Isle of Skye | Scotland Road Trip | Scottish Highlands | NC500 | II

The Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye. Rootless Routes

Scotland Road Trip | Isle of Skye | Part II 

Isle of Skye road trip route itinerary. Total trip time, about 8 hours. Find everything you need to know for your Skye road trip and more, right here. Check out Part 1 here.

Isle of Skye Road Trip Route Itinerary Part 2 / Fairies in the Skye

  1. Skye Bridge
  2. Portree
  3. Fairy Glen
  4. Dunvegan Castle & Gardens
    1. Seal Watching Tours
    2. Guided Tours
  5. Neist Point Lighthouse
  6. Fairy Pools
  7. Skye Bridge

    A Quick Note

    First read Driving On Skye – What To Know Before You Go prior to planning your Isle of Skye road trip.  Splendor on The Isle of Skye Scotland offers important general information about the Island.

    Times are approximate and vary based on individual needs. Both Isle of Skye road trip itineraries can be completed within a day, if you stick with the general timetable offered.

    A map is included at the end of this post. The letters indicated on each location, correspond to those on the map and the written directions.

    Although I did not travel Skye on my own, I am regularly a solo traveler. Everything on the itinerary is appropriate for solo travelers. The Island is friendly and safe (crime wise). It is not a good place to hike along public roads. You should have some sort of transportation planned ahead of time.

    GPS can be dodgy in the Scottish Highlands and even more so on Skye. It really is important to read the above mentioned “Driving On Skye” to help you best prepare and understand the key challenges to visiting and driving on the Island.


8 Fairy Filled Stops on The Isle of Skye

Note: Scheduling this route back to front (starting with The Fairy Pools, works out well too)

A] The Skye Bridge / Drochaid an Eilein Sgitheanaich / A87

Take the Skye Bridge from Lochalsh. Once you’ve crossed the bridge onto the Isle of Skye, remain on A87 by taking the third (3) exit on the roundabout. After 32 miles you take a right onto Bridge Rd / A855.

Photo Alert: The lighthouse on the wee island of Eilean Bàn (White Island) below, is a particularly nice shot, as is the bridge itself. Best time for Skye Bridge photo opportunities is before you get onto the bridge.

Kid Alert: Check out the lighthouse on Eilean Ban as you cross the bridge.

Approximate time: 3 minutes

Toilet Alert: Main Rd, Broadford, Skye (about 10 minutes after the bridge) on A87 after the Cooperative, across from parking lot, next to church on right

Next Destination: Portree – Drive Time: 45 minutes


B] Village of Portree / Port Righ

Portree. An adorable fishing village. The ‘Capital’ of Skye. Portree is the only actual village on the Island. It can get very busy. Be prepared for that. It is difficult to find a sit down meal if you have not booked ahead here or anywhere on the Island. There are supermarkets, shops, petrol stations and restaurants. Portree is a lovely spot for photographs. The Visit Scotland visitor center is easy to locate.

Don’t dawdle. Enjoy it, but be on your way. You can come back later if you wish, it is not a huge detour on your way back after the Fairy Pools.

Photo Alert: About 15 minutes after Portree is where you will find some of the best views  (and shots) of the ‘Old Man of Storr” if you wish to get some decent pics along the way. Once past that point, you may not be able to see it well until you have hiked up to it., which is included in this route. Isle of Skye | Scotland Road Trip | Scottish Highlands | NC500 | I

Toilet Alert: 1) Bridge Road behind Somerland Square, across from courthouse 2) Off A87 at the Aros Center. You’ll find no toilets for a bit, so make haste and be smart.

Approximate Time: 30 minutes – Total Trip Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Next Destination: The Fairy Glen – Drive Time: 25 Minutes


C] The Fairy Glen / Gleann nan Sìthichean 

I adore the Fairy Glen . I spent two (2) hours romping about the alien like terrain, covered in a sea of vivid green grass and foliage. The Fairy Glen seems exactly the sort of magical landscape in which any respectable fairy would choose to dwell.

