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July 15, 2021 9 min read
Surrounded by mystery and wonder, the Isle of Skye is the ultimate destination for travellers wanting to experience a taste of Scotland’s wild beauty. Connected to Scotland’s northwest coast by bridge, Skye is renowned for it’s rugged landscapes, picturesque fishing villages and medieval castles.
Home to many of Scotland’s natural wonders such as The Old Man of Storr, Quiraing and Fairy Pools, Skye’s popularity has skyrocked in recent years. This is without mentioning the Islands 11 munros and 6 Michelin guide restaurants which draw in adventurers and foodies alike.
But with so much on offer, where do you even begin when visiting? Well, in this guide I look to detail some of Skye’s top experiences to inspire your next adventure; from what to see and do, to where to eat and sleep, we’ve got you covered.
How to get to Skye?
On both my visits to the Isle we’ve driven. The journey is a fairly long one (around 210 miles from Edinburgh), but we broke the journey up with multiple stops along the way. There are some fantastic options for food and drink replenishment as you journey north, the most notable if like us travelling along the A9 would be the The House of Bruar.
It goes without saying that an essential stop on your approach to Skye has to be Eilean Donan Castle. The castle is located on a small tidal island at the point where three sea lochs meet and offers one of the most iconic picture opportunities in the whole of Scotland.
Despite being Scotland’s most popular Island, most of Skye is connected by a series of single track roads. This means journeying around the Island can take longer than expected. For this reason, explore the Island in sections… the last thing you want is to be spending the majority of your day in the car. Other options besides driving do exist, however, arriving on the Island without a car of your own will limit your experience. Buses on the Island are few and far between, with irregular schedules.
Don’t have a car but want to see a lot of the island in a short time? Then consider taking a full-day tour of Isle of Skye, which will see you take in the most popular sights such as those found on the Trotternish loop. Click here for more information on an Isle of Skye tour departing from Portree.
It’s also worth noting that supermarkets are sparsely populated on Skye, with the largest being Co-Ops found in Broadford and Portree, for this reason, make sure to stock up while passing through or before you journey to the Island.
How many days on Skye?
Most spend anywhere from two nights to a week on the Island. I’ve spent almost two weeks on the Island in total and still not ticked off everything on my to do list. That being said, if you intend to visit to take in the main sights, a few nights will suffice.
If you do spend longer on the Island, consider taking a ferry from Uig, on Skye’s northern coast to Harris & Lewis for the day. From here, you can visit some of the UKs most stunning beaches.
What time of year?
Skye is renowned for being pretty grey, and so the drier summer months tend to be the most popular time to visit. That being said, summer also means tourist central. If you can avoid the months of July and August you’ll find that accommodation is cheaper and the roads will be quieter too (an important factor given how many of the roads are single track).
During the winter months many businesses close completely, making planning your trip far more challenging, so to soak in the full experience, I’d recommend visiting between April and October.
Being Scotland, summer does not mean the good weather is guaranteed, so get those waterproofs packed! My two trips to Skye were in June, exactly a year apart, and with polar opposite conditions.
Old Man of Storr
Part of the Trotternish Ridge, the Old Man of Storr on Skye is steeped in legend and features a series of ragged rocks that rise sharply towards the sky. The rocks of the Storr are what remains of ancient landslips on the Isle of Skye.
The walk to the viewpoint is one of the most popular hikes on the Island, from the starting point, it’s around 4 kilometres there and back. Once you reach the top of the trail, you can truly appreciate the sheer scale of these jagged rock formations.
A truly spectacular place to head out for a hike, the Quiraing is one of the most stunning landscapes you’ll ever come across – it feels like you’ve been transported back to the Jurassic period! Hiking the trail on a dry, clear day and you’ll be rewarded with views over Staffin Bay, however, if like me you walk the route on a rather dreich day, be prepared to take in some truly atmospheric surroundings.
Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls
One of the classic travel tips for the Isle of Skye is to visit Kilt Rock. The basalt columns along the cliffs mimic a kilt and the waterfall of Mealt Falls plunges over 50m into the ocean below (if there is no wind).
Get here early to avoid the swarm on tourist buses that descend on the tiny carpark during the summer months. This will also give you the time to take some great pics without feeling crowed on the viewing platform.
The Fairy Glen is another of Skye’s most mystical places, and it again makes for a great short hike. Located in the north of the Island along the Trotternish Loop, this serene place is said to be the domain of the fairies, and other legendary creatures that are found in Gaelic mythology – it’s no surprise, the place looks like it’s straight out a fairytale! The glen is known for it’s unusually shaped hills and mounds that populate the area.
Neist Point Lighthouse
Neist Point is a dramatic spur of land that juts out abruptly into the ocean. Located on the most westerly point of the Island, it makes for an excellent spot to catch the sunset. It’s a photographers dream and I think it’s impossible to take a bad picture of this rugged headland.
In the summer, the single track leading to the lighthouse can make for some nervy driving conditions, and can become heavily congested…but the views make the drive worthwhile!
In my opinion, Talisker Bay is Skye’s most stunning beach, and a must visit! The Bay is slightly off the beaten path from the usual tourist routes, making it as close as you’ll come to a ‘hidden’ gem on Skye. Surrounded by steeps cliffs, and frequently deserted, come here to experience a sense of calm on your whirlwind trip to Skye.
