10 top tips for safely exploring the Highlands

Cycling in the Highlands Scotland

When it comes to exploring the great outdoors, there are few more popular destinations than the Highlands of Scotland with hundreds of thousands of people heading to the north every year to take advantage of the amazing landscapes and views that surround roads such as the North Coast 500, Scotland’s very own answer to the Route 66.

However, driving in the Highlands is different from driving around a city or town and this can pose certain risks for travellers. 

Our personal injury solicitors in Inverness see all too often road traffic accidents that could have been avoided. Our solicitors share some top tips and advice for driving and exploring the Highlands to help you stay safe.

1. Plan your route before you leave

Before you set out on a trip it is important to plan your route and familiarise yourself with the journey.

Satellite Navigation is great most of the time but the belt and braces approach should be taken when travelling in the Highlands as you never know if the technology will fail – especially in remote areas. Printing off directions and a map is advisable.

2. Leave plenty of time

Rushing to a destination is one of the most common causes of accidents on the road yet it is also one of the most easily avoidable.

Before you set off, ensure that you have factored in adequate time to account for comfort breaks or even stops to take photographs of some of the great views.

Google Maps provides you with an estimated journey time, but this won’t necessarily account for particularly tricky stretches of road that may take slightly longer to negotiate.

3. Watch where you stop in the Highlands

When you are stopping by the road for whatever reason, make sure that your car is not going to be a hazard for your fellow road users. Consider whether your vehicle is clearly in view and there is adequate room for others to go past safely.

4. Extra care on single track roads

Many of the rural roads around the Highlands are single track and extra care and attention should be taken when driving on these roads.

Make use of passing places rather than waiting for the vehicle travelling in the opposite direction to stop first and certainly don’t try and squeeze past – the roads are only designed for the width of a single vehicle.

5. Beware of unexpected fellow road users

It’s not unusual when travelling in the Highlands to find yourself stuck behind a vehicle that is more attuned to a farmyard than a road.

If you find yourself in this situation it is important that you remain patient and only overtake it is safe to do so, or the vehicle itself moves over. Also, sheep and cattle often stray on to the roads from nearby farms and fields and this is something to be wary about.

6.   Allow overtaking

Remember that overtaking regularly causes accidents. Do not allow queues of traffic to build up behind you.

It is great if you want to take your time on the road to drive safely and enjoy the scenery, but you must remember that the roads are busy and there will be people using them who will want to move quickly.

If there is a car travelling behind you that seems to want to get past, simply pull over to the left somewhere safe, and allow them to pass, before continuing on with your journey. It won't take much of your time, and it may avoid an accident.

7.  Dress for the conditions

The weather in Scotland can be unpredictable. It is not unusual for the Highlands to experience “all four seasons in a day”. Don’t be the person who gets rescued at the top of Ben Nevis equipped with shorts, a t-shirt and a selfie stick – equip yourself for the conditions and you wont get caught out. A jacket, long trousers, sensible shoes, food and a map & compass (and the ability to use them) are the basics that you should take.

8.  Pick up your litter

The Scottish Highlands has arguably the best scenery in the British Isles. Understand that it is unacceptable to throw rubbish from your car when travelling on the roads. Live by the mantra “leave only footprints, and take only photos” and help keep the Highlands beautiful for everyone for years to come. Try to incorporate a stop at a recycling centre so that you can recycle your rubbish properly rather than sending it all to landfill.

9.  Understand the dangers

The Highlands make up over 35% of the land area of Scotland, but with only 4% of the population.

Because of the amount of infrastructure, the roads and paths are often not maintained to quite the same standard as elsewhere in Scotland.

Mountain paths can be steep, rocky, eroded or all of the above. Watch your step as you walk and make sure you travel on roads and paths that are within your abilities.

10.  Take care when crossing roads

The main roads through the Highlands cover enormous distances. Because of this, people will often drive their vehicles fast on them.

As a pedestrian this means you have to be even more careful when attempting to cross the main roads. Try not to cross near corners where your visibility is limited and remember not to cross at night if you can see any headlights coming towards you.

It is even easier to misjudge a vehicles position or speed if you are only able to see its lights.