The complete guide to the Isle of Skye

Let’s go to the Isle of Skye!

Welcome to The Isle of Skye. Billow and breeze, islands and seas, mountains of rain and sun… Sadly we no longer have to travel to Skye by boat, but the island is still just as spectacular. Once you arrive on Skye and leave the civilisation of the Broadford behind, the highlands of the Skye are literally awe-inspiring. It is no wonder that the Isle of Skye is Scotland’s most popular island. Here is my complete guide to things to do on the Isle of Skye.

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Where is the Isle of Skye?

The Isle of Skye is one of Scotland’s Inner Hebridean Islands and is located off the west coast of Scotland. The island of Skye is located in the Lochaber region. The capital of Skye is Portree. 

When is the best time to visit the Isle of Skye?

Skye should always be on your list of islands to visit in Scotland. However, in summer, Skye is often fully booked with crowds at all the main attractions.  The island is beautiful all year round. think about visiting in autumn or winter when the crowds are much smaller. Be prepared for some wilder weather and shorter days, but October, November and April to May are stunning times to visit Scotland. 

things to do on the Isle of Skye

How big is the Isle of Skye?

The Isle of Skye is 50 miles long and 25 miles wide, plus the roads are windy and often windy – far too big for a day trip! 

Should I visit the Isle of Skye?

Thanks to Instagram (and site’s like mine!) the Fairy Pools, the Fairy Glen (Glenbrittle) Neist Point Lighthouse and Kilt Rock (Meall Falls) have made the Isle of Skye Scotland’s most famous island. It has also led to some disappointing headlines of poor parking, overrun locations and litter and campervan waste being dumped by the side of the road.

However, I still think Skye should be on your list of places to visit in Scotland, so here are a few ways to make your visit to Skye more sustainable:

  • Don’t build rock towers at the Fairy Glen – they aren’t a natural part of this beautiful landscape.
  • Do not attempt to climb down the cliff to the bottom of Meall Falls – you can’t, it is actually a long walk along the coast.
  • Do eat out at local bars and restaurants, rather than visiting a chain supermarket or bringing all your food with you – support the local economy on Skye – just don’t take photos of the island.
  • Take all your litter home with you – do not expect someone to empty an overflowing bin!
  • Do visit attractions first thing in the morning, or the last thing at night to avoid the crowds
  • Do not wild camp in a campervan, and dispose of all waste, including grey waste at proper disposal spots – its very damaging for the environment
  • Don’t park in passing places or on the roadside if you can’t find a parking spot – always have a plan B!
Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye Accommodation

Looking for the best places to stay on the Isle of Skye? Here are my favourites:

My favourite places to stay on the Isle of Skye 

More places to stay with AirBnB Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye hotels 

Looking for hotels on the Isle of Skye Scotland? My favourites are the Sligachan Hotel with its whisky bar sitting under the Cuillin, Skeabost House and the Cuillin Hills Hotel

Isle of Skye luxury hotels

If you are looking for luxury accommodation on the Isle of Skye, try the Three Chimneys and The House Over By, Kinloch Lodge and restaurant on the Sleat Peninsula, or Edinbane Lodge.

Three Chimneys House Over By Skye

Isle of Skye cottages 

Looking for a self-catering cottage in Skye? Try the beautiful conversion of an Old Post Office, 5 miles from Portree, the Airigh at the Black House is a self-catering cottage with a view of the Sound of Sleat. If you are looking for a family-friendly self-catering house, have a look at Crofters Cottage, and down at Sleat, The View, Isle Ornsay sleeps four. 

Dog-friendly cottages Isle of Skye

Bringing the furry kids? Check out the beautiful The Lodge, at Culnacnoc, the modern log cabin at Skye Lair or The Steading, at Dunvegan.

B&B Isle of Skye 

Prefer a B&B? My favourite bed and breakfast on the Isle of Skye are Mint Croft and The Cottage Stein.

Isle of Skye hostels

Looking for a hostel on the Isle of Skye? Have a look at Portree Independent Hostel and Portree Hostel, Skye Backpackers, Kyleakin and Saucy Mary’s Hostel, Kyleakin.

Glamping and Isle of Skye pods

Love camping but prefer a bit of luxury? Try glamping? Down on the Sleat Peninsula are the Skye Yurts, the Glenview Pods, the Skye Cabins, or the Skeabost View Pods. The Little Skye Bothy is a cute Isle of Skye pod near Broadford.

Glamping Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye lodges and log cabins

Looking for a log cabin? I love Air an Oir with its spectacular view over Portree and Skye Eyrie which sits under the stunning Trotternish Ridge.

Isle of Skye wild camping

Informal lightweight ‘wild camping’ is legal in Scotland, however, this does not apply to campervans, and you should not camp within the sight of your car. Isle of Skye camping sites are marked on the map below.

The best things to do on the Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye attractions map

The Fairy Pools 

A natural series of pools leads down out of the Black Cuillin – heaven for wild swimming. The pools of the River are beautifully clear and make for a great photograph. The Pools are near Glenbrittle, with parking nearby at the Forestry Commission car park signposted ‘Glumagan Na Sithichean’. It will take around 1 hour to walk up to the pools and back from the car park.

