Driving in the Highlands

Single Track Roads in the Highlands

The Highlands of Scotland contains over 2,600 miles of single track road weaving and twisting through its remote glens and hills.  It is almost inevitable then that at some stage during your self-catering holiday in the north of Scotland you will encounter a single track road.  In all likelihood you are probably never more than a leisurely 20 minute drive away from a single track road no matter where you roam across the Highlands, an area the size of a small European country.  And when you do encounter a single track road it is worthwhile being aware of the unwritten etiquette and possessing a few handy driving tips to keep yourself safe.

Top 10 Tips for Having a Safe Holiday on the Road

  1. Single track roads should be treated with respect.  You are not a rally driver, so keep your speed down.  Be able to brake and come to a complete stop within the distance you can safely see along the road.
  2. Be on the lookout for animals such as sheep, cattle and deer and give way to them.  They usually have all the road sense of a wheelie bin.
  3. Passing places are for allowing vehicles to pass.  They are not for parking in or picnic spots.
  4. If you become aware of a tailback behind you, signal and pull into the nearest passing place when safe to do so to allow others to pass.
  5. Whoever reaches a passing place first generally gives way to oncoming traffic.  Normally the only exception to this is when traffic coming uphill should be given priority.
  6. If the passing place is on your left, pull in to let oncoming traffic get past.
  7. If the passing place is on your right, stop opposite the passing place allowing enough room for the oncoming vehicle to enter and exit the passing place safely.
  8. It’s nice to be nice.  Be courteous and acknowledge when someone pulls into a passing place for you.  You will get a cheery wave back.
  9. Also be aware of pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, and slow down for them as it will be tight squeeze.
  10. If you want to admire the view do so when there is somewhere safe to park off the carriageway.  You need to concentrate on the road, not the scenery, so share the driving.

Single track roads make up only part of the roads network in the Highlands, of course.  There are trunk roads linking all the main centres of population and the A9, the main arterial road, running northwards from the central belt of Scotland to the tip of Caithness.  Here, too, holiday drivers should appreciate that not all of the A9 is dual carriageway.  Some sections of the road are still two-way: remain vigilant and be aware of these changes in traffic flow, especially when attempting to overtake.

Some common sense and paying attention to the road will ensure that you enjoy exploring the Highlands and all its delights during your Scottish self-catering holiday.  With the spectacular scenery and sights to soak up, travelling around the Highlands is best enjoyed at a slower pace – and if you do get held up by a traffic hazard, it’s most likely to be due to a flock of sheep or a Highland Cow.

scottish highlands single track road

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