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12 Best Things to Do on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

Planning a Visit to the Isle of Skye? Read This First!

Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,

the hills of the Highlands

forever I love

Robert Burns
Portree
view on Portree before sunset, Isle of Skye, Scotland

We researched Scotland and looked at thousands of photos before our travels, but nothing prepares you for what it will be like in person, especially the Scottish Highlands. There is something exceptional about this almost perfect area of the world. As you wander the countryside and get to know the people, there will be WOW moments one after another. After a while, you think it can’t get better, and somehow it does. Scotland has it all from the picturesque landscape, impressive castles, fine whiskey, kind people, rugged coastline, endless farmlands, friendly sheep, charming villages, and fascinating cities.

One of the most memorable stops during our travels to Scotland was the Isle of Skye, a true blessing from heaven. It has sandy beaches, raw natural beauty, medieval castles, and charming villages with the finest and most spectacular views. You will also discover along with its renowned castles, its world-famous mountain ranges, and rocky slopes (known as “Cuillin Hills”). The hills dominate most of its landscape and offer some of the most dramatic breathtaking scenery.

Eilean Donan Castle brought us here, one of the most photographed castles in Scotland, but the whole Isle captured our heart in short order. If you can visit only one part of Scotland, let it be the Isle of Skye.

Eilean Donan View

Where is the Isle of Skye Located in Scotland?

This scenic island is located on the west coast of Scotland. It is in the Highlands of Scotland.

It is 50 miles long and has the Skye Bridge that provides access to the Scottish mainland village of “Kyle of Lochalsh” and “Kyleakin.” It has a total area of 639 square miles (1,656 square km) – 5 times bigger than Malta, four times bigger than Barbados, and three times bigger than Ibiza.

Although there are no railway tracks on this island, you can still get to the closest stations, which connect to local bus routes – Kyle of Lochalsh Train Station & Duirinish Train Station. They provide unforgettable rail experiences from wherever you originate.

If you want to explore the authentic Scottish culture, you should visit the Isle of Skye as it has a bustling port and thriving cultural history that attracts thousands of tourists each year.

Map of the Isle of Skye

Our Scotland Travel Guide can be an excellent resource for planning your next trip to Scotland!

Fun facts about the Isle of Syke

  • It is the second-largest island in Scotland. There are currently around 12,000 people living on the Isle of Skye full-time, and the majority of those residents live in the villages dotted along the coastline.
  • Portree is the capital of Skye, and much like the rest of the island, it is pretty sparse when it comes to population. You’ll only find around 2,500 people living here.
  • Isle of Skye’s main economic trades are tourism, whiskey, and agriculture.
  • The Isle of Skye is famous for its whiskey. You’ll be able to take tours of Talisker, for example, which is one of Scotland’s most famous distilleries and whiskey brands.
  • Aside from giants, other mythological creatures rumored to live on the island are fairies and selkies (seal folk that changes from human to seal form by shedding their skin).
  • 007 was born here. The Isle of Skye is where author Ian Fleming created the character of James Bond. It’s also where some of the movie Skyfall, the 23rd Bond movie, was filmed.
  • A legend states that if you put your face in some of the water running through Skye, you’ll receive the gift of eternal beauty. It has to be the water running through the Old Sligachan Bridge to attain eternal beauty.
Isle of Skye
From Adobe Stock Images

12 Things to Do In the Isle of Skye

Want to make your visit the most memorable it can be? These 12 activities will keep you busy and reveal the magic of this crown jewel of Scotland.

The Old Man of Storr

This place is quite popular, but it is more incredible in real life than the posts you see on social media. It is a spectacular rocky hill in the area of Trotternish. If we say this place is the most photographed highlight on the Isle of Skye, we mean it.

Old Man of Storr
Adobe Stock Photo
Quiraing Walk

The 2-hour Quiraing Walk will be one of the most thrilling walks of your life. It is a loop; you return to the same point. However, the views it offers are amazing. The landscapes you see are gripping and a true definition of natural beauty.

