Your Survival Guide to Driving in Scotland

The scenery in Scotland is world class. Traveled to over a dozen countries and it’s truly some of the most majestic landscapes I have ever seen. Scotland deserves independent exploration, some time to get lost in the incredible greenness of the area. After some frustrating, laughable trial and error, we can give you this must know list to make driving in Scotland much easier. 

There are four types of roadway: M, A, B, and C. The M stands for motorway, and that’s your typical highway (ex, M6, M74). A is secondary road, a busy two or four lane road (ex, A735, A82). B and C are curvy, narrow, back country roads.

The speed limit on these roads are in MILES PER HOUR, not kilometers per hour:

M roads: 70 mph

A and B roads: 60, but sometimes required to slow to 40 or 30 mph

C roads: 30 mph

This was discovered when we were going 60kph (37 mph) on a motorway designed for 60mph. No wonder we were getting passed right and left! Speaking on passing…

Odds are if you’re visiting Scotland, you come from a country that drives on the right. Your highways have the slow lane on the right, entrance and exit ramps on the right, and the fast lane on the left, toward the middle of the highway. In the UK, people drive on the left. This means the slow lane is on the left, the entrance and exit ramps are on the left and the fast lane is to your right. If you need to pass someone, you will be moving left to right. 

Love roundabouts. Scotland uses roundabouts instead of stoplights, so your GPS will be prompting you to take exits off roundabouts with about the same frequency you stop at a light in your hometown. Some of them are quite large, while others are the size of an intersection in a suburb community. Enter roundabouts by turning LEFT. 

Signs approaching a dangerous curve or severe dip in the road will tell you to slow down but not tell you what speed to reduce to. Generally reducing speed by 5-10mph will yield a more comfortable turn. But if you’re in a sports car and you want to power slide or attempt to drift,  just maintain and you’ll get a good thrill.

Drive during the day only. In the summer, the sun doesn’t set until 10pm. Many of the A, B and C roads are without street lighting which can be very dangerous. 

Taking a car around Scotland has proven to be taxing on the body and mind, especially with a manual drive car. Nearly all rental cars in the UK are manual: automatic drive is about twice as much. However, the scenery is more than rewarding and more than worth it. 

Safe travels! 

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5 thoughts on “Your Survival Guide to Driving in Scotland

  1. Sketchpacker July 27, 2015 / 1:06 AM

    Great tips 🙂 But surely there are some traffic lights in Scotland?!

    • markandmelody July 27, 2015 / 7:44 AM

      Thank you, Sketchpacker- there are certainly traffic lights, but they are usually in the city centers or slip roads which lead to roundabouts. They are there, but there are definitely more roundabouts (10:1 ratio, at least in our experience.)

      • Sketchpacker July 28, 2015 / 7:26 AM

        How potentially very very dangerous that sounds! But lots of fun. Is there any clear system to the roundabouts?

      • markandmelody July 28, 2015 / 9:15 AM

        Without a GPS or really planning your trip in advance, you may get sidetracked. They are all marked pretty well though. The only really confusing roundabouts are the ones with 4+ exits – that gets confusing.

  2. Sketchpacker August 8, 2015 / 3:04 AM

    Haha sounds like one I drive through to get to work! It’s a bit of a whirlpool with no clearly defined exit but lots of streets jutting out of it

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