What is Scotland like? First and foremost, it's beautiful and diverse. Its unique character is evident in breathtaking landscapes, calm nature, misty hilltops, scenic cliffs, fragrant shrubs, and grand castles, which are a proof of its eventful past. It is in Scotland where you can taste excellent whisky, come across a man in a checked skirt, and experience four seasons in one day. There are good reasons why there is a popular saying here - "If you don't like the weather, just wait a minute".
Despite the changing weather, Scotland has a lot to offer for tourists. Travellers who praise comfort and freedom should definitely opt for car rental, especially that public transport isn’t that popular here.
Motorists can try several official routes. The longest and the most diverse include Northern Coast Drive on NR500, West Highland Way and Argyll Coastal Route. Imagine driving along empty roads running among green pastures, high hilltops, and scenic lakes. Sounds nice, right? All of that can be found in Scotland - the land of bagpipes, whisky, and checked kilts.
One of the most popular and touristy places is, of course, Edinburgh. Medieval castles and their remnants, neo-classical ambience of the New Town, free museums, various viewpoints, the imposing Forth Bridge, and even a beach are only a few of the highlights that Scotland's capital has to offer. Motorists should remember that on weekends and during the festival season, they may experience problems with finding free parking spaces, especially in the centre.
Another city popular among tourists is Oban located at the end of A85 road on the western coast of Scotland. This place is very busy not only due to the presence of tourists but also film makers, who eagerly take advantage of its picturesque and mysterious scenery. The views on the snow-capped summits and Mull, located at a distance of 10 km from the equally scenic Staffa, are especially magnificent.
Those who prefer a slightly cosier place should visit the small village of Sligachan, located on the Isle of Skye. You won't find typical tourist attractions there, but only an old stone bridge and a hotel from 1830. Despite the fact that the Isle of Skye is small, reaching many of its recesses with a car will be difficult owing to narrow and winding roads and various animals that you may encounter.
Speaking of wild and desolate places, you shouldn't miss the Highlands, located on the north-western coast of Scotland. It's hard to find another such place in Europe with dense greenery, pristine nature, and idyllic tranquillity. It is here where you can find Inverness, an ideal starting point for Loch Ness and Fort William located at the foot of Ben Nevis (1344 metres above sea level), the highest peak in Great Britain.
While travelling around the Highlands, it's definitely worth visiting the Cairngorms National Park, the largest area of this type in Great Britain, and Inverewe Gardens, located less than 6 miles away from Gairloch. You can choose Grantown-on-Spey as a stopover. It offers numerous accommodation options and three free car parks.
It's common knowledge that Scotland is a country famous not only for its stunning scenery but also for an eventful past. Castles scattered around the country will remind you about it at every turn. Among the most popular ones, you'll find Blair Castle, with an extensive garden, the 15th-century Cawdor Castle, known for the Shakespearean novel Macbeth, and Crathes Castle, located around 25 kilometres from Aberdeen. Travelling around the south-eastern part of Scotland, you should definitely see the remains of Dryburgh Abbey and Melrose Abbey, established in the 12th century. Even though they can't be put into one category with castles, they will be of interest for the lovers of old buildings.
Another interesting place on the Scottish map is Dunkeld, famous for a beautiful cathedral erected between 1260 and 1501, and Pitlochry, where you can find numerous churches, Victorian buildings, and Blair Athol whisky distillery.
There are plenty of car hire companies that you can find in Scotland. Therefore, all tourists will find something of interest there. Prices vary mostly depending on the size and the prestige of a given company. At most of them, you need to pay a deposit as a financial security. Sometimes, you'll come across age limits. The minimum age is usually 21; however, some places will require you to be 25 to rent a car. A person interested in hiring a vehicle should show their driver's licence and an identity document. It's worth renting a car well in advance, as attractive offers price-wise are sold out in next to no time.
Owing to numerous bumps, road imperfections, and sometimes lack of hard shoulders or traffic barriers, the state of some of the Scottish roads is far from perfect. Driving around Scotland is considered a very pleasant experience thanks to the scenic landscapes and great ambience that are able to compensate for all the inconveniences. A great advantage is the fact that most of the major cities are linked by motorways and expressways.
In Scotland, authorities place strong emphasis on travellers' safety which is evident in the presence of multiple speed enforcement cameras. The maximum speed allowed in built-up areas is 30 mph (48 km/h), 60 mph (96 km/h) on one-lane roads, and 70 mph (112 km/h) on two-lane roads and motorways. It's also worth keeping in mind that breaking the above-mentioned restrictions may result in high fines or even loss of your driver's licence.
Scotland follows left-hand traffic so you should drive in a clockwise direction on a roundabout. What’s more remember that taking over takes place on the outer lane. It's worth keeping in mind that you need to give way in accordance with the road signs. You’ll notice a traditional STOP sign or a triangular sign with GIVE WAY. Whenever there are no signs, you should follow pavement markings (solid line or double broken line).
Procedures in the event of an accident don't differ from those in other European countries. Of course, you must stop, provide the details of your insurance, and call the police if need be. Motorists travelling along motorways can use special machines that will connect them to the Police Motorway Control Centre to get appropriate help.
Drinking and driving will result in high fines. The allowed blood alcohol content is 0.08%. Penalty payments and penalty points can be expected in case of talking on the phone while driving and travelling with young passengers in an inappropriate way. Children younger than 12 years should travel only in special child seats.
Remember! When planning a longer trip, you shouldn't forget about regular control of your petrol level. Even though there are plenty of petrol stations in Scotland, they are often poorly marked on less frequented roads and the distance between them can be really large.