Driving in Scotland Tips for Visitors

Driving in Scotland tips and advice if you are planning on taking a campervan trip around Scotland.

Campervan Hire Edinburgh

Tips and advice for visitors driving in Scotland

How to get the most out of travelling around Scotland in a campervan

The freedom to roam the Highlands and explore the remote Scottish islands at your own pace is an experience like no other. However, before you hit the road, it’s wise to understand a bit about some of the rules around campervan travel in Scotland. If you are new to driving in Scotland, this article will give you a few key tips about the rules of the road, how to take a campervan on the ferries to the islands and any local restrictions on campervan access. This is particularly important if you are planning to visit the islands as some of them restrict access to campervans or have special rules that apply.

Driving in Scotland Tips: The Basics

Scotland Driving Tips VW Campervan Hire

Does Scotland drive on the left or the right?

In Scotland, we drive on the left. If you are not used to driving on the left, don’t worry! Just take it slowly and you will soon get the hang of it. We recommend that you hire a campervan with an automatic transmission so you don’t need to worry about changing gear with the ‘wrong’ hand. If you are new to driving on the left we suggest that, when collecting your campervan, you leave enough time to have a practice on the quiet roads around our HQ before setting off on a longer journey.

Speed limits in Scotland

Speed limits are marked on circular white signs with a red border. The speed limit is marked in miles per hour. A white circular sign with a line through it means it is the end of the speed limit.

Legal speed limits do not reduce if it is raining, as they do in some countries. However, it is a good idea to adjust your speed to driving conditions.

Some stretches of road may not have clearly visible speed limit signposts – so it’s best to learn the  national speed limits:

70mph (112km/h) on motorways

70mph (112km/h) on dual carriageways that have a central reservation or barrier.

60 mph (96km/h) on single carriageways outside built up areas

30mph (48km/h) or 20mph (32km/h) in built up areas. It is becoming increasingly common for the lower limit to be in force in residential areas and schools. However, if this is the case, it should be clearly signposted.

Driving in Scotland Tips Speed limits

Driving in Scotland Tips: Roundabouts

You will encounter lots of roundabouts on Scottish roads. When approaching a roundabout you always give way to vehicles on your right.

Choose the correct lane to enter the roundabout. Larger roundabouts will have three lanes. Stick to the left lane if you are going to take the first, or any leftward exit. If you are going straight or turning right, choose the middle lane. And if you are going right, or going back the way you came choose the right hand lane.

Smaller roundabouts may only have one or two lanes but the same principles apply. Don’t forget to signal your lane choice and keep your indicator on until you have exited the roundabout. If you are going straight over, don’t indicate until you are on the roundabout and are ready to exit.

The video below explains everything you need to know about road signs, roundabouts and parking when you are driving in Scotland.

Watch our film for all the driving in Scotland tips you’ll need for your visit.

Driving in Scotland Tips: Single Track Roads & Passing Places

Some rural roads are single lane but have passing places to allow cars to pass each other. When driving down these roads its a good idea to be aware of passing places in case you need to back up to one if you meet oncoming traffic.

If you meet oncoming traffic the general rule is that the vehicle with the passing place on the left pulls in. However, sometimes the nearest passing place could be a way behind you.  In such cases there are no  hard and fast rules about who has the right of way.  Please be courteous and give way to others. 

Do not park up in passing places. Passing places are essential to allow traffic to flow on single track roads and must be kept clear so the road does not get blocked. You should never park up for the night in a passing place.

Driving in Scotland Tips: Refuelling

Our campervans run on diesel. You will pick up your campervan with a full tank and you should return it with a full tank.

There are 24 hour petrol stations in most urban areas. It’s always best to keep the van topped up when you are going through a town or city as in rural areas, there are fewer petrol stations and opening hours are more restrictive. In addition, high numbers of tourists in the summer months can put a strain on supplies for locals.

Driving in Scotland Tips: Road Safety

Please stick to the speed limits. Speed cameras are commonplace and you could be fined. Stay out of bus lanes in restricted times as you can also get a fine for using these. 

