Driving in Scotland

Edradour Distillery in Pitlochry, Scotland

Kathy & I seem to enjoy planning vacations almost as much as we enjoy going on them.  There is something about doing the research and learning about a new place that gets us excited for the journey itself.  I know we drive our travel agent crazy (sorry, Robin!) because while she is an expert on all the places we go and has lots of good recommendations, we almost always end up telling her what we want to do instead of relying on her expert advice.  What happens is that by the time we have done our research we have ended with our own preferences, so even though her recommendations might be as good as, or probably better than, our own choices, our confirmation bias gets in the way of her good advice.  That sort of happened to us with Scotland.

Our visit to The Falkirk Wheel in Falkirk, Scotland
Our visit to The Kelpies at The Helix Park in Falkirk

When we decided to visit Scotland, we were torn between taking a group tour or doing the planning and driving ourselves.  There were a number of group tours, but our impression was that the big groups were way too big on huge busses, the small groups were really expensive, and that none of them went where we wanted to go.  We always prefer to set our own agenda when possible, so none of those sounded like viable options.  Some people might suggest that it’s a control thing and I suppose that’s true to a degree, but I think that we just like to do things our way.  I guess that’s the same thing, isn’t it?  We did learn later on that there were probably some ways to do smaller group tours that might have been more to our liking, but we had already made up our minds and didn’t want to be confused with facts!  So we relied on our travel agent to make the air, Edinburgh hotel and rental car arrangements, and we did the rest.  I think it turned out to be a good solution for us, even though there were many other solutions that might have been just as suitable.

Urquart Castle from our cruise on Loch Ness about the Jacobite Queen
View along the A87 between Kyle of Localsh and Sligachan, Scotland
Talisker Distillery in Carbost, Isle of Skye, Scotland

A lot of the places we visited are places that tours often visit, such as distilleries and castles.  A few of the places are not going to be on a tour bus agenda, however.  Quite a number of places were along or at the end of a long single track road, certainly not suitable for large busses.  We spent a lot of time on those narrow roads and got pretty good at knowing when to stop and wait or to tell when the other guy was waiting.  That system worked pretty well over there, but the drivers in Scotland have a lot more patience and courtesy than we see over here!  Also, we drove past some beautiful countryside where there simply wasn’t a safe place to stop, regardless of vehicle.  So in those cases we just have to picture the scenes in our memories, as we weren’t able to make photographs.

The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh
Greyfriar’s Kirk and Greyfriar’s Kirkyard church and graveyard in Edinburgh

Driving in Scotland wasn’t too hard for me.  I’m ambidextrous, and when I thought about it ahead of time, I was pretty sure that driving on the left side of the road in a right-hand drive car would be like “driving in the mirror.” For the most part that was correct.  The roundabouts were sometimes tricky, especially at first, and they have a lot of roundabouts in Scotland.  The ones with multiple lanes could be especially vexing, and some of the towns could be a little tricky to navigate.  But Kathy is a good and experienced navigator, and with the help of Google Maps we drove over 1000 miles and only took a few wrong turns.  I will admit that having all of the signs in a language I can read helped a lot, so for any future trips to non-English speaking countries I’m inclined to let someone else drive!

Our cruise on Loch Katrine aboard the steamship Sir Walter Scott
Our cruise on Loch Lomond aboard the Lomond Princess

6 thoughts on “Driving in Scotland”

  1. Wonderful shots, Tom. We like to set our own pace and destinations, too. We don’t vacation much but when we do we like to put our own effort and time into trips but we welcome any advice from others. Ultimately, it’s your vacation and sometimes the tours don’t offer exactly what you want.

    1. There are positives and negatives to each, aren’t there Ken? I tend to be a bit more adventurous than Kathy. She’s glad she doesn’t have to drive but would also prefer for someone else to do the navigating!

  2. Lovely shots, Tom. I rather like doing my own thing, too. Group tours are OK, but sometimes they move a bit too fast in places that I want to linger, other times, too slowly in places that I’d like to move on from, but it’s rather geared for “average”.

    I’m not ambidextrous, but I was able to pull off driving in and around England. I drove from Heathrow to Manchester and back and many points in between. At first, it was quite daunting, but eventually, after a couple of days, no big deal. We even ventured out from Manchester to Wales, which was only about an hour, or so.

    Like Ken said, It’s your vacation. Do it how you want! 🙂

  3. Absolutely, Paul. Although I’m thinking that I might not mind if someone else did the driving sometimes. Considering it for a future trip, if for no other reason than to see if those preconceptions are true!

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