Sunday, 26 July 2015

Inverness (and Loch Ness), Scotland, UK

The northernmost city in the United Kingdom is Inverness, in the Scottish Highlands.  I visited Inverness in June 2015.

Local bus services within Inverness are provided by Stagecoach.

A network of seven services is operated on Mondays to Saturdays.

During the evenings and on Sundays, two routes do not operate.  Other services run to a different pattern to cover most parts of the network.


Buses used on routes 5 and 5A carry "Connect 5" branding.

As well as full-size single-deckers, some smaller buses are also used on Inverness city services.

In 2015, Stagecoach introduced a fleet of five zero-emission electric-powered buses to Inverness.


Although these vehicles are used primarily on services 7 and 9, they can appear on other services in the city.

I found one of them in use on route 6.

There is a charging point within Inverness bus station where the electric buses can be plugged in and recharged during the day.

Inverness bus station is the main hub for bus services heading out of the city, and for longer-distance coach services.

The bus station includes a travel office operated by Stagecoach.

Most bus services heading into and out of Inverness from the surrounding region are provided by Stagecoach.

Route 11, which serves Inverness Airport as it heads east towards Nairn and Elgin, carries "Jet" branding, with buses in a dedicated livery.

Despite the dedicated branding, buses in standard Stagecoach colours can and do appear on the 11.

On routes heading north from Inverness, I noted double-deck buses in use on some journeys.

From what I observed, the double-deckers are not generally used during the middle part of the day.

I found a pair of them parked in the bus station in between duties.
Although almost all the buses heading out of town leave from the bus station, there is one exception.

Route 28 to Dingwall picks up in Queensgate, a couple of streets away from the bus station.

Most of the buses I observed in Inverness were low-floor, wheelchair accessible vehicles.  Nevertheless, I did notice a couple of older, step-floor buses still in use.  These vehicles are not accessible to passengers using wheelchairs. 

I observed two such buses operating on the infrequent services which head south, to Aviemore and Newtonmore.

The timetable for these services states that easy access low floor buses are usually operated, with other vehicles substituted only in exceptional circumstances.


Coaches are used on some longer-distance Stagecoach services to and from Inverness.

Although these vehicles are high floor with step entrance, they are wheelchair-accessible.

Route 10, branded as "City Connect", links Inverness with Aberdeen.

Route X99 links Inverness with Thurso in the far north of Scotland.

Although the timetable leaflet for route X99 states that low-floor easy-access buses are usually operated on this service, I found a fully-branded coach in use.

Fares on Stagecoach buses vary according to distance travelled.  Single journey tickets do not allow transfer so, if your journey requires you to change bus, you pay again.  One-day tickets are available allowing unlimited travel within defined zones.  More details are on the Stagecoach website.

It is notable that the all-day tickets do not extend across the whole Stagecoach network.  There is no all-day ticket covering the full length of routes 10 and X99.

Longer period tickets are also sold, with 4-week tickets available as smartcards.

Passengers using rail services to and from Inverness can add one day's bus travel within the city using a PlusBus ticket.  These are cheaper than buying the one-day bus ticket separately.

While most bus services in and around Inverness are provided by Stagecoach, there are a few exceptions.

Several smaller operators provide services in and around Inverness.  These are generally infrequent, in some cases running only once or twice per week. 

Amongst the services provided by smaller operators are those to schools in and around Inverness.

I noted older, step entrance double-deckers being used on the schools services.

Details of all operators' services are held on the Traveline Scotland website.

Scotland's inter-city and inter-urban coach network is marketed under three brands.  All three reach Inverness.

Scottish Citylink is the "mainstream" brand.  Most Scottish Citylink coaches wear a blue and yellow livery.

Some coaches carry full Citylink colours, but show the name of their operator rather than the Citylink brand name.

I noted three-axle vehicles were in use on services linking Inverness with Edinburgh.

Not all coaches carry the full Scottish Citylink colours.

This two-axle coach wears the livery of its operator, but with some Citylink branding towards the rear of the coach.

Citylink 917 links Inverness with Portree, on the Isle of Skye.