A land rife with superstition, folklore and legend. Located so near Dunvegan Castle, where an ancient “Fairy” flag is displayed with pride. It is ironic that the “Fairy Glen” is little connected with lore or superstition. It is no doubt magical to behold.

Tourists have mucked it up a bit with ridiculous stone circles, that local volunteers eradicate regularly. If you are moving rocks about in places like this, you are an asshole and the locals do not appreciate it. Neither do the visitors that are NOT assholes.

Great spot to picnic. No facilities, but there are some benches about.

Please do not utilize the Fairy Glen as your personal potty. The locals are really sick of it. Plan your bathroom breaks like a grown up ahead of time. Or give me your address and I’ll come pee on your lawn, see how you feel about it.

Photo Alert: Everything is fantastic opportunity for great photos at The Fairy Glen, but sweeping views from the top come out extraordinarily well.

Sheep Alert: Sheep roam freely on this road and during lambing season April – June. little sheep inexperienced with roads and frightened by cars are unpredictable. The sheep with horns get very protective when there are  lambs around.

Toilet Alert: There are public toilets at the Ferry terminal in Uig

Parking Alert: Parking is a pain. There are a couple of broad laybys on the way and a very rough small bit of extremely rocky spot of dirt right after the little pond on the left. Beyond that, it is difficult to park when the lot fills. If you are up for a little walk, you can park in Uig. 

Pothole Alert: Large jagged rocks and rough spots abound

Kid Alert: Kids will either love it or not care at all. There is a lot of space for them to run about. The hills are steep but rolling enough that there is not really any treacherous cliffs. This would be a great place to picnic and run off some steam, before locking them down in the car again.

Additional Information: If you pass the Fairy Glen (on your right) there is really nowhere to go but to turn around. You end up at a private croft. Please do not park anywhere but the obvious locations or in Uig. Do not use passing places as parking space.

Approximate Time: 1 hour – Total Trip Time: 2 hours 45 minutes

Next Destination: Dunvegan Castle & Gardens Drive Time: 45 Minutes


D] Dunvegan Castle & Gardens  <–Click for website

 Dunvegan Castle. A privately run, magnificently beautiful destination. Full of history, lore, remarkable gardens and outstanding views. The McLeods have lived in this castle for centuries and continue to do so to this very day. Within the castle walls hangs the “Fairy Flag”

Chock full of history, Dunvegan Castle and Gardens still stands today. The McLeods chose to stay out of the last Jacobite Rebellion and in so doing, kept their amazing home. Ironically they ended up connected to Flora MacDonald and have items belonging to the Bonnie Prince. If such history is in your interest, it is really cool stuff to see.

This beautifully maintained castle is extremely significant when it comes to key points in Highland history. I found the place enthralling. The Gardens vast, diverse and extremely well tended. Loved every minute of my visit here.

Photo Alert: Photo opportunities everywhere. Check out the gardens and walk behind the castle to the edge of the waterfront. Fantastic photo opportunities. Mostly outside.

Sheep Alert: N/A

Toilet Alert: to the left just before you get the the actual castle (I believe there may also be toilets in the parking lot)

Parking Alert: Large, paved, well marked parking lot. Kinda comes up suddenly on your right. There is a gift shop and toilets in the parking area

Kid Alert: Some kids will find the castle boring. Lots of stuff not to touch. There is a special kids tour offered at the castle. I’d call ahead.

Approximate time: 40 minutes castle 40 gardens – Total Trip Time: 4 hours 50 minutes

Next Destination: Neist Point Lighthouse – Drive Time: 35 minutes


E] Neist Point Lighthouse (Glendale)

Neist Point . Stunning and picturesque. A remarkable location. If you enjoy remarkably scenic views, amazing photo opportunities, hiking, wildlife and/ or lighthouses, Neist Point is not to be missed. It is a bit out of the way and only offers views. It can get crazy busy there. You must be the  judge if it is worth it based on your desires. Fantastic photo opportunities.