Seat belts are compulsory for all drivers and passengers, in both the front and the rear of the vehicle. Children under 12 or under 135cm tall should be in a child seat appropriate for their weight.

Watch out for wildlife or farm animals on rural roads as they are generally unfenced and animals can wander onto the roads. 

Wildlife on the road driving in Scotland

Driving in Scotland Tips: Visiting the Islands in a Campervan

There are over 300 islands off the coast of Scotland. However, not all of them are suitable for driving. Amongst those that are, some have specific rules about campervans. If you are planning on driving to visit one of the Scottish islands during your campervan holiday, please check what rules apply before setting off. You will also need to know about any special rules for campervans in place on the ferries to the Scottish islands.

Booking a ferry when driving to the Scottish Islands

When planning a ferry trip with your campervan, it’s imperative to book well in advance, especially during the peak tourist season. In the winter months, some routes may only operate a limited service so make sure you check well in advance of your trip. 

Several ferry companies operate routes connecting the mainland to various islands. CalMac Ferries, the largest ferry operator in Scotland, serves a number of destinations, including the Inner and Outer Hebrides. NorthLink Ferries and Pentland Ferries are other major operators providing services to different island groups. Some islands have their own local ferry services.

Calmac Ferries

Destinations: Calmac ferries serve over 30 destinations including Arran, Cumbrae, the Inner and Outer Hebrides and the Isle of Skye.

Campervan Policy: Most ferries accommodate campervans, but advanced booking is essential. Campervans are no longer allowed to join a standby queue and must have a ticketed booking to travel.

Please take note of the specific safety rules when travelling on CalMac Ferry with a campervan. 

Booking Requirements: Book online through the CalMac website, providing your vehicle dimensions.

NorthLink Ferries

Destinations: Orkney and Shetland Islands from Scrabster and Aberdeen.

Campervan Policy: Campervans are welcome, and booking in advance is advisable. You can bring gas bottles on board but they must be closed. You are not permitted to sleep in your vehicle on board.

Booking Requirements: Reserve your spot on Northlink Ferries online, providing information about vehicle dimensions. 

Pentland Ferries

Route: St. Margaret’s Hope, Caithness to South Ronaldsay, Orkney.

Campervan Policy: Campervans are allowed, but reservations are recommended.

Booking Requirements: Book through the Pentland Ferries website, providing vehicle details. Vehicles over 7m should contact the booking office directly to book.

Orkney Ferries

Destinations: Inter-island ferry service between Orkney’s mainland and 13 Orkney Islands destinations.

Campervan Policy: Permitted but they advise you should book in advance. Travel cannot be guaranteed for unbooked vehicles.

Booking: Book your ferry place online. You will need to set up an account to book.

Shetland Ferries

Destinations: An inter-island ferry service between the Shetland mainland and the nine other Shetland Isles operated by the Shetland Islands Council.

Campervan policy: Campervans accepted, but book in advance.

Booking requirements: Book online for Unst, Fetlar, Yell, Whalsay & Bressay, unless the campervan is over 5.5m, in which case contact the booking office to book. For Papa Stour, Skerries & Fair Isle book through the Shetland Ferries booking office. Fares are payable aboard the ferries only.

Driving in Scotland Tips: the rules for campervans on Scottish Islands & in Loch Lomond

Queen Elizabeth Forest Park Trossachs

Campervans are generally welcome everywhere in Scotland – as long as they are driven and parked considerately. However there are a few destinations – notably some of the Scottish Islands and the Trossachs National Park – where there are formal restrictions on campervans. So, when planning your campervanning trip please check what restrictions apply.

Inconsiderate driving, unauthorised camping that causes a nuisance and illegal parking really upset local residents and risk more places introducing stricter restrictions.  So please do campervan responsibly.

Scottish island hopping holidays tobermory

Which Scottish Islands allow campervans?

Orkneys

Responsible campervanning is welcomed on the Orkney Islands.

