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If you’ve read my blog previously, you probably know I have a deep love for Scotland. More recently, we visited the Isle of Skye – one of our favorite places in the Scottish Highlands.
While I don’t think having a car is a must when traveling, there are certain parts of the world where driving is a must… The Isle of Skye is one of those places!
Driving on the Isle of Skye isn’t overly difficult, but there are some things you need before renting a car.
If you’re planning a trip to Skye, I’ve put together an all-encompassing guide to everything you can expect when driving on Skye:
1. In the UK, cars drive on the left side of the road
This is a bit confusing if you’re not from countries like the UK, Australia, New Zealand or some countries in Asia, but cars drive on the LEFT side of the road here. To add to the confusion, the driver’s seat is on the right-side of the car.
If this freaks you out – STAY CALM. Driving on the opposite side of the road can be done, and doesn’t need to be a scary experience. Take your time and do a couple of laps in the car rental car park before you set off.
You might also like our guide to driving on the “opposite” side of the road.
2. Beware the one lane road when driving on Skye
One of the major challenges with driving on the Isle of Skye is the one lane roads.
If you’re on Skye to see beautiful landscapes and take a few hikes, chances are you will come across these roads. Most of them are paved, but the hard part is when you come across a car heading in the opposite direction as you and you’ve only got one lane between the two of you!
When this happens to you, don’t panic!
Also, don’t drive off the side because chances are you’ll scratch the bottom of your car (yes, I speak from experience on this!)
You’ll notice when you’re driving on the one track roads that there are paved areas where you can pull over. Whenever you pass one of these, take note and if you see a car not far in front of you heading in the opposite direction, pull over.
If it’s too late and you’re facing each other head on (#awkward), the etiquette is that the car closest to the pull over area reverses into it.
Do not, and I repeat, do not drive off the paved road because you’ll probably scrape the bottom of your rental car… Or end up with your car stuck in a ditch!
If you’re driving a bit slow, and there’s a car behind you, don’t be afraid to pull over and let them go past!
Skye can get really busy (especially during the tourist season) so make sure you let people pass by if you’re driving at a more leisurely pace and taking in the sights. As a helpful reader mentions in the comments, sometimes local residents need to urgently get places (doctors appointments etc) and if you’re driving slowly they have no way of getting around you!
When we visited in Spring, we remember speaking to a couple of local residents who mentioned parking and traffic is a huge issue during peak visitor’s season. So make sure you give way where you can!
3. Watch out for livestock!
Yes – that’s right, sometimes the livestock end up on the road.
If this happens, slow down and don’t freak out! Most livestock (sheep, cows) will move out of the way if they see your car coming towards them.
If you’re driving at night, make sure you have your headlights on and keep a look out for livestock. They can be hard to see at night (even with your headlights on!) especially since there are no street lights outside of main towns.
4. You may not have reception in certain areas of Skye
I know, shock horror, no reception??
In our ever-connected world, this can be outrageous to some travelers.
While I love being connected, it can be nice not to have your phone constantly going off with notifications from Facebook or Instagram. If you’re a user of Google Maps, make sure you load any maps you might need for the day on your phone before you leave. Better yet, get a paper map from your accommodation or the Visitor’s Centre in Portree!
5. Some roads are unsigned, and sometimes Google Maps gets it wrong
I know right, Google Maps, wrong???
How can this be???
Depending on where you’re driving to on Skye, sometimes the smaller roads are not on Google Maps. Hell, even some of the sites you might want to visit aren’t in the app!
If this happens, don’t worry – get a map from your accommodation, or grab one from the Visitors Centre in Portree when you arrive in Skye. The staff at the visitors center are super friendly and helpful!
The only time where we had issues with Google Maps was when we were visiting the Quiraing mountains. We ended up taking Google Maps as far as it could go, and then abandoning it for paper maps.
Speaking of paper maps – if you have never used a physical map before, on Skye this is super easy because there aren’t many roads you can get lost on (whoop!)
6. It can be hard to find car parking at some sites
Unless you’re traveling during off-peak season (winter) or the shoulder season (autumn or early spring) parking at the look out sites or hiking trails can be PACKED.
We’re talking no-space-to-move packed.
Now, this depends on the site, but places that are quite popular with visitors, like the Fairy Pools or the Old Man of Storr can quickly run out of car parking space.
You’ll find that when this happens most people opt to park on the side of the road. If you’re traveling when it’s busy, just pick a spot on the side of the road (chances are there will already be a car to park behind) and make sure you’re not blocking traffic!
So there you have it, 6 things you need to know before driving on the Isle of Skye!
Skye is such a beautiful place, and I think there is definitely an element of magic that comes from taking a road trip. Take extra camera batteries and memory cards, and take your time when driving on the Isle of Skye.