Preparing your road trip and wondering what driving in Scotland feels like?
Below is a video to show you what to expect and a complete guide to drive safely in the cities, in the countryside and in the highlands:
- Scottish road signs,
- Scotland driving rules,
- Road conditions, single track and more,
- Dangers to be aware of...
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Driving Rules in Scotland
Let's start with general rules about driving in Scotland you should be aware of:
Driving on the left in Scotland
- Driving is on the left-hand side in Scotland - most of the time it is easy. Just remember it when crossing people on a single lane road!
- There are many roundabouts, especially in the South. Don't worry, the curve is natural, and you won't go against the flow. Just drive towards the left. Give way to people from the right unless there are lights.
License to drive in Scotland
- If you have a valid license from your own county, you can drive in Scotland from up to 12 months since you last entered the UK. (any country US, Canada, Europe, Non-Europe...)
- The International Driving Permit is not required for Scotland.
- The law allows you to drive from 17 years old but most rental companies will have other requirements such as being 21 years old or 5 years of having a driving license... Check with each rental agency.
- You can use this official tool to check the requirements for your country to reassure you - License to drive in Scotland check tool
Speed Limits in Scotland - Driving laws
- Speed limits are indicated on circular signs with red border and a number
- Speed limits are in miles per hour
- National speed limits are 70mph on Motorways and Dual Carriageways for cars (60 for towing caravans) - 30mph in built-up areas (20mph around schools) - 60mph otherwise for cars (50mph for caravans)
Other Scotland Driving rules
- Driving age in Scotland is 17 years old - but rental car companies have other rules
- Alcohol limit - legal limit is 50 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood
- Use of cell phone - it is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving
- Seatbelts are compulsory for driver and passengers
- All rules can be found on the Code and Road safety page
Toll roads in Scotland
- There are no toll roads or bridges in Scotland
Good to know
- Make sure you always have coins, as many carparks are not free
- Parking in Glasgow and Edinburgh is very expensive. Better to start or finish in one of those cities and not have a car while there
Is driving in Scotland hard? Video
Wondering how difficult driving in Scotland is?
Here is a short video to show you what it is like to drive in Scotland in various situations (cities, mountains, single-track...):
How to drive in Scotland - Difficulty
You can read a lot about people complaining about the difficulty of driving in Scotland. It is not as bad as they say, in my opinion.
It is just that people who find it quite easy, don't leave comments on the web about how easy they have found it...
The 2 main difficulties are:
- Driving on the left-hand side (if it is not the case in your home country) - personally I have never felt it hard. You just have to be focused when exiting a parking space
- The single lane roads that are very touristy - single lane roads in general are not that complex, there are crossing-places very frequently. The problems are the tourists that just keep going and then pile up at those crossing places blocking the whole thing. Always look ahead to see if there is enough space.
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Road Signs in Scotland
Scottish road signs - Speed
The Scotland Road signs are quite clear and easy to understand.
Limits and dangers are indicated on the road-side sign but also often indicated on the road itself.
Other traffic signs in Scotland
Road conditions - Is it safe to drive in Scotland
General information about the roads in Scotland
- Road status can be found on Traffic Scotland
- There are no toll roads in Scotland and no toll bridges.
- Road designations are: M for Motorway - A for Primary Road, B for Secondary Road
- Scotland has many single-track roads with passing places - see the next section for advice
Driving conditions - my opinion
Generally I thought driving in Scotland was easy. The only really difficult sections are around Glasgow and Edinburgh.
- In Glasgow there is a large road with many lanes and many exits, so take your time and focus
- In Edinburgh, the center is quite easy but all around there are those big roundabouts which are a bit crazy. Don't hesitate to do one more tour before exiting if unsafe
- Outside of the main cities the only strange thing I experienced was this double roundabout:
Dangers when driving in Scotland
There are 3 main dangers to be aware of when driving in Scotland:
- Driving on the left - if you are not used to it, be careful especially when exiting a parking
- Farm Animals - in the countryside, animals roam free. Sheep can jump in front of the vehicle, so stay vigilant.
- Wild animals - some area also have wild animals. I had deers twice on the road, but they are mostly out early or late
- Weather in another factor to consider - conditions can be good and all of a sudden it can start pouring rain. Adapt your driving to the weather conditions
- The Scenery - sometimes the road is so beautiful that you are distracted. Better to stop!
- Idiots... well they are everywhere. We were on a road where you can drive at 70mph, one lane in each direction and we had to stop because someone had decided to do a U turn and was no good at it!
Managing Fuel in Scotland
- Most petrol station provide unleaded petrol and diesel
- Price is by the liter
- In remote areas, especially in the North of Scotland, there are not many petrol stations. Think ahead and fill up your tank
Driving in Scotland Tips - Single Track Roads
The main thing to be aware about driving in Scotland is how to drive on single track roads.
- Take your time, often the scenery is beautiful so no need to speed
- Always look ahead for cars and stop in passing places that are to your left to allow traffic coming ahead. Or stop on the road next to a passing place that is on the right so that the other car can drive in it
- Also look ahead for passing places, you can see signs most of the time
- NEVER NEVER Tailgate. We go stuck once, because 4 cars were driving very close to each other. The passing places do not fit 4 cars!!! and then you are stuck because the width of the road does not allow crossing
- Do not park in passing places, you will block everyone!
- Give way to traffic coming uphill
Renting a car in Scotland
I have not rented a car in Scotland because we came by ferry from France with our French car.
- There is nothing special about renting a car in Scotland - no specific insurance or rules
- All major international rental companies are available as well as smaller ones.
- As I said before, better to start renting after leaving Edinburgh or give back the car before visiting Edinburgh. No need to have a car in Edinburgh and pay high parking costs.
- You can compare prices on rentalcars.com
Plan your itinerary - best drives in Scotland
Be careful, it is really easy to plan too much driving on your Scotland itinerary.
To help you plan your trip, have a look at my eBooks with simplified map for easy planning, driving time, GPS coordinates, road conditions...
And keep track of your own trip!
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