Public transport in the northwest is, well, pretty awful. There’s no doubt that this region is best explored by car – you’ll be able to reach the sites and towns far more easily and, doing it all in your own time, you’ll get a lot more from the experience. Getting to Thurso or Kyle of Lochalsh by bus or train is easy, but following the coast between these places, especially from October to May, is when the fun really starts. Royal Mail postbuses (0845 774 0740; www.postbus.royalmail.com) run year-round; fares vary, but long journeys are usually good value at around £4 or £5. Rapsons/Highland Country (01847-893123) runs services to major towns.
To travel across the north coast, from Thurso to Durness, the Monday to Saturday postbus services are your only option.
From late April to late September, Tim Dearman Coaches (01349-883585; www.timdearmancoaches.co.uk) runs buses from Inverness to Durness (£17, five hours, one daily Monday to Saturday, plus Sunday in July and August) via Ullapool and Lochinver.
An alternative is to come up from Inverness via Lairg. Apart from trains, Stagecoach Inverness (01463-239292) operates to/from Tain (£6.30, 1¼ hours, hourly or two hourly) and MacLeods Coaches (01408-641354) operates a connecting service to Lairg (£3.50, 45 minutes, four daily Monday to Saturday). A postbus will then get you from Lairg through to Tongue (one daily Monday to Saturday).
Rapsons/Westerbus (01571-84473) runs every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday between Ullapool and Gairloch.
The once-daily (except Sunday) Westerbus service from Inverness to Gairloch, runs via Achnasheen and Kinlochewe, or via Dundonnell on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. The route via Dundonnell provides a link between Ullapool and Gairloch (via Braemore Junction). The Achnasheen–Kinlochewe–Torridon postbus can be used in conjunction with the Westerbus, taking you from Gairloch to Kinlochewe and Torridon (at least one day after the Ullapool to Gairloch leg).
From Torridon, the MacLennan (01520-755239) bus service goes to Strathcarron (£3.50, once daily Monday to Saturday from June to September), or call for times for the rest of the year.