Fairy Pools

The tour of the Isle of Skye can’t be complete without visiting this notable highlight. It is a magnificent slice of paradise where you can relish wild swimming in crystal-clear, icy water. Furthermore, the crisp stream and the rushing waterfall make it an ideal place for photography… You need to walk almost 1.5 miles from where you park your car to reach this place.

Fairy Pools
Adobe Stock Photo
Elgol

Elgol lies on the south coast. It is one of the most famous villages in the Scottish Highlands as it has a harbor that offers boat trips. Tourists visit Elgol to view all the wildlife the Isle of Skye offers.

Dunvegan Castle

This castle is built on the shores of Loch Dunvegan. The most fascinating thing about this castle is it is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland. You can enjoy a wealth of history here and learn about the 800 years old Chiefs of clan MacLeod.

Dunvegan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan is simply a stunning castle. It is a popular place for films and TV shows, and it is easy to see why. You can find the Isle of Skye in many movies, such as The World Is Not Enough – James Bond (1999) and Highlander (1986). This castle was built in the 13th-century and holds a vibrant history of Clan Mackenzie and its Allies. It sits on its little island and gives a majestic view of forested mountains.

The castle was the highlight of our visit to the Isle of Skye. Below find the shadow box that provides some added history and visits details.

Dino Footprints

Do you have an interest in discovering fossils? Well, you can find the actual dinosaur footprints here. According to the researchers from Edinburgh University, Dinosaurs lived in this area and thrived in Skye’s ecosystem around 170 million years ago.

The Fairy Bridge

Local folklores reveal that a fairy said a final goodbye to the chief of Clan MacLeod (her husband) at this bridge. It is worth a visit and an ideal place to have lovely and peaceful moments.

Fairy Bridge, Isle of Skye
Adobe Stock Photo
Neist Point

Love watching the sunset? A visit to Neist Point and the lighthouse should be on your agenda. Unfortunately, you will deal with large crowds of tourists during the busy summer months, but it is still a great place to visit if you wish to see magnificent sunsets, observe whales & dolphins, and photograph lots of common seabirds.

Isle of Skye
Adobe Stock Photo
Coral Beach

This beautiful beach is in the north of the Isle of Skye. The coral sand here is gorgeous, and the water is so clear. It is truly a magical place for a picnic.

Boat Trips

If you are interested to see some wildlife, then taking a boat trip is highly recommended. There are many excellent boat tours to choose from, operating from different parts of the island. Leave from Elgol and visit the spectacular Loch Coriusk surrounded by the Cuillin Range. Or take a boat from Portree to one of the smaller neighboring islands like Raasay or Rona.

Isle of Skye
Adobe photo stock Portree harbor view
Outdoor activities

There are endless choices for outdoor adventures: sea kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, trekking, canoeing, climbing, abseiling, ax throwing, mountaineering, archery, white water rafting, wildlife tours, camping, photography hikes, and the list goes on…

Isle of Skye
Adobe Stock Photo

Eilean Donan Castle, The Highlight of Our Visit

Eilean Donan Castle is a Medieval Castle built mid the 13 century for Alexander II. It is located in Scotland Highlands at the entry of the Isle of Skye. The castle is one of the most photographed monuments in Scotland. It sits majestically on a small rocky island where three great sea lochs meet; Loch Duich, Loch Alsh, and Loch Long. It was built for defense by the Vikings to protect the lands of Kintail. At the time, the Vikings had control of much of North Scotland and the Western Isles. The ideal location made for a solid defensive position.

The Castle was partially destroyed during a Jacobite uprising in the early 1700s. The castle was left in ruins and abandoned for almost 200 years when it was purchased in 1911 by Lt Colonel MacRae-Gilstrap. The MacRae clan protected Eilean Donan during the 15th century. Over the next 21 years, he reconstructed Eilean Donan Castle using the surviving ground plan of previous phases. It was completed in 1932 and opened to the public in 1955. Four generations of the Macrae family have overseen the care of this iconic castle. It is now the ancestral seat of the MacRae clan.

