Motorhome Holidaying in Scotland Top Driving Tips…
Motorhome holidays have always been popular, but since the COVID pandemic started in 2020, there are a lot more motorhomes, campervans, and caravans on our Scottish roads.
Everyone is once again embracing the country we live in.
We are now welcoming back international tourism, as well as UK families continuing to holiday at home, due to the ongoing uncertainty of foreign travel and the possibility of a threat of further restrictions at the back of our minds…
Having the freedom to roam leisurely and take in the amazing scenery on your travels in the motorhome is a huge advantage, rather than rigidly sticking to a timetable, but please be mindful and cautious of local residents trying to go about their everyday business.
We ask our customers to follow some simple tips, to help the local and often rural road’s function, and support and aid the local communities avoid frustration. Slow and increased traffic can lead to dangerous manoeuvres on rural roads, accidents, and unwelcome delays on popular routes.
The Good Old Scottish Weather
Ok, to say our weather is changeable is an understatement. In Scotland we can sometimes encounter what we refer to is ‘four seasons in one day’. This can often lead to hazardous driving conditions on small, unfamiliar, and often fast-paced, windy roads.
What to think about?…
• Low sunshine can be blinding, especially in the winter. You will struggle to see the road and bends ahead. Always have sunglasses to hand, the low sun can be a ‘killer’.
• Reduce your speed for all weather and road conditions.
• If it is snowing heavily, the smaller rural roads may not have been ‘treated’. Do not attempt to drive if you do not feel comfortable. Find a local campsite or safe place, and take refuge until the snow stops or eases, or you feel able and confident to drive.
• Torrential rain, visibility will be limited, and we have over recent years experienced localised flash flooding.
• Do not drive through a flooded road – you have no idea how deep the water is and will be unfamiliar with the road surfacing and layout. You run the risk of getting stuck, which leads to delays, road closures and a long costly wait to be rescued.
• Use diversions where necessary and always watch for height/width restrictions.
• Heavy rainfall impacts of the ground conditions and they often can become slippy and unstable. Please be aware Scotland has many drainage ditches, potholes, and uneven roads. If you drive or slide into a ditch, you will need assistance to be pulled out. Please also remember not to park on grass or soft waterlogged ground as you will get stuck, and this will often result an expensive call out charge (driver error).
• Never drive too close to the vehicle in front of you. Braking distances in the rain and snow are increased and also bear in mind the motorhome you are driving is almost 3.5 tonnes, so the weight will carry you much further than a car, on a wet, slippery road.
• When driving in high winds, always listen and watch out for weather updates regarding closed road bridges for high sided vehicles. Cross winds can be frightening, so always be alert and reduce your speed. Be extremely cautious if having to overtake.
The dimensions of the Motorhome
Have you ever driven a larger vehicle before?
All our customers are obviously experienced in driving, but a large percentage are inexperienced in driving a longer vehicle like our motorhomes. All our motorhomes at this time are approximately 7.4 metres long. This is significantly longer than your normal car.
All our motorhomes are large family (5 berth) under 3.5 tonnes (3500kg), so are able to be driven on a normal car licence. One thing you need to watch when booking a hire vehicle is that drivers who passed their test after 1997 are now restricted to motorhomes under 3.5 tonnes (3500kg), which will restrict you to a small motorhome, or one with 5 seat belts or less (in most cases).
If you are an International/EU customer and have never had the experience of driving a right-hand vehicle on the left-hand side of the road. I would always advise customers to apply extra vigilance, care and take your time to adjust to the motorhome.
Things to consider:
• Reversing – You have to be aware of the length of the motorhome when reversing. ALWAYS (where possible), get one of your travelling party to get out and guide you. We have reverse cameras, but they still have limited visibility of rear corners and when using the bike rack, this adds to the length. Always take you time and don’t rush reversing.
• Overhang/Tail Swing – When turning corners, please ensure you leave enough room for the rear of the motorhome. Unlike most cars/vans, the back wheels are approx. 2 metres from the rear of the motorhome. This leaves a swing when turning corners, overtaking other vehicles, and pulling out of spaces etc.
