A guide to driving in the UK
A break in the UK could be infinitely enhanced by driving your way around the sights you wish to see. Scottish mountains and lochs, Welsh rugged cliffs and beaches, beautiful English countryside, Northern Ireland and its dramatic landscapes — the UK is a sight for the senses, and a road trip is the best way to truly appreciate the differences between regions.
Of course, this all raises the issue of driving on a foreign license, learning new regulations and making sure you stay within a law that may be different to that in your own country.
To legally drive in the UK, you must carry your driving license at all times, and it is possible to drive within the UK with a driving license issued in another country for up to 12 months duration. You can also get an International Driving Permit (IDP) from your home country. The license should carry your photograph, in case it doesn't you should carry your passport to back it up.
To drive in the UK, you must be over 17 years of age and the holder of a valid driving licence, issued either in the UK or another country.
The driving law
- Drive on the left hand side of the road
- Electronic devices like mobile phones should not be used
- Everyone in the car must be wearing a seatbelt
- Give way to other cars on the right hand side of the road
- During poor visibility, always use dipped headlights
- Always give priority to emergency services vehicles
- During restricted hours, don't drive in bus lanes
- Always use indicator while turning
- Always carry license while driving
- Children should always be in the rear car-seat
Roads within the UK are governed by the National Speed Limit, and this should be adhered to at all times. The normal speed limits on UK roads are as follows:
- 112 km/h (70 mph) on divided highways
- 96 km/h (60 mph) on undivided highways
- 48 km/h (30 mph) on built up areas
Speed cameras are in operation throughout the country and fines are handed out readily for those who overspeed.
While there is a legal limit of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) measured at 0.08mg/100ml, how you process alcohol varies from person to person, and it’s just not worth the risk. Police can stop you and ask you to take a breath test if they suspect you’re over the limit. And if you are, you can expect a hefty fine or a ban as the lightest punishment, and in case of a serious criminal offence, you could also be sent to prison. In short, don’t do it.
There are plentiful pay and display car parks, or pay on exit multi-storey car parks up and down the country. However, if you’re parking on the road, be sure to note any markings, such as double yellows, which mean parking is prohibited or you could risk a parking fine ticket.
Belfast Driving Guide
Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and situated on the east coast of the country at the mouth of the Lagan River.
Although a no-go area for tourist throughout the 70’s, 80’s and early 1990’s, peace in the region has meant that Belfast has become an extremely popular tourist destination.
Attractions in the city include City Hall, St Anne’s Cathedral, the Titanic Boat Tour, the Ulster Museum, Belfast Zoo, Belfast Castle and the Botanical Gardens.
The intrepid traveller however, will look beyond the city limits of Belfast to find what rural Northern Ireland has to offer, with many spectacular places to visit within a short trip by rental car.
Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway
1 hour 15 mins (96 kilometres) (60.2 miles) via M2
One of Northern Ireland’s premier tourist attractions (with 750 000 visitors a year), the unique hexagonal rock formations of the Giant’s Causeway are a mere hour outside Belfast. This UNESCO World Heritage site is famed in Irish legend and said to have been built by a giant called Finn MacCool. A brief stop at the visitor centre near the causeway gives more of the legend and tells how the causeway was likely to have been formed.
Giant’s Causeway and the surrounding coastline is a photographer's dream, so don’t forget your camera! There are a multitude of paths to walk along, cliffs to scale and the Carricke-a-Rede rope bridge, connecting the mainland with a small island, 65 feet ( 20metres ) offshore. For whiskey lovers, Bushmills, the world’s oldest whiskey distillery can be found in the area as well. Of course, half the attraction of visiting the Causeway is getting there along the beautiful Causeway Coastal road!
Accommodation options near Giant’s Causeway include hostels, holiday rentals, inns, bed and breakfast establishments and lodges.
Belfast to Dunlance Castle
1 h 14 minutes (94 kilometres) (59.1 miles) via M2 and A26
An iconic historical monument, Dunlunce Castle sits on the northern Antrim coastline a mere hour out of Belfast. This castle was constructed in around 1500 by the MacQuillan family with the town of Dunlunce forming around it. The castle itself saw many owners as war-ravaged Ireland over that period and was in the hands of both the English and Scottish at one point.
The town of Dunlunce was burnt to the ground in around 1641, and archaeological digs in the area are discovering more information about the life and times of its inhabitants. Visitors can tour the castle at their leisure although the best way to experience this ancient building is through the audio-visual tour, with separate options for children and their parents but running concurrently.
Accommodation options around Dunlance include bed and breakfast establishments, lodges, inns and small hotels.
Belfast to Downpatrick
47 min (45 kilometres) (27.6 miles) via A49
The small town of Downpatrick lies to the south of Belfast and is best known as the burial place of St Patrick, the Irish Saint.
His grave, situated at the St Patrick Centre, is also said to be the burial site of two other Irish Saints, Brigid and Colmcille. The centre itself has an interactive exhibition, small craft shop, a restaurant and an art gallery. Other attractions in the town include the Down Country Museum, Down Cathedral, the railway station and various ancient ruins in and around the city.
Accommodation options in Downpatrick include hotels, coaching inns, bed and breakfast establishments, cottages and farms.
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