Slideshow of Eilean Donan
  • Eilean Donan
  • Eilean Donan
  • Isle of Skye
  • Isle of Skye

The castle’s storied history includes that Robert the Bruce took refuge here when he was being hunted by the British in the 14th century. The Castle was five times the current size, and for unknown reasons, the outer walls were dismantled and rebuilt during the 15th century.

Visiting the Castle

The Castle, the grounds, and the structure’s interior have been beautifully restored; many rooms in original décor and period pieces. It is a step back in time and an educational and memorable experience. The exhibitions are extraordinary.

Eilean Donan Castle is open seven days a week with extended hours in the summer. It is no longer necessary to pre-book admission tickets to the castle before arrival on site. You can pay at the ticket office or utilize their self-service ticket machines. Check out their website for the most current info.

Where should I stay while visiting The Isle of Skye?       

If you have a multi-day tour plan, Portree is the best place as it is a bustling town and a cultural hub. It has shopping, restaurants, and even a cinema. 

Portree also has some beautiful villages around it. For example, Loch Ainort Village is near the sea loch. It is rarely a place tourists visit. If you prefer quiet, quaint villages, head in that direction. It is stunning, surrounded by Cuillins Hills.

Portree, Isle of Skye
Adobe Stock Photo of Portree

Apart from this, you can visit Dunvegan, Broadford, and Kyleakin too. They are larger villages with lots of character. You will also find some places on the island that feel like they are in the middle of nowhere.

Below are links that will guide you to hotels, vacation rentals, and even some Bed and Breakfast accommodations on the Isle of Skye. The following section below will provide more info on finding Bed and Breakfast accommodations.

Expedia hotels and vacation rentals

or

Booking.com hotel and vacation rentals

Consider a Bed and Breakfast

Isle of Skye

We often stay in hotels during our trips for many reasons. The one place we do the complete opposite is during visits to Scotland and Ireland. Most of this part of the world is countryside and small villages. The hotel reviews didn’t draw us in as the glorious reviews of many Bed, and Breakfast spots did. We refer to the traditional Bed and Breakfast, not AirBnB or vacation rental homes. You get a lovely room in someone’s house, and the best part is they provide a generous traditional local breakfast each morning (thus the breakfast part). That breakfast provided in Scotland often includes toast, beans, fried haggis, potato hash, eggs, back bacon, scones, fried mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, Lorne sausage, and black pudding. We ate it all, because when in Scotland…

We stayed at a lovely Bed and Breakfast near the village of Luib. It was in a stunning location at the water’s edge with incredible sea views. The central location lets you visit all corners of this majestic island. It has had new ownership since we were there.

An added plus is you get to meet locals and hear their stories. How can anyone not listen for hours to that Scottish accent!!! We have loved all our Scottish bed and breakfasts, and they made our time there much more special than we expected.

Here is an excellent site to find Isle of Skye Bed and Breakfast accommodations.

Dining on the Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye

You will not run short of options for dining on the Isle. Portree is where you will have plenty of choices, but there is much beyond. Fresh local seafood is always on the menu. Some suggestions include:

Bog Myrtle Café is a family-run café on the west coast of Skye. If you want a delicious and traditional home-cooked lunch, this place is for you. Locally sourced ingredients inspire its dishes.

The Stein Inn is an 18th-century inn – the oldest on the island – on the North West coast. Stein Inn provides a traditional Scottish experience in a uniquely picturesque setting.

Claymore Restaurant A family-run business, Claymore Restaurant provides a light-hearted atmosphere with sea views and a view of Beinn na Caillich, one of the Red Hills of Scotland. Meals are homey and come in large portions.

The Three Chimneys was listed by the New York Times as one of the few restaurants in the UK worth traveling a long distance to try. Set in a 100-year-old stone cottage, it is a world-renowned Scottish restaurant that has won many awards. It is one of the best places to relish moments with your loved ones. The Three Chimneys is known for its fish and seafood and stunning location.

Kinloch Lodge is located at the edge of a native birch forest on the shores of Loch na Dal. Kinloch Lodge pays tribute to traditional Scottish ingredients. It once was a Michelin Star restaurant. It is also well known for its traditional afternoon tea served in the drawing-room.

