The Isle of Skye is located on the NW side of Scotland, with the closest airport being in Inverness. The drive from Inverness to the Isle of Skye is around 2.5 hours. Alternatively, you can fly or take a train to Glasgow (depending on your departure destination) and take a road trip up to the Isle of Skye. The total drive from Glasgow to Isle of Skye is close to 5 hours, but there are some beautiful areas to stop along the way so it is recommended to plan in time to enjoy the journey up to Skye. Regardless of your route to Skye, you will need a car to travel to and around the Isle.
Note – check out Highlands & Isle of Skye itinerary for detailed options on how to make this journey [COMING SOON].
Once you have nearly reached the Isle of Skye, there are two options to access the island.
1) Southern route option: take the ferry from Armadale (near Glenfinnan) to Mallaig
2) Norther route option: cross a bridge to get to Skye (keep an eye out for the Highland Cows when you drive on the island this way!)
An ideal scenario would be to take one option onto the island and one option off of the island. If you are visiting in a peak time, be sure to book the ferry in advance. A few days should be enough, but waiting until the day of travel could mean the time you wish to take the ferry is sold out. Information on the ferry and booking options can be found at this link.
The Isle of Skye is a small island, but requires a car to explore all it has to offer. Plan to hire a car where your travel begins. If you are traveling by plane, the Inverness and Glasgow airport have numerous rental car companies to choose between. If you are keen to see a lot in a short period of time, consider booking with a company which allows you to pick-up the car in one location and drop it off in another location. For instance, you could travel into Inverness and rent a car from the Inverness airport, and then plan to fly out of Glasgow, therefore returning the car to the Glasgow airport rental location.
The best place to stay when visiting the Isle of Skye would be Portree. The town itself is quite small and most of it can be covered by foot in 20 minutes, but it is the largest town on the island. It provides a great home base to explore the island and offers a variety of accommodation options including hotels, Bed and Breakfasts, and owners renting out their personal properties to visitors.
Portree has a few small grocery stores, and a variety of restaurants all walkable from each other. It is the main area on the island where you will have multiple different restaurants within the same area. If you choose to stay outside of Portree, plan to either drive for meals, cook in your accommodations, or rely on the hotel restaurant.
If you are looking for a nice hotel and are ready to pay for more expensive accommodations, consider the Cuillin Hills Hotel. This hotel is located up on a hill just outside of the Portree city center. The town itself is about a 20 minute walk from the hotel and the views from the hotel are beautiful. The restaurant at the hotel is also excellent and when the weather is nice, table and chairs are set up outside for hotel guests or other visitors to enjoy a drink and snack with a gorgeous view.
Hiking the Old Man of Storr is the most famous and main attraction on Skye. The hike is around 2.5 – 3 miles roundtrip, starting near the parking lot and climbing up to enjoy some magnificent views of the surrounding area. Plan to spend about 2 – 3 hours on the hike, considering time to stop for photos along the way and take-in the scenary. Since the hike is popular, consider getting an early start to avoid the crowds. If you are starting the climb around 8:00-9:00, you will be able to take advantage of the surrounding views without large groups of people alongside you.
Also known as the peninsula of Rubha Nam Brathairean, Brothers Point is scenic view of rolling hills along the water. The start of the hike can be tough to find as it looks like a driveway off the main road, and there is minimal parking nearby to call attention to the hike. It is an out and back hike, first heading down to the water and along the coast out to Brothers Point. On your way back, you will re-trace your steps and climb back up to where you began. 1-1.5 hours should be enough time to complete the 2.25 miles roundtrip hike. This hike tends to be much quieter and is less likely to be busy with crowds, making it a good stop for a mid-day hike.
The Kilt Rocks and Mealt Falls are located 5 minutes from the Brothers Point parking lot, just off the main road A855. These large rocks are cliffside with sharp, 90m drops. Depending on the season, a waterfall will flow over the Kilt Rocks.
Small waterfall not too far from Brother’s Point.
This hike is the second most famous when visiting Skye, behind Old Man of Storr. The walk is 4.3 miles and takes about 2-3 hours. The hike is a loop and goes along the cliffside. The views are beautiful, but on a cloudy day, a lot of the hike can be fogged over making it a bit difficult to find the trail. If there are plenty of people around, this will be okay, but tougher if you have started early to avoid crowds. Parking is somewhat limited at the trailhead and the hike can get very busy in the late morning / early afternoon so it is a good hike to start the day with and be on your way with an earlier start.
In order to visit the Dunvegan Castle & Gardens, you must pay to enter. However, if you drive past the castle parking lot towards the Coral Beach, there is a nice view of the castle from the road.
A white sand beach and light blue, tropical water, feels very out of place in Scotland. Coral Beach can be found about 10 minutes from the Dunvegan Castle on the NW coast. Walking out to the beach takes about 20 minutes from the parking lot. The walk is easy and worth it for a different view. If it is a nice day, there may even be swimmers, but the water is quite chilly.
Neist Point is a beautiful spot to take in panoramic views of the surrounding area. Looking out over the ocean and around the rolling cliffs is stunning, and many like to venture here for the sunset. When visiting the lighthouse, you will have to make a steep walk downhill and continue the general downward descent until you reach the lighthouse. Since the walk is an out and back, you will have an upward climb to look forward to on the way back to your car. Do not let this scare you away though as the walk is not too long and provides very nice views. The lighthouse itself is dated, but the views around it are worth the walk.
