Driving Single Track In The Highlands Of Scotland

A single track road is a road that is only wide enough for one vehicle. These single track roads are often found in rural areas like the Highlands of Scotland, the North of Wales and the Lake District and can are used by most road users, including cars, motorbikes, cyclists, trucks, motorhomes, caravans and walkers. When using a single track road, it is important to be aware of the other road users and passing places. Passing places are usually well signposted however, in some areas they are not visible until you are upon them, due to elevation, hedges, blind corners, blind summits, etc. When driving single track roads continuously scan far in front, noting oncoming vehicles, their size and potential passing places. When you see a car coming towards you, slow down and pull over into the next available passing place or, if allowable, into the side of the road and let them pass. If you are on a bike, you may need to dismount and walk your bike past the oncoming traffic.

Single Track Roads And The North Of Scotland

If you travel further north and west, and particularly on Scotland’s islands, the road is often too narrow to allow you to pass the vehicle coming the other way. Note: Since 2022 a combination of Covid, Brexit, the NC500 growing popularity has seen an explosion in motorhome travellers up in the North Of Scotland. Most have no experience in driving a motorhome, never mind single track, so extra vigilance is now needed from everyone.

Driving on narrow roads like these requires some thinking, concentration and lots of consideration for other road users. There are plenty of passing places on major single track roads, but these are often not always clearly marked as such, as with the sign above or with the striped pole. But unless you want to cause trouble and a potential accident, please remember that these are passing places, and not places where you park. As stated, be considerate of other road users.

highlands-of-scotland-single-track

 

Single Carriage Roads

You need to drive carefully when you are driving on single-track roads. In an ideal world, vehicles approaching one another should adjust their speeds so that they arrive at a suitable passing place. So neither vehicle will have to wait for the other to pass and both will be able to drive as fast as possible. It is important to remember that we drive on the left side of the road in the UK, and that even on single track roads you should drive on the left side of the road.

If you reach a passing place first, stop and let the other user pass. However, some road users with better vision of the road (elevation etc) may elect to stay in the passing place and allow multiple road users pass at a time.

Be A Considerate Driver Don’t Be A Dick.

Personal experience. All experiences are from the North West of Scotland, Applecross, Gairloch, Wester Ross.

1: Might is right, I drive a small car; I was driving on a single track with multiple bends and blind corners. I beep my horn as I approach each corner to alert other road users that I am approaching. Emerging from a blind corner, up ahead I see a motorhome. They are approaching fast. I am one hundred yards from the last passing place; we are both approaching the same passing place. I slow down; they do not. They continue past the passing place five metres until they encounter me, they a re now in front of me in the middle of the road. I have nowhere to go. The passing place is behind them five metres, behind me is blind corners and no passing place for 100 yards. I know this, but I assume they do not. He, the driver is adamant that I reverse, for might is right. I knew that was the most dangerous option (reversing round a bling bend). After a few moments, traffic started mounting behind me. The motorhome users came to their senses and stopped being a dick and reversed into the passing place and let the now multiple cars pass. Might is not right!

2: I was descending the last section on the way back from Applecross, I could see multiple cars below as I approached I could see that the car at the bottom had pulled in and flashed their lights to signal that I come forward as I moved out and started descending, a car from behind that road user decided they were not waiting, they pulled out and proceeded to force their way up the road; we were now on a steep hill with no passing place. Why? because of the impatience of that road user. Not looking up a head, driving past a road user using the passing places correctly and then going out into traffic to force other road users to pass in non passing places is not good driving, it is dangerous. As we were at an impass as they were closer, they reversed. Be aware that it is not always respected that motorists going downhill should try to be considerate of those coming uphill, being vigilant of the passing places, the traffic and what is happening on the road always supersedes everything else.

traffic-applecross

3: Motor cyclists can be a law unto onto themselves. Most are considerate road users but there are a minority that are there to drive fast and have no patience for queses or passing places. In this example, two cars stopped to allow oncoming traffic (I was one of the cars) the motorcyclists thought other wise. He passed us and plowed head first towards the oncoming traffic that he could not see until he passed us. He then forced the oncoming traffic to slow and perform a passing on a tight section of single track road with a cliff’s side for what gain? Be considerate, don’t be a dick.