The Old School is set in a school from the 1870s. Main dishes such as Beef cheek in Old Bridge beer or traditional beer-battered haddock are popular.

How do I get to the Isle of Skye?

Isle of Skye

The Isle is quite expansive, and the ideal way to get around is by car. That would be the case in most of Scotland. The small charming villages, the hikes, and the beautiful walks in the countryside are unique. It was ideal to be able to stop at any time at off-the-beaten-path places to grab a beer and meet some locals. One of our favorite past times is just driving down some random road to see what we can find.

The Isle of Skye is about 235 miles from Glasgow, 215 miles from Edinburgh, and 120 miles from Inverness. Glasgow to the Isle of Skye has been called one of the most lovely drives in the world! That is the drive we did, and it was remarkable.

There are direct trains that run from Inverness and Glasgow, which go to the northernmost part of the mainland, and from there, you can take a ferry and bus to the Isle of Skye. However, public transportation runs infrequently, making getting around the island extremely difficult once you are there.

If you don’t have a car, one of the best options to visit the best of the Isle is the “Skye Scenic Tour.” They offer both group and private tours. An experienced guide shows you the most fabulous places and makes sure you enjoy the best Isle of Skye offers.

When is the best time to visit?

Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye is one of the most beautiful spots on earth. It certainly is one of our favorite parts of the country. That said, Scotland is no stranger to rains or midges, so many travelers want to know the best time to visit the Isle of Skye. There is no straightforward answer to this question, as you have to factor in more than just the weather. Crowds and prices play a role, especially in the summer. If you are looking for a time when it doesn’t rain, you won’t find it; it rains year-round.

The rainest months are September through January. May and June are known to be the sunniest and driest months. July and August are the warmest, and when the midges are their worst. The weather stays relatively mild throughout the year. While temperatures rarely rise above 60°F, they don’t fall below the freezing point.

Let us provide you with a few tips for adjusting to the climate, so you are well prepared for the land of Isle of Skye. We believe that there is no such thing as bad weather, just a wrong choice of clothing.

So take to heart these few tips.
  • The ground is often muddy and the terrain rugged. Your shoes will get wet!! Wear shoes with good ankle support that can be washed.
  • Wear layers; it is cold and wet in Scotland, even in the summer. The Scottish don’t have the reputation of being strong lads for no reason.
  • A good waterproof jacket, ideally with a hood, is a must. Though we always pack an umbrella, that may not work well here. When the wind is “blowing a hoolie,” and the rain is falling sideways, an umbrella will not be functioning at the end of the day, it will be more likely inside out, and you will be soaked!  
  • The average temperature on Skye in the peak summer months of June, July, and August is around 55 degrees; please note that that is in Fahrenheit! Add an almost constant breeze, and it usually feels colder. As a result, we would highly recommend wearing a fleece and a warm hooded jacket.
  • Pants ideally should be waterproof or fast drying. Jeans are never a good idea; you will stay damp all day.

Click here for the official website for the Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye
Adobe Stock PhotoPanoramic View of Staffin Bay on the Isle of Skye in Scotland

Final Thoughts

A minimum of three days are ideal for exploring the Isle of Skye since there is a lot to do here. If you visit it just for one day, you won’t have enough time to experience the best of this place. The beauty of each destination requires ample time.

It will also be the perfect place if you have traveled a lot and just need a few days to rest and wind down. There is a peacefulness here and a warm feeling of welcome. So put up those feet, grab a beer or a glass of whiskey and take in the wonder that is the Isle of Skye.

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Squaremouth.com

Our favorite travel insurance site!

If you are booking a trip, don’t forget to get travel insurance within 14 days of your first booking. We could not be stronger advocates of being well insured. Not for the little stuff but the big stuff like medical emergencies. We never leave home without it. Over the years, we have used many sites but have now found our go-to place. Squaremouth.com does a fantastic job; it has a user-friendly interface, they use top-rated and reputable insurance carriers, and most policies cover Covid medical issues and cancellations. They also mediate on your behalf if you have problems with your policy.

