Tag: England

Driving; Scotland vs England

Two countries. The same body governing its road systems. The same(ish) laws. Two completely different styles of driving.

I knew the English were…odd. Our cultures, although linked, are so completely and utterly different from each other it’s hard to believe that there is no border between the two.

I knew all this, and yet I was in no way prepared for the difference in how people drive down south. It really is extraordinary.

Speed Limits

Primarily with regards to those on the motorways. In both countries the legal speed limit on motorways is 70mph. In Scotland, there is a very lax take on this limit, with people frequently driving in excess of 90mph at times. Variable speed limits are a joke; people rarely obey them, and in fact, tend to get annoyed by those who do. There’s also no rush to slow yourself at roadworks. You’ll come down to 50mph at some point (probably when you get stuck behind a lorry or the like).

This somewhat indifferent attitude to the speed limit is very much not the case south of the border. My little car struggles to achieve anything over 70mph, and I was still frequently one of the fastest people on the road. The English love their speed limits. Variable speed limits are obeyed to the letter, and at roadworks, traffic is generally at 49 by the time you’ve hit the 50 sign.

To be fair, there are far more speed cameras in use south of the border, so I do understand the reasons for the good behaviour down south. I just wasn’t aware that it was so dramatically different.

9-Foot Hedges

Seriously, what is it with the 9-foot hedges along every country road? They are terrifying!

In Scotland, the highest the natural barrier you’ll find is (most of the time) a five post rail with maybe some bushes around it. That’s it. You can see plenty of the road ahead, and as a result, plenty of the traffic ahead as well.

Not in England. Granted, I’ve only done a lot of driving in the South of the country, but I’m gathering that this isn’t too different further North. The hedges are ridiculous. They turn a simple, relatively straight road into an absolute death trap. You can’t see the end, you can’t see what’s coming, and there really isn’t enough room to get out of the way when you meet oncoming traffic. Who told you guys this was a good idea? It’s crazy. I’m a pretty confident driver, as is my Dad, and I can confirm that we were both terrified of putting our feet on the accelerator for fear of oncoming traffic.

Guys, sort out the hedges!

Passing Places

Speaking of no room, where the passing places guys? Do you know that such a thing exists, or have you decided you just don’t need them? Passing places, for those who don’t drive/ don’t know, are locations where the road has been widened slightly to allow two cars to pass each other as they travel in opposite directions. On (most) touristy single track roads in Scotland there are passing places every few hundred yards. With the lack of 9-foot hedges (see above), you can see the road ahead, and wait in one such passing place if you spot oncoming traffic. This makes country driving just a touch less terrifying than in England.

When we were in Cornwall, we were staying in what was actually quite a big, fairly busy wee village. In Scotland, the access road to this village would be two lanes, or, at the very least, it would have passing places every few hundred yards. Instead, the access road to this village was an unmarked, unsigned country road that gave the impression of leading nowhere important, until suddenly you arrived in the village and the road became somewhat normal and drivable. Can someone please explain to the Wildling over here why this is the case? Is it a thing, a thing I’m missing in my Celtic ignorance?

I realise this post has turned into a wee bit of a bash on England’s roads, which is a shame, because I did really enjoy my holiday down south, despite your strange motoring ways. So, in the interest of fairness (and also because I’m curious), people of England-land, what is it about Scotland’s roads that confuse you? What shocked you most about driving “north of The Wall”? N.B: if you don’t get that reference, I’m not sure we can be friends.