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Driving in Scotland - etiquette question

I was using Google Street View to track a route from Broadford down to Elgol, which is a single track road, and noticed that occasionally there are houses/small businesses off to the side, with small driveways or parking places leading up to them from the road.

If you are driving and another car comes along and there is no passing point, would it be considered rude to use someone's drive?

Posted by
787 posts

On many roads there are wide spots made for that purpose. One or the other may have to back up to let the other through. Otherwise I’d use the drives you mention.

Posted by
6776 posts

I did know about the passing places and would use those if there is one at the time. But if there is not one, I just want to know if it's kosher to use someone's drive. I hate to assume when it comes to someone's private property.

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, Mardee,

We've done that many times, on the road to Elgol and elsewhere. Anywhere you can pull over is fine, even on to a grass verge (make sure there's no hidden ditch!). Best to avoid reversing, if you can, unless there is a passing place within your sight that you're sure that you can get to.

Strangely enough, if you're on a hill, the car going uphill has the right of way on a single track road. That means that you may have to back uphill. Lots of fun with a stick shift!

As the old Esso commercials used to say, "Happy Motoring!"

Best wishes,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
6701 posts

I’m in full agreement with Mike. There have been a few times I’ve used drives in the UK so somebody could pass. It becomes a pain when one is on a one track road, rock walls on either side, and no way you can slide over enough to let the other vehicle go by. At that point somebody has to back up.

Posted by
6776 posts

Well, it's definitely going to be interesting, especially since I will have a stick shift. But I drove a stick for a long time before I switched to automatic transmission and spent a week in England driving with a stick. Of course that was 27 years ago, but here's hoping for muscle memory!! Thanks, Mike and jaimeelsabio!

BTW, Mike, while I was doing my Google Street View thing, I saw what you were talking about. You mentioned on another thread that when you are driving to Elgol and taking the loop around Loch Slapin, you come face to face with views of Blavin. And I did! Of course, it's on my laptop but I'm really looking forward to seeing the real thing!

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi again, Mardee,

You get a good view of Bla Bheinn (Blaven) just after you pass through the village of Torrin, looking aross Loch Slapin. There is also a good view from the small car park, after you've rounded the head of the loch. Any cars that you see in the car park are no doubt Munro baggers!

There is also a tearoom/deli in Torrin. It's called Amy's Place, and it was renamed from the Blue Shed Cafe a few years ago, after the owners' daughter, Amy, died as a result of Lupus. If it's open either on your way to Elgol or on the way back, it's well worth your support.

Perhaps Jacqui (Skyegirl) can tell us more about the tearoom, and also exactly where Blaven is seen to its best advantage.

As always, best wishes!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
1656 posts

Hi Mardee

The Highway Code gives these guidelines for single track roads

155
Single-track roads. These are only wide enough for one vehicle. They may have special passing places. If you see a vehicle coming towards you, or the driver behind wants to overtake, pull into a passing place on your left, or wait opposite a passing place on your right. Give way to vehicles coming uphill whenever you can. If necessary, reverse until you reach a passing place to let the other vehicle pass. Slow down when passing pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.
156
Do not park in passing places.

Basically, anything that can be safely used as a passing place can be used as a passing place. This can be entrances to fields, drive ways and so on as long as you are not using them for anything other than a passing place. They are not parking places.

As long as there is room for an oncoming vehicle to pass on your right, it can be a passing place. Most of the locals will be used to their use in this way, it is part of the contract of living in a rural area with single track roads.

Posted by
1188 posts

Yes as others have said you can use the edge/apron of a driveway as a passing place. Avoid going off the road onto the grass verges if you possibly can as they can be dangerously soft. I was once driving home (I live off the single track road to Neist Point) and I saw a rental car upside down in a field with two very sorry looking tourists standing nearby. Luckily they were not injured, but they had pulled over (not in a passing place) onto the verge to allow someone to pass and the car had rolled down the embankment. It was a 4 hour wait for a tow truck, it was raining and they refused the offer of shelter and a cup of tea! Maybe I look like an axe murderer!!! Anyway, avoid any verges that you are not sure are safe and be ready to reverse to the nearest passing place. The etiquette is that the person nearest a passing place should reverse if necessary.

Anyway, on to Amy's Place tea room. It's a wonderful spot, which owners Mark and Alison Carter have turned into a really welcoming tea room. Alison bakes all the cakes which include vegan and gluten free options. They always have soup on offer (always including a vegan option too) and there's a variety of different tea, coffee and hot chocolate as well as cold drinks. They also have a deli offering with local smoked meats and smoked salmon, great cheese selection, oat cakes, chutneys, jams etc. And they also sell locally sourced souvenirs and gifts. There is both indoor seating and picnic benches outside. The car park is small, but if it's full you can continue down to the shoreline and park there. Views of the mountains from the tea room are fantastic. Everyone who goes there leaves as a friend of Ali and Mark!

There's also a community tea room/shop in the community centre at Elgol, which is also well worth a look.

Jacqui

PS: Yes traffic coming uphill has the right of way/priority even on single track roads. Reversing uphill is actually safer than reversing downhill as it is easier to control the speed by using the clutch/gears.

