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Driving in Scotland/ Ireland

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Feb 22nd, 2016, 07:06 PM
  #1
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Driving in Scotland/ Ireland

Hi everyone,

Our next trip will likely be Scotland and / or Ireland in late June / early July.

There are numerous intriguing Fly and Drive packages available (especially for Ireland). My question is: How challenging do you think it will be for a Canadian middle-aged couple to drive in Scotland / Ireland (let's assume we'll have an automatic.) Neither of us have ever driven on the "wrong" side of the road and car before

Mike,
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Feb 22nd, 2016, 07:15 PM
  #2
 
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Since the driver's side is on the right, it is a different experience right off the bat, but that makes it easier to remind yourself to drive on the left (I'm sure your wife will assist).

The first day you might have to keep the concept at the front of your mind, but you'll cope. The 2nd day is generally much easier - - a night's sleep helps firm up the routine.

It's remarkable how natural and automatic it gets. I almost start to prefer left-side driving - - the only time I mess up is leaving an off-road area (like a gas station or a dirt road) where there are no painted lines - - then there's a tendency to start out on the right.

But there's one more thing to reckon with. There is a tendency to drive too close to the curb, because you're used to being close to the left curb as a driver. You have to remind yourself as a driver to 'hug' the center line, and in your driving position staying toward the right side of the lane - - otherwise you might find yourself hitting the curb or worse. I always repeat the mantra 'drive on the left and hug the center line' mantra until it becomes automatic.
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Feb 22nd, 2016, 07:27 PM
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Three thoughts:

1) I find driving in Scotland easier than Ireland, on average.
2) The first few miles are critical. If possible I use google earth to help visualize the opening ten minutes.
3) I always make one side of the road mistake on each trip. If you survive your's relax and enjoy the rest of the trip.
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Feb 22nd, 2016, 09:13 PM
  #4
 
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It depends on person and where you are driving. No single answer even though you might get several easy/not easy binary answers.

Limited access multi-lane motorway: presents least issues

The two-lane roads come in various width. The widest ones are still narrower than ones you find in Canada. For those who have only driven these two types would characterize driving in Scotland/Ireland to be easy.

On the narrower side are the single track road. It is just wide enough for one car. If you see car from other side, you need to find a "bubble" small slightly wide section of the road where two cars can "barely" pass each other. If the other car is a bus, you would have an excitement. The roads often lack shoulders. The end of the pavement is a step several inches high you do not want to fall off. But in order to pass a bus, you might have to place your outside tire slightly off the pavement without falling off. Some people find this kind of driving to be exciting while others exhausting.

You tend to blow the sidewalk side of the tire on the first day. This type of damage is explicitly not covered by insurance.
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Feb 22nd, 2016, 09:16 PM
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>>1) I find driving in Scotland easier than Ireland, on average.<<

I agree.

>>3) I always make one side of the road mistake on each trip. <<

That usually happens to me 1) in car parks where there are fewer visual cues than on roadways, and 2) after I get back home . The driving gets pretty easy pretty quickly and feels 'normal' after a day or two.

But I wouldn't necessarily opt for a fly/drive package. First check rental rates w/ autoeurope.com They are a broker based in Maine and often get the best rates.

One thing in deciding which or both countries -- factor in that you will average maybe 30-35 mph in rural areas. 40 mph max. So don't bite off more than your time allows . . .
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Feb 22nd, 2016, 09:19 PM
  #6
 
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didn't see greg's post -- I've driven thousands of miles in the UK and not ever blown a tire.

>>The end of the pavement is a step several inches high you do not want to fall off. <<

I don't think I've ever 'fallen off' a road
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 02:56 AM
  #7
 
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Fly drive package.
Always check what is included in the Drive part. Size of Car, Rental Company, now Big Letters no joined up writing;~ "INSURANCE" included, you want the full package and not being stung for having €3000 on "hold" and unavailable if you don't take the top insurance that could double the price of the car rental. Then the fuel policy.

Accommodation Vouchers, why pay €45 each for a €35 B&B? then finding a B&B that will take your brand of vouchers in a location you want to be in. Ireland has 1000's of B&B's and a couple of hundred of these take vouchers.

Flights, are you sure you can't get cheaper yourself?

Package, Do not be sold an unsold Coach tour with accommodation scattered to the 4 winds so that you are spending most of the day just getting from one bed to the next.

Now Driving, If you can drive, are confident and competent at home then there is nothing to worry about. Just don't over compensate for the narrower roads by trying to drive with the near side wheels on the walkway in the ditch and seeing how many walls you can hit with the passenger side mirror.
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 03:16 AM
  #8
 
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But there's one more thing to reckon with. There is a tendency to drive too close to the curb, because you're used to being close to the left curb as a driver. You have to remind yourself as a driver to 'hug' the center line, and in your driving position staying toward the right side of the lane - - otherwise you might find yourself hitting the curb or worse. I always repeat the mantra 'drive on the left and hug the center line' mantra until it becomes automatic.>>

Being from the UK, when we are driving "abroad" we almost always have to drive on the "wrong" side and DH always does this. It doesn't matter how many times I remind hm [ever so tactfully at first, less so as time goes on] he still does it. In fact it usually works better if he map reads/ directs and I drive, as I don't have that problem.
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 06:33 AM
  #9
 
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Couple things:

How narrow are the streets you normally drive? Typical North American streets and highways are generously wide so you don't get a lot a practice with accurately determining safe clearances. But some communities do have narrow streets.