Regarded the finest viewing point on Skye for dolphins, whales and even sharks. The area is a treasure trove for bird watching. If you are a birder check this out.

An fairly easy 15 minute walk from the car park, but the stairs down & back up to the point are pretty steep.

Photo Alert: Endless photo opportunities. If you head to the first hill to the right of the parking lot, you can quickly get good shots of the lighthouse without trecking out to the point.

Kid Alert: Good place for a picnic or snack.

Kid Warning: There are many steep drops and ungated cliffs. The sheep can be garrulous, especially in lamb season. Keep an eye on your kids.

Parking Alert: Parking is plentiful, but the car park fills up

Pothole Alert: If the lot is full, the extended area can be a bit rough for parking

Approximate time: 1 hour – Total Trip Time: 5 hours 25 minutes

Next Destination: Fairy Pools – Drive Time: 1 hour 5 minutes


F] The Fairy Pools

The Fairy Pools are magical and  lauded place for hiking and wild swimming. This collection of naturally occuring watersheds, fed by a myriad of springs and waterfalls is  exceptional.

Located at the base of the Black Cuillins in Glen Brittle, near Carbost, Isle of Skye.

The site is well marked (well at least comparably) and more established for visitors. Fairy Pools “Glumagan na Sithichean” The extremely rough and rocky car park fills up quickly. There is no barrier to keep from backing up over the steep edge. At least there is signage.

Rootless Routes 2018 Isle of Skye road trip II
Glumagan na Sithichean Fairy Pools sign Isle of skye

Unlike the Fairy Glen, The Fairy Pools have a long history of Norse and / or Celtic fused Scottish lore connected to them. The mineral rich waters have been long known for their healing abilities. Similar to Clootie Well lore, the Fairy Pools luckily are not littered with offerings. No rotting rags hanging about.

The Fairy Pool, Isle of Skye. Rootless Routes. Scotland 2018 by Elizabeth Whitener
Vibrant green pool of The Fairy Pools f Glen Brittle

Sadly most of the legends of the area were passed down through word of mouth in Gaelic and are either lost or not available for public consumption. None of my research brought forth any actual tales.

The hike down is easy enough for most. After a very long day the mildly steep incline at the very end with the sun beating down on me was kind of a bitch and there is nowhere to sit or get away from the sun to take a break. But for the most part anybody with average mobility can do the 40 minute walk there and back with relative ease

Photo Alert: Photo opportunities everywhere.

Sheep Alert: Sheep hop out from everywhere and tend to graze along the hiking trail. No, they are not tame, nor do they like being approached.

Toilet Alert:  (Pee before you get there)

Parking Alert: Fairly large car park / parking lot, graveled with large jagged rocks. The lot gets busy, people park randomly and at the very end of the lot, it is difficult to see where the land ends, so be careful. Use your parking break and skew your wheels.

Kid Alert: I think this much for real small kids, but a solid walker can do it. It does take an average adult 20 minutes to make it to the first pool and 20 minutes more to get to the last one.

Approximate time: 2 hours  Total Trip Time: 7 hours 30 minutes

Next Destination: Sky Bridge – Drive Time: 35 minutes


G] The Skye Bridge / Drochaid an Eilein Sgitheanaich / A87

You’ve been here before. This road trip is complete.

Next Destination: Done – Drive Time: 8 hours 5 minutes


Useful Information:

  1. Southwest of the bridge is Balmacara, where you can find petrol and a well stocked Spar (convenience store / small grocer).
  2. Balmacara Hotel has a nice little pub like restaurant in the back (I did not eat there)
  3. The Clachan and The Dornie Hotel both serve great food, just a few minutes beyond Balmacara, in Dornie. Dornie is right across the way from the Eilean Donan Castle. Check their hours. Call ahead if you can. The Clachan serves food later and both places get packed at times.
  4. Eilean Donan Castle is just 15 minutes SW of the Skye Bridge. The castle is extremely photogenic with fantastic photo opportunities from the outside. When the castle is closed you can get great shots and the gate (although it looks locked) is often unlocked allowing visitors to cross the walkway to the castle.
  5. Dornie  is 15 minutes SW of the Skye Bridge. It’s a great but miniscule little village. There are a couple of shops  and restaurants there. Eilean Donan Castle is across the way.
  6. Plockton is about 18 minutes from the bridge and is a fantastic little village with gorgeous views and a few shops, pubs, inns and restaurants. It is a heckofa crazy one track road drive (I loved driving it). Itis a romantic spot. Well worth the visit! Note: The locals are impatient with slow drivers.

