ROADS, DRIVING, & AUTOMOBILES
UK Driving Experience – What to expect
With 65M people, the UK is a densely populated little island, but Scotland is very ‘Jekyll and Hyde’. Some of her roads are ‘open’ in the liberating sense of the word, and a real joy to drive. Both Edinburgh and Glasgow however are notoriously busy and not terribly well signed.
|Approaching Glencoe from Rannoch Moor |
|North Bridge, central Edinburgh
Although heavy traffic is what tends to intimidate overseas drivers most, strangely enough congested conditions are often easier. The traffic is frequently gridlocked and allows you much greater opportunity to observe, plan, and even follow others if need be. The most challenging conditions are what we might describe as busy traffic that is still flowing
Although you will need to adjust to driving on the left-hand side of the road quite quickly, for such time as you’re in urban areas this is fairly easy to do as other motorists will ‘keep you honest’. Overseas visitors who are used to driving on the right-hand side of the road tend to be more vulnerable to lapses of concentration in remote rural locations. There are signs dotted around the Highlands saying ‘keep left’ but that needn’t be enough. Some modern driving management systems do of course have a warning ‘bleeper’ if they detect the vehicle has crossed a ‘white-line’ and moved onto the wrong side of the road.
Faraway Fairways will nearly always be able to secure you an automatic transmission, which means you have one less thing to worry about since changing gear only to find yourself winding down a window is a little bit alarming at first until you’ve adjusted. In addition to this aide, we will normally look to put an audio GPS Sat-Nav into a hire as well, so as to allow you to concentrate on steering and general road craft rather than navigation
Outside of the cities, particularly the Highland region, driving in Scotland is often considered a legitimate leisure pursuit in its own-right. The roads are uncongested and typically scenic. There are normally ample opportunities to pull over and admire a view.
There are some things however that you’ll need to ‘take-on’. We might as well run through these, but by the same token you shouldn’t be too alarmed. Hundreds of thousands of visitors face the same thing every year and just about every single one of them manages
- You will have a right-hand drive vehicle
- You will need to drive on the left-hand side of the road
- You will encounter strange road-signs and highway laws that you’ll need to adapt to quickly
- You will encounter unfamiliar things like ‘traffic roundabouts’ and ‘giving way to the right’
- Even with sat-nav, you’ll run an enhanced risk of navigational error. This is more annoying than anything more serious though
- We would normally expect to be able to source an automatic transmission, but could end up with a manual gear-shift if you leave a booking very late
Self-drive or Driver guide?
In common with a lot of operators, self-drive is our default offer. When we first began Faraway Fairways (2014) we were open-minded on this, but have since come to the conclusion that unless you really have a deep aversion to self-driving, it normally represents the best option
Other than cost, the principal gain of self-drive is 100% independence. Self-drive puts you in control and allows you to set your own programme in-situ. Even with a driver guide with whom you establish a good relationship, or someone who keeps out of your way to the point where you barely notice them, it is still never quite the same as being completely independent in your own friendship group.
Small Size Group travel (two players) – Self Drive
Seating capacities are rarely an issue on a golf trip. Luggage however is. In addition to a standard luggage item such as a suitcase, golfers also generate a golf bag. As you realise, golf bags are an awkward shape. Golfers invariably require a bigger vehicle than their bare number suggests they should. A two ball party should therefore be looking to use a ‘large estate car’
Small Group travel (four players) – Self Drive
Although we don’t see it that frequently, three is the critical number whereby we have to begin using a nine-person MPV (no estate car can take six luggage items – don’t allow anyone to kid you into thinking otherwise). The MPV such as the Mercedes V-Class is very much the workhorse of the Scottish golf industry. This would be the largest vehicle that most of you will be able to drive legally but adapting to an MPV isn’t that demanding, they’re quite powerful and responsive.
|The Hyundai 40i estate, typical of the vehicle in this class |
|Mercedes Vito typical of the MPV in this class
Medium Group travel (eight golfers +) – Self Drive
To a large extent everything in golf transport is geared towards multiples of four. An MPV has luggage capacity for nine items (four players using a golf bag and suitcase each). Tee times are of course sold in fourballs. It works out well. Consequently groups of eight are advised to use two MPV’s. Indeed, groups of twelve are advised to use three, we do eventually begin to encounter a problem however on larger groups as you might imagine, but there is a critical consideration we need to weigh that still means that we seek to use a fleet wherever we can rather than looking for a single large capacity coach
Two or more vehicles is the most flexible option, potentially allowing a group to split their areas of interest should you wish to do so (especially helpful for areas of non-golf activity). Having two vehicles can be particularly useful if you encounter split tee times (most likely to occur in groups of more than four golfers). Perhaps the most critical factor however is that many of you will be playing the St Andrews Old Course through the ballot, which means we get notification of tee-times just 48 hours before play. Under this scenario it’s entirely probable that you’ll encounter a situation whereby you’ll have two fourballs going in different directions, to play different courses, at different times, on the same day. Two or more vehicles would allow you to do this. We really don’t want to be scrambling about on the morning trying to put transport arrangements in place if we’ve only got the one vehicle or a hired-driver on a rigid ‘pick-up’ schedule of their own
Large Groups – (sixteen plus)
By the time your group begins to exceed sixteen or more, your options for self-drive are beginning to resemble an elaborate convoy solution! Yes, you might be scoff a little bit at this for looking clumsy and complicated, but it is still feasible incidentally, and shouldn’t be dismissed. Because everything is based on multiples of four you’d still enjoy all the same flexible advantages if adopting this, but we’d also need to accept that the more rigid midi-bus/ coach is starting to make some appeal too.
Faraway Fairways normally provide transport in line with comfort to distance. Many of the journey’s we undertake aren’t that far removed from a daily commute by way of time burden (45 mins). Consequently de-luxe options with their extra wide seats, individual arm and footrests, seat back tables, air-conditioning, TV/DVDs, mood lighting, double glazed windows and full draw curtains and cool boxes or fridges might be considered an unnecessary extravagance. It’s a decision you’ll need to make, what we can tell you though is that Scots don’t travel like this. If you choose to do so, you will be advertising that you’re an overseas visitor. Having perhaps said that with an air of disapproval Faraway Fairways are equally aware that this might be something of a false equivalent. For many a golf trip to Scotland is something of a life-time ‘experience’. There is the old saying of, if it’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing properly. Whereas a local journeys between say St Andrews and Kingsbarns under these conditions might be overkill, if you’re doing a longer-distance, say St Andrews to Turnberry, then you can certainly justify the additional luxury in your travel
To help you make a little bit more sense of the geography, mileage, and journey times, we’ve linked the RAC’s journey planner. Simply add the ‘to’ and ‘from’ destinations (A & B) and then click ‘Get Route’. You can add a ‘via’ point by clicking ‘add destination’ underneath the two options you’ve entered.