How wide is the car that you are renting? The larger the car the more uncomfortable you may be with clearances with oncoming vehicles, especially at high speed.

In the UK (esp Scotland) and I have read also Ireland, the warning sign for a narrowing of lanes at bridges, culverts, or tunnels is "oncoming vehicles in middle of road." http://www.drivingtesttips.biz/white...ml#prettyPhoto
This narrowing can be severe enough to cause oncoming tour coaches into a portion of your (already narrow) lane.
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 08:32 AM
  #10
twk
 
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Driving to the Highlands directly from EDI is about as easy a start as you could hope for. I don't think you should have too much trouble, particularly if your first day or two is kept as rural as possible. The largest town I drove through on our Scotland trip was Inverness, and it was not terribly taxing. I wouldn't, however, want to drive through Edinburgh or Glasgow, but with EDI situated on the northwest side of Edinburgh, with easy access to the freeway, it's a good place to start your experience driving on the "wrong" side of the road.

One thing I would caution is that this is much easier if the driver is not acting as the navigator. You may find a GPS useful, but it's best to have the navigator consult maps to ensure that the route the GPS is planning makes sense. A good navigator will also alert you to upcoming intersections and roundabouts (which can be a little tricky if you are not used to them).
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 09:42 AM
  #11
 
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To give you an idea:
Driving in the Highlands: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YnU3enonkk

Driving in Ireland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hu3Gkig4n-8
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 10:04 AM
  #12
 
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Not sure about Scotland - since we didn't see it - but in Ireland we saw MANY sheep in rural areas - many of them wandering on or around the very narrow roads. They are not interested in roads/cars and will not move until someone - or the farmer's dog - comes to move them.

Also be aware that on the most narrow roads your top speed is about 30 to 35mph - due to the sheep and other factors like ditches on the edge of the road.
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 10:20 AM
  #13
 
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That was mean

I've driven every road that was on the Scottish version -- though not (mostly) at that speed

(Spelling wasn't their strong suit -- Loch Lomand -- Really)
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 10:21 AM
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Hooameye: That was mean

I've driven every road that was on the Scottish version -- though not (mostly) at that speed

(Spelling wasn't their strong suit -- Loch Lomand -- Really)
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 10:24 AM
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oops -- the site locked up so I tried editing and the first one posted while I was working on it. Fodors is very twitchy today . . .
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 11:39 AM
  #16
 
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"Also be aware that on the most narrow roads your top speed is about 30 to 35mph - due to the sheep and other factors like ditches on the edge of the road"

Most rural roads outside villages have the national speed limit of 60mph.

There is a distinction between open grazed land and roads with stock fencing. Most A roads have stock fencing, you will not see sheep on the roads. There is usually a cattle grid crossing and signs to indicate you are entering an open stock area, very little tourist driving will be in such areas, as they are limited to higher land where the sheep need large grazing areas due to the poor quality of the grass.

Some isolated areas of the Highlands do have very demanding roads with open grazing, single tracks, passing points and frequent ice. They should be respected.

There seems to be an image on Fodors that Scotland's roads are full of sheep, tractors and caravans.
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 01:11 PM
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There seems to be an image on Fodors that Scotland's roads are full of sheep, tractors and caravans.>>

that would be Cornwall.
annhig is online now  
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 01:12 PM
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>>demanding roads with open grazing, single tracks, passing points and frequent ice<<

Those are some of my favorites -- except for the ice bit.
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 02:07 PM
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Those are some of my favorites -- except for the ice bit.>>

we don't have ice, but we've got the rest.
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Feb 27th, 2016, 01:16 PM
  #20
 
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We've only driven in the UK twice, once in England and Scotland and once in Ireland, so I can't add too much.

I can confirm that it takes a bit to centre yourself on the road, my eyes were squeezed shut a few times waiting for the side mirror to get snapped off! (Never happened)

Taking a corner when there are no cars to follow or reference can be a bit confusing at first, what lane to get into is opposite to what we're used to in Canada.

Driving at night with headlights approaching is not something I would want to do again, unless I was on a throughway with lots of other cars around. Trying to figure out where you should be, and where the opposing car should be in the dark was actually pretty scary. You're going when the days are long, so you might be fine in that sense.

I think you'll be fine. We've also driven in France a few times, and we've found the other drivers to be universally patient and generous. In fact we've only ever been beeped at twice! Here in Toronto it's almost a daily occurrence
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