Visit the Isle of Skye, Scotland, in 2024: Your Practical Go-To Guide
- Where is the Isle of Skye
- How to Get to Isle of Skye
- Isle of Skie Hiking: 11 Amazing Things to Do
- Weather in the Isle of Skye
- Hotels in the Isle of Skye
- Isle of Skye Restaurants
- Essential Packing for a Hiking Trip to Skye
- Isle of Skye Day Tour
- What’s the best season to visit the Isle of Skye?
- Is visiting the Isle of Skye worth it?
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If hiking and immersing yourself in nature are among your interests, you might have contemplated a few days of unforgettable hiking on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. The Isle of Skye is undeniably one of the most sought-after destinations for hikers and nature enthusiasts, with awe-inspiring sights at every turn. This guide highlights the finest trails and hikes on the Isle of Skye that are appropriate for novices and those seeking to commune with nature while taking on challenges. You will also find recommendations on where to stay and dine, what to bring with you, and how to plan the ultimate hiking vacation on the Isle of Skye.
Where is the Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is an island located off the west coast of Scotland, in the United Kingdom. It is the largest of the Inner Hebrides and is accessible from the mainland via the Skye Bridge or a ferry service. The island is renowned for its stunning natural landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and diverse wildlife, making it a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.
How to Get to Isle of Skye
There are several ways to get to the Isle of Skye, each offering a unique experience of Scotland’s natural beauty.
- By Car: You can drive to the Isle of Skye from various locations in Scotland. The most common route is the Skye Bridge, which connects the mainland to the island. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Mallaig to Armadale on Skye.
- By Bus: Bus services run from various locations in Scotland to Skye. Some of the popular bus services include Citylink, Stagecoach, and West Coast Motors. Most of these services connect with the ferry to Skye from Mallaig.
- By Train: Skye’s nearest train station is in Kyle of Lochalsh, which is connected to Inverness and Glasgow. From Kyle of Lochalsh, you can take a local bus or taxi to the Skye Bridge or the ferry terminal in Mallaig.
- By Air: The nearest airport to Skye is Inverness Airport, about 100 miles away. You can take a bus or taxi to the Skye Bridge or the ferry terminal in Mallaig.
Regardless of your chosen method of transportation, it is important to plan your journey ahead of time, especially during peak travel seasons. Fly and drive is one of the best options to discover the Isle of Skye, and we recommend Skyscanner’s comparison tool to find the best car rentals and Skyscanner to find the best flights at the lowest price.
Isle of Skie Hiking: 11 Amazing Things to Do
This is a a list of 11 amazing hikes and things to do on the Isle of Skye that will take you on a journey through the island’s stunning scenery, rich history, and unique culture. So, if you’re planning a trip to Skye and looking for some inspiration, read on to discover some of the best hikes and things to do on this enchanting island.
1. The Fairy Glen
The Fairy Glen is a breathtaking location that appears to have been plucked straight out of a fairytale, transporting you to the worlds of Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings. The wind has shaped the landscape over centuries, resulting in a stunning environment unrivaled in its beauty. While there are no tales or legends involving fairies, the Fairy Glen is so otherworldly that it appears surreal. The road leading to the Fairy Glen is narrow but navigable, and you can drive through the Glen as long as you avoid the grass. However, parking space in the Glen is quite limited. We recommend visiting early in the morning before the arrival of large tour buses and guides that can disrupt the serene and mystical atmosphere. While exploring the Fairy Glen only takes approximately 30 minutes, one could easily spend hours exploring its wonders.
2. Old Man of Storr
It required us three attempts and hikes before we could finally catch a glimpse of the Old Man of Storr. The region is frequently shrouded in mist, with the summit often entirely concealed by fog. On our first two attempts, we made it to the base of the Old Man of Storr, but the dense fog rendered the surroundings invisible, and we were oblivious to what we were missing out on. On our third try, the weather improved, and we could hike up to the Old Man, go beyond it to observe it from a distance, and take in the breathtaking scenery. To be clear, several online sources indicate that the Old Man of Storr is not visible from the parking lot, and we had taken this information as a given. However, the truth is that you can indeed see the Storr from the parking lot, so if it is not visible, it implies that the top is shrouded in too much fog, and it is not worth attempting to hike up. While the wind may clear the mist, it is best not to get too hopeful since it may never happen.
3. Rubha Hunish
The Rubha Hunish trail takes you to the northernmost point of the Trotternish peninsula on Skye, offering a breathtaking panoramic view that includes the Outer Isles of Lewis, Harris, and Uist. We recommend starting the entire 6.2 km loop from the parking lot to catch a glimpse of the Duntulm Castle ruins on the return trip. This walk is classified as “Difficult” due to some steep sections and rough terrain along the path. While taking the steep cliffside path down from the summit is possible, be aware that the path is challenging and not for the faint of heart.
