainbridge in Edinburgh, cycle along the quiet towpath where you’ll pass through the towns of Broxburn, Linlithgow and Falkirk and see the Forth & Clyde Canal up close at the Falkirk Wheel. Continue your journey through Kirkintilloch, the northern suburbs of Glasgow and the town of Clydebank before reaching the finish line at Bowling Basin, where the canal joins the River Clyde. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled where you might be lucky enough to see a variety of wildlife in the area including swans, kingfishers, otters and much more.

Find out more about The Union Forth & Clyde Canals cycle route

River Tay Way

Following the NCN 7 and 77, begin your journey in Kenmore and continue through to Perth. Your final stop will take you to the V&A Dundee, Scotland’s first design museum and it’s free to visit. What’s not to love?

Find out more about the River Tay Way

The Coig

Meaning Gaelic for five, the Coig is a series of tourist routes covering Ayrshire, Arran, Bute and Cumbrae, helping to showcase Scotland’s natural beauty, history and heritage and food and drink. Head out on your bike and pick a route of your choice. Uncover Ayrshire’s cultural heritage, visit the wildlife paradise of Arran and try delicious local produce or will the maritime wonders of Cumbrae take your fancy?

Find out more about The Coig

Find more awe-inspiring cycle routes in Scotland

Go underground with Glasgow Subway

6 types of touring trips in Scotland without a car | VisitScotland (3)

Hillhead Subway © VisitScotland / Luigi Di Pasquale

There’s more to Glasgow than meets the eye. This underground light metro system has been operating since 1896 and is a great way to get around the city centre and West End of the city. Running 7 days a week, the Subway has 15 stations altogether with eight to the North of the River Clyde and seven to the South. All trains stop at every station with two lines running clockwise and anti-clockwise. Fancy a fun day out? Glasgow Subway have a range of Explorer Trails to help you get your bearings around the city.

Book your Subway tickets today

Embrace the outdoors with our walking trails

6 types of touring trips in Scotland without a car | VisitScotland (4)

Loch Achray to Ben Venue © VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins

Scotland was made for walking. Get ready to dust off those walking boots and discover the country’s beautiful landscape, alone or with friends and family. From gentle woodland walks for first timers to long-distance epic trails for the more experienced, there are walks for all types of budding outdoor enthusiasts.

Greenock Cut, Inverclyde

Hop on the train from Glasgow Central and stop off at Drumfrochar Station which is a 5-minute walk from Greenock Cut. This historic aqueduct once kept the industries of Greenock supplied with water and is now a peaceful walk enjoyed by many. Highlights include stunning views over the Clyde estuary towards the Highlands.

Find out more about Greenock Cut

Helensburgh and Rhu Explorer

Catch the bus or train to Helensburgh and explore the Helensburgh and Rhu route. Start off at Hill House car park and enjoy a leisurely walk along the woodland paths. On a clear day, you can admire the lovely views out onto the Firth of Clyde with plenty of benches enroute to admire the coastline and of course, to rest those legs!

Find out more about the Helensburgh and Rhu Explorer

The Trossachs Trail

Break in your walking shoes and discover the natural beauty of the Trossachs. There are lots of walks to choose from which all have different gradings. If you’re starting out take on the Brenachoile Trail. This route takes just under 2 hours to complete and starts from the Trossachs Pier Car Park. Venture through ancient woodland before reaching the Brenachoile Point and be rewarded with stunning views of the loch and Ben Venue. Enjoy lunch with a view and bring a picnic for a tasty reward after your walk.

Find out more about The Trossachs Trail

The Scottish National Trail

Devised by outdoor hiker Cameron McNeish, this 864-kilometre-long walking trail is a great way to see the country in all its glory. Beginning at Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders, the route stretches to Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point in mainland Britain. Make sure to wear a good pair of sturdy walking boots as the route gets harder the further north you travel. The route can take approximately 2 months to complete in full but can be split up into sections combining various routes including St Cuthbert’s Way, the Southern Upland Way, the Forth and Clyde Canal Pathway, the West Highland Way, the Rob Roy Way and the Cape Wrath Trail.

Find out more about the Scottish National Trail

Cateran Trail

If you’re planning a walking holiday to Scotland, make sure to add this one to your list. Immerse yourself in the Perthshire and Angus Glens along the 103 km circular route which takes around 4-5 days to complete. Starting and finishing in Blairgowrie, there are bus links to get there from Perth and Dundee at the beginning of the route. Alternatively, if you’re strapped for time, you can take on the Minitrail which follows the northern part of the main trail, starting at Kirkmichael to reach Lair, and returning off-road from Lair to Kirkmichael.

Find out more about the Cateran Trail

Discover the best hiking trails in Scotland

All aboard Scotland’s ferries

6 types of touring trips in Scotland without a car | VisitScotland (5)

NorthLink Ferries © NorthLink Ferries

Discover what Scottish island life is really like. With regular crossings operated by CalMac and NorthLink ferries, it has never been easier to island hop across the islands of Scotland. Once you arrive, you’ll find everything from amazing history and heritage attractions, extensive walking and cycling routes and delicious food and drink.

Oban to Castlebay

Running 7 days a week in the summer and 5 days in the winter, travel with CalMac ferries on the scenic Oban to Castlebay route. You can also travel from Castlebay through the chain of islands and cross the mainland by booking Island Hopscotch tickets, an added bonus if you’re looking for a cheaper way to travel and explore more of the islands.

Find out more about the Oban to Castlebay ferry route

Stromness to Scrabster

Embark on an island adventure with NorthLink ferries. Taking just over 90 minutes, this ferry journey is a great introduction to Orkney departing from Scrabster, near Thurso, on the north coast of the Highlands to Stromness in Orkney. Get ready to voyage across the choppy waters and catch a glimpse of spectacular cliffs and the famous Old Man of Hoy.

Find out more about the Stromness to Scrabster ferry route

Wemyss Bay to Bute

Discover the island of Bute, Scotland’s most accessible route where you can visit Mount Stuart, one of the finest Victorian mansions in the UK, marvel at the Bronze Age Stone circle or go seal spotting. Just over 30 miles from Glasgow, catch a direct train from Glasgow Central station and hop onboard the ferry from Wemyss Bay ferry terminal on the mainland which takes just 35 minutes to reach the island.

Find out more about the Wemyss Bay to Bute ferry route

Discover more ways to set sail across Scotland’s best island ferry routes

Avoid the crowds and enjoy your very own bespoke or private tour

6 types of touring trips in Scotland without a car | VisitScotland (6)

A Highland cow near tour operator’s HAGGiS Adventures tour bus © @haggistours

Exploring at your own pace can be a fun way to see Scotland’s sights but with so many to choose from, it can be hard to decide where to start off. Why not make things easier and book your very own bespoke or private tour? There are a wide range of tour operators across the country and with our friendly and knowledgeable tour guides on hand, you can see the most popular attractions with a few hidden gems along the way, customised especially for you. Enjoy Scotland’s national drink on a whisky tour with Bracklinn Bespoke Scottish Tours, go on a golf tour and play on some of Scotland’s most prestigious courses with Clansman Bespoke Private Tours or research your ancestry and learn about Scotland’s clan history with HAGGiS Adventures.

Find out more about the best tours to take in Scotland

Looking for more tour inspiration around Scotland? Check out these pages below to help you plan an unforgettable trip via public transport.

  • Easy ways to travel by public transport
  • Scenic bus journeys in Scotland
  • Scottish islands to visit for the day
  • Amazing ways to spend a week in Scotland
  • Scotland’s UNESCO Trail


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