Driving in Scotland can be pretty challenging when you’re used to wide roads and multi-lane highways. The Scottish countryside is crisscrossed with narrow and winding roads that can feel like they are not wide enough for two cars – and sometimes they really aren’t! Find out how to drive on single-track roads in Scotland in this driving guide and make sure you’re prepared to navigate them safely and considerately.

This post contains affiliate links from which I may make a commission. Find out more here. All opinions are my own.

When you are on a road trip in Scotland and want to explore scenic rural areas, you’ll sooner or later come across a single-track road.

When you are used to wide highways and not sharing your lane with oncoming traffic, these single-track roads can feel pretty nerve-wracking at first.

Driving on single-track roads requires high concentration and quick reactions, and more than ever you have to pay a lot of attention to oncoming traffic in the distance and cars getting antsy behind you.

But of course, they often lead to scenic viewpoints, beaches, glens and villages, so it’s worth the challenge to reap the rewards at the end.

When I first started driving in Scotland, I was very nervous about single-track roads. But now, after years of practice, I feel confident to share my experiences and top tips with you.

In this guide to driving on single-track roads in Scotland, I will…

  • Explain what single-track roads are and what kind of traffic to expect
  • Where you’ll find single-track roads and some examples you’ll find on my most popular itineraries
  • Walk you through the rules of driving on single-track roads in Scotland
  • And give you some tips to masterfully navigate this type of road.
How to drive on single-track roads in Scotland

What is a Single-track Road?

Before we get into how to drive on single-track roads in Scotland, let’s talk about what they actually are.

Single-track roads are two-way roads that are roughly as wide as one car (or lorry/truck).

Traffic moves in both directions on these single-track roads. Passing places allow cars going in different directions to pass each other safely. Certain rules apply to who has to stop and wait for whom – see the Rules section below.

Don’t be surprised to meet any kind of vehicle on a single-track road. Single-track roads are open to all traffic, including large lorries (trucks), logging trucks, motorbikes and bicycles.

It’s important to keep in mind that just because single-track roads often lead through vast scenery, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a village on the other end. Single-track roads are not just scenic drives, they are important access roads for rural communities. As such it is important to drive not just safely, but also considerately.

You might also like: 21 Top Tips for Driving in Scotland

Where can you find Single-track Roads in Scotland?

There are single-track roads all over Scotland. They are often found in remote and rural parts of the country, but also on routes that are popular among tourists.

Here are some of the single-track roads you’re likely to come across if you follow any of my itineraries:

The Quiraing Road on the Isle of Skye

The stunning Quiraing road from Staffin to Uig is about 7 miles long. There are two tight bends on your way up (or down) the Quiraing, but otherwise no drastic manoeuvres required. Most people who visit the Isle of Skye will drive along this single-track road.

Road to Neist Point Lighthouse

Another single-track road on the Isle of Skye that you’re likely to encounter is the road to Neist Point. A lighthouse marks the westerly point on the island and offers sweeping views across the Minch sea. The road is single-track for about 11 miles from just beyond Dunvegan.

Road to Fionnphort on the Isle of Mull

You may not recognise the name Fionnphort, but you certainly know the Isle of Iona. Well, Fionnphort is a small village on the Isle of Mull from where you get the ferry to Iona. Going south from the ferry port in Craignure, the road soon turns into a single-track road and stays that way until you reach Fionnhport. You’ll cross several steep Telford bridges across burns which can have blind corners.

You might also like: 16 scenic road trips in Scotland

North Coast 500

Much of the famous North Coast 500 has regular two-way roads with one lane in each direction. However, there are sections on the north coast and the west that are single-track, for example between Bettyhill and Tongue.

Many popular detours from the North Coast 500, such as driving to Achmelvich Beach or the Old Man of Stoer are often winding single-track roads. The scenic road to Lower Diabaig for example is not suitable for large vehicles as it includes many bling corners and steep inclines.

A car on a winding single track road on the NC500 in Scotland

Bealach na Bà

The most famous single-track road on the North Coast 500 is the Applecross pass road via Bealach na Bà (Gaelic for ‘Pass of the Cattle’). The road climbs to an elevation of 626 m (2,054 ft) – the greatest ascent of any road climb in the UK. It is the third-highest road in Scotland.

There are multiple hairpin bends on the Bealach na Bà and the road is not suitable for large or long vehicles.

You might also like: 36 Stops & Things to do on the North Coast 500

Road to Ardnamurchan Lighthouse

If you follow my Hidden West Coast Itinerary, which includes Glencoe, the West Highland Peninsulas, the Isle of Mull and the Heart of Argyll, you might make your way to the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse.

The road narrows to a single-track as you leave Salen and stays that way until you reach the lighthouse – 25 miles to the west.

This single-track road leads through woodlands along the coast, so visibility is poor at times. It gets better as you approach Ben Hiant and reach the tip of the peninsula.

The Outer Hebrides

There are many single-track roads on the islands of the Outer Hebrides. On Lewis and Harris, most single-track roads are detours from the main road – for example, to reach Bosta Beach on Great Bernera, the Isle of Scalpay or around the Gold Road.

On Uist, Barra and Vatersay there are even sections of the main road that are single-track and many more single-track roads to the sides towards the east and west coast.