 

A] Sky Bridge

B] Portree

C] The Fairy Glen

D] Dunvegan Castle

E] Neist Point Lighthouse

F] Fairy Pools

 G] Sky Bridge

Skye Tours & Alternative Transportation  / (Scot owned and Scotland based)

Chas MacDonald of Spirit of Scotland offers various private and small group tours with a focus in Clan history, Clan gatherings, wildlife viewing, photography as well as personally curated themes of your choice. He also offers tours by More Gay the Gordon. A unique perspective with a like minded guide that delves into history of gay Scotland as well as LGBT exclusive tours.

Rabbie’s is a highly regarded small tour operator in business for over 20 years, that has maintained their top reputation even after becoming a rather large company.

You can find information on bus services to and on Skye here

Cycling routes and bike maps, in and around Skye.

Hiking routes maps and trails on Skye.

Traveling with kids?

Gay centric tours of Skye.

Splendor on The Isle of Skye Scotland

Waterfall at the Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye 2018 Rootless Routes by Elizabeth Whitener

Isle of Skye Scotland 

An t-Eilean Sgitheanach / Eilean a’ Cheò

The Isle of Skye. Awash with astonishing scenery, enchanting locations and otherworldly landscapes. Skye also holds historic significance in the tumultuous story of the Highlands of Scotland.

Brimming with pure splendor. Packed into a mere 650 square miles of immutable space. Skye is quite simply a wonder.

Driving the magical island is truly a one of a kind experience. Staying there is simply brilliant.

Looking back on the Old Man of Storr
The Storr, taken from Tobhta Uachdrach view point. Isle of Skye Scotland Rootless Routes photo by Elizabeth Whitener 2018

The Island may be compact, but it is filled with resplendence.

And… don’t forget the fairies.

The Fairy Glen near Uig, Isle of Skye Scotland / Scottish Highlands Rootless Routes 2018 by Elizabeth Whitener
The Fairy Glen near Uig, Isle of Skye Scotland / Scottish Highlands Rootless Routes 2018 by Elizabeth Whitener
NC500 Fairy Pools Isle of Skye Scottish Highlands Scotland 2018 Rootless routes by Elizabeth Whitener
Fairy Pools / Glen Brittle / Carbost / Isle of Skye Scottish Highlands Scotland 2018 Rootless routes by Elizabeth Whitener

Skye’s deep connection to fairies, prehistoric archeology and geological anomalies is as entrenched in its heritage and lore, as is its formidable terrain. With such mystical vistas, it is no surprise that Skye is rich in ancient Norse, Celtic and Pagan lore.

Skye’s distinctive topographies are both lush and barren, contained and wild. A perfect analogy for much of Scotland and the Scottish Highlands. Historically, environmentally and geologically.

Abundant in wildlife, including Red Deer, Golden Eagles, Sea Eagles, Gannets, Seals, Whales, Puffins, Otters, Pine Marten and a large variety of birds. The Island offers much to do and see.

It is not difficult to imagine a fairy choosing the Isle of Skye as their home.

Dunvegan Castle Gardens holds the precious Fairy Flag Isle of Skye Rootless Routes 2018
Gorgeous falls at Dunvegan Castle Gardens. Isle of Skye Scotland Rootless Routes 2018 Elizabeth Whitener

Everybody Wants a Piece of Skye

Since the Norse stepped foot on this ethereal land thousands of years ago, the magic of the Island has been a fairly well kept secret. First savoured by the Brits, then by parts of Europe. This is no longer the case.