Posted by
4275 posts

Also, since you know I was a novice driver on Skye - and ended up with a manual, which I hadn’t driven in 30 years - I will add it might very occasionally be “interesting” but I found it had a very natural rhythm to it and passing places were numerous. I drove Broadford to Elgol in the morning (and back in the afternoon obviously) and found it relatively easy. Only the cows in the road at the harbor caused any delay. Lol!

I will say that somewhere else (will have to think where), I encountered quite a bit of traffic (relatively speaking) on one stretch - and once had a face-off with an obviously rented pickup. I was going uphill, he was closest to the nearest passing place which he had ignored (and I could see) and I was having none of it. Ha!

Posted by
1656 posts

One thing to remember is if in doubt on single track roads, give way. Even if there is a passing place the other driver can use, there will be some drivers who do not seem to know how to use them.

Posted by
639 posts

it says such in the above quoted code, but do NOT pull into a passing place on the right, thinking you're being polite. just stop on the left opposite the passing spot or driveway to let the oncoming or overtaking driver pass on your right. you'll get odd looks at best or two fingers or cause an accident at worst.

Posted by
1652 posts

Mardee, thank you for your post. All this information is very helpful. We will be in Scotland arriving on May 30, and we are renting a car. So the driving etiquette information is so helpful.

Skyegirl, I certainly don't want to end up like those tourists. If not for your warning, we might have done the same thing, thinking it was safe!

Posted by
6776 posts

Oh, this all sounds so wonderful!!!

Thank you all for the information about driving and so on. I am actually going to print all this out and save it so I can keep referring to it and get it stuck in my head.

MC-Glasgow, thanks for the Highway code. Being a retired lawyer, it's nice to see the law in print. :) And yes, I will definitely not be playing "chicken" on the Scottish roads!

Jacqui, oh my gosh! Very good to know! Those poor tourists - I can't believe they didn't take you up on their offer. I would have! :)

Mike and Jacqui, I will definitely stop at Amy's Place - I've bookmarked it in Google Maps and plan on stopping there on my way back after the boat ride since it will be around lunchtime. It sounds perfect!

TexasTravelmom, I'm counting on your experience with stick shifts to give me some confidence, lol!

jj, I have read that but reminders do not hurt at all - i will take heed!

kmkwoo, well, if I can do it, you should be able to. :) I'll try and remember to post something after I've been driving a bit and let you know how it goes. I'm there from May 3rd to the 26th.

Posted by
5678 posts

So happy someone mentioned that you do NOT go over to the right. Rather you stop at the passing place and the on coming traffic uses the space on your right, their left. You need to practice your, left, left, left mantra. I found that using stick actually helps you remember this as it's one more thing that is different. If you are shifting with your left hand it can help you with that mantra. It's surprising how quickly you do get used to it, and you do need to guard against getting cocky or you'll find yourself pulling out of a parking lot and into the right hand lane! One of the funniest things that happened to me after my first 2-week long driving trip in England and Scotland when got into my own car back in Illinois and promptly slammed my left arm into the door trying to find the shift handle!

Posted by
6776 posts

Stuart, thanks for the link to that cute little video! I love the coo and it was helpful!

Pamela, oh, that's funny! I spent 7-8 days back in the 90's driving through England, and was fine for the first 3-4 days. But one day I was driving through a small town and pulled over in the only parking spot available on the right hand side. I stopped to get what I wanted and when I came back and pulled out, instinct took over and I started driving on the right side of the road. I drove about 500 feet when I suddenly realized there was a car stopped on the road facing me, politely waiting for me to move over. I felt like SUCH an idiot, and immediately got over but was so impressed that the other driver was so polite. In the US, the horn would have gone off immediately, probably followed by some shouting.

Posted by
1656 posts

First time I drove in France I drove the wrong way around a roundabout in a business park in Rennes, it was 7 AM. Later in the same I did drift to the left a bit on a country road.

First time with a LHD car was in Italy, and a passenger said 'you are doing really well'. I still have not told them that I had just attempted to change gear with the window handle for about the fifth time that morning.

Posted by
6776 posts

First time with a LHD car was in Italy, and a passenger said 'you are doing really well'. I still have not told them that I had just attempted to change gear with the window handle for about the fifth time that morning.

Ha ha!! I think that one wins!!!

Posted by
33107 posts

First time with a LHD car was in Italy, and a passenger said 'you are doing really well'. I still have not told them that I had just attempted to change gear with the window handle for about the fifth time that morning.

LOVE IT!!

Posted by
66 posts

Another thing to consider, is "Wind screen". We got a really small chip in our windshield, and it cost me $200. There are lots of rocks on the roads that get kicked up. Also, they will charge you for the tire if you get a flat, unless you get their flat tire insurance. It is very cheap for both of these insurance fees and you probably won't need if but it you do it more than pays for itself.

Posted by
639 posts

After our first experience with left hand driving for three weeks, I came home having survived with no incidents. That evening at about 2am, we got "toned out" as volunteer firefighters, and as usual, given my distance from the fire station, my assignment was driving the 65,000lb water tender to the fire. I made an additional round trip to refill at a nearby lake, then drove back to the fire station to put the truck away. As I was walking back to my car, my Captain pulled up in his rig and asked why I had spent the whole evening on the wrong side of the road. Thank goodness for late hours and flashing reds lights!