Scotland Driving and Car Hire Info

Driving in Scotland-

Scotland drives on the left and you can use the photo licence of any country to drive here, providing it’s written in Roman alphabet. Drivers from other countries need their own licence plus an international driving permit. Speed limits range from 70mph on motorways to 60-40mph on other roads and 30 or 20mph in urban areas.

Roads classed as motorways in Scotland are-

The M8 is the main motorway in the country connecting Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The M9 runs from Edinburgh, bypassing the towns of Linlithgow, Falkirk, Grangemouth and Stirling and ends at Dunblane.

The M73 is an Eastern by-pass around Glasgow connecting the M74 with the M80.

M74 connects the M8 west of Glasgow to the English border at Gretna where it becomes the English M6.

The M77 begins in Glasgow at the M8 and ends near Kilmarnock at Fenwick

The M80 runs across central Scotland from Glasgow and Stirling, connecting the M8, M73 and M9 motorways

The M90 is the most Northerly motorway in the UK running from junction 1a of the M9, south of the Queensferry Crossing to Perth, via Dunfermline and Kinross .

Roads in Scotland are generally in good condition and in most cases the driving standards are high and rules of the road are upheld. Drivers used to Southern or Eastern Europe , Asia or Africa, will probably find that the speeds are slower than they’re used to and that driving style is quite polite. i.e tailgating and even use of the horn are frowned upon. Drivers may also flash their lights at you at junctions- this generally means they’re giving you the right of way, though proceed with caution if this happens. On isloated roads sheep are likely to roam free so proceed with caution when you see them by the road- they are liable to panic and run in the wrong direction if you surprise them. Winter is liable to bring snow, especially in the North of Scotland so if renting a car in the winter months, ask if you’re likely to need winter tyres.

The main concern is likely to be driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road if you’re from USA or Mainland Europe. As in England, Scotland  drives on the left and the steering wheel is on the right of the car. The gear stick will be on your left. (If you prefer an automatic car, you’ll need to specify that when renting as the majority of cars in Scotland have manual transmission/ stick shift). As with Brits driving abroad, you’ll find that you adapt pretty quickly. The main difference you’ll notice is that at roundabouts, you’ll give way to the right. Also at a red light, in the USA you can turn right at a red light. No similar rule exists in Scotland .Also on a multi lane road, you can only overtake to the right of the vehicle you’re passing. i.e you can’t do what the Scots call ‘undertaking’.

Speed cameras are prevalent throughout Scotland and are generally indicated by a white sign with a black camera symbol, and the cameras themselves are generally painted yellow and are situated by the side of the road. Average speed limits are a new development on UK roads,and are starting to appear in Scotland, particularly through road works on motorways. The average speed is clearly quoted and you’ll find that drivers generally abide by the speed limit in these areas, unlike on other roads with cameras where you should expect drivers to break the limit then slam on their brakes just in front of the camera! Police officers may use hand held speed cameras on motorways but its the fixed cameras which catch out most Scottish motorists.

As with most countries any major problems are likely to involve negotiating City Centres, particularly large Cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow. If you can pick the car up at the airport you will find it easier to get onto the motorway or into the open country. Glasgow International Airport is just off the M8 which provides easy access to the West Coast and to the North across the Clyde. Prestwick airport is 30 miles South of Glasgow Centre, on the coast just North of Ayr and again is a good place to pick up a car, well away from the City Centre.  Edinburgh airport is just off the M9 around 8 miles West of the City, again providing easy access to roads to the North and West to Glasgow.If you’re staying in a hotel in the centre and having the car delivered to your there, see if the car rental company will drive the car out of the centre for you, if you’t concerned about getting lost.

If driving on the islands roads are generally in good condition though are small and often winding in the Orkneys and on smaller Islands. Many will be single track with passing places should you encounter a vehicle coming in the opposite direction. Always proceed with caution on these roads -even though traffic is light you should always assume another vehicle WILL be coming towards you on a bend or on the brow of a hill.

For car ferries between Orkney and Shetland and to Aberdeen, check this website-

Theres  a bridge to the Isle of Skye from the mainland so no need for a ferry unless you want to experience the ‘Glenachulish’ turntable ferry which is the last of its kind in Scotland and runs between April and October-

This company run car ferries between Oban on Scotlands West Coast and the Isles of Lewis, Skye, North Uist, Harris, Barra and South Uist.

Some road and travel distances from and within Scotland –
Glasgow to Edinburgh 80km – 1 hour
Edinburgh to Dundee 95km – 1 hr 15
Dundee to Aberdeen 112km, 1hr 20
Aberdeen to Fraserburgh 65km ,1hr
Aberdeen to Inverness – 170km, 2hr 30
Inverness to John o’Groats – 193km ,3hrs
Inverness to Fort Willam -105km, 1hr 30
Fort William to Glasgow – 173km, 2hr 20
Glasgow to Oban- 156km, 2hr 15
Glasgow to Stranraer – 138km, 1hr 45
Glasgow to Carlisle – 155km, 1hr 40
Edinburgh to Newcastle Upon Tyne -195km, 2hr 20

Although I try and keep the information in the site updated as much as possible, in a rapidly moving world, situations can change daily. Therefore please use the site as an approximate guide, and in conjunction with other resources in order to form your view on driving conditions, roads, safety etc.

Scotland Car Rental –

Sixt, Hertz, Europcar, National, Alamo, Avis,Budget, Thrifty are all represented in the major towns and Cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Inverness, and Perth. Europcar and Avis have branches in Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands and Lerwick and Sumburgh in the Shetland Islands (though I was unable to book online for either location with Europcar when I tried). Hertz have branches in Fraserburgh and Livingston. Scotland is also included on car rental broker sites and web discount sites such as Expedia.

We currently have no local car rental partners in Scotland. If you are a local car rental company who would like to feature on please check details on our Partnering page or contact us on

Scotland Self Drive Rules-

The big companies should allow cars to be taken on ferries to or from the Islands (Europcar definitely do) but you should advise them at the time of booking if you intend to do this. Local companies based on the islands will have varying rules about where their cars can be taken –Some may not allow vehicles to be taken to other islands.


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