Beautiful views along the Wee Mad Road of Sutherland, Scotland

Look at any map of Scotland and you’ll quickly gain a sense of the hierarchy of roadways. “M” roads are the biggest, fastest roads only around the central belt, and then you descend through “A” and “B” roads, the biggest of those with a single digit like the A9 and the smallest with as many as four digits, like the B8009. Some roads are so small they don’t have numbers or even names, they’re just squiggly white lines on the most detailed maps. This classification system does a pretty good job of setting expectations for what you’ll encounter out there in the Scottish wilderness — unnamed or multi-digit “B” roads are likely to be single-track and/or gravel, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Read more...

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Driving around the Applecross Peninsula, Wester Ross, Scotland

Applecross. I can’t tell you how many times people said that word when I told them I was going north. The Scottish highlands are a vast place with seemingly endless coastline, sea lochs, and peninsulas of all shapes and sizes, so why did almost everyone keep suggesting the Applecross Peninsula? The Bealach na Bà, a Gaelic phrase meaning “pass of the cattle,” usually followed that question. Sarah and I had intended to visit back in 2011 when we were holed up on Black Isle, but the worst weather you can imagine aborted that attempt. This isn’t the type of mystery I leave unsolved. When I began hashing out a trip to encompass the North Coast 500 I knew I’d found my opportunity. Read more...

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A rental car in Shetland

At this point in my travels, driving is my favorite activity in Scotland. Nothing beats the feeling of the open road, of exploring tiny farm tracks winding through glens and along windswept beaches to far-flung ruins. Having the opportunity to pull over and appreciate a breath-taking view for as long as you want is priceless. Traveling by car slows down trips, opens them up to serendipity, and allows you to move where you want, when you want.

Intrigued by a sign? Follow it. Curious where that tiny gravel road leads? Follow it. Intent on exploring the coast? Follow it. These are things you simply cannot do without a car. Read more...

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On the A84 Through Stirling

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: One of the most worthwhile activities in Scotland is simply to get in the car and drive. Scotland is such a beautiful country that you will find yourself pulling off to the side of the road to snap photos more often than you’ll reach the speed limit.

Driving in Scotland is truly a voyage of discovery. Follow the small, unmarked roads into the hills and through the forests and stumble on ancient bridges, wild vistas, and pockets of wilderness untouched by the advance of time.

If you need help making up your mind on whether or not to rent a car in Scotland, I hope this article settles the matter. Read more...

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Driving Tours of Shetland

I hate road trips.

Distances in the States are so vast and, frankly, a lot of the scenery around my country just doesn’t tickle my fancy. I know I know, there are places so beautiful they’ll make my soul cry, but I ain’t buying. Nope, not a fan.

It’s more than a bit strange, then, that I absolutely love touring around Scotland. In fact, it’s my favorite activity over here because the scale is just right and there’s almost never a dull scene out the window. The cost of fuel is nauseating though – I just spent the equivalent of $60 filling up my tiny Kia Pimiento Picanto. I’ll eat this expense every time because there’s simply no better way to get to know a place. Read more...

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