4. Nest Point
Nest Point is undoubtedly one of the most iconic locations on the Isle of Skye, thanks to hosting one of Scotland’s most renowned lighthouses. The descent is relatively easy, although the concrete path can become steep, particularly in windy or rainy conditions. The trail is a 2.2km round trip, with the path leading back to the starting point. The lighthouse is not visible until you walk back along the cliff and continue along the path on the right.
5. Coral Beach
Situated near Nest Point, Coral Beach is a breathtaking natural wonder that awakes visitors. The beach is made up of crushed white coral, resembling seaweed, and boasts a pristine white sandy shoreline. When the sun shines, the water takes on a beautiful blue hue like the Maldives. En route to Coral Beach, you will come across Dunvegan Castle, which you may choose to explore or catch a glimpse of from one of the lookout points along the way.
6. Fairy Pools
Nestled at the base of the Black Cuillins, the Fairy Pools are renowned for their breathtaking location, stunning beauty, and crystal-clear waters, where intrepid swimmers can be seen braving the chilly temperatures. The round-trip walk takes approximately 20 minutes, although it can take much longer if you pause to take pictures, admire the scenery, or dip in the pools. When the weather is typically “Scottish,” crossing the pools and navigating the walk can be challenging, but it’s still an enjoyable experience (don’t forget to pack an extra pair of socks, just in case). Due to its immense popularity, the Fairy Pools’ car park is one of the priciest on the Isle of Skye, and both the road and the car park are not well-maintained.
7. The Cuillin from Glenbrittle Campsite
The Black and Red Cuillin, which Glen Sligachan separates, dominate the Isle of Skye. You can choose which one(s) to explore based on your interests, experience level, and availability time. One of the most highly recommended hikes is the Rubh’an Dùnain trail. Beginning at Glenbrittle Campsite, this 12km round trip hike is rated as Medium-Difficult, and although it can be challenging, it is an excellent form of exercise. It’s worth noting that if the weather is foggy or rainy, there may be limited visibility on the ascent and descent, but the experience is still worthwhile.
8. Bla Bheinn
Bla Bheinn turned out to be an unexpected hiking adventure during our visit to the Isle of Skye. While we knew it would be a challenge, we didn’t anticipate how tough it would be. The hike is 8 km long and leads to a summit of 3,248 feet, with a path that can be challenging to follow. It is highly recommended that you have a map to help you navigate the route. The climb involves a significant ascent, with some areas requiring scrambling. It should be noted that this hike is not suitable for individuals with vertigo. Additionally, the weather at the top is highly unpredictable, with clear conditions being rare. It’s possible to reach the summit or come close and still not have visibility due to weather conditions.
The Quiraing hike is a must-do for anyone looking to experience the best of the Isle of Skye. This loop walk covers a distance of 6.8 km. While not particularly long, it can be quite challenging in many parts, especially during the final stretch when scrambling and climbing are necessary to reach The Table (i.e., the summit). Once you reach The Table, follow the path down, and continue along the cliff top to enjoy the stunning lakes and sea views. It’s worth noting that breathtaking views can be seen from the car park, and many people choose to stop there. However, skipping the Quiraing hike while visiting Skye would be a colossal mistake. We hiked the Quiraing in windy and misty conditions, adding to the experience’s mystique and allure.
10. Kilt Rock & Mealt Waterfalls
While not a hike, the Kilt Rock & Mealt Waterfalls is an essential stop on any visit to the Isle of Skye, even though it can get quite crowded due to the high number of tourist buses and cars. The waterfall drops an impressive 55m from the clifftop into the sea, providing a stunning sight. It’s worth noting that Kilt Rock and the Mealt Waterfalls are different; the waterfall water does not cascade over Kilt Rock to the shore below. The Mealt Waterfalls are closer to the viewpoint, and you can see Kilt Rock in the background, named so because its colors resemble a traditional Scottish kilt. However, it’s important to be aware that this area is teeming with biting insects, so wearing protective clothing and insect repellent is crucial to avoid being attacked by these pesky critters.
11. Sliegachan Waterfalls
The Sligachan Waterfalls are just a short hike from the renowned Sligachan Hotel and a few minutes from the famous bridge, making it less crowded than the bridge and surrounding areas. This hike is relatively easy but still very rewarding. On a clear day, if you’re brave, you may consider dipping in the frigid waters while enjoying the stunning views.
