Scotland is a country that always takes my breath away – whether I’m visiting somewhere new or revisiting my favorite locations (for the Nth time). Everything about Scotland leaves me breathless in awe, but no single place more so than the very stunning and beautiful Isle of Skye.
Skye is a magical place and the lore that accompanies this stunningly beautiful Scottish island really brings it to life. It’s not enough to walk alongside the Fairy Pools – no, to appreciate Skye you need to understand the myth and legend behind the beauty.
It has become more and more popular over the recent years; certainly helped along the way by mentions within National Geographic, and a variety of other travel and outdoor guides.
The Scottish tourism website has great articles on Skye that I would absolutely recommend reviewing if you’re considering visiting:Visit Scotland Tourism Page
The Isle of Skye tourism website is another treasure trove of information, including suggested walks on the island and other tidbits of information.Isle of Skye Tourism Page
Before you make the decision to drive on Skye you should absolutely read and familiarize yourself with this article on driving on single track roads. Every year I read articles about tourists who have gotten themselves tuck or into accidents while driving on Skye or other remote locations because they did not take the time to understand the nature of the roads there before visiting. Pay particular attention to the nature of the “Passing Place” if you’ll be driving on Skye.Driving Tips for Skye
If you are taking a trip to Skye I do plead with you to ensure that you are respectful of the island, it’s roads, it’s beautiful scenery, and it’s people.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
The views from the Quiraing are second to none on the island and it has a loop walk that is relatively easy in difficulty level. The Isle of Skye has a page that details the nature of the walk and how to proceed and I would recommend reading that. They recommend 2 hours for this 4+ mile walk. Even if you don’t want to commit for the full loop you can still walk a portion of it to get a feel for the dramatic landscape and enjoy the incredible views from the cliffs.
The Fairy Pools are only accessible by foot and the walk of the full length of the Fairy Pools is a must do for anyone spending time on the Isle of Skye. The Fairy Pools are interconnected with waterfalls and stretch for a good distance. The water in the Fairy Pools is so pure and beautiful that you can see straight to the bottom, and it’s so clear that it looks more like a reflection than anything beneath the surface. The blues and greens that make up the water are unusual colors to see in this part of the world and have a magical quality that must have helped to name them.
The largest of the villages on the Isle of Skye, this fishing village was only established around 200 years ago. The quayside is absolutely gorgeous with the beautifully painted and colorful homes that line the quay. Though it’s not a large village it has all the amenities – from hotels, bed & breakfasts, a small grocery store, restaurants, and a lovely pub “The Merchant Bar” (with a fantastic whisky selection). It’s a great location to make for your base or stay overnight in and has good connection to the rest of the island.
This well known brand of single malt whisky calls Skye home and makes a unique whisky expression that marries together the saltiness of the sea with warm peated smoke. You don’t need to be a lover of whisky though to appreciate the Distillery – from it’s gorgeous whitewashed walls to the view of the bay, it’s a beautiful place on the island. The distillery run tours daily and you can spend time learning about how whisky is made and what makes Talisker’s whisky different than the rest.
Dunvegan Castle & Gardens
This stunning castle that overlooks the water on Skye has a long history on the island reaching all the way back to the 1200s. The collection is well preserved and covers the time frame of Clan MacLeod, who lived in the Isle of Skye for a long time. If the castle was not enough to capture your imagination alone there are also gorgeous gardens adjacent to the castle and the ability to take a boat trip to see the local seals.
It is hard to describe what you could expect to see at the Fairy Glen – but it certainly has an unusual and otherworldly feel. It is a collection of grass covered hills with odd spirals creating road like structures leading to the top of the hill. The hills are able to be climbed but I would recommend some sturdy hiking boots. When I visited it was very wet (common for the Isle of Skye) and managed to slip wearing my sneakers/trainers quite easily.
Old Man of Storr
The Isle is known to have many beautiful walks – the Fairy Pools and Quairang included – but the Old Man of Storr is known to be the most famous of the walks. It’s also one of the most beautiful natural creations on the island as well, made by an ancient landslip and having created a unique shape – the face of an old man (lying down). If you’re interested in the nature of the hike take a look at the Isle of Skye website.
