We drive on the left. Most of the rest of the world drives on the right. It’s no big deal. Hire a car with the steering wheel on the right and you’ll quickly adjust or if you arrive in your own left hand drive vehicle, just focus every time you start up. LEFT. LEFT. LEFT.
Rules are governed by the Highway Code https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-hig…
Anyone driving in the UK is expected to be familiar with the Highway Code – but one of the key sources of confusion for visitors is often related to road signs.
There is a helpful pdf here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/58170307ed915d61c5000000/the-highway-code-traffic-signs.pdf
One feature some people seem unfamiliar with are roundabouts : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Diu… explains how to negotiate these. It’s not hard.
Or I rather like this overview video from VisitScotland https://www.visitscotland.com/see-do/tours/driving-road-trips/#&gid=1videoitems&pid=1
Its complicated so see this post for full details http://scotlandtime.co.uk/advice/driving-speed-limits/ but basically expect 30 mph (miles per hour) in urban areas, 60 mph on single carriageway roads between places and 70 mph on dual carriageways or motorways. If you can’t see a sign telling you otherwise, these will be the limits for a car that apply (other limits apply on some roads for heavy good vehicles etc). You need to know these three defaults.
Check here to see if your license is valid in the UK https://www.gov.uk/driving-nongb-licence . US, Australian, EU, licenses are valid without the bother and expense of international driving licenses – tho you will need one of these if your license is does not use a Roman character set (Arabic, Kanji, etc).
Single track roads with passing places.
These are very much a feature of rural Scotland. The road can only take one vehicle at a time so you rely on passing places to let oncoming traffic past and to let faster traffic from behind to overtake. These are very much shared spaces – buses, HGVs, tractors, motorhomes, cars, motorbikes, cyclists, pedestrians – and cattle, sheep, deer, goats. You need to drive at a speed where you can be comfortable at identifying anything else on the road and giving enough space.
Especially in the Highlands, you can usually see from one passing place to the next but obviously making these roads work needs everyone to be observant and courteous.
So drive at a speed that means you can pull into a passing place when you spot an oncoming vehicle that has or is likely to pass the next but one passing place. Try to let those coming uphill have priority (we all hate hill starts) And remember that cyclists sometimes have a real difficulty getting going again, even on a gentle incline to a car so don’t get impatient and try to squeeze past.
Do watch out for cars coming up behind you and let them pass as soon as you can: you may be on holiday unfamiliar with the road: they might have busy lives.
In the perfect world, everyone is observant and kind : but if you and an oncoming vehicle meet, someone is going to have to reverse. It’s normally the one closest to a passing place. Do not embark on single track roads unless you can reverse your vehicle at least 150m.
But they are fun to drive once you get into the swing of it – and you need to learn to cope if you want to get into the most spectacular areas of Scotland.
Convoys are to be avoided : passing places can accommodate one vehicle, maybe two – but three is unlikely. And even on single carriageway roads in the Highlands, there can be few safe opportunities for overtaking so pull over and let people pass.
On single track roads with passing places, I apply the following logic:
- If you are the third car and catch up with a pair, you’ll need to hold back a passing place as few passing places can accommodate more than two cars.
- If you are the front car of a pair and spot a third car that’s caught up with you, halt in a passing place and let them past. This is when I indicate left to give a clue that I’ll wait for others to pass me.
- If you are the second car of such a trio and the front car doesn’t halt, then you hang back a passing place to let the third pass you and let them negotiate with the front car.
If I find a convoy ahead holding me up I will flash my lights and eventually beep my horn. This isn’t aggressive : I’m just letting them know I would like to pass.
Do not park in passing places.
Do not park on the verge next to passing place – the vegetation is fragile. Sometimes you will find an extra deep passing places where you can pull off the road : but if it’s designed that way to let long vehicles negotiate a tight corner still don’t park in it. I saw three vehicles parked in the hairpin bends at the Quiraing! Idiots.
By the Fairy Pools, Skye the situation with inconsiderate parking destroying the verges and sometime blocking the passing places completely has become so bad that signs prohibiting stopping and parking have been erected along the road. Observe them, even if others ignore.
Basically don’t. The rules for the legal limit for drinking and driving in Scotland is so low, that the best advice is don’t. Legally it’s 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
Petrol and diesel is widely available even in pretty remote places. I’d suggest not letting your tank get to less than a quarter full and be mindful that in some places petrol stations might operate on just business hours and might not open at all on Sundays.
LPG is available all over Scotland but if driving an LPG vehicles, stations can get sparse in the Highlands so check http://www.drivelpg.co.uk/i-have-lp…
Electric cars : well there are increasing numbers of public charge points http://www.greenerscotland.org/gree… But again – check before you travel.
There are a few roads that are ‘interesting’ the most famous of which is the Bealach na Ba crossing to Applecross. This is an alpine style pass rising rapidly from close to sea level with steep (25%) sections and hairpin bends and has become more popular of late with the NC500 route. The official NC500 advice is not to attempt this in the larger motorhomes and certainly not if you are towing anything. The concern is that if people do get stuck, then rescue takes a long time and is very difficult. Meanwhike all traffic, including access for fire and ambulance, is concentrated on the coastal route in which is also a narrow single track road. Please don’t ‘try your luck’.