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Scottish Mile

Updated: Dec 27, 2019

Thistles and Coos offers relatable and relevant travel advice.

We are committed to provide accessible and affordable travel information peppered with funny stories and experiences.

When we travel, we like to use multiple modes of transportation: a train from Zürich to Innsbruck; a bus from the airport to Dublin city center or the London Underground from our hotel to Buckingham Palace.

Our favorite transit mode that offers the most freedom is renting a car. #lifeisahighway

Not all those who wander are lost. ~ J. R. R. Tolkien

Throw your bags into the trunk. Snap on your seatbelt. Turn the radio up and off you GO.

Oh...wait…need to plug in the destination into the GPS. In her lovely and quite bossy voice, she tells us Inverness to Glenlivet is 51 miles.

Being seasoned drivers, 51 miles is going to be about an hour.

We had also Google map our trip prior to leaving, so we had rough estimates of how much driving time we need to plan on.

Nobody wants to spend their vacation in the car. #overprepared

Now, let us introduce you to the concept of a “Scottish-Mile.”

We begin our journey leaving Inverness and begin the drive to Glenlivet. Our GPS takes us the “shortest” route and since we are not familiar with the drive, we blindly trust this modern miracle of navigational technology. After all, it’s been tested time and time again, right? No problem.

Jokes aside, we are grateful we have a trusty GPS bossing us around because I remember my dad having a World Atlas shoved between the driver’s seat and the console for many of our family road trips throughout the years.

How we navigated through some larger cities without major bouts of road rage is anyone’s guess. #Compliance!

Let’s return to Natalie and me road tripping across Scotland with our sacrosanct GPS unit.

Our shortest route took us on a single track road through the Cairngorm National Park, Pàirc Nàiseanta a' Mhonaidh Ruaidh .

The Cairngorms are in the heartland of the Scottish Highlands and is a picturesque drive. Watch for the signs that warn against sheep in the road and be prepared to pull over to avoid oncoming traffic. #roadblock

Now, the million dollar question: what is a Scottish-Mile?

This endearing term was first muttered on the drive to Glenlivet. What should have taken us an hour, took us almost three! Granted, Natalie is a very cautious driver and we were driving through unfamiliar territory… BUT 3 HOURS to drive 51 miles?? #timewarp

We are not at all complaining because driving through the Cairngorms was filled with a lot of laughing and one near-death experience. Fond memories of this drive. We just did not expect for the drive to take that long.

A Scottish-mile is a lot longer than an American-mile. Despite the equivalency of a pound of feathers versus say a pound of bricks, both Scottish and American miles are not the same.

We’ll explain: in Scotland, one will more than likely drive along circuitous, winding and especially narrow roads after leaving the major highway. These roads typically traverse rough terrain; you may find yourself driving through someone’s farm, through woods or moor land.

Throw in Scotland’s precipitation, and it just takes time to get where you are going. In case you didn’t know, it rains a lot in Scotland. Check the weather before embarking on any driving, hiking and / or walking adventure.

Each trip to Scotland has reinforced our Scottish-mile theory.

When we took our kids to Scotland for Christmas, we rented a car for a couple of days and drove to Fort William. My husband has politely listened to my stories of driving overseas… proper side of the road, roundabouts, the Scottish-mile…

According to my research and Google maps, Edinburgh Airport to Fort William is approximately 126 miles…

“That should be about 2 hours.” Greg says.

I clarify, “remember, these are Scottish miles.”

Greg gives me that all-knowing, “I’m an Army officer,” and better driver-than-you look. #justwait

With our 2 teenagers, we loaded up the car hire and off we go with the trusty GPS bossing us around. “On the next roundabout, take the third exit to Fort William...blah, blah, blah.”

We follow our GPS directions religiously and find ourselves driving through what appears to be someone’s farm. Greg questions my navigation skills. #notarguing

I assure him we are on the right road because the GPS’s blue arrow is leading the way. Follow the arrows. The single-track road takes a sharp turn to the right and then spits us out on to one of the main roads leading to Glencoe. #trustGPS

Again, we noticed what should have taken us roughly 2 hours actually took us a bit more. Attack of the Scottish-mile again.

We will need to make several more trips to prove this theory. Maybe we drive slower because of the unfamiliar territory or the proper-side driving...who knows.

We truly enjoyed the drives and we have made several. Once you conquer the fear of driving on the right-side of the car or the proper side, trips move a little smoother. The single-track roads with the “who’s turn is it to pullover” game will continue to be a challenge for most drivers. So when you are planning your trip and are going to drive… add an extra 30-40 minutes.

Take your time and enjoy the drive. #nohurry

Also know the Scottish-mile applies when you are mapping out a walk from your Airbnb to the small town close by. When Natalie and I stayed in Helmsdale, we mapped out how far it would be to walk to the mile.

One mile is an easy stroll - maybe take us 20 minutes. HA!

I do believe our guardian angels stepped in and spared us the long-ass trek from our Airbnb to Helmsdale.

We had gone for a quick drive and realized just how far away we were from the main part of town. #damngoogle

We confirmed with each other that we had read and documented the distance between our cottage and the Chippy was a mile. After doing a bit more research….

It was truly a mile if it was a straight line from point to point. The Scottish-mile for the win.

*“Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

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Roll the windows down and... drive!

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