One of the most scenic single-track roads on South Uist is the road to Loch Sgioport. Watch out for the Shetland ponies on the road. Use my Outer Hebrides Itinerary to plan your trip!

You might also like: The Ultimate Travel Guide for Uist

Rules for Driving on Single-track Roads

Before I share my top tips for driving on single-track roads in Scotland, here are some important traffic rules to keep in mind.

Keep it Going

Usually, driving on single-track roads is restricted to the national speed limit (60mph), but I rarely drive faster than 30-40 mph to avoid speeding towards incoming traffic.

If you drive slower and have traffic behind you, use a passing place to let them overtake you. You may also want to signal to them by indicating or waving your hand out the window.

How to use passing places

You should always pull into passing places on the left, never on the right.

If there is a passing place on the right, stop on the road and let the oncoming traffic pass you by using the passing place on their left side (your right).

Don’t park in passing places. Depending on how busy a road is, it might be OK to stop for a photo but don’t leave your vehicle in a passing place to go for a stroll or hike.

Only use passing places and don’t go on the road verge as you might end up in a boggy ditch and get stuck. Driving over the edge of the road also damages the soil, contributes to erosion and might damage wildlife.

Who should stop and yield for whom?

When you meet a car between two passing places, one of you will have to reverse to the nearest passing place. But who should give way?

  • In general, the car that is closest to a passing place should reverse to it.
  • If one car has to reverse straight and the other around a corner, it’s usually easier and safer for the car on the straight section of the road to reverse.
  • Cars should give way to large vehicles which have reduced manoeuvrability and visibility. Reverse for buses, campervans, motorhomes, RVs and lorries (trucks).

Ideally though – and if visibility allows – you should avoid meeting cars between passing places.

  • Try to spot oncoming traffic in the distance and stop at a suitable passing place. With good visibility it’s usually quite easy to judge the speed of the oncoming traffic and decide whether you stop right away or keep going until the next passing place. Personally, I tend to stop earlier rather than later.
  • Note that they might do the same. If you can see the other car, use your headlights to signal that you’ve stopped for them. If you can’t see the other car, it might be a waiting game of British politeness.
  • Always stop for large vehicles like lorries (trucks), buses or campervans, and give them as much space as possible.
  • If the oncoming traffic is more than one vehicle, you should stop for them to let them pass. There might not be enough space for multiple cars to stop for you in a passing place.
  • If you’re on a hilly road, cars going downhill should stop to allow cars travelling uphill to pass.

What about cyclists?

Since single-track roads are also used by cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders, here are some rules considering them:

  • Those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the responsibility to reduce the danger they pose to others. In other words, motor vehicles should give way to cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.
  • Give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car.
  • Slow down when passing cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders and only do so when there is enough space. You may have to stay behind them until the next passing place.

Check the Hierarchy of Road Users section in the UK Highway Code for clarification.

Wildlife on the road

When you drive in rural areas, you have to prepare to see wildlife on the road. It’s critical to drive carefully, especially in the springtime when lambs have been newly born. They have no road sense and can appear out of nowhere.

Occasionally, you may come across sheep or cows lying on the road – they usually move out of the way at their own speed.

At dusk and dawn, you should drive extra carefully to avoid collisions with deer or other wildlife.

Tips for Driving on Single-track Roads in Scotland

In addition to knowing the rules of how to drive single-track roads in Scotland, here are my top tips to make navigating these roads easier:

Take it slow

Just because it’s the national speed limit, you don’t have to go 60 mph. Don’t feel pressured by other drivers behind you, but pull into a passing place to let them overtake you.

Allow extra time

You will probably need more time than your GPS or Google Maps estimates, since you’re driving slower on single-track roads and stop frequently for oncoming traffic.

If you’re nervous about driving in the UK, check out the Tripiamo driving guide – it’s a super useful resource!

Drive carefully

Slow down as you approach bends, especially if you can’t see beyond it.

Walking along the Pentland Road in Lewis.

Increase your visibility

Most single-track roads are wide enough for lorries (trucks) to drive on them. That means that they are technically wider than the average car. Drive as far on the left to increase your field of visibility.

Look ahead

As recommended above, you should look as far ahead as possible and try to spot oncoming traffic early. That way you can stop at a suitable passing place before meeting them and avoid having to reverse.

Be polite

Use your headlights to signal oncoming drivers in the distance and let them know that you are stopping for them.

Wave your hand to thank oncoming drivers when you pass them and use your hazard lights to thank a vehicle that allowed you to overtake them.

Pay close attention to road signs

This is particularly important if you are travelling in a large vehicle like a campervan or motorhome. Not all single-track roads are suitable for large vehicles. This can be for a variety of reasons – steep inclines, fewer passing places, poor visibility; often a combination of all three.

Usually, there are road signs at the start advising you to take an alternative route.

Now that you know how to drive on single-track roads in Scotland, you can look forward to your next road trip adventure!

Planning a trip to Scotland?

Download my FREE Trip Planning Checklist

Join my Facebook group to find inspiration for big & small adventures

Listen to my podcast Wild for Scotland for lots of travel inspiration

Use my Scotland Travel Journal to document your trip

Make trip planning easier with my Scotland Resource Library

Save time and get one of my pick-up-and-go Scotland itineraries

Beat the overwhelm and hire me to plan a bespoke itinerary for you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *