The Scottish Mile

It is a little-known fact that the measure of distance in Scotland is not comparable to that of anywhere else in the world.

Therefore, when you are driving in Scotland you should take note of the following information.

This post explains the unique existence of ‘The Scottish Mile.’

Many of you will know, even be fans of the television show Dr Who.

A prime feature of the series is the time-travel machine named the Tardis.

Tardis is an acronym; it stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space.

The Scottish Mile has many similar attributes to Dr Who’s Tardis, one being its ability to alter its dimension under various circumstances.

Allow me to expound… (First the boring technical bit).

Generally, one can estimate the time needed to travel a certain distance, such as a commute to work, or when taking a shopping trip to town.

This is not so when considering the Scottish mile, as even on a warm and bright day one should allow at least twice the regular estimation of duration when considering any driving plan.

The reasons for this are manyfold, some of which follow.

1, In Scotland we drive on the left-hand side of the road. If you are not used to this you will need to concentrate more, especially at junctions, intersections, and slip roads.

2, Once off the main roads, the routes are far narrower, often full of sharp bends and inclines, many of which are ‘blind’. The road edges can often be weatherworn and crumbling. Potholes are common.

3, Scotland has many Single-track roads with Passing Places. These are single lane roads where the traffic moves in both directions along one carriageway. (I shall write more about these roads in another post).

Now, The Scottish Mile and its amazing ability to alter…

As I said above, should you be driving on a clear, dry day you should allow twice your estimated travelling time.

However, contrary to the laws of physics, which state objects expand in heat and contract when cold, the Scottish Mile does the exact opposite.

The colder the weather the longer it takes to traverse a Scottish Mile. The time increases still further when it rains, snows, is damp, wet, snowing, or icy.

Under the most severe conditions, the Scottish Mile can easily expand to infinity.

Recently, I took the road to Hushinish beach, on the Isle of Harris with my travelling companion, Beth Jordan.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Outer Hebrides, Hushinish beach is a white sandy beach, located on the west side of the Isle of Harris, with beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean and the neighbouring islands of Taransay, and Scarp.

To get there from Tarbert you simply follow the B887 for sixteen miles. It is mostly a single-track road with passing places.

Much, (not all) of the route has recently been resurfaced. Thankfully the newly painted white lines clearly mark the edges of the road.

Although the journey is only sixteen miles, (sixteen-point-three, to be precise,) they are Scottish Miles, and the time it will take you to negotiate them will be between forty-five minutes to one hour in daylight, and much longer in the darkness of night.

This is the ‘Tardis’ effect I was speaking of earlier in this post, somehow these miles have the uncanny ability to alter their dimension in time and space and this is something everyone driving around Scotland should be aware of when route planning their itinerary.

Please note, the driving times mentioned in this post do not include any time taken to stop for photographs, coffee breaks, sightseeing en-route, or any detours.

Also, do not mistake ‘The Scottish Mile’ with ‘The Scots Mile’.

The Scots mile was a fixed entity of 320 falls or 5920 feet (1807 metres, compared with the English mile of 5280 English feet, or approximately 1609 metres). Although the Scots mile varied from place to place; this form of measurement became obsolete by the 19th century.

Chì mi thu a dh ‘aithghearr 

Written by Paul White for STS