Weather in the Isle of Skye
The weather on the Isle of Skye can be highly variable and challenging to predict, with frequent precipitation, strong winds, and foggy conditions. The temperature tends to be cooler than in other regions of the UK, and it’s not uncommon to witness all four seasons in a single day. To ensure a comfortable and enjoyable visit, it is recommended to be prepared for all types of weather conditions and to check the forecast regularly.
Below is a table of the weather in the Isle of Skye, including the highest and lowest temperatures and the average monthly rainfall for each month of the year. Please note that these values are based on historical averages, and weather conditions may vary.
Hotels in the Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is a top-rated destination among tourists in Scotland and the UK. Most visitors typically spend only a few days and often limit themselves to the most well-known attractions, frequently from the comfort of their cars or buses. However, finding suitable accommodations on the island can be challenging, given the limited options, the low quality of many available lodgings, and the exorbitant prices charged. Having tried several options, we eventually opted for a private cottage for several reasons:
- As it’s challenging to find available eateries during peak season, we wanted a kitchen to prepare meals at home;
- Additionally, due to our strenuous hiking activities, we desired a location with laundry facilities and a convenient position to minimize commuting time.
If your requirements match our needs, Riverside Cottage is an ideal solution. It is a charming and comfortable cottage near Portree, the primary village, and offers all the essential amenities for a pleasant stay. The cottage includes a kitchen, a spacious bathroom, a large lounge with an additional bed, breathtaking views, a tranquil and peaceful location, and access to a laundry room. The owners kindly provided us with a basket containing freshly laid eggs, coffee, a bottle of Prosecco, beer, and some local cookies, making our stay even more enjoyable. Check Riverside Cottage on Booking.com to view availability and prices.
Isle of Skye Restaurants
Finding a place to dine out on the Isle of Skye during the high season can be quite tricky. With an influx of tourists and limited restaurants, booking a table well in advance is necessary to secure a spot. Additionally, many hotels only accept guests due to the scarcity of eateries, further limiting dining options for those staying in cottages, B&Bs, and self-catering accommodations. Here are some recommendations for dining out (remember to book in advance!):
Pier Hotel Restaurant
This restaurant opens in the early evening and does not accept reservations, so it operates on a first-come, first-served basis. Arriving early increases your chances of securing a table and trying their dish of the day, which often features the freshest and most delicious traditional fish dishes. During our visit, we were fortunate enough to indulge in their delectable lobsters, which made for an unforgettable dinner experience.
For a truly indulgent dining experience during your vacation, we highly recommend reserving a table at the Michelin-starred Edinbane Lodge. Their “Taste of Skye” menu features a carefully curated selection of the freshest local ingredients, presented over multiple courses in a tasting menu format. It’s the perfect choice for savoring the unique flavors and aromas of the island and treating yourself to a truly exceptional dining experience.
The Granary, situated in Portree, offers both hotel accommodations and delectable baked goods. During our visit, we decided to try their sweet treats, and we were not disappointed – the quality of their pastries lived up to their glowing reviews. We particularly enjoyed their mouthwatering doughnuts, which were genuinely irresistible. The owner also operates a nearby takeaway for those on the go, making it convenient to grab a delicious treat and bring it with you while exploring the area.
Essential Packing for a Hiking Trip to Skye
The weather on the Isle of Skye is unpredictable, and visitors who plan to hike must be well-prepared for rain and fog, regardless of the time of year. While you don’t necessarily need the latest gear or to pack excessively for a visit to the island’s most famous locations, we have seen too many individuals attempting to hike without proper equipment, particularly appropriate footwear. Taking mountain safety seriously is critical, as it can be dangerous if not approached with caution.
To assist with your preparations, we have compiled a list of equipment that we use ourselves and wholeheartedly recommend for your trip to the Isle of Skye:
- Mountain boots: if you want to hike, wear boots instead of shoes. The terrain is almost always muddy and slippery on many paths, and the last thing you want is to end up with a broken ankle or issues with your feet. Ensure your boots are waterproof and water resistant to avoid water breaking into your feet and ruining your experience. For women, we recommend the LOWA Renegade GTX MID, which are highly cushioned, incredibly supportive, and won’t feel heavy like traditional boots. Waterproof and water resistant, optimized for an optimum grip. For men, we suggest the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Boots: these boots provide stability, grip, and waterproof protection, while the Contagrip® MA outsole grabs the terrain even when conditions are not great. You can find more hiking boots on Amazon.
