The year was 2018, and Jess and I were beginning our trip around the North Coast 500 in Scotland. We had rented a sweet little French car, a Peugeot (pronounced in American as Pew-Got), and we were ready to conquer anything Scotland or its bad accents could throw at us. The North Coast 500 is pretty straightforward, 500 miles of beautiful scenery
stretched around the North Coast of Scotland. If you’ve never heard of it, here’s the scoop. This was going to be a lot of driving, but we were in it to win it. Now, I’m a gentleman, so naturally, I offered (insisted) to split the driving. Something strange happened at this moment, it seemed that Jess had forgotten about my years of excellent driving experience. She looked as if she’d rather ride with a small toddler with one eye and no arms behind the wheel than get into the Pewgot with me behind the wheel.
When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength
Now, to be fair to Jess, I had never driven on the left-hand side of the road (the wrong side), nor had I driven on the right-hand side of a car (the wrong side). Gandhi once said, “When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” Was I about to give up everything I believed in just so Jess could put away her bag of worries? No way José. This seemed like a perfect scenario for me to test out my opposite day driving skills. Only three things could go wrong.
- Possibly hit an overconfident Scottish sheep frolicking in the roadway, in which case the sheep should chill
- Veer off a cliff into the sea, in which case I would pull Jess and the little car onto land using my lifeguard training
- Turn into the wrong lane of traffic, in which case I claim tourist innocence and weasel my way out of it.
These were valid concerns, but not enough to keep me from trying my hand at the ole right-hand left-hand driving game.
A road no man could be prepared for. A road that Frodo and the 7 dwarves couldn’t even handle in Lord of The Rings
So, after explaining to Jess that these were really the only things that could go wrong, her mind was put to ease. The first day was easy, basically a straight highway. Little did we know, however, we were about to head down a road no man could be prepared for. A road that Frodo and the 7 dwarves couldn’t have even handled in Lord of The Rings. What is this Highway to Hell I speak of you ask? Well, let me introduce you to Bealach na Bà (pronounced in American as babe-locks-bruh). An insanely curvy single-track road carved into Mount Doom in Scotland (there’s not actually a mountain called Mount Doom, don’t Google it).
We didn’t have to take the devil’s pass through the mountains, but Bealach na Bà is known for being one of the most beautiful routes in the world. Often times, there’s no beauty without danger, so it was no question for us whether or not to take the road. See those huge letters on the sign that read “NOT ADVISED FOR LEARNER DRIVERS”? Yeah, I saw them too, but fortunately, I don’t speak / read Scottish so I kept on driving. Bealach na Bà did not disappoint in its beauty nor danger.
The road itself is number three on the list of Scotland’s highest roads, sitting at 2,054 feet, and is known as the UK’s most dangerous road.
That being said, it wasn’t the height that had Jess and I clenching our butt cheeks. It was that the road was so narrow that even a bicyclist wouldn’t be able to make it past your car safely. The road had these “passing places” you could pull over in to let people by, but these were pretty infrequent, and you’d usually have to either go in reverse until you found a passing place, or just barrel towards the car in front of you and hope they get off the road in time. Because of the high probability of tumbling down a cliff or head-on collision, most folks were taking the road safe and slow, like 5 mph slow. Then you have 3 classes of people who simply don’t give shit:
- Guys on motorcycles who wear leather jackets to extend the length of their manhood
- Scottish locals who probably drive up and down this road just to try to make tourists shit themselves
- Possibly the worst ones, the tourists who drive huge campervans up this thing. I’m picturing an American dad looking at his wife saying “Honey, I drive a 25 horsepower riding mower at home, I can handle this puppy no problem”. We saw at least 5 of these guys stuck in ditches or pulled over on the side of the road too scared to venture on.
Bealach na Bà is full of hairpin turns that go back and forth, stacked up on the mountainside, which gets insanely steep at certain points. This road is not for the weak hearted and has humbled even the most experienced drivers out there. This was literally my second day ever driving on the wrong side of the car, if it wasn’t for Jess’ keen eye for attention, I would’ve veered off the road in a heartbeat (which I almost did numerous times). Bealach na Bà stared us in the face and said: “fuck off tourists you don’t belong here”. With my brave co-captain / wife Jess at my side, we made this road our bitch.
Although the drive was terrifying, it was downright exhilarating. My heart was pounding, adrenaline through the roof, an absolutely electric moment. I proved to Jess I could handle myself behind the wheel. We finally made it over the mountain, left Frodo and the 7 dwarves in the dust, and enjoyed a gratifying beer to celebrate our victory.
Check out the below video from Jess and I’s trip! What’s the craziest road you’ve ever driven? Let us know in the comment section below!
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