More than 600,000 vehicles cross the Sky Bridge / Crossing every year. Scotland’s boom in tourism is indeed taking its toll. Its effects can be seen on the environment as well as on the infrastructure. A common plight with which all of Scotland is now attempting to cope.

Isle of Skye puzzle piece like coastline. NC500 route. 2018 Rootless Routes
Water view from Tabhta Uachbrach view point. Rootless Routes 2018 Elizabeth Whitener Isle of Skye

An Enduring Skye

Yet unlike the ever unstable and inimical Quiraing, created by ancient rock crumbling beneath the weight of the invading rock above. The people of here remain warm, welcoming and unremitting. I imagine it is difficult to feel overcrowded with views like this.

The largest, northernmost, major island in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. Skye has been inhabited since the Mesolithic period. Much like the Orkneys, Skye’s ties run deep with early Norse occupation.

Fairy Glen NC500 Rootes of the Routless
The Fairy Glen near Uig, Isle of Skye Scotland / Scottish Highlands Rootless Routes 2018 by Elizabeth Whitener
Dunvegan Castle NC500 Isle of Skye Rootless Routes 2018
Dunvegan Castle Home of the MacLeods Isle of Skye 2018 Rootless Routes

The Powerful Clans of Skye

Skye’s legacy includes a lengthy ascendancy with Clan MacLeod and Clan MacDonald  and was greatly impacted by the final Jacobite uprising.  You can find Flora MacDonald’s grave site here, as well as fascinating relics of her history in Dunvegan Castle . This ancient fortress and home to Clan MacLeod, is a fantastic visit. I should know, I’ve visited a lot of Scottish Castles. And within the walls of antiquity, this formidable castle, that remains inhabited by MacLeods yet to this day is the prized Fairy Flag

Jacobite Connections

After the the failed rising and the tragic end at Culloden. Flora, dressed the Bonnie Prince in women’s clothing and helped to secret him away and out of Scotland. She is seen by many as a brave Jacobite heroine. Ironically she was not likely a jacobite at all, just a very sweet, nurturing woman who liked to help people. But regardless, she likely saved Prince Charles life and her connection to the Island of Skye runs deep.

Portrait of the Bonnie Prince

The resulting clearances that continued for over 100 years after the uprisings tragic end, resulted in a huge population decline on Skye, the effects of which are still keenly felt today.

Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye NC500 route
Fairy Glen sheep with an attitude problem Rootless Routes Isle of Skye 2018 by Elizabeth Whitener

Most of the land is still owned by those that do not live on the Island. The sheep farms are mostly (if not all) tenant run with little rights over the whims of the land owners. And although the island is teeming with tourists, much of that money does not find its way to the crumbling infrastructure, nor to the people that live there.

Wages on the island are lower than average and rents are much higher (so tip… yes you should indeed tip). Long term rentals are nearly non existent. Nonetheless, the people of Skye seem to maintain an indubitable spirit. As do their sheep.

Visit The Isle of Skye

It is well worth a full day, if not two, to explore this magical place. In fact, you certainly would not run out of things to do or see, if you spent an entire week there. Sky offers endless attractions for young and old alike.

If you are planning to visit Scotland, do not miss out on this stunning place. I suggest you do it soon. For even the most enduring of communities can only bare the weight of such a severely overburdened infrastructure and countryside, for just so long.

Routes for traveling this gorgeous little island will be added to RootlessRoutes very soon and then linked here.

Tower Houses of Scotland aka Scotland’s Castles

“ABC!” he said to the women in front of him, with the tinge of a cockney lilt. We were all standing in little stone room utilized as the gift shop / lobby of yet another of Scotland Castles, Drum Castle, awaiting the tour to begin.

“ABC!!” he said louder to her back and pretty much all of us this time….

He was a handsome guy. Tall, lanky, pasty white. He looked black Irish to me, definitely a Brit. He had that haircut I love on men his age. Shaved on the sides long on the top, reminiscent of a 1930s style. It added to his boyish charm. His tone was playful.

