The cost of getting to the hills is becoming increasingly expensive and with the price of fuel only set to rise it's going to get worse. With this in mind I have started looking at cheaper ways to travel to a variety of diserable locations in the UK and abroad. In the first of what may become a series of articles relating to cheap travel & accommodation I decided to look at bus holidays.
The majority of people in the UK will know of Shearings and my image was of the elderly travelling to the South coast of England, with poor entertainment provided in the hotel and day trips to cough exciting locations. Clearly this isn't what caught my attention!
Besides for the locations on the South Coast they also travel to several in Scotland.
Note these were the prices in Feb when I booked, they change constantly check the Special Offers section of website
Now you may be looking at those prices and thinking I can travel on the train or drive for less than that. While this maybe true, what I haven't mentioned yet is those prices include 4 nights accommodation and are all inclusive (breakfast & evening meal) this also includes alcohol from 7:30pm to 10:30pm. This may now be looking more attractive?
My plan was to go on the Fort William trip travelling up on the Monday, spend the night in the hotel taking advantage of the evening meal and a few free pints. Then on Tuesday have breakfast and head to the hills for 2 nights wildcamping before returning to the hotel on Thursday evening for a shower, evening meal and drinks once again. The bus then travels back home on Friday after breakfast.
My Journey started from Bishop Auckland Bus Station at 11am and eventually ended at 7:30pm at the Calendonian Hotel in Fort William. The same journey by car would normally take just over 5 hours and cost around £80-£90 return in petrol. So while this may of taken over 3 hours longer and appear £28 more expensive, 90 minutes of this was spent on breaks in service stations and the cost includes meals & accommodation. There was the added bonus of not having to drive and being able to read, sadly by the time we arrived in the mountains it was dark and I could only see the outlines as we passed through Glencoe with my head planted to the window trying to make out the Aonach Eagach.
I'm not going to give a full review of the holiday, the room was clean, the food was good, the entertainment left a lot to be desired. This was perfect for my needs, there were only 2 negatives to using Shearings to travel to Fort William. The Caledonian hotel is 2 miles South of Fort William and this has to be added on (a bus is available), especially if you are doing day walks this can soon add up if your aim is Glen Nevis each day. The other negative was all the stops, especially on the way home at various Woolen Mill tea shops, everyone just wanted to keep travelling and were lined up waiting at the bus after a few minutes.
Braemar would be more desirable due to hotel location (Invercauld Arms) and its close proximity to the Cairngorms and Lochnagar. Unfortunately there were no single rooms available and no option to pay a supplement when I checked. One thing to be aware of, in Breamar the free drinks were limited to £15 per person per night (my dad informs me), this wasn't the case in Fort William. This wouldn't be a problem for lightweights like me!!
Hopefully the comparisons below will give food for thought.
Return costs to Fort William
None of the above prices include breakfast & evening meal except Shearings (SYHA is extra)
There maybe a supplement for single rooms when I first checked there was no supplement, but I spent too long thinking about it that the single rooms sold out. I did the trip with my dad and unfortunately paid extra for a scenic room due to the only room available. If you are interested in Shearings keep checking the Special Offers page the prices change constantly, today more expensive than above.
An excellent cheap way to get into the hills with the included accommodation, food & drink. This is even more inviting in winter when the days are short and cold. Be aware of the hotel locations and consider if you can put up with stopping regularly on the bus. Personally if I could get a cheap deal (check special offers) then I would go to Braemar and would certainly consider Fort William again if fuel prices increase too much (6p in 3 days this week).
**apologies for the formatting on those prices, I need to fix the template CSS which is removing tables & tabs.