MedjetAssist

Medical transport back home from anywhere in the world

They are the premier global air medical transport. One caveat to travel insurance is that medical evacuation usually gets you to the closest facility to care for you. Medjet gets you back to the US to the hospital of your choice once you are stable enough to fly. They cover Covid-related transports as well.

Medjet carries its own policies. The policy is only for transport and no other aspects of travel insurance. They have individual trip policies starting at $99 and annual policies for $295. Most of their policies limit the age to 74 and younger. Prices are not based on age below that.

Expedia.com 

Hotels, home rentals, BNBs, flights, and other transportation & tours 

Expedia is a US-based company whose mission is to power global travel for everyone and everywhere. Whether planning a family vacation, booking for business, or organizing the trip of a lifetime, they are a fantastic resource. Wanderers Compass focuses on independent travel, and using sites like Expedia makes that possible. Every aspect of travel you would need, from airfare, accommodations, rental car, cruises, to activities to do at your destination, can be booked on Expedia.  

Booking.com

Hotels, Home rentals, BNBs, Flights, and other Transportation & Tours 

Booking.com connects millions of travelers to memorable experiences, various transportation options, and incredible places to stay – from homes to hotels and much more. It is one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces for established brands and entrepreneurs of all sizes.

We always start with Expedia to check prices, but it sometimes says it is sold out. We then try Booking.com, and we find it lists plenty of rooms. It could be they are a Europe-based company. Try both before booking accommodations.

Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO)

Traveling with a family or having an extended stay at your destination?

With over 2 million bookable vacation rentals, VRBO connects homeowners with families and vacationers looking for something more than a hotel for their trip. The VRBO community offers families or groups various rental property types such as condos, cabins, lake rentals, beach houses, etc.

VRBO is under the Expedia group ownership now, which many were worried about, but it hasn’t panned out to be a concern. It is a massive network that also has access to all forms of lodging should issues arise. Joelle has used VRBO for many years with her family, with no problems to date.

Tripadvisor

Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, helps hundreds of millions of people each month become better travelers, from planning to booking to taking a trip. Travelers around the world use the Tripadvisor site and app to discover where to stay, what to do, and where to eat based on guidance from those who have been there before.

With more than 1 billion reviews and opinions from nearly 8 million businesses, travelers turn to Tripadvisor to find deals on accommodations, book experiences, reserve tables at delicious restaurants and discover great places to see nearby. We use them for guidance and research on every trip, it is a valuable app for the independent traveler.

Rail Europe

Discover Europe by Train

Rail Europe sells train and bus tickets for travel across Europe. They cover 24 countries, 105 rail operations, and 20,000 stations. They are the official rail and bus operations agents in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Rail Europe continues to add coverage all the time.

It is a fast, easy and economical way to purchase train and bus tickets for Europe. Eurail passes are also available to buy through their site.

Amazon.com

An excellent source for travel essentials and guides

Amazon is one of the most extensive shopping online sources in the world. On behalf of their customers, teams worldwide provide lower prices, better selection, and rapid delivery. They offer a vast inventory, and it is their 1.7 million small and medium businesses worldwide selling on Amazon.com that provide extensive options for customers.

We buy most of our travel books, accessories, and luggage from Amazon. We have ordered up to two days before travel and get what we need.

Travelpro Luggage

Thoughtfully Designed | Meticulously Constructed | Quality Guaranteed.

We have used this luggage for years, left briefly to try others, and returned to Travelpro. Travelpro luggage is carried by crews from over 90 airlines worldwide.

Travelpro takes the time to learn what travelers want and need, then builds it. The key factor for us is that it must be lightweight upfront and very resistant to rough handling. Their luggage is the best, and we could not recommend it enough. It is our go-to luggage.

iVisa

Travel documentation made more accessible

iVisa.com is dedicated to providing customers with a simple, fast, and reliable way to get travel documentation for their journey. Their online application process makes getting visas, health declarations, or passport photos a breeze, all from your home’s comfort. As a leading independent company in the travel documentation industry, they take pride in making global travel more accessible for everyone. In the end, it is a simple and affordable travel resource to get the necessary entry documents complete for your international travel.

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