Looking Ahead On Rural Roads

Sometimes you don’t see far enough ahead to plan carefully, and if you do not plan carefully, you could find yourself having to stop and manoeuvre in the wrong place. So look as far ahead as possible, be prepared to give way and wait, and be equally willing to stay positive and calm, driving single track roads can be frustrating, drive them long enough, especially in the height of summer when the usually deserted roads are teaming with holiday makers and you will see more than a few frustrated drivers losing their cool. Keep calm and drive on safely.

But when you are approaching a blind bend or a big cliff, think and act carefully and patiently: If you see someone coming the other way, would you both be able to stop? And never assume that there is nothing coming round that next corner. Round the next bend or behind that hill could be a truck, a campervan, a delivery van, the postman or something similar. So be vigilant.

 

The Friendly Wave

It is an established tradition of all regular users of any single track road, car park maneuvers etc, that when someone pulls over for you, you acknowledge them. The friendly wave, a finger or hand risen up from the steering wheel, a big wave from the window. I am saddened to say that in the last ten years the amount of road users not acknowledging their fellow drivers has increased. In fact, in my most recent trip I played a classic game of “good guy, wank” (From Chewing the Fat, Scottish comedy). Respect your fellow road users and acknowledge their commitment to keeping you safe. It’s the good thing to do. Also, smiling is better than being angry.

The Other Single Track Road Users

You should be especially aware of other road users whose needs are different from your own – whether it is cyclists or pedestrians or if it is people who are riding horses or if it is people who are driving sheep, cattle or wild highland cows. In these circumstances, being reasonable and considerate pays dividends, we should always give all road users as much space as possible. Some roads are not wide enough to allow vehicles to safely pass a cyclist going in either direction, and attempting to do that can result in forcing them off the road, not cool. Sometimes passing a herd of highland coos, standard cattle or grazing sheep requires that you stop, turn off your engine, and wait for the herd to pass by. Always a good opportunity to get some snaps!

cows-on-road

The local residents and the professionals. There are people who believe that tourists should be more willing to give way to those who drive these roads to earn money, and we can sympathise with that. You shouldn’t be surprised if the driver of the white van that’s coming towards you doesn’t care as much about his works van as you do about your car. A conservative approach is recommended. But don’t be too timid: some very, very slow journeys are waiting for you if you become too timid on these roads.

Locals are used to the roads and know the lay of the land, some will make their lively hood from tourists and are happy to see the influx of motorhomes and bad drivers come the summer months, however, there will always be real world locals, who need to drive a road to get to a relative, a Drs appointment, the shop etc and your lack of experience, respect and Sunday driving attitude ( 10MPH whilst trying to take photos) will not be tolerated and will be met with pressure to speed up and conform to the driving speed and standards of the areas.

Finding Common Ground.

If you do go nose to nose with another car when it comes to passing another car (and it does happen, even between attentive and considerate drivers), the one closest to them should do what is best for them. Most of the time, people who are closest to a passing place should reverse their vehicles to allow them to do so; but in some cases, there may be multiple vehicles that would need to do that in a row. It is very important to make sure that you never drive a vehicle which you cannot easily reverse if the need arises. Note: if you struggle to handle a small city car in the city, struggling to revers park in Tesco, don’t hire a 40ft motorhome and take to the difficult single tracks of Applecross, you will not enjoy it, it is not worth it.

Driving on single track roads can be difficult, but that’s what makes the Highlands and Islands so special. Pay attention to the roads ahead and try not to be distracted by the amazing scenery that accompanies so many single track roads.

We can find some of the most beautiful and remote scenery in Scotland on its single track roads. These roads are often found in rural areas and can be challenging to drive, but the rewards are definitely worth it. The highlands of Scotland are home to some of the most stunning scenery in the world and driving single track is one of the best ways to experience it. There are a few things to keep in mind when driving on these roads, such as being aware of oncoming traffic and being prepared for sudden changes in the road surface. But as long as you take your time and enjoy the journey, driving single track in the highlands of Scotland is an unforgettable experience.

applecross-motorhome

Things to Consider

Take in to consideration you may be driving a different vehicle than usual, you may have more load than usual (full car, loaded with paddle boards, kayaks, outdoor swimming kit, three kids, two dogs and enough food and drink to feed a small nation for two years. Test your breaking distance, get comfortable reversing, know the width and height of your vehicle and always stay calm, do not panic.

