About 7 years ago, Dale expressed a strong desire to travel to Scotland. Our last name is Dunbar – pretty Scottish, eh? We excitedly tossed around the idea. What should we do? Where should we go? How long should we be gone? They have amazing scotch, right? And hiking? Right? What about the food? Haggis? What in the hell is that? What kind of hunting and fishing do they have?
Finally, last year, we started researching Scotland and all she has to offer. Last year? Why so long? Well, life always seems to get in the way when you’re making plans for something else. We attended graduations, our children’s marriages, the births of our grandchildren, our parents illnesses, and a host of travel adventures. The idea was always there, it’s just other things took precedent over Scotland.
Last June, we finally sat down and pinned down a date for our trip to Scotland. Dale expressed a strong desire to hunt, so we danced around the dates our hunting consultant suggested. Long story short, we are now in Scotland!
It’s really pretty easy to get here. We drove to Denver, spent the night, caught our plane at 11:15am, had a 2 hour layover in Newark, NJ, flew to Scotland and arrived in Glasgow at 7:30am the next morning. Easy peasy!
The airport in Glasgow is pretty sleepy at 7:30 on a Saturday morning. We sped through customs, gathered our luggage and picked up our rental car. the agent at the rental car center upgraded us to a Mercedes as we had requested a navigation system. Yeah, baby!
The United Kingdom and a handful of other countries drive on the left side of the road. Driving on the left actually stems from ancient times when Romans declared everyone use the left side of the road when traveling. During the Middle Ages, swordsmen carried their swords on their left side so they could draw swords and defend themselves with their right hands. This continued into the 1700s until large wagons equipped with numerous pairs of horses were needed to transport goods. The driver usually sat on the back left horse thus making it hard for him to judge the sides of the road from the left. These large wagons were better suited for the wide open spaces of the US and Canada. So, while other countries evolved and adopted the “keep to the right rule”, the United Kingdom clung to their traditions and used their “keep to the left” philosophy.
For a more detailed and historical explanation, follow this link: https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Why-do-the-British-drive-on-the-left/
That being said, how hard can driving on the left side be? Uh, plenty! First of all, the steering wheel is on the right side of the car. I can’t tell you how many times Dale and I played Chinese fire drill because we both headed for the wrong side of the car. There are no stoplights or stop signs, we had to brush up on international road signs – apparently the U.S. likes to go rogue when it comes to many things – temperature, measurements, road signs…
Plus, the expressions are different.
Signs are in Gaelic with English subtitles, there are carriageways (highways), give ways (yield), lay bys (pull offs), lorries turning (huge trucks), slip roads (exit and on ramps) and single track roads (one lane roads). Roundabouts are the devil. Imagine doing everything related to driving in the U.S., that you’ve been doing for the past 42 years, backwards.
Add to the fact that single track roads mean one lane roads, usually with speeds between 40-60 MPH, and lots of curves – here in the states, we call it playing chicken. They do offer random passing places, on both sides of the road, but you still get to make split second decisions on who is going to get the right of way when an oncoming car approaches. HINT: it gets harder when you’ve been running around for 30 hours straight and you’re dodging red squirrels!
So, armed with maps, a cell phone for navigation, a navigational system in the car and our common sense, we are now traveling through Scotland and making our way up north.
UP NEXT: our first day in Scotland.