The Talisker Whiskey Distillery is about 30 minutes from Portree. The Distillery offers tours and tasting, but make sure to book in advance especially if visiting during peak season.
The Fairy Pools are another favorite site to see while visiting the Isle of Skye. It is an out and back trail, about 2 miles, which runs along a stream and has a few, very clear waterbeds where people may wade into the water. The path is relatively flat and is suitable for most to join. For this reason, the Fairy Pools will be busy during the day and is another good option to hit early. The parking lot is very large, and more commercialized than others as it even has a proper parking attendant. Part of the beauty of the Fairy pools comes with the backdrop of the Black Cuillin Mountains.
The Cuillin Mountain Range provides some beautiful landscapes. If planning to be in Skye for 3+ days, consider exploring the mountains on a hike. Although not what brings people to Skye typically, the mountains provide more opportunities to get outside and enjoy the outdoors.
This is a short, very easy walk through a unique terrain. The Fairy Glen has a fairytale feel to it, with the green mounds scattered throughout the area. Budget less than an hour in for this stop, unless you plan on sitting in the Glen a bit. To access the Fairy Glen, you will need to venture off the main road. Drive until you reach the parking lot and then it is an easy walk from there.
Another nice option if visiting Isle of Skye for 3+ days is to take a boat trip. One common route is from Elgol to Loch Coruisk, which sits in the Cuillin Mountain Range. The Loch takes awhile to get to and therefore accessing it by boat is a great option. Once at the lake, the walk around the lake is 6.6 miles.
The town of Portree has a cute harbor with colorful houses lining the water. The town is very small, but is worth a stop through if you are not staying in Portree.
With the exception of walk-in locations, plan to make reservations at least a few days in advance, if not further ahead. There are only a handful of sit down restaurants in or around Portree and many book-up all evenings.
Located just outside of Portree, about a 20 minute walk from the town center, the The View is the restaurant at the Cuillin Hills Hotel. True to its name, this restaurants sits up on a hill and has a beautiful view outside the windows over the surrounding area. If you are lucky, you will get a table right next to the window. The food is delicious and atmosphere is lovely. Overall, while on the Isle of Skye, be sure to take advantage of fresh fish and seafood. If you happen to have a sweet tooth, do not miss the sticky toffee pudding here as it is excellent.
Another hotel restaurant, the Rosedale is found on the second floor of the hotel and looks out over the bay. The dinner here is definitely recommended and the staff is all very friendly, adding to the dining experience.
Located in the center of town, Cuchillin is a casual restaurant. The menu is not very expansive and food is average. Check this out if you have trouble getting a booking elsewhere and are looking to dine out with some local seafood.
Outside of Portree and located a few minutes from the Talisker Distillery, this is a must visit. The Oyster Shed is a spot where you can order fresh seafood in all different assortments including a plate of oysters, individual orders of fish and seafood, or a giant seafood box compiled of a variety of seafood, fish and chips. The Shed has spots to eat outside or you can take food to go. The food is excellent, but be prepared to work for it, especially if you get a seafood box with countless langoustines.
When visiting the Isle of Skye, an ideal plan would have 3 nights. Assuming weather is decent (which is a big assumption in Scotland!), 3 nights gives you enough time to hit the main sights across the island. That being said, if you do not want to chance it with weather or prefer not to cram too much into each day, consider 4 nights.
Note – check out Highlands & Isle of Skye itinerary for detailed options on how to plan your trip itinerary [COMING SOON].
The best time of year to visit the Isle of Skye is definitely in the summer or shoulder months. In June through August, you will benefit with the most hours of daylight as it may not get dark until 11 in the evening. The summer months also should bring less rain than in the winter, but the summer months do come with more tourists and other visitors, so keep this in mind while planning. Alternatively, visiting in late spring or early fall may mean less crowds.
If traveling in the summer and looking to hike, consider starting your days early to avoid the crowds. Starting hikes at 8:30 versus 10:30 could make a large difference in the quantity of people also exploring the same area.
Scotland is surely not somewhere you visit for good weather. It is known for its lush green landscape, which it gets from the consistent rain the country sees throughout the year. Do not let this scare you away from a trip in Scotland, as it is a vastly underrated country with beautiful landscapes and the friendliest people. Instead, pack clothes which can be layered, good shoes, rain gear and you will be set to explore the Scottish terrain.
When on the Isle of Skye, cell phone service is quite spotty. Keep this in mind when planning out your days as you may not be able to look up information while on the go. However, the road signage is decent and will help you in finding the key big destinations. It is recommended to have a general plan before you start your day on hikes or viewpoints you plan to hit so you can make the most of your day without becoming dependent on having cell phone service.
The commonly visited spots on the Isle of Skye will require you to pay for parking (Old Man of Storr, the Quiraing, Fairy Pools). Most places accept credit card at this point, but always helpful to have some cash just incase the card machine glitches and cash is still an option.
Stock up on some snacks while on the road to give yourself flexibility throughout the day. Finding food while on the move may be tough, especially as even the town of Portree only has a very small grocery store. This will help allow you to take advantage of your time exploring Skye.
Transportation and Accommodations
Things to do and see
Food and Drinks