I recently headed to Scotland for a seven-day road trip with my sister, and it would be an understatement to say that we didn't do much planning ahead of time. Hell, I only packed my luggage about six hours before my outbound flight from Singapore. We figured that we could make it up along the way (and we pretty much did).
If you're thinking of making plans for a road trip holiday to Scotland, here are seven tips that I have gleaned from my time there.
1. Pick the right car
Choosing the 'right' car can really make or break a roadtrip. In many ways, it's a balancing act - you could go for something affordable, compact and fuel efficient, but compromise on boot space, engine power and driving fun. Alternatively, you could opt for something more premium and high-performance, but that obviously comes at a greater financial cost, petrol and otherwise.
I'd really recommend something that's comfortable and easy to drive (you'll be doing many hours of driving) and has good amounts of space. Having heated seats is also a big bonus during the winter time.
The Skoda Superb that I elected on manages to strike a great balance. It's easy to drive, comfortable over long distances and has an enormous boot. At the same time, the 2.0-litre engine provides plenty of punch for the occasional frisky driving, while still being reasonably fuel efficient.
2. Pack warm, very warm
It gets cold in Scotland in November. In places like Fort William and Inverness, temperatures can easily drop to sub-zero. So, you want to make sure that you wrap up and keep warm. Bring gloves, a beanie, and a comfortable and thick down jacket.
The weather can be quite erratic too. A bright sunny day can be punctuated by the occasional 20-minute torrential rain, or you might get a persistent bout of light drizzle. Be sure to pack an umbrella and a waterproof outer layer, too.
3. Make sure you have data
Especially if you're heading out into the countryside (where Scotland is most beautiful), you want to be sure that you have mobile data. Beyond just navigation, it also lets you search for nearby attractions, places to eat, and perhaps the nearest petrol station as well. This is especially important if you don't have a clearly planned out itinerary (like us).
You don't want to be reliant on finding a wi-fi hotspot - there'll be long stretches of road/driving where wi-fi is simply not an option. Having data also ensures that you have ready access to Spotify, important during some of the longer stretches of driving as you move from one location to another.
4. Indulge in local delights
Yes, most people probably know about haggis, a Scottish dish of sheep puck that's famously divisive (I personally really enjoy it). But, there's plenty of other local fare to be enjoyed, most notably the seafood.
Additionally, be sure to also chat with the locals. The Scottish people are an extremely friendly, charming and humorous bunch. It might take a moment or two to acquaint to the heavy Scottish accent, but once you do you'll realise that the locals are a deeply sardonic and yet warm and welcoming bunch of people.
5. Start each day early
In the wintertime, the sun sets around 4:30pm every day. And, when it gets dark, it gets really dark. To maximise your daylight hours, you should start each day early (the sky is bright by about 7:30am each morning).
Take full advantage of the available daylight hours by going on morning hikes up to some picturesque locations, visit as many whisky distilleries as you can cram into one afternoon, or just soak in the crisp air and blissful serenity.
6. Drive safe
The roads are largely quiet this time of the year, and Scottish drivers are generally very courteous, but you still want to be careful. You'll encounter many narrow single track roads, and potholes are fairly abundant. It would also be wise to stock up on snacks and water whenever you can. Snacks are useful for keeping yourself alert and awake, especially on long journey or when driving at night.
Also, if you do decide to drive at night (or basically anytime after 5:00pm in November), you want to be extra careful. Between towns, the roads are long, narrow, windy and 100% unlit.
7. Pray for good weather
There's not much you can do in terms of 'plannin'’ the weather, but pray nonetheless (do a rain dance if you have to). Having good weather (ie. no rain) can make all the difference between a cheerful and a dreary, depressing day. It also means that the hundreds of photos you take will turn out much more vibrant and beautiful.