Another of Skye’s most popular destinations, the Fairy Pools are very popular with tourists, and for good reason! The location gets it’s name from a natural series of turquoise pools, that run out of the Black Cuillin – heaven for wild swimming. The carpark has been extended in recent years as a result of tourist demand, so leaving your car should no longer be an issue.
The Cuillin Ridge
The dramatic Cuillin Ridge, which seemingly cuts through the heart of the Island as you drive north dominates the skyline throughout Skye. The Cuillin ridge is home to 12 peaks over 3000 feet making it a Munro baggers dream. The range is revered for having some of the most challenging Munros to summit in the whole of Scotland, however, if you are less experienced then you could add the likes of Bruach na Frithe and Bla Bheinn to your list while you are on the Isle.
Let’s continue this Isle of Skye travel guide with the village of Elgol. This tiny hamlet offers up some of Skye’s most spectacular views of the Cuillin Ridge. From Elgol, you can depart into the heart of the Cuillin Ridge to take on some of its more challenging, iconic climbs such as The Inaccessible Pinnacle or the Coich – popularised by the cult classic Highlander. Several companies offer guided tours in this area however my personal recommendation would be Skye Guides.
The Three Chimneys restaurant, set in a stunning location on the shores of Loch Dunvegan, with views over the Minch is the epitome of the fine dining experience. The food here is of the highest standard and Three Chimneys prides itself on using fresh, local seasonal produce.
The Three Chimney’s has won numerous notable awards, making it a popular destination for foodies visiting the Isle, so make sure to book in advance to save your table.
You can’t visit a Scottish isle and not call into the local distillery, and Skye is no exception. This is the home of Talisker, Skye’s original distillery, one of the finest Scotch Whiskey’s to be distilled in the country.
The distillery itself is set on the shores of Loch Harport in the small village of Carbost on the Minginish peninsula. Take a tour to learn more about the Whisky’s rich heritage, and of course, enjoy a tasting to round off the experience.
Sitting opposite the Talisker Distillery is Caora Dhubh Coffee Company. With a focus on ethical trading, local sourcing and environmental awareness it's the perfect place to pick up a flat white, and enjoy a yummy cake. I got a brownie and it was DELICIOUS. They also sell artwork from a local artist, which means you can have a browse while you wait. Sitting outside with views of the Cuillins, on the banks of Loch Harport, I can think of worse places to enjoy a brew.
A haven for climbers who have earned a hearty meal and a cold pint after a day on the Cullin, as well as a lively bar for locals and tourist alike; the Sligachan’s Seamas’ Bar is an ideal spot to end your day.
Nestled into the shadow of the Cullin, enjoy a selection of brilliant food, drought beers from the neighboring Cullin Brewery and over 400 Malts from around Scotland - with that many whiskys it’s no surprise this place has won whisky bar of the year on several occasions.
For anyone wanting an extra dose of Scottish culture, this is the place to go to enjoy an evening of Ceilidh dancing.
Located within the centre of Portree, you’ll find Birch Café. Popular with locals, Birch is known for it’s specialty coffee which is brewed onsite in their very own roastery. For any coffee addicts, this place is a must! Matching the quality coffee is a delicious spread of deli food which you’ll be able to enjoy in the cafe’s scandi/minimalist surrounds.
You wouldn’t think that situated in the town of Portree (Skye’s capital), lay a food truck that was producing some of the most delicious pizza in Scotland, but that’s exactly what you’ll find if you head to ‘Pizza in the Skye’.
It’s a one man band and the guy who runs it is a legend, not only does he serve up some quality pizza, he’s also a fountain of knowledge and will give you some great advice for your trip on Skye.
On the Isle of Skye’s rugged and beautiful west coast, just a few miles south of Dunvegan, you’ll stumble upon Black h. Surrounded by open croft, the minimalist design is an architectural dream. Overlooking Loch Bracadale, with views of the Cuillin to the east and Macleod’s Table to the west this is the perfect place to switch off, rest, recharge and reconnect with nature. A stay at Black h can be reflected by one word, serenity.
An original 1830’s crofter’s cottage that’s been completely renovated into a stunning hideaway makes for the perfect escape to the wilds. Situated beside Camustianavaig Bay, step outside and you’ll be entering an ecosystem known for its sea eagle and seal populations, making it ideal for a spot of wildlife spotting. Although the house enjoys a rural location, it’s no further than five miles from Skye’s capital Portree, making it very well connected for accessing other area’s of the Island during your stay. The Crofter’s House is the perfect scandi-style retreat for two.
Set in fifteen acres of private grounds, this family run hotel offers the perfect setup for any travellers wanting to unwind in beautiful surrounds. The hotel boasts spectacular views over the Bay or Portree and the Cuillin Mountain Range that will leave you in awe from the moment you arrive. Just a short ten minute walk to Portree town centre, the central location is the perfect place to begin your Island adventure.
Fancy a trip where you can unplug and hit the reset button? Well the Loch Eyre Shepherd Hut offers just that, perfectly positioned for stunning views over Loch Eyre and beyond. Situated within the grounds of Loch Eyre House which is found between Portree and Uig, the Shepherd Hut is ideally positioned for exploring the Trotternish Loop and beyond. The hut’s quirky character and charming décor set up the perfect scene for your rural getaway.
That’s my Island guide to visiting Skye. I hope you got some useful tips for your next trip.
What’s your favourite experience on Skye, let us know in the comments!
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