Neist Point Lighthouse
One of the most famous lighthouses in Scotland it resides at the tip of a peninsula and at the end of a very scenic and beautiful walk on the island. The Isle of Skye tourist site recommends the views here at sunset; and I can only imagine how stunning that would be.
Kilt Rock, near Staffin
Kilt Rock is a cliff on the eastern part of the island, near Staffin, where the cliff face has formed into a structure that is similar to the pleats of a kilt – this where it’s gotten its name. There’s no fancy walk here but it is a lovely site to visit to see the gorgeous formation and a charming waterfall that goes into the sea.
While exploring the island in 2017 with friends we had some time to kill so we drove north to see what else we could stumble upon on the island – and came across Duntelm Castle. Or at least the ruins of Duntelm Castle with several sheep grazing within the locked grounds. It was a short walk from the road along the cliffs and had a gorgeous view once we reached the castle.
Skye Museum of Island Life
Living museum on the island that showcases what life was like on the island over a hundred years ago. It was closed when we visited last but the thatched cottages that make up the museum were gorgeous to look at in the scenic environment of the Isle of Skye.
The tales that lead to the myth seem to be different on who is reciting them. Several travel companies include the story on their information around Skye and suggest different origins.
In one tale the woman is a bride who becomes disfigured by an accident on her wedding day and is left for dead after being thrown off a bridge by her angry groom, and in return the fairies healed her face and restored her beauty. In another tale the woman is a warrior woman who ran to the river to cry for help in ending a war and she was given knowledge in return.
Myth says that if you dunk your face into the water for seven seconds you’ll be granted wisdom and eternal beauty.
I’ve done it twice now and can’t say it improved my beauty, but it was incredibly refreshing and invogorating.
And so much more…
There are many other sites and hikes to enjoy while on the island, but I wanted to capture the most famous ones here. The local sites for Skye have some great recommendations so be sure to leverage those resources as well!
In 2017 I visited the island for a few days with friends and had created a map from our itinerary – we covered ground fromMapped Itinerary from 2017
When should you visit Skye?
Skye’s popularity has made it difficult to visit during the height of the season, and even if you book far enough in advance to find lodging you still have to contend with all the other visitors. This is particularly challenging when trying to find parking or when coming head to head with a tourist who doesn’t know what a pacing place is on a one lane track. Quite simply – Skye’s infrastructure is not built or designed to house the number of visitors that want to come to the island.
Therefore I would recommend going slightly off-peak season and avoiding the worst of the crush. For me that would be in April, May or September. Bring layers and water proofs – this is Scotland it likes to rain, a lot.
I would recommend at least 2 full days, but 4 would provide more time to explore.
There are many guided tours that will take you to Skye for a day, or two at most. While these provide a good organized way to get to the island and around it, along with a convenient guide (who usually knows the lore), the visits are all brief in nature.
To appreciate Skye to its fullest potential I recommend traveling on your own and giving yourself time to hike to the Fairy Pools or along the Quiraing; to really breath in the essence of Skye and not rush through it at someone else’s pace.
That being said – I have done the guided tours on several of my visits and it saves you the hassle of driving on the winding roads with passing places (that most tourists don’t know how to use). If you do choose to drive make sure you scroll all the way down this article to the insights on how to use a pacing place.
Where should you stay on Skye?
This is a tricky question as there are not a lot of accommodations on Skye. Portree is the largest town on Skye and has a few Bed & Breakfast style venues, and a handful of Air B&B as well. There are other small cottages and lodging dotted around the island in more rural settings. But you will not find a chain hotel here and it is a very rural location. Camping is another option to consider as well, but bearing in mind that it is often wet, cold and windy on Skye.
When I’ve stayed on Skye I’ve usually stayed in Portree; looking at Air B&B style accommodations or one of the local Bed & Breakfast options. On one of the guided tours I had taken they had a hostel in Kyle of Lochlash (small village just next to the bridge on Skye).
The Isle of Raasay is next to Skye and does have a few options as well, but keep in mind that you would need to cross there via ferry if you chose to stay on Raasay instead of Skye.