Memoirs of a Traveling Mom, My First UK Driving Experience

Mom’s Corner

Memoirs of My Adventures Abroad

The time was 4:30 am, which is just an insane time to get up for anything. Here in the U.S. we call that “stupid o’clock in the morning”. None the less, there I was in the rain, trolling across a dark, desolate street in Dublin with my luggage in tow. I had an early flight to catch and my car (which I wouldn’t be driving until my return, was sitting in the car park at the airport. Now mind you, I had not driven in Ireland or the U.K. before, much less driven this car, but I was borrowing it from a brave friend who had just left for Dubai the day prior. Driving said brave friend’s car however, was not to be my first U.K. driving experience. -that I was holding off for Scotland.

A side street off the Royal Mile. These flowers caught my eye. I love the contrast of them against the stone.

A side street off the Royal Mile. These flowers caught my eye. I love the contrast of them against the stone.

I wanted to get a proper feel for the hair-raising experience before I sat in the driver seat of my trusting friend’s unscathed Volkswagen. This would lend me just enough confidence to take the wheel after my UK crash course and drive fearlessly about Ireland. So, he parked it at the Dublin Airpark the day prior when he left for Dubai. I always fancy using Airparks because they are so much cheaper than long term parking at the airport.  I hopped the bus, with my luggage and rats nest of a hairdo, and off I was to catch the 6am-something flight to Edinburgh.

“How can I avoid this like the plague?” I kept thinking to myself. I would literally have paid someone $500 to drive me around. I laughed out loud thinking, “shut up, stop being such a wuss about it, it’s just the left side of the road.” Yet there I was, near shitting my pants that I would be left in stitches, envisioning the dramatic setting of myself on a bus, in the rain, on a journey to sudden death.

I took this at the top of the Scott's Monument. The view of the city from here is unbelievable.

I took this at the top of the Scott’s Monument. The view of the city from here is unbelievable.

I had made my way into the city just fine by 9am. Edinburgh, God I love that place. Its blackened beautiful and layered streets. The Royal Mile is textured with character, popping with random splashes of colorful flowers against medieval stone and a royal flare. Beneath the streets lies a conduit of dark underground villages known to be haunted by the dead souls taken from the plague. And the Witch Trials, the history of the mass executions at Edinburgh Castle is captivating.

A side street off the Royal Mile. I love how it winds down and around. It's dreamy.

A side street off the Royal Mile. I love how it winds down and around. It’s dreamy.

I lost track of time to the sound of the bagpipes in the wind. Before I knew it I was hopping a bus to the airport again, sprinting to grab my rental car, as not to get stuck driving in the dark. I was heading further north to Pitlochry in the Highlands, to experience the Enchanted Forest Event. This amazing light and sound spectacle lights up the Faskally Woods during the fall, and I was determined to see it.

More eye-catching flowers. I believe this is Heather, Scotland's natioanal flower.

More eye-catching flowers. I believe this is Heather, Scotland’s natioanal flower.

I ran off into the parking lot to get in my car, naturally I walked to the wrong side of it. Why do they do this? I don’t understand. Better yet, why didn’t we just follow their lead and agree on left side driving as well? What a total pain in the ass. “Okay, you can do this.”

I crept out of my space onto the airport service road, banking on the fact that the less of two evils was not present. I made my way around the round about, listening intently to the directions over my phone’s GPS. I thought, “I’m truly screwed if I lose internet, like truly.”

I watched cars as they approached me in the roundabout, speeding in, so confident of their own driving, me crapping my pants -sweating palms on my steering wheel.

“I’ll be okay once I get to the main road, where’s the frickin main road?” Heading straight was cozy enough, so I did that for awhile. I passed my turn by four miles but I didn’t care. I needed to get my heart rate down, I needed to get it together. I was going to take the next round about and turn around. Fearlessly. Maybe.

Two roundabouts later I actually did.

With about 20 minutes of day light left I made it to the Forth Bridge. This was easy now. This was going to be okay. I looked at my hands, shaking, white knuckles, “God I’m lame!” I laughed out loud.

It was this dark by the time I had finally made it to Pitlochry.

It was this dark by the time I had finally made it to Pitlochry.

I watched the sunset as rolling hills turned into high cliffs. I thought, “Oh dear God, please don’t let some Scottish beast in a sweater come flying out at me, just let me make it to the hotel.” By some act of God I made it to Pitlochry by 7:30pm. By then I felt a bit better about the road, found the Fisher’s Hotel and parked the evil machine on wheels. I locked everything in the trunk because as ridiculous as it may sound, I couldn’t get the car to lock. I was greeted by the hotel manager and before I knew it, I was off to the woods, on a bus, in the rain, but just a wee bit more confident than I was at 4:30am.

All of the horror was well worth it. I made it to the Enchanted Forest Event just in time.

All of the horror was well worth it. I made it to the Enchanted Forest Event just in time.

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About Christa Thompson

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Christa Thompson is the Founder and Senior Editor of The Fairytale Traveler. Christa has been traveling the world since 2003 when she attended a summer abroad study at the University of Cambridge in England. Since then, her wanderlust has been fierce. Her three passions in life are her son, traveling, and being creative. The Fairytale Traveler brand gives Christa the opportunity to do all of these things and to live intentionally every day. "It's never too late to believe in what you love and to pursue your dreams." -Christa Thompson

2 Comments on this post

  1. I must say I am impressed. I drove all the time when I lived in The Netherlands- all over Europe. As soon as I moved to the UK we gave up our car and I never even gave it a shot. I figured I was doing a service to pedestrians and other drivers everywhere 😉

    theflyawayamerican / Reply
    • BAHAHAHA trust me, I was begging for people to drive me around. I would have let a beggar drive me at that point. I was sooooo nervous. How do people do it without GPS??? I would have died. But, here I am, alive… and now I’m cool with it!

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