Shetland Isles

There are no restrictions on campervans in the Shetland Isles but please bear in mind that most of the roads are single track and larger vehicles may not be appropriate. Guidance for driving in the Shetlands.

Outer Hebrides

Islands in the Outer Hebrides, including Lewis, Harris, North and South Uist,  welcome responsible campervanning.

The Western Isles Council (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar) ask that visitors in campervans only stay in official campsites or designated overnight spots. Please follow their P.L.A.C.E visitor code. Further guidance about  Find out more about taking  motorhomes and campervans to the Outer Hebrides.

Scottish island hopping holidays beach Lewis

Isle of Skye

There are no special restrictions on campervans on the Isle of Skye, but campsites do get booked up early. It is absolutely essential to book well in advance if  you are planning to camp on Skye in the peak summer months. Discreet, considerate overnight park ups have always been tolerated but this may change.

Campervan trip to Skye

Inner Hebrides

Canna. There are no vehicles permitted on Canna.

Coll. Campervans are permitted but only in 3 designated sites unless you have made an arrangement with a private landowner in advance. These have very limited places and facilities.

Colonsay. No campervans are allowed unless they have a booked accommodation in advance.  Large motorhomes are not allowed at all due to the nature of the roads on the island.

Eigg. There are no campervans permitted on this tiny island unless you are a resident.

Isle of Lismore. You can take a campervan but you must have booked a pitch to camp overnight in advance. Book in advance as there are only 2 spaces on the one site that accepts campervans – the Lismore Bunkhouse. There are no waste disposal facilities for campervans on Lismore.

Mull and Iona. You must stay in  designated sites only.

Rum. This island does not permit either cars or campervans.

Tiree. You can take a campervan onto the island but you must book a pitch first using the croft camping scheme, marked parking areas around the island or the Wild Diamond Campsite at Balinoe. 

Arran & Cumbrae

Arran welcomes campervans and responsible off site overnight stays are tolerated. If you do camp anywhere other than a designated campsite, please follow the Isle of Arran’s guidance about leaving no trace. Most of the campsites on Arran have pitches for campervans so there is plenty of choice of places to camp on Arran. Ferries run between Ardrossan and Brodick and Claonaig to Lochranza.  Vehicle reservations are recommended on these routes which you can book online.

Cumbrae previously tolerated but there have been problems and camping outside official sites is now discouraged.

Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park

Loch Lomond Scotland

There are no restrictions on campervans driving in Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park but restrictions apply when staying overnight.

Campervan Permits needed between March and September

From the 1st of March to the 30th of September, certain areas within the National Park enforce seasonal Camping Management Zones. You will need a permit to camp in these zones with a campervan. Within these zones, there are designated motorhome permit areas at Firkin Point and Inveruglas on the west side of Loch Lomond and the Three Lochs Forest Drive in the Trossachs, north of Aberfoyle. You can stay overnight in these areas by purchasing a permit. The park authorities allow you to stay at the same permit area for up to three nights. Arrive after 1pm and leave by 11am on the final morning of your stay.

You can book permits online up to four weeks in advance. The cost is £4 per night for each motorhome or campervan, with an additional £3 vehicle access charge if you stay at Three Lochs Forest Drive. 

No Permits needed between October and February

You can camp with a campervan in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park without a permit between October and February (inclusive). Stick to the designated camping spots for campervans. There are some great places to camp right on the loch shore.

Choose your Campervan for Hire

Scotland

Campervans for Hire

Scotland

Big Sky Campers is an independent campervan hire company in Scotland. We have a fleet of top of the range VW 6.1 campervans for hire in Scotland. All our vans are fully equipped with everything you will need for your campervan trip, and with unlimited mileage and bike racks at no extra charge.

If you’re thinking about hiring a campervan to go camping in Scotland, we very much hope you choose us. If you have any questions please get in touch.

Check availability and book

Got a question? Give us a call.

+44 (0)7768 973804

Call Big Sky Campers Campervan Hire Edinburgh

Or send us a mail