- Hiking shoes: if you only plan to visit the most important places, the least you can do is wear a pair of hiking shoes rather than your usual sneakers. Same recommendation as above: waterproof and water-resistant shoes are a must. Have a look on Amazon for the best hiking shoes for men and women;
- Merino socks are an essential item for hikers, and merino socks are perfect for ensuring comfort to your feet. They are also durable and adapt to the weather, so you can invest in a few pairs and use them for years. We recommend Danish Endurance, Bridgedale, and Smartwool, all available on Amazon and best-performing both in hot and cold/rainy situations;
- Waterproof overtrousers: ideal for women (like me) hiking with their leggings and for men wanting extra protection in case of rain. Waterproof overtrousers are a savior when it rains and prevents your outfit from getting completely soaked. On top of this, they are usually packable, so there is no need to plan for extra space. Ample selection of brands on Amazon.
- Insects repellent: the Isle of Skye is infested with midges, little biting insects that can seriously annoy and ruin your trip. Ensure you have a repellent and use it throughout your body and gears. It may not be the best feeling in the world, but you will avoid having painful and itchy bites all over your body. We recommend choosing something active for a long time to avoid reapplying continuously; check Amazon for types and availability.
- Rain cover for your backpack: if you use a hiking backpack, the rain cover is usually included. But if you go for something not specifically designed for hiking, having a rain cover is quintessential and will prevent your stuff from getting wet and, in the worst cases, destroyed—no need to be picky about the brand to choose. Go on Amazon and select your preferred one based on your needs and backpack size. Dry bags can also be an excellent solution to keep your stuff safe; Amazon gets you covered.
Being adequately prepared with the right equipment allows you to enjoy your hiking adventures on the Isle of Skye safely and comfortably.
Isle of Skye Day Tour
If you’re short on time or prefer to travel with a guide, taking a tour from to the Isle of Skye is a great option. There are several tour operators that offer one-day or multi-day tours to Skyewhich typically include transportation, a knowledgeable guide, accommodation (if more than one day) and some free time to explore the island’s highlights.
The tour usually starts with a scenic drive from Inverness to Skye, passing by some of Scotland’s most iconic landscapes, including Loch Ness, Eilean Donan Castle, and the Five Sisters of Kintail. Upon arriving on Skye, the tour usually includes stops at popular sites such as the Old Man of Storr, the Quiraing, and the Fairy Pools. The guide will provide commentary on the history, culture, and natural wonders of the island, and there will be plenty of opportunities to take photos and soak in the stunning scenery.
Taking a guided tour to the Isle of Skye can be a convenient and hassle-free way to experience the beauty and magic of this Scottish gem.
Here are some of the trips we recommend to the Isle of Skye:
What’s the best season to visit the Isle of Skye?
The best time to visit the Isle of Skye depends on your preferences and interests. The weather can be unpredictable all year round, and you should be prepared for rain and wind any time of year.
If you enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and wildlife watching, the best time to visit the Isle of Skye is from late spring (May) through early autumn (September). During this time, the days are longer, the weather is milder, and the island’s flora and fauna are at their most vibrant. Additionally, many tourist attractions and accommodation options are open during this period.
However, the quieter winter months (November through February) may be a better option if you prefer to avoid crowds. While the weather can be colder and wetter during this time, there are fewer tourists, and the island’s natural beauty is still awe-inspiring.
Whether you visit the Isle of Skye during the peak tourist season or the quieter winter months, we highly recommend planning your trip in advance. This will help you avoid the disappointment of not finding suitable accommodation and the frustration of battling heavy traffic or navigating unplanned routes.
Booking your accommodation, transportation, and activities in advance can help ensure a smooth and stress-free trip, allowing you to focus on enjoying the island’s natural beauty and cultural richness. Additionally, booking in advance can often result in better rates and more flexible options, giving you greater control over your itinerary.
Start your quest for the top hotel and accommodation bargains for your Isle of Skye getaway by perusing the listings on Booking.com.
By planning in advance, you can make the most of your trip to the Isle of Skye and create unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.
Is visiting the Isle of Skye worth it?
In conclusion, the Isle of Skye is a remarkable destination with breathtaking scenery, diverse wildlife, and a rich cultural heritage. The island has something to offer everyone, from the stunning natural landscapes of the Quiraing and the Fairy Pools to the picturesque towns of Portree and Dunvegan. The rugged coastline and mountains provide ample opportunities for hiking, while the local cuisine, including freshly caught seafood, is a culinary delight.
The island’s unpredictable weather may present a challenge, but with proper preparation and equipment, you can experience the beauty of Skye safely and comfortably. A visit to the Isle of Skye is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave you with unforgettable memories and a deep appreciation for the natural wonders of this stunning corner of Scotland.