• Wing Mirrors – The mirrors on a motorhome are obviously larger than a car. They need to be, to see the body of the motorhome. On smaller roads, whether single-tracked or single carriageway, the roads can be windy, tight, and driven often too fast. Often mirrors collide. Watch your speed and be aware of your size. Some European drivers are holidaying in Scotland in their left-hand drive vehicles and some accidentally drive close to the central white line. Be aware of larger vehicles passing, slow down and always watch for foreign number plates.
• Speed Limits – The ‘maximum’ speed limits are different when you are driving the motorhomes. As per the gov.uk website, a motorhome (more than 3.05 tonnes maximum unladen weight) has to abide by these speed limits. This is the same for all our rental motorhomes:
Built-up areas 30 mph (although please note it is now 20 mph in most of our cities, towns, and villages).
Single Carriageways 50 mph,
Dual Carriageway 60 mph and
Motorways 70 mph.
Driving THE ROADS in Scotland
There are significant changes to the highway code introduced 29/01/22. Please take the time to read and be aware of these, especially as our roads are now extremely popular with cyclists. In rural and more remote towns and villages, there will also be walkers, horses, and other livestock.
Please be considerate and follow these points:
• In Scotland there are many single-track roads. These are roads that allow two-way travel but are generally not wide enough in most places to let vehicles pass one another. They have designated passing places, which is a widening in the road to allow cars/traffic to pass one another. In Scotland (especially rural Scotland) most drivers are used to single-track roads. When you come across opposing vehicles, the etiquette is generally that the first driver to reach the nearest passing place should pull over, no matter which side, and flash their headlights to alert the other vehicle to proceed through. It is customary for both drivers to acknowledge each other with a wave as they pass. At night, both drivers should acknowledge each other by flashing their off-side direction indicators headlights immediately before or as they pass. Please note it is dangerous to flash headlights at close proximity on narrow unlit country roads at night as this affects drivers’ night vision.
• Please do not try to feel intimidated or threatened by other oncoming traffic. If someone is ignoring the road etiquette and is deliberately not pulling into passing places to let you through, please do not be forced to reverse back. If they are closer to a passing place, ask them nicely to reverse back. Reversing under duress causes stress and stress causes damage. Some people may be visitors and are unaware of the road like yourselves.
• If you are travelling together with friends or family in another motorhome, please do not travel in a convoy. This is OK on motorways, but on small, rural roads, it can lead to congestion, especially at passing places. Some of these roads are not designed for 2 larger vehicles travelling together. Passing places are usually only able to accommodate one vehicle at a time. If you are travelling together, it is best to set off at different times or travel a good, safe distance apart.
• Always be aware of traffic behind you. If you are causing a tailback or driving slower than the speed limit, pull in where safe to do so, and allow the traffic to pass you. Single carriageways have many laybys, pull in and be respectful.
• NEVER park up or stop in a passing place. These are essential to keep the roads moving. They are passing places only.
• Some roads may have livestock roaming on them. Always reduce your speed to pass them and apply caution as they may run back on the road as you pass.
• Wild deer may try to cross the road, always be alert and keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you.
• ALWAYS watch your fuel (diesel) gauge. My advice is when you get to half a tank, stop, and fill it all the way up again. Keep topping up your tank. Never leave yourself in a situation where you are low on diesel and stressing about finding a service station. In remote Scotland, service stations can be miles away. It could end up being an extremely costly mistake.
• Never drive off-road. Motorhomes are not off-road vehicles. All Vehicles may only be driven on sealed / bitumen roads. Do not park on a beach.
• Always adhere to signs. If there is a sign that says no overnight parking, no motorhomes, or no camping etc. then do not park. There is no such thing as wild camping for motorised vehicles, this applies only to people in tents. There are some places you can free park overnight, but in the main, we as a business ask our customers to use the local campsites. Help the local economy and do not antagonise the local residents.
Scotland is beautiful, and a truly wonderful place to visit/holiday. Motorhoming is an amazing way to see our scenery and take your time to enjoy our beaches, castles, and many other tourist attractions.
Please just be respectful, drive safe, and always clean up after yourselves.