Car hire in Scotland
Hiring a car in Scotland
The uninformed may associate modern Scotland with whisky, kilts and bagpipes, but the Scots have given much more to the world over the centuries: Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone in 1876, James Watt’s rotary steam engine in 1781, Alexander Fleming’s penicillin, radar, insulin, television, the list goes on.
Scotland’s key historical figures go further back than that too. William Wallace, one of the leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence in the late 13th and early 14th centuries who would eventually appear on the silver screen as Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. Scotland also provided the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth tragedy.
What you need to know
Today, Scotland is home to 5.3 million people as well as some of the biggest highlights in the UK events calendar, like Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, both held in August.
Magnificent castles are dotted all around the country and at least one of them should be within a couple hours drive away from where you’re staying. From Stirling, Edinburgh and Dumbarton to Dunnottar in Stonehaven and Dundee’s Brougthy Castle, it’s worth driving out to any of these stony relics.
Scotland may have a reputation for being a bit chilly but it boasts some deceptively impressive beaches. Aberdeen’s Balmedie Beach, Ceannabeinne Beach at the top of the country, and Sutherland’s Sandwood Bay are just three worth mentioning.
Where to pick up your car
All five of Scotland’s international airports (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen, Prestwick) are well-equipped to meet your car hire needs with several companies based at each terminal, backed by a healthy fleet of vehicles.
You’ll be able to collect the keys from most of the providers in the terminal with the vehicle itself waiting in an airport car park. However, a small few will direct you to a free shuttle bus to meet your car.
“The pick-up was easy, it took 5 minutes from arriving at the desk to driving out the car, and the return took even less time. Booking with Holiday Autos was easy and I received the car that I had asked for, just perfect!”
Where to go
If you thought that Iceland was the only place to truly experience the stunning Northern Lights, think again. Venturing to the more Northern regions like Angus and Aberdeenshire increases your chances, but you can experience this mesmerising auroral display from many places in Scotland when the conditions are right, even the relatively southern Loch Lomond, 50 minutes from Glasgow up the M8.
Fancy having a blow at bagpiping? The National Piping Centre in Glasgow city centre offers 50-minute lessons as well a museum outlining the traditional soundtrack to the Highlands.
Not many cities can claim to offer a hill walk this challenging at their heart, but Edinburgh stands out with Arthur's Seat, which peaks at 251 metres above sea level.
Situated in the 640-acre Holyrood Park, this ancient volcano features a large, well-preserved fort, dating back around 2,000 years. Those that reach the summit are rewarded with glorious views of the city including Edinburgh Castle, which sits a mile to the east. If conquering hills isn't your thing, then Holyrood Park itself boasts plenty of notable features such as the 15th century medieval St Anthony's Chapel and the fresh water Duddingston Loch which is great for birdwatching.
Driving in Scotland
Scotland has the toughest stance on drink-driving in the UK. It reduced the legal alcohol limit from 50 milligrammes of alcohol per 100ml of blood in December 2014, previously 80mg.
There are no toll roads to worry about, so aside from the alcohol allowance, driving in Scotland is much the same as it is in the rest of the UK with a 70mph speed limit on motorways and 30mph in urban areas.
Scotland sits above England at the top of the UK, and depending on where you set off from, the city of Newcastle upon Tyne can be under three hours’ drive away.
There, you’ll be able to relax with a drink and a superb view of the famous Tyne Bridge at one of the many bars on The Quayside.
You could also explore the Victoria Tunnel - originally built in the 1800s and used for shelter during World War Two - or take a tour of Newcastle United’s St James’ Park stadium.
The Lake District National Park is only two and half hours’ drive from Edinburgh too, which is a haven for outdoor types with Scafell Pike mountain, several lakes, and charming communities like Keswick and Bowness-on-Windermere.
Top attractions in Scotland
Having a hire car means you can get out and about and see as much or as little of Scotland as you wish during your trip.
National Museum of Scotland
If time is tight during your stay in Scotland, then dropping by Edinburgh’s National Museum of Scotland for a few hours is a prize way to cram in a lot of Scottish history.
Exhibitions vary throughout the year, but collections can focus on anything from 360 million year old dinosaurs, to the Stone Age, through to accurate Lego reconstructions.
A ten-minute walk down Blair Street from Edinburgh Train Station, it’s free to enter but they do welcome donations.
Glasgow may be Scotland’s largest city, but 40 minutes up the A81 brings you to the Glengoyne Distillery, right on the Highland Boundary line.
Often dubbed the “most beautiful distillery in Scotland”, the picturesque Glengoyne Distillery has been turning out single malts since 1833 and you’ll be able to sample some of their produce during one of their entertaining and informative guided tours.
There are other distilleries you can visit in Scotland but if you only have time to do one, then Glengoyne is essential visiting for any whisky lover.
People have been on the look-out for the legendary Loch Ness Monster ever since it was christened by the Inverness Courier in 1933, and the myth has been fuelled by mocked-up photos and purported sightings of Nessie over the years.
Even though the beast has long been regarded as a hoax, many still feel disappointed when they don’t spot the serpent out on the water during these magnificent boat trips.
A half-hour drive out of Inverness down the B862, these boat trips will give you chance to appreciate some of Scotland’s most stunning sights, such as Urquhart Castle.
East Midlands airport
All England locations
All Scotland locations