Conclusion: Why You Should Try Driving Single Track at Least Once in Your Lifetime

The conclusion of the article is that you should try driving single track at least once in your lifetime. Don’t drive beyond your experience, stay relaxed, be courteous and don’t be a dick.

The experience differs from a normal road, and sometimes it is not for the faint of heart. But if you are looking for the best the UK has to offer, then driving single track is the only way to travel.

FAQ

Who has priority on a single-track road?

On a single-track road vehicles must yield to oncoming traffic if there is not enough room to pass safely. If two vehicles arrive at a blind corner at the same time the vehicle on the inside of the turn has the right-of-way. When passing always use caution and be sure to signal your intentions to the other driver.

Who has the right of way on a single-track road on a hill UK

The Highway Code in the UK does not specifically state who has the right of way on a single track road on a hill, but it does give some general guidance. The code says that drivers should be considerate of other road users and be prepared to give way as necessary. It also says that drivers should use their mirrors and look over their shoulder before overtaking. In general, the driver going downhill should yield to the driver going uphill, but if both drivers are able to see each other and there is plenty of room to pass, then either driver can go first.

Is it hard to drive in Scottish Highlands?

The Scottish Highlands are definitely a challenge to drive in but it’s so worth it for the stunning scenery. The roads are often narrow and winding, with sheep and cows sometimes wandering into the road. It’s also important to be aware of the weather conditions as snow and ice can make driving even more difficult. But as long as you take your time and drive carefully, you’ll be able to enjoy all that the Highlands have to offer.

What should you do when you meet an oncoming vehicle on a single-track road

If you’re driving on a single-track road and you meet an oncoming vehicle the best thing to do is to pull over to the side of the road and let the other vehicle pass. If there’s nowhere to pull over, then you’ll need to reverse back until you find a spot where you can safely let the other vehicle pass.

Driving your Motorhome on Narrow Scottish Roads

Some of the roads in Scotland are quite narrow and driving your motorhome on them can be a bit of a challenge. Here are some tips to help you navigate these roads safely:

– Take your time. There’s no need to rush. Slow down and enjoy the scenery.

– Be aware of oncoming traffic, especially if you’re in a blind spot.

– Use your mirrors to help you judge the width of the road and your motorhome.

– If you’re not sure if you can make it through find a safe place to turn around. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Driving Single Track Roads in Scotland and the use of Passing Places Scotland Info Guide

When driving on Scotland’s single track roads, it is important to be aware of the use of passing places. These are marked with signs and indicate a safe place to pull over and allow oncoming traffic to pass. Many of the roads in Scotland’s more remote areas are single track, so it is important to be aware of how to use passing places correctly.

Planning your NC500 Adventure – North Coast 500

The North Coast 500 is Scotland’s answer to Route 66. This 500-mile coastal route takes in the best of the Scottish Highlands from towering sea cliffs and misty islands to white sandy beaches and ancient castles. If you’re planning an NC500 adventure, here are a few things to bear in mind…

Firstly, the NC500 is not a race! There’s no need to try and complete the route in record time. In fact part of the appeal of the NC500 is that it gives you a chance to slow down and appreciate the stunning scenery at a leisurely pace.

Secondly, although the NC500 can be completed in one week, most people prefer to take their time and spend 2 weeks on the road. This allows you to really explore everything that the route has to offer without feeling rushed.

Thirdly, when it comes to accommodation, there’s a wide range of options available from campsites to hotels. Take your time, stay hydrated and drive with respect.

Single Track Road Information Websites.

  • scotlandinfo.eu Driving Single Track Roads in Scotland and the use of Passing Places Scotland Info Guide
    • A great guide to Single Track Roads in Scotland. Solid advice on how to drive on them and how to avoid precarious situations. 
  • undiscoveredscotland.co.uk – Driving Single Track Roads on Undiscovered Scotland
    • More Information about Driving Single Track Roads.
  • bbc.co.uk Advice given on driving single-track roads in Highlands
    • An official look at the advice given by the government. Transport Scotland has provided leaflets aimed at encouraging and educating tourists to drive safely on the roads in and around the Highland areas of Scotland. 
  • wandersomewhere.com – Useful Tips For Driving in Scotland 
    • Driving in Scotland. Learn to navigate single-track roads, passing places, road rules, speed limits, and driving on the left. 

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