The Fairy Glen

The Fairy Glen on Skye is an Instagram star! Found to the north of the island near Uig, the Fairy Glen is a miniature landscape of glens, lochans and its own tower named Castle Ewan. There is a popular tradition by visitors of making stone spirals in the glen as a tribute to the fairies, however, these are now removed by local residents to keep the glen a natural environment. There is very limited parking at the glen, and if you can you should walk to the glen from Uig which will take around 30 minutes.

Isle of Skye mountains – the Cuillin

The dramatic Cuillin (singular, not The Cuillins, as it is ridge, not a range of mountains) dominate the misty Isles’ skyline wherever you look – climbing the twelve 3000 ft+ peaks of the Black Cuillin ridge is on most Munro Baggers bucket list. 

Whilst there is no easy Munro in the Cuillin, with the right hill walking gear and in good weather, Bruach na Frithe and Bla Bheinn are two of the easiest summits to reach. Don’t attempt the Cuillin in winter without winter climbing experience.

Isle of Skye castle – Dunvegan Castle

Visit Dunvegan Castle, home of Clan MacLeod to learn not only about the history of this clan but also the role of clans today – as well as their most famous member, Dame Flora MacLeod. The Castle sits in a stunning location on the seafront, and the gardens are also lovely to wander around.

The Quiraing 

Did you know that one of the most popular attractions on Skye is actually a landslip? Yes, The Quiraing is a landslip on Meall na Suiramach, the highest part of Skye’s Trotternish Ridge. The landslip is actually still moving, with the road to the hill needing repairs most years! The Quirang is made up of lots of photogenic parts – the needle, the prison and the table from which there is an incredible view.

Visit The Quiraing with this circuit from Walkhighlands.

The Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye

Part of the Trotternish Ridge, the Old Man of Storr on Skye is probably the island’s most famous landmark – and one of the most popular walks on the Isle of Skye. The walk will take around 1 hour to complete.

Isle of Skye lighthouse – Neist Point

One of the most famous, and most photographed lighthouses can be found at Neist Point, the most westerly point on the Isle of Skye. The lighthouse was first lit in 1909 and was designed by David Alan Stevenson and sits on the Duirinish Peninsula. In summer, the single track road down to the lighthouse can be a dangerous drive, with the small car park (room for 20 cars) regularly being overrun. Visit Neist Point with this walk from Walkhighlands.

Kilt Rock (Meall Falls)

It is said the rocks over which Meall Falls, fall, resemble a kilt – the basalt rocks certainly are ‘pleated’. The falls can be found around 15 miles north of Portree and there are a large car park and viewing point. Many Instagrammers have climbed the fence to take photos of the falls – do not add to the damage to the cliff edge – plus at Kilt Rock, the 90m high Meall Falls drop down to the sea! You cannot climb down the cliff either – it is a long walk in along the coast to get to the bottom.

Dinosaur Footprints Staffin

Fancy going on a dinosaur hunt? Head to An Corran at Staffin where you might be lucky enough to spot a series of 60 million-year-old dinosaur footprints! The footprints are covered at high tide, and often covered by sand – so look carefully!

Portree, capital of the Isle of Skye

Portree is the main town on the Isle of Skye – famous for its colourful cottages and harbour feel.

Hotels in Portree

With its bars, restaurants, shops and hotels, Portree is a great place to base yourself to explore Skye, book into the trendy Marmalade or the Bosville Hotel or the classic accommodation at The Portree Hotel.

west coast of Scotland

Broadford

Broadford is the first place you reach on arriving on the Isle of Skye – and is the 2nd largest village after Portree. If you like hiking, Broadford is a great base for discovering the Cuillin Range.

Uig

Ferries departing for the Outer Hebrides leave the small hamlet of Uig on the Trotternish peninsula. The Ferry Inn is a great place to stay if you want to explore from Uig.

Elgol 

The tiny hamlet of Elgol is one of my favourite places on Skye. With dramatic views of the Cuillin mountain range. From Elgol you can take a boat trip out to Loch Coruisk in the heart of the Cuillin range from where, if you dare, you can negotiate the Bad Step or climb the diminutive, but distinctive, Sgurr Na Stri – both as epic as any quest dreamed up by Tolkien.

Camasunary Beach from the Elgol Peninsula

If you like life a little more sedate the Cuillin is also viewed in all its magnificence from a walk to Camasunary Beach on the Elgol (or to give it its proper name) Strathaird Peninsula. Read more – hike to Camasunary Beach.

best places to visit in Scotland

The Sleat Peninsula

On the south coast, with rolling lush green landscapes and views over the sound to Morar, Knoydart and Glenelg, the Sleat Peninsula is one of Skye’s hidden gems. Often bypassed by those arriving on the Skye ferry the Sleat peninsula is also one of Skye’s quieter corners – which makes it perfect as a base to explore. 

