Driving in 2017
“OMG…Scottish traffic signs. Try figuring them out when you’re driving on the left, with a hysterical wife and a gazillion cars lined up behind you! Almost impossible.
I’m here to tell you, driving in Scotland is not for the faint of heart. But if you do want to brave it, then here are some tips we hope will make your life easier”
-EXCERPT from our 2017 Blog Post On Driving in Scotland
Here we are two years later, with four trips and 8,000 miles of road under our belt. Mike still does all the driving and I am still the hysterical co-pilot, but now only half the time.
Since we feel like veterans, I decided it was time to update the blog with the new and improved: “Driving and Renting a Car in Scotland Guide” blog post!
You may hear the term “car hire” or “car rental”, they are both the same.
We always rent from Arnold Clark. We have used them for all our trips and have been very happy with them. You’ll find them everywhere in Scotland.
They have a nice selection of cars, the prices are competitive and the staff is very friendly. They also offer free airport and train shuttles.
Things you will need to rent a car
“Beside nerve, a driver’s license and credit card….” (2017)…
Ok, I was being a bit dramatic back then, but it can be unnerving your first time on the road.
It hasn’t changed, you need a driver’s license and a credit card. The website says a utility bill but they never asked us for one…I say bring it just in case.
I say go for the best you can afford. We always get an SUV. You don’t know how many times we were kissing the car and calling it “Baby”, as we were driving up the windy, muddy roads, in the pouring rain.
It would have been really scary in a tiny compact car. Maybe eat at a 2-star restaurant or buy fewer souvenirs, but don’t skimp on the car!
Do you really want to shift with your opposite hand? Probably not. So, if it’s in the budget, I would highly recommend an automatic.
GPS or Sav Nat
This is where you can save money. Don’t pay for GPS/Sat Nav. If you get a newer or nice enough car, it’s probably standard in the car anyway–we’ve rented 4 cars and every time it had Sat Nav even though we didn’t pay for it.
So it’s not like it doesn’t turn on because you didn’t pay for it, it absolutely does– so use it! And if for some reason there isn’t one in the car, then obviously use your phone.
This is our costs, yours could be cheaper or more expensive:
- $75 USD/day for SUV + Automatic
- Collision and damage waiver – included with our credit card for 31 days.
- Liability- $750 deductible if you don’t purchase extra
Mike does all the driving and does a great job of it, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing. It was definitely a nail-biting experience in the beginning. Lots of screaming and using my imaginary brake but once we got the hang of it– a piece of cake.
The speed limits in Scotland are confusing. You can have a winding narrow road with the same speed limit as a straight wide road. Needless to say, we seem to always have the ‘dreaded line-up’ behind us in Scotland because many speed limits just feel too fast.
Single Carriageway and Dual Carriageway– here is my very basic explanation:
- Single Carriageway- a road separated by a line (no barrier)
- Dual Carriageway- a road separated by some kind of median or barrier
According to the car rental people, they are very serious about speeding in Scotland. You will see lots of average speed cameras on the motorways and roads.
The purpose is to police the zone, not a specific point. Your license plate is read as you enter the zone, and again as you leave – and the time of both photos is used to calculate your speed. If you are speeding the fine is 100 pounds.
Roundabouts (aka The Tea Cup Ride For Cars)
There is a definite ‘art’ to roundabouts.
Our ‘virgin’ roundabout was back in 2017 when we were trying to get out of Edinburgh. We couldn’t figure out the silly thing, so we just kept going round and round in a circle.
I mean literally going round and round, which BTW is the one BONUS of roundabouts. If you miss your turn, don’t panic, you can just go around again.
Seriously, if you do decide to drive in Scotland or UK, I suggest you watch this 13-minute video which has some excellent info on roundabouts:
Many foreigners, that includes us, usually drive slower than the locals. Unfortunately, this can lead to a bunch of angry drivers behind you. Whenever possible be courteous, find a passing place, and let others by.
This mostly affects the more rural areas of Scotland, like the Highlands.
For single track roads, whoever reaches the turn out first should pull over and yield to the oncoming driver.
In my 2017 post on driving in Scotland, I pretty much just complained about the signs, which doesn’t help you one bit.
So here’s a very basic tip on sign shapes that should get you started:
Also, here’s a great video by Visit Scotland that gives you a 4:30 minutes overview of driving:
Alrighty, friends, I hope this update was helpful. Once you get the hang of it–it’s actually great fun. We love the freedom of driving through the beautiful highlands of Scotland and I know you will too!
Happy Trails 👣