His girlfriend or wife or whatever she was to him had her back to him (and me), but I could tell she was rolling her eyes as she paid the lady at the counter. His brown eyes twinkled, he was complaining but with mirth. The small crowd in the low ceilinged room was silent.

Having paid she slid by him and out the front entrance, leaving him with an audience staring at him in muted suspense.

“Another Bloody Castle!” he asserted, smiled broadly, swept the long piece of hair from his eyes swooping it back over his head and walked out the door to await the tour guide.

DSC00423
Drum Castle. One of Scotlands oldest tower houses

They call them castles all over Scotland, but actually, they are tower houses. Referred to as castles, pretty much all over these days. Even by the National Trust of Scotland which owns and maintains many of the castles aka tower houses of Scotland today. These fortified estates were built with the defensive nature of castles in mind. If you know much about the history of Scotland, you understand the need of such castle like structures.

They initially appeared in the middle ages, mostly in Scotland and Ireland, later turning up in Spain, Italy and France. Built in more remote or mountainous regions, (which at the time was much of Scotland) where people were often left much to their own devices and raids of one’s home was common place.

Craigievar Castle (tower house) Scotland tower house
Craigievar Castle (tower house). A pink harled structure near Alford, Aberdeenshire Scotland. Photo by Elizabeth Whitener aka januarymoon 2017

The high middle ages was a time of great extremes in Scotland and seriously tenuous relations between many europeans. Great Britain changed allies more often than the king changed his hat. There was a rapid and sudden population increase, a mass exodus from the rural areas to the cities, endless wars, economic strife and then the plague aka Black Death… which is suspected to have killed upwards of 50% of the population. Things were a wee bit unstable. For Scotland, perhaps even more so.

Castle Fraser
Castle Fraser (tower house). The most elaborate Z plan castle and truly grand inside and out. Located near Kemnay in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Tower houses were simply large homes, built to maintain the safety of those within, with limited man power or forces. They became popular with aristocrats for obvious reasons, and were often stark and foreboding on the outside while filled with the comforts of the wealthy inside. They popped up all over Italy, England and Spain during times of strife, but today Scotland seems to maintain some of the finest examples of such residences.

Some of the tower houses of Scotland are now owned and managed by National Trust for Scotland. Others remain privately owned. But there are so very many you can visit throughout Scotland that continue to be intact. It is so worth visiting as many as is possible.

Driving Scotland Tips for your Scottish road trip

Scottish Highland Sheep

Driving Scotland; 2000 miles of Scotland at that, was one month of my life I shall cherish for an eternity and I learned some things I hope will help you on your journey driving Scotland.

First off, you do not need an SUV or 4WD truck in order to drive the Scottish Highlands, unless you’re hauling sheep shit, or maybe a gaggle of screaming kids. But I got talked into a plug in hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander… ironically making me an Outlander in an Outlander.

Outlander at Brough of Birsay Orkney Driving Scotland
Mitsubishi Outlander. Brough Birsay, Orkney Mainland Scotland photo by Januarymoon aka Elizabeth Whitener

I flew into Gatwick and stayed in London for the first 5 days of my month long journey of mostly driving Scotland. Quite frankly, driving in London just outright sucks. Last thing you need is something long, heavy and wide with 500 controls you don’t understand and I’ve driven in Rome, Berlin, NYC, Boston without even batting an eyelid. I say avoid driving London at all costs. If you must, avoid the rush hour and definitely get a small and easily maneuverable vehicle.

If you are comfortable with a manual stick shift, I still suggest you pay the extra money for an automatic. I have no issue driving a stick, I rent stick shifts in countries all over the world… but driving in traffic on city streets or navigating one track roads with unexpected wildlife crossing your path, on a different side of the road than you are accustomed is asking for trouble and I do NOT recommend it. The start and go style of traffic in both of the above mentioned scenarios, will making shifting gears a huge and potentially dangerous pain in the ass.

