Updated: Feb 6, 2020
With the summer season just around the corner (April) the cruise ships will start arriving soon. The three main ports are Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness. But if truth were told Edinburgh isn't on the sea (the port of Leith is two miles away), Glasgow's docks closed years ago and Inverness harbour is tiny. Occasionally some ships make Aberdeen or Oban but they have to stand off and ferry in. Even Orkney and Shetland are the same.
All the ports are usually single day stays at points away from the destination.
Glasgow's Cruise ship port is Ocean Terminal Greenock, a twenty seven mile motorway trip up to Glasgow.
Edinburgh has three disembarkation points depending upon ship size. South Queensferry and Newhaven (big boats) and Leith Ocean Terminal. South Queensferry and Newhaven use the ship's lighters to ferry passengers ashore and at Leith the ship can come alongside.
Inverness uses the huge Royal Navy dock in Invergordon about an hour from Inverness and two hours from Loch Ness, the prime destination.
Greenock is a small interesting town but hardly worth a full day visit. The local bus company run a little sight-seeing bus with local guide round the town and the view from up the hill is lovely. The whole thing takes an hour.
As you leave your ship you will walk past queues of taxis touting for business (all owned by the bus company) offering rides and guides. The quality is hit and miss.
The train and bus station are about ten minutes walk away and there's a regular service up to Glasgow. Tickets cost about 5$.
Most passengers will have pre-booked a shore trip and a bus will be waiting. The standard trip is a round trip to Loch Lomond,Glasgow and Stirling. Short stop at loch Lomond, Glasgow and possibly Stirling Castle. As 99% of shore excursions offer this trip these sites fill up very quickly Arrival at Luss (loch Lomond) car park will find you sharing with twenty other buses from your ship along with every other tourist in the area.
A simple solution is to do the trip in reverse that way you enjoy the experience better. But the big group buses can't seem to cope with that. Alternatively there are loads of little park stops on the loch that the big buses can't get into. A twenty minute stop will let you see why they sing of the Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond.
Glasgow is a great destination and there are numerous walking and bus tours from the city centre. The "hop on hop off" bus is and at $20 reasonable value. Kelvingrove Gallery and the Riverside Museum are all fantastic stops. The big group walking tours at about two hours and $15 are good fun. But quite how you can interact with your guide in a group of 25 is tricky.
There's a lot to see and learn about in Glasgow and some real gems. The Govan Stones for example (the world's largest collection of Viking "Hogback" graves) or the petrified forest. These little sites are not suitable for big tour groups so they dont go.
Book a small private and exclusive guide.
More to follow on Edinburgh Cruise ships soon