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Planning Your Own Invergordon Port Tour – Things to Consider

This post was inspired after meeting more guests stuck at Urquhart Castle who were unable to get on the local public transport back to the ship.

They had hoped to be allowed to return on one of the ship’s excursion buses but weren’t allowed. They were panicked that they might not make it back in time.

Here are some things to consider if you are planning on arranging your Invergordon port tour.

Invergordon Port Tour – Plan Thoroughly and Book Ahead

The Highlands are geographically huge. They are 33% of all the land in Scotland. However, only 230,000 people live in the Highlands. More people arrived in Invergordon on cruise ships in 2023 than live in the whole of the Highlands.

The Highlands are one of the least densely populated areas in Western Europe. That means that there isn’t the same level of public transport that you might find in places with more population.

The Highlands is also a hugely popular tourist destination – that’s why we get lots of cruise ships of course! However, that means during the tourist season public transport is busy. Not only is it busy with locals, it’s busy with other visitors and then cruise ship passengers on top of that.

The local transport providers do not put on extra buses for regular services in the Highlands due to cruise ship visitors. There is an extra bus service – the 925 which runs from Invergordon Port to Inverness and back again. This is in addition to the regular 25 and 25X bus service.

However, for the rest of the bus services, there are no extra buses. That can mean buses, such as the Citylink which drops off and picks up at Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness, can be extremely busy.

This means without a pre-booked ticket you are unlikely to get on the bus.

Even with a pre-booked ticket, you might not be able to get on the bus – that’s what happened to 10 guests from a ship earlier in the week. The bus was already full when it arrived at Urquhart Castle.

cruise critic find out more

Invergordon Port Tour

Have a Back-Up Plan and the Contact Details

The guests who couldn’t get on the local bus from Urquhart Castle ended up getting a taxi. This is a good backup option to have available so make sure you have some local taxi company numbers with you just in case you need them.

The phone signal at Urquhart Castle is rubbish so make sure you have these in advance.

loch ness tour by melanie

Invergordon Port Tour

Plan Your Visit to Allow Plenty of Return Time and Avoid School Buses

If you are planning on arranging your own port excursion then I would recommend visiting in the morning to give yourself plenty of time to get back if anything goes wrong.

Being booked on a bus that leaves Urquhart Castle at 3 p.m. can mean you start to quickly run out of time if things go wrong and your ship is leaving at 5 p.m. or even 6 p.m.

Try and avoid travelling on buses around 3 pm when schools are leaving as buses around these times will be extra busy with school children travelling home.

Invergordon Port Tour

Consider the Train

There is a great train service between Inverness and Invergordon. This is much less used than the buses. The train station in Invergordon is still within easy walking distance of the port.

invergordon port tour ship excursion buses

Invergordon Port Tour

Don’t Assume You Can Jump on A Ship’s Excursion Bus

Many times guests who are travelling independently on their own tours will ask coaches who are taking ship excursions to give them a lift back to the ship.

Each ship has a similar policy which is to deny boarding to independently travelling guests joining ship excursion buses.

This is because those guests who have booked and paid for a ship’s excursion can make a complaint that they paid full price for a ship’s excursion, only to find passengers being let on the same coach for free.

This can lead to the ship having to issue refunds for excursions which they want to avoid.

You may want to consider offering to make a payment to the ship to cover the cost of using the bus to get you back to the ship.

Every ship should have a Coordinator on the pier that the driver or guide can contact to ask what to do in this situation.

The 4 guests I met above were not allowed onto the ship’s excursion bus and had to make their own way back from Urquhart Castle in a taxi which cost them around £200.

Invergordon Port Tour

Don’t Assume The Ship Will Wait

Guests making their own arrangements often assume that the ship will have to wait for them because they are guests of the ship.

That is not the case.

The only guests that the ship will wait for, if they are late returning to the ship, are those booked on the ship-organised excursions.

The ship will not wait for any guests who have made their own travel arrangements, or for any guests who are travelling with independent tour operators in ports.

Of course, ships will try and wait if they possibly can but ships are generally on a tight schedule when it comes to ports so usually they will not wait long, if at all.

That means any guests who miss the ship have to make their own way to the next port where they can rejoin. This will have to be done at their own expense.

Travel insurance is unlikely to cover this cost either.

For the guests at Urquhart Castle that I met, their next port call was Orkney the following day. To make their own way there would require a marathon of planning involving trains or buses (possibly both), taxis, a ferry crossing and an overnight stay.

Other Articles

If you have found this Planning Your Own Invergordon Port Tour article useful you might also like;

How to Travel from Invergordon Cruise Port to Inverness

Uruqhart Castle Shore Excursion – detailed review with all the practical info you need

Review of Cawdor Castle Ship Excursion – all the practical info on this lovely castle tour

You can find lots more articles on my Invergordon Cruise Port page

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