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Driving in Scotland

We are planning on renting a car for our trip to Scotland.I know driving is on the opposite side of the road, but is the drivers seat on the opposite side too? If so is a manual shifter on the driver's left or right? Any tips for driving in Scotland or destinations to visit. Thanks

Posted by
5668 posts

I drove out of Edinburgh--you don't need a car there at all--and did the same in Glasgow. Inverness is not a problem. I would never drive in London! But then I wouldn't take a car to NYC either!

Posted by
4555 posts

Driver's seat is on the opposite side. So the manual shift is on the left instead of the right...but it's easy to get used to, since the lower gears are closest to you, with the higher gears farther out....so it's the same "feel" as at home as you work your way up through the gears. Luckily, the gas, brake, and clutch pedals remain unchanged.

Posted by
5668 posts

Yes, you sit on the right hand side of the car. The pedles are the same. You shift with your left hand. You'll be surprised how quickly you can figure it out. When I came home after a long trip of driving in the UK the first time I got in my own car I slammed my left hand into the drivers looking for the shift! I love driving in Scotland particularly the wee roads as Iain Banks calls them. You need to use the passing places--stop in one when you see a car coming and stay on your side of the road; those coming up hill have right of way; think left, left, left, particuarly when coming out of parking lots! There are so many places to go. If you perhaps also like whisky then bu Iain Banks book "Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram." Not only will you learn about some lovely roads, but you can figure out which distilleries to visit or at the very least which whisky to sip at the end of the day. Remember no ice, but you can add a splash of water.

Pam

Posted by
5668 posts

And one last thing, the sheep have the right of way too! Have fun.

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks much, Great info. Did you drive in any cities or did you avoid that? Scott

Posted by
4555 posts

Avoided the cities like the plague, especially Edinburgh. Glasgow is a little better for driving. Outside of those two urban areas, every other place is pretty small. Just be careful of the stone walls along many of the country roads. There's no road shoulder, and those walls can come pretty close to the side of your vehicle.

Posted by
505 posts

Avoid driving in Edinburgh, Glasgow or between the two cities. There are major roadworks in Edinburgh now and parking is always a nightmare (hard to find, expensive and umpteen different restrictions).

Otherwise, it's not so bad - you do have to watch for narrow roads and be careful not to get zapped by the speed cameras. The speed limit is not marked unless it is changing, and I think the national speed limit for most roads is 60mph, with motorways 70mph. National speed limit will be indicated by a white, round sign with diagonal black lines. Other speed limits are generally indicated by numbers painted on the road. So be careful- they often place cameras just after a speed limit changes for a built up area/school (usually 20 or 30mph).

And outside towns, watch for sheep and cows. There are places where there are sheep/cow crossings, so pay attention for blinking lights etc.

Kate

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks again to all. If we go to Edinbaugh, how is the best way to do it? Can we drive to some where outside the city and then take public transportation? Where is a good spot to do this? We will becoming from near Perth.

Posted by
65 posts

Have a good navigator sitting beside you, especially in cities or areas with lots of round-abouts (traffic circles). You may need some help choosing the correct exit from the round-about. Find a site online to familiarize yourself with traffic regulations, road markings, signs, etc., before you go. Here's one site: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/index.htm

Start thinking about how you need to reorganize your thinking for driving on the left side of the road. You'll need to yield to oncoming traffic when making a right turn, for instance. Even when you're a pedestrian crossing the street, you'll need to look right first for the nearest traffic, then left.

Posted by
505 posts

Yes, do make sure to familiarise yourself with the rules about traffic circles because they are different here and some of the traffic circles are big n' complicated. I don't drive here, but for my parents, we use the clock system - i.e. tell the driver the location of the turn-off in terms of the numbers on the clock if entering from 6 o'clock.

As to Edinburgh - the best bet is to return your car at the airport before going into Edinburgh. There are buses every 10-15 minutes from the airport to the center of the city. Costs £3 and makes only a few stops, so generally about 25 minutes.

The other option is to use one of the park & rides around the city edges. If you go to Lothian Buses website (www.lothianbuses.co.uk) you can get info on the buses that connect to the park & rides.

Kate

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks Kate. Good advice. I am very excited about touring your beatiful country and every tip and bit of advice will only make it a more enjoyable trip. Scott

Posted by
3428 posts

Don't feel that you must drive in Scotland. The public transportation (both trains and buses) is great. We have been numerous times in the past 20 years and have only used trains, buses and vans driven by the tour leader of day trips. The roads in the highlands are narrow, often 1 lane. The big cities are traffic nightmares. I'd rather let someone else do the driving and enjoy the moment. In answer to your questions- yes the driver's seat is on the oppostie side too- that means shifting with your left hand... and most cars are manual transmission. Do consider NOT driving- I think you'd enjoy not having to.

Posted by
3 posts

We stayed in London for a week and every time we took a cab, I would sit behind the driver and "pretend" to drive - may have looked silly but it helped getting me used to driving on the other side of the road. And I paid more to get an automatic car! Had no problems - except for the flat tire when I hit a curb! Roundabouts no problem since we live in Boston area and LOTS of rotaries here. Loved the freedom of a car in the country.

Posted by
261 posts

The best configuration is driver on left side, navigator on the right. Kids in the back spending lots of time in personal prayer! My husband did the driving, my job was to make sure he stayed in the right place. Be careful in the roundabouts, go clockwise. Often when motorways exit there will be multiple roundabouts feeding each other, Sort of like the Olympic rings. These were confusing, but we managed. Signs are marked by citis, not always compass points. Think of driving to NYC. If you get on I95 at Philly you have to decide if you are going to Trenton or Wilmington, not North or South. Also pay close attention when making turns. Making right turns, you cross the intersection. It was strange at first, but after a day it was second nature. Of course we almost had a accident when we picked up our car in France!

Posted by
208 posts

Scott - when approaching the roundabout at 6:00, if your exit is before 12:00 stay to the left so you can make your exit. If your exit is after 12:00, stay to the right until you pass the 12:00 mark then merge to the left to make your exit. When in doubt - keep going 'round and take your time.
The most important traffic rule applies to the narrow track roads with the passing spots - STAY TO THE LEFT!!!! If you cross over to the right, not only is it illegal, it is incredibly dangerous and could cause an accident. Natural instinct will kick in and you'll want to go to the right, but do not!
Try to remember where your indicator is - we tried to use it, but kept cleaning our windshield off. We had the cleanest windshield in all of Scotland =)

Posted by
993 posts

If you can, get a car with GPS. It is well worth any extra cost. Its hard enuf driving in a strange place nevermind driving in a strange place on the other side of the road AND on the other side of the car! Remember, Rick says to give yourself permission to circle the round-about as many times as you need in order to get your bearings.

Posted by
1 posts

As my daughter lives in Scotland, I travel there a lot. It help me when driving to remember that everything coming toward me goes by my window. Never drink and drive. The latest push by the police is that if you were drinking the night before, you better not drive the next day. When walking, remember the cars have the right away. Have fun.

Posted by
1 posts

I have driven in Scotland a number of times. To learn driving on the left side, try using the motorway first. I fly into Glasgow and drive to Stirling, Perth so on the motorway. It only takes a moment to get on the motorway from the car rental. Then, I drive for 30 minutes to an hour with traffic going only one direction. It gets me used to looking to the opposite lanes for changing.
I do drive into Edinburgh, but avoid the downtown. I have parked on the south side of Edinburgh Castle. I just avoid around Prince street. I wouldn't drive down on the first day though.