Carbost

Carbost is located out at what feels like the end of the world – you turn left at The Cullins and just keep going and going and going until you reach the home of the Talisker Distillery. The Old Inn at Carbost is a great place to stay if you want to try a few very local drams.

Places to eat Isle of Skye

  • Lunch at The Oyster Shed (although we chickened out of the slippery suckers for prawns & mussels) 
  • Dinner at the Old Inn at Carbost (excellent fish, fish & more fish) where you can also enjoy the local Skye & Cullin breweries.
  • Woodfired pizzas from Cafe Sia – they are also available to take away if you prefer the peace of your yurt. 
  • Michelin-starred / fine dining at the Three Chimneys and Loch Bay restaurants.
Guide to Isle of Skye 3

How do you get to the Isle of Skye?

The Isle of Skye is connected to the mainland by both a bridge and three ferry services.

Isle of Skye Ferry

  • Mallaig to Armadale – the Mallaig to Armadale ferry links the mainland direct to Sleat. There are up to 9 ferries a day in summer and it 30/40 minute crossing. Make sure you book in advance as if there is no ferry crossing available from Mallaig it is about 3-hour drive round via the bridge! 
  • From the Outer Hebrides – You can also arrive on the island at Uig from Tarbert on Harris in the Outer Hebrides. 
  • From Glenelg – Catch the tiny Glenelg ferry – great fun

Driving to the Isle of Skye

How to get to the Isle of Skye from:

  • Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye – driving time 5 hours
  • Inverness to the isle of Skye – driving time 2.5 hours
  • Glasgow to the isle of Skye – driving time 4.40 hours
  • London to Isle of Skye – 11 hours! Best way to get to the Isle of Skye is to fly to Edinburgh, Glasgow or Inverness
  • Fort William to Isle of Skye – driving time 2.15 hours

Train to the Isle of Skye

There is no railway on Skye. The closest train stations are at Mallaig for the ferry to Armadale and at the Kyle of Lochalsh. Local Skye buses connect across the island.

More Island Guides

13 Comments

  • Siobhan 15/07/2015 at 1:23 pm

    I love Skye so very, very much. So glad you got good weather for your trip. Portree. Staffin Bay and the Quiraing all have special places in my heart. <3

  • Elise 16/07/2015 at 10:19 am

    It all looks wonderful – that fish! Skye is high on my list for our next Scottish holiday, if the weather stayed like that I’d be happy! 🙂

  • supermum2016 02/04/2016 at 10:58 am

    Wow looks amazing. Isn’t it just great when the weather is on your side. Never been to Scotland but will definitely be planning a trip there one day. Thanks for sharing.

  • swapna 04/04/2016 at 1:17 am

    I missed going to Isle of Skye when I visited the UK- Twice actually! But these pictures are……really fabulous! Pls do share at the Practical Mondays Link up! Would love to see your fabulous pictures there!

  • ethannevelyn.com 04/04/2016 at 8:14 pm

    It is so beautiful! I really like your photos – they are amazing! The Old Man of Storr and the Kilt Rock escpially. Great that the weather gods smiles on you. 🙂 #MyFavouriteTrip

  • Our Seaside Baby 07/04/2016 at 6:29 pm

    Wow! The Isle of Skye looks stunning and it’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit. The landscape & views are absolutely beautiful! Love the coloured houses, the lush greenery and those views out to sea. Amazing photographs, funny you missed the waterfall, but did see it afterall! Thanks for linking up #MyFavouriteTrip Polly x

  • Elizabeth MacLeod 10/06/2016 at 2:29 am

    Umm, great article, thanks for the tips that we’ll take into account when we travel there this summer.. But, a glaring error – Dunvegan Castle is home to the MacLeod clan, not MacCleod.

    • lovefrom 10/06/2016 at 10:04 am

      oops! Thanks for that, now corrected. Enjoy your trip to Skye when it comes!

  • keza 18/08/2016 at 9:58 am

    I love your pictures! Definitely will go there once in my life ♥

  • Highlights of Isle of Skye - Scotland's Crown Jewel - INSPIRED BY MAPS 26/08/2016 at 7:34 pm

    […] for more information on Skye, including where to eat, I also recommend you check out the fantastic Guide to the Isle Of Skye by Love From […]

  • Ingrid 04/09/2016 at 8:40 am

    Thanks Kate, most helpful. We are off to The Highlands soon and are starting our adventure with just 2 nights self catering in Skye. Your post was just the ticket. By the way, we had a lovely holiday in Edinburgh this spring and are booked to go back next March to celebrate “himselfe’s” birthday. We are also huge Gabaldon fans as well as Rankin fans! Looking forward to another pint in The Ox!

    • lovefrom 07/09/2016 at 11:01 am

      Hi Ingrid, I have a guide to the Isle of Skye that might help with your visit. Are you heading to Wester Ross (Applecross & Gairloch) ? as I have also got a list of my favourite things to do there too!

  • The Best Water-Based Experiences in Scotland - Luxe Beat Magazine 27/05/2020 at 6:48 pm

    […] and Scotland is the perfect setting for a sailing experience with a trip around the sea lochs of Skye and the Small […]

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