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Inverness

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See: Why rent a car in Inverness ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments

(All of these pages will look a lot nicer when they are tidied up later in the spring)

Your key questions for any destination:

Do I need a car in Inverness?

Strictly speaking, there are very few travel destinations anywhere in the world where it's absolutely essential to rent a car in order to see the main points of interest.

That's why we give you loads of ratings scales from 1 to 10, rather than just yes or no answers!

  • The need question is generally answered by looking at public transport (transit) options. Is it good enough for visitors who are happy to consider using it?
  • How many public transport routes are there, and are they mainly rail or road (bus) based?
  • Is public transport fast, frequent, safe, reliable and cheap?
  • Does public transport actually take you to the places you'll probably want to see?

Is it worth hiring a car in Inverness?

This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Inverness car hire options, and consider how rental costs compare with using transit.

How far are you likely to drive anyway, and how much might you expect to spend on fuel, road tolls, parking and any other charges. We compare Inverness with other destinations locally and around the world.

This is obviously much more of an issue if you are planning a longer road trip than it is on a small island.

Should I rent a car in Inverness? 

This is basically a merging of the two questions. Everything else might be about giving certain facts about the costs of car rental or using public transport in Inverness, but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.


Inverness may be capital of the Highlands, but is that status enough to make it a major public transport hub as well?

Please note that Carornocar.com is currently being revised and updated in preparation for the Summer 2022 (northern hemisphere) tourist season. 

We do not intent to include detailed covid information, nor do we intend to suggest hiring a car, just because public transport might still have a mask requirement. Our advice will be based on the same criteria we've always used, ie whether or not you can get a better travel experience, or at least a better value one, by choosing not to hire a car.

Quick Ratings

Price band

Inverness is in car rental price band: 4/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)

General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in Inverness? 

Sometimes. Car rental is slightly cheaper than global averages.

Volatility:

Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in Inverness between the peak and the off peak season?

5/10 (0 = stable prices)

Driving score: 6/10

Non car score:10/10

Balance: 6

(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)

General comment -

 

Why? Visiting Inverness using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Inverness ?



Why should you rent a car in Inverness?

  • Flexibility — for all the obvious reasons, a hire car will give you far more flexibility than go by train or bus will.
  • Timinghowever scenic the train lines out of Inverness may be, most services only operate a few times each day, so it is difficult to get off en route to take photos and then jump back on again.
  • Go West — a car will give much more flexibility for exploring the West of Scotland, especially if you head towards Ullapool and beyond, where there are no trains, and buses are extremely rare, except when operating in conjunction with ferry services.
  • Skye — although it is possible to explore the Isle of Skye using buses, they only operate on an infrequent basis. To make the best use of the fantastic scenery Skye has to offer, including the famous Cuillin Hills, a car is essential.
  • Eilean Donan Castle — again, this is somewhere that with good planning can be reached by coach or a combination of bus and train. The village of Dornie sits on the A87 about 10 miles east of Kyle of Lochalsh. Driving gives you the flexibility of following a similar route to the Kyle line through Glenn Carron (A890), and then returning along the A87 through Glen Shiel.

Why not? Visiting Inverness without a car

Why don't you need a car in Inverness ?


  • Loch Ness — if you drive there, you really will just see a large body of water. To capture the spirit of Scotland’s most famous monster, you’ll be much better off on a cruise or organised tour (and we don’t recommend guided tours very often). These can easily be arranged from the centre of Inverness.
  • The Kyle line. This line alone is a good enough reason not to hire a car for a visit to Inverness. Often rated as one of the most scenic rail lines in the world, together with the West Highland line out of Glasgow Queen Street, it really is one of Scotland’s must see railway routes.
  • Plockton. This lovely fishing village, originall set up as a planned community to help stem the flow of emmigration, has been immortalised in the Hamish Macbeth TV series, and is an ideal excursion on the Kyle line.
  • Compass covered — unlike nearby Aberdeen, which sits out on the corner of the rail network, train routes from Inverness head out in the direction of all the major compass points — north on the Far North Line towards Wick and Thurso, east towards Aberdeen, south on the Highland Line to Perth, continuing to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and west on the Kyle line to Kyle of Localsh. Out of these four major routes, at least three are scenic for a substantial length of their journey — the line to Aberdeen in our opinion is less impressive.
  • Bike it! If you drive on the A9, chances are that you will see many cyclists taking part in the gruelling John O’Groats to Land’s End cycling challenge. If this gives you inspiration, why not hire a bike in Inverness, and take one of the many scenic circuits which can be explored from the Highland capital — just make sure you take a good map to avoid getting caught out on a long dead-end road.
  • Great Glen Way – The Caledonian Canal to the head of Loch Ness is a good place to start your Inverness bike tour – but the more adventurous can continue all the way down to Fort William on the Great Glen Way – and it is even possible to book one way bike rental for this route!
  • Whisky tours — there are numerous distilleries within range of Inverness, and taking a coach tour of any of these locations means you don’t have to worry about sampling the product on the way.
  • Limited road routes — despite Inverness being remote relative to the rest of the UK, it still offers an excellent selection of rail routes, which roughly match the range of routes which are available by road. The main exception to this is the A82, which heads south west to Fort William, and beyond Glasgow, although scheduled coach services are available on this route. Therefore the relative advantage of having a car is much less than it might be at other locations. Is it worth the cost?
  • Combine train and bus – e.g. to Eilean Donan Castle, by tain, allow a good 3 hours, using the Kyle Line and a coach to Dornie. Alternatively, the direct coach journey from Inverness to Dornie takes just under 2 hours. Note – mixing one-way coach and railway journeys can be more expensive than making return trips by the same route, but if you book in advance you can get good deals, and you will see more this way.
  • The superb Dunrobin Castle even has its own station (Dunrobin), but the castle is only open during the summer months. It takes just over 2 hours to get there by train – or 90 minutes by bus, but the train is more scenic, especially as it heads inland up Dornoch Firth (the detour explaining the additional journey time).
  • Take the train up. Although recent years have seen huge improvements in the range of flights to Inverness, there is still a much wider choice of flights to either Edinburgh or Glasgow. Why not take the train in at least one direction, and enjoy the scenic Highland Line – the good stuff starts north of Perth, so it doesn’t matter whether you fly into Edinburgh or Glasgow. There is also one direct train each day from London King’s Cross to Inverness, the Highland Chieftan, taking around 8 hours.

Ratings: How does Inverness compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Inverness? TBC

This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Inverness, and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.

How does this compare if:

You are travelling:

Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc

Does car rental make sense on different budgets?

 

 

Do you need to hire a car in Inverness? TBC

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Inverness (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".

Should you rent a car in Inverness? TBC

This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good. 

See global comparisons

Hiring | Driving | Parking

Trains | Buses | Local travel

 

Car hire basics:

 

Public transportation basics:

 

Regular bus services: YES

Coach (inter-city): YES

Tram: NO

Metro: NO

Commuter Rail:

High Speed Rail:

Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):

 

As you start ....

Does Inverness airport have a direct rail link?

(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No

 

 

 

 


Changelog

Has our advice for Inverness car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?

2017 - 4

2019 - 4

2021 - 6

Average score - 5

Notes:

 

So, should you rent a car in Inverness? Verdict — Inverness is one of those places where it is easy to automatically think a hire car is the best option, but there are plenty of reasons to think again.

The Kyle Line on its own is one of them, and because there are so many other options for enjoying this part of the world without needing a hire car, our recommendation is to try and do without one.

Summary

Do you or don't you need a car in Inverness ?

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