Parking (as in any major city) even more than outright sucks and seriously, anyone that tells you driving on the other side is easy, is an asshole.

Parking an Outlander in London before driving scotland
Parallel parked my Mitsubishi Outlander in London on first attempt

You do get the hang of it. Once you’ve hit a few curbs, and lopped off a couple of side mirrors. By then, if no one has been decapitated or mutilated you’ll likely be right as rain. But it isn’t easy. Yes you’ll get the hang of it, but still it isn’t easy. The second you’re a wee bit tired, or have taken even a short break, it’s a little daunting again, and you’ll find yourself chanting “left side, left side, left side” for a bit. Remember, driver is always closest to the center line, wherever you may go.

When driving Scotland, the motorways are ok. You’ll get the hang of them pretty quick. But only pass on the far right lane, don’t dawdle there. It really pisses people off if your not hauling ass in the fast lane. They will tail you within inches. Flustered in the fast lane, on an uncomfortable side of the road,  is not where you really want to be when driving Scotland.

When driving Scotland after England, expect traffic to drive 10 miles per hour faster than what you got accustomed to in England. If you are not confident enough to drive at least 10 miles over the speed limit, then stay out of the far right (the fast lane) once you’ve hit Scotland.

If you’re driving in London or Birmingham (God help you) or into the countryside… last thing you need are distractions. Rent a car similar to the one at home. If you drive an SUV or truck at home, rent a similar make car. Then gag the kids, put the damned phone away (or have it set only for GPSing), stick some reminder in front of your face on the windshield to stay left, and you’re on your way!

Make sure you know if you’re running on diesel or not. Petrol nozzles are interchangeable unlike in the US where diesel nozzles won’t fit into non diesel tanks (and still people manage to make the error here). There are a ton more diesel cars there. The noxious scent of diesel permeates every truck stop with glee. If you make the error, DO NOT START THE CAR. For an exorbitant fee most garages are ready and willing to drain your tank. That’s far less expensive than ruining the rental car with the wrong gas. You’re not covered for it either.

Most onboard navigation systems created for automobiles outright suck. Where do bad UI designers go once the game industry has snuffed them out? They go on to make onboard automobile navigation systems, or so say my UI industry friends. So if you have a decent data plan (and are NOT relying on ATT) then WAZE is by far the best navigation option, google maps is second. Both are free, easy to use and extremely reliable, as long as your service provider is NOT ATT.

NC500 Rainbow Driving Scotland
North Coast 500 rainbow, not a lot of signal out there

You need a local provider, especially when driving Scotland. Anywhere North of Inverness with ATT (and likely other non UK providers), there are times when you are shit out of luck. If you put a map of Scotland in front of you, take a ruler and line it up with Inverclyde and Inverness then draw a line across from ocean to ocean. When driving Scotland, north of that line, is pretty much where your connections will get dodgy, and even non existent the further North or East driving Scotland that you go. You need a solid local provider, direct, not through your provider if you plan to rely on your cell service anywhere North of that line. In places like Durness, the Orkneys, deep in Glenelg to Arnisdale or way up in Skye you’re still going to struggle with signal at times.

When off of the highway, even the main roads in the U.K. are skinny, windy, at times surprisingly congested. Many roads are expected to manage two way traffic, when only one vehicle barely fits. Many roads (London) are built for horse buggies (London), and now carry anxious and impatient motorists (London), from sunup to sundown. Did I mention London? Oh and Birmingham (holy shit, Birmingham) what a cluster fuck. Next to the word Clusterfuck in the dictionary, should be traffic in city center Birmingham.

London is a driving nightmare. Logistically speaking not only are there far more motorists than it can handle, London drivers, especially in the business districts, are relentless and impatient. They know you’re a tourist driving the wrong side of the road, and they don’t care! In fact I think they hope you die. I now know why they have such strong gun control in the U.K., otherwise there’d be hourly gun battles in the streets of London and Birmingham.

