The Quiraing, Isle of Skye

Driving around Scotland is a great way to explore. You can set your own pace and stop off wherever takes your fancy.

Whether you choose to hire a car or bring your own, you’ll never forget the magical scenery you pass through as you travel Scotland by car.

But before you get going, you need to know the Scottish driving laws and regulations before you hit the open road. Read on for FAQs on driving in Scotland and essential driving in Scotland tips.

Driving in Scotland FAQs

What side of the road do I drive on in Scotland?

Always drive on the left hand side of the road.

What is the speed limit in Scotland?

Speed limits are often signposted - look out for a circular sign, with a red border and number (in miles per hour). If there's no signpost, national speed limits apply. These are:

Motorways

  • 70 mph (112 km/h) for cars, coaches and minibuses.
  • 60 mph (96 km/h) for cars towing caravans or trailers and lorries.

Dual carriageways

  • 70 mph (112 km/h) for cars.
  • 60 mph (96 km/h) for cars towing caravans, trailers, buses, coaches, lorries and minibuses.

Built-up areas

  • 30 mph (48 km/h)
  • Be aware though, it's quite common around residential areas and particularly near schools, for a clearly signposted 20 mph (32 km/h) maximum speed limit.

Outside built-up areas

  • 60 mph (96 km/h) for cars
  • 50 mph (80 km/h) for buses, coaches, minibuses and cars towing caravans or trailers.

What licence do I need to drive in Scotland?

  • If you're coming from a European Union country - as long as you have a valid licence, you can drive any type of vehicle listed on your license in Scotland.
  • If you're coming from outside the EU - as long as you have a valid licence from your own country, you can drive any small vehicle (eg car or motorcycle) in the UK for up to 12 months.

Check you are eligible to drive in Scotland.

What is the drink drive limit in Scotland?

Driving under the influence of alcohol is taken very seriously in Scotland and the UK and there can be heavy penalties for those found to be above the legal blood/alcohol limit.

As of 5 December 2014, the legal limit has been lowered to 50 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood (from 80 mg of alcohol).

Read more about the drink-drive limit in Scotland.

What insurance and registration do I need?

If you're bringing your own car, you'll need:

  • Vehicle registration or ownership documents with you at all times.
  • Insurance - every driver on the road in Scotland must have at least third-party insurance cover.
  • If you're going to be here for more than six months (during a 12 month period), you'll need to be aware of rules on number plates that have symbols not used in the UK.

Where can I hire a car or campervan?

There are a number of companies to hire a car from in Scotland - or you can hire a campervan, motorhome or caravan.

Companies include:
Alamo Rent A Car
Arnold Clark Car & Van Rental
Auto Europe
Avis Car Hire
easyCar
Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Europcar Car & Van Hire
Hertz
National Car Hire
Nationwide Hire
Rhino Car Hire
Sixt Rent a Car
Thrifty Car and Van Rental.

See more car and vehicle hire companies in Scotland.

Car Clubs

Visit the CarPlus website and use the map to find a car sharing club near you.

Is there a minimum age or an age limit for hiring a car in Scotland?

The age limit for hiring a car in Scotland is determined by the individual car hire companies/insurance providers and can vary from company to company.

Please contact your chosen hire company directly for more information about this.

What are the most scenic driving routes in Scotland?

There’s beautiful scenery to explore wherever you visit in Scotland.

Pass farmland, woodland and rolling hills in the south and east, see towering mountains stretching above you in the rugged west and north and stop to wander along paradise beaches on Scotland’s islands.

Here’s some driving inspiration to help you choose where you want to go:

How do I plan my driving route around Scotland?

Find things to do along Scotland’s 12 national tourist routes and the North Coast 500 in our road trips guide.

Plan your own road trip using:

How long does it take to drive around Scotland?

You could spend as long as you like exploring Scotland. Scotland is a relatively small country so it shouldn’t take you too long to travel between destinations, and there will be lots of great places to stop and visit en route.

Check out our itineraries for inspiration.

Where can I find a petrol station on my driving route?

In the cities, you'll often find 24-hour access at fuel stations. In the countryside, there are fewer fuel stations, so it's best to keep your vehicle topped up if travelling in remote areas.

Petrol stations provide unleaded petrol and diesel. Fuel is priced by the litre.

Where can I find an electric car charge point or LPG filling station?

What is it like driving in winter in Scotland?

Scotland’s coldest months tend to be December, January and February, when the average maximum temperature reaches around 5°C (41°F). Freezing temperatures are common during the winter and snow falls during 15 to 20 days on average.

If you’re you planning on driving in the winter months it’s best to be prepared:

Where can I find information on parking?

Find out more information on:

Other Useful Information

Other rules

  • Seatbelts are compulsory for all drivers and passengers in the vehicle.
  • It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. You must also have proper control while using hands-free.
  • Children under 12 who are under 135 cm (4 ft 5 in) tall should use a child seat appropriate for their weight. You can order one through the hire company.

Find out more information on driver responsibilities and the law.

Driving hazards to look out for

  • You might encounter some farm animals or wildlife on rural roads so always take care.
  • You should always look and listen out for ambulances, fire engines, police, doctors or other emergency vehicles using flashing blue, red or green lights and sirens or flashing headlights.

Roundabouts, roads and bridges

  • Roundabouts are common in Scotland. Give way to vehicles from your right, and turn left on entering the roundabout.
  • There are no toll roads or toll bridges in Scotland.
  • Some rural roads are single lane, but have passing places so traffic in opposite directions can pass safely. Check the UK Highway Code for more information.

Driving in towns and cities

  • Generally, roads tend to be busier around towns and cities during morning and evening rush hours - generally from 7.30 - 9.30 am and 4 - 6.30 pm.
  • Bus lanes are used in some cities - they can only be used by buses and taxis when in operation at certain times of the day.

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