Coaches operating between Inverness and Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, are provided under the Citylink Gold brand.

Citylink Gold is a premium brand offering extra luxury including leather seats, free refreshments and wi-fi.

Complementing the two Citylink brands is Megabus.

Megabus M90 reaches Inverness from Edinburgh.  With fewer intermediate stops than the Scottish Citylink service, it offers a faster journey time.  Using Megabus, the scheduled journey time to the Scottish capital is 3 hours 40 minutes.

The Scottish Citylink and Citylink Gold brands are generally confined to Scotland.

The Megabus brand is far more widespread, being used across parts of Europe and North America.

The Megabus, Scottish Citylink and Citylink Gold brands are all owned by Stagecoach.

National Express coaches reach Inverness twice a day, on services from and to England.

Route 588 provides an overnight service to and from London, with a journey time of around 12½ hours; there is also a daytime coach to and from Manchester and Birmingham.

The coach destination display scrolls through intermediate calling points.  Note that Aviemore is mis-spelt (below).

As the "Capital of the Highlands", Inverness attracts a considerable number of tourists.

Open-top bus tours of the city are provided under the City Sightseeing brand.  The tour runs from the end of March to the end of September.  It operates on a "hop-on, hop-off" basis, enabling passengers to spend time at attractions and places of interest along the route.

The tour starts outside Inverness tourist information office.


Inverness lies close to the Moray Firth, home to sea life including dolphins.

Dolphin Discovery Tours offer boat trips which head onto the Firth, in search of dolphins.


Highland Experience offer one-day and longer coach tours from Inverness.

One tour includes a visit to Loch Ness...


Loch Ness

Inverness lies at the northern end of the Great Glen, a geological fault line which cuts through the Scottish Highlands.  Further south along the fault line is Loch Ness, famed for the legend of a monster living in its waters.

Stagecoach route 19 and Scottish Citylink 919 operate along the Great Glen, linking Inverness with Fort William, a distance of around 100 kilometres.  Most daytime services are operated as Scottish Citylink 919, with Stagecoach 19 providing isolated early morning and evening journeys.

These routes were recently featured on the Great British Bus Routes blog.

The 19 and 919 run the full length of Loch Ness.  Other Stagecoach buses run from Inverness to the village of Drumnadrochit, home of the Loch Ness Vistor Centre.


Route 19A is a seasonal service, operating from late May until early October.  As well as linking Inverness with Drumnadrochit, it continues to Urquhart Castle, a ruined castle perched on the edge of the loch.

For its entire length, route 19A runs parallel to Scottish Citylink 919 as well as Stagecoach 19.

Stagecoach fares are different to those charged on Scottish Citylink services... 

... which could be confusing when a Stagecoach bus is operated in place of a Citylink coach on the 919.

During my few days in the Scottish Highlands, I observed three separate occasions where a Stagecoach bus was operating in place of a Scottish Citylink vehicle on the 919.

Routes 19, 19A and Scottish Citylink 919 serve the western bank of Loch Ness.  There are also some small settlements on the eastern bank of the loch.  These are served by Stagecoach routes 16 and 18, both from Inverness.

Loch Ness can also be explored on water.

Jacobite operate boat tours on the loch from late March until late September.

One or two tours per day start from Tomnahurich Bridge, on the outskirts of Inverness.  From here, boats cruise aong the Caledonian Canal to reach the loch.

The main starting point for the boat tours is at Dochgarroch, closer to the head of Loch Ness.  

From June to September, Stagecoach operate service 19J between Inverness and Dochgarroch, to connect with the boats.

The regular vehicle on route 19J carries branding for Jacobite's cruises.

Jacobite also offer tours which combine a cruise on the loch with a guided tour by minicoach.

The scenery of the Scottish Highlands attracts touring coaches from around the UK and mainland Europe.

The coach in this image is from Germany

This image shows the coach park at Urquhart Castle, with a number of coaches parked and waiting for their passengers to return from the castle ruin.

The Stagecoach bus is waiting to start its journey back to Inverness on route 19A.