Driving Scotland’s more remote roads are skinny, often one track for two way traffic and many are open range. If you see a sign that says “Sheep Road” or “Feral Goats” expect to soon come upon said creatures in the middle of the road, usually after a blind turn.

Scottish Highland Sheep Driving Scotland
Surprised sheep in Arnisdale

Surprisingly (especially for an American where the entire US road system and infrastructure is crumbling beneath us) the roads in the U.K even many of the remotest roads in Scotland are very well maintained. Here’s the fun part though, the speed limit on most of these roads is 60. Yeah, you read that right. And I mean 60 mph, not those silly kphs the rest of Europe so much enjoys screwing up Americans with.

Passing Place Scottish Highlands Driving Scotland
NC 500 near Glenelg, Scotland Highlands Photo by Elizabeth Whitener 2017

On the above picture yo can see a “Passing Place” sign, these are here for you to let people pass on one track roads. Be courteous, pull to the left and let them go, especially if you are not willing to go the speed limit. Visit Scotland has a great guide to utilizing passing places and driving safely on the other side of the road.

I found Edinburgh, Inverness and Glasgow fairly easy to navigate. Driving was not stressful and signage was clear and abundant. At the time I was driving Scotland, there was no excessive traffic. I was able to find parking in all three cities with ease. Although I was there off season and I assume it is more difficult during season especially when it is festival time.

You’ll find that a great deal of the remotest areas when driving Scotland, the Borderlands, the country roads of Aberdeenshire and along the NC500, roads are freshly and recently paved, I simply don’t recommend that beyond the obvious reasons, such as a larger group of people, that anyone needs an SUV when driving Scotland.

Seems to me the entire country, especially the “wilds of Scotland” and the North Coast 500 aka NC 500 have been trampled on well enough from tourist driving Scotland, tour buses and the like. Just take it easy. Treat the areas you visit with respect. Park in designated parking areas as much as possible and be aware of where and on what you are parking when you choose to pull over in areas with no parking. Be alert so as not to block anyone’s way, and move over to the left at passing places if someone wishes to pass, and you’ll be good to go.

Also, Lallybroch doesn’t REALLY exist. Jamie isn’t hanging out at the other side of Clava Cairns. Midhope Castle  aka Lallybroch (which isn’t  castle at all) is often overrun by overzealous tourists, causing havoc with the locals and the busy farming community. So let them be. How’d you like people parking all over your neighborhood, running over the local livestock, flora a fauna and blocking your way in and out all day and night. Sure you can visit these places, but just be considerate… please.

Outlander in an Outlander Driving Scotland

I’m not sure that the Mitsubishi Outlander was named after the series or the book, or if it’s just a coincidence. I cannot imagine it’s named after the movie Outlander, which really kinda sucked and had nothing to do with Scotland. I’m not sure if the Hertz guy had a sick sense of humor or just needed to move out extra inventory, but there I was… an Outlander in an Outlander. Hogging the road in an unnecessary SUV.

I semi enjoyed the vehicle in some ways, but not that I allowed the Hertz guy to talk me into it last minute. It was after midnight, I’d just flown 8 hours and I just wanted to get into London, connect with my Airbnb contact, have a big glass of wine and sleep.

“Only $75 extra” he said. It sounded great until I realized he meant $75 a day (that’s a standard Hertz upgrade trick, so beware)

“But I’m driving Scotland for a month, that’s a lot of money.” I replied.

“I’ll give you a great deal!”

… now I know this trick well. I’ve rented cars a lot. They will give you a deal on a sports car or SUV when they have an abundance of them and are light on or actually out of the car you had reserved. Always haggle at this point! ALWAYS (especially if you’re footing the bill). I knew this trick. I don’t know what happened. I was tired. It was after 1am now. I just wanted the fucking car and to be on my way. So nearly $700 later, (far more than I could  spare) off I went into the dead of a moonless, starless night driving from Gatwick into the heart of London, in a plug in hybrid (not even knowing what that was) with all sorts of buttons and levers, driving the other side of the road for the first time in almost 30 years.

Learn from me! And enjoy!