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For those of you who dreamt of a trip to Scottish highlands, the name ‘Isle of Skye’ won’t be new. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful islands in Scotland. This guide will help you plan your trip and list down the things to see in Skye.
Where to start?
There are two main ways to get to Skye, either by road or by ferry. Therefore, your point of entry will be either through Broadford or Armadale, respectively. I’ve been through both, entering through land and leaving via ferry. My method of getting to Skye was hitch-hiking all the way from Edinburgh and we were lucky to get a lift to the town of Portree in the middle of the island. However, if you are not a big fan of ad hoc travel, I suggest you book a tour using a Get Your Guide, which has a list of competitive tour offers for any location you need.
At first, we planned to start our three-day exploration of Isle of Skye in Broadford, but to be honest, we were very happy that we started in Portree. Why? First of all, the driver who gave us a lift said that Broadford isn’t really nice comparing to rest of the island, and we believe him since he is local and secondly because Broadford is still way too far from things you would want to see. So my advice – start your exploration of Skye in Portree, if possible. If you’d like to know more about our planned 3-day experience biking in Scottish Highlands, read my article: 7 CIRCLES OF HELL IN SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS
How to get around?
The bus connections on the island are not that great and they definitely won’t be able to take you to all the places worth seeing. Therefore, the two options I would suggest is either renting a car or a bicycle (if you are ready for some sweaty days).
In the town of Portree there a couple of car rental shops and only one bicycle shop called Island Cycles. The rates are £17.50 per day with subsequent days offering a lower price.
Read here about our cycling in Skye experience.
What to see?
Below is a map with all attractions in the Isle of Skye. As you can see, there are plenty. If you have a car, three days would be enough to drive through the island and see everything, but if you don’t, you’re in a need of more careful planning. Red dots on the map mark the attractions I personally recommend seeing if you don’t have enough time to see it all.
1. Old Man of Storr
One of the most spectacular things to see on Skye is Old Man of Storr, which is a giant rock standing on a hill. There is a possibility to hike the top. It will take you around 30 to 45 minutes to get to Old Man of Storr. The view from the top is spectacular. You will be able to see the sea and the neighboring islands, not mentioning the cute sheep you’ll meet on your way.
Quiraing is a beautiful hill formation on the very north of Isle of Skye. Again, it is elevated quite high, which makes it difficult to get to on a bicycle. But it doesn’t require a hike in order to be able to enjoy its majestic beauty, as it is reachable by road.
3. Neist Point
Neist Point is a gorgeous viewpoint at the most western part of Isle of Skye with a Light House built on it. Looks pretty dramatic, doesn’t it?
4. Kilt Rock
Kilt Rock is basically a part of a cliff with a strangely shaped edge. You can stop here for a nice view over the Mealt Waterfall right in front of the rock itself. It is possible to hike to Kilt Rock but it is not a place that will keep you for a long time since the view of the waterfall is only available from the parking lot side. Otherwise, it can be an effortless stopover on the way up north to see Quiraing.
Portree is the largest town on Skye being also a cultural and culinary hub. There are not so many restaurants in Portree overall, but the few that they have serve the best seafood in the whole of Scotland.
6. Talisker Distillery
Talisker distillery is the only place on the Isle of Skye where Scottish whiskey is made. Be careful going there, as you will get some whiskey samples together with your entrance ticket :). No tourist leaves the building without a purchased bottle of scotch. So, better take a bus to visit this one, it is only 30 minutes ride away from Portree.This trip is good not only for the distillery itself but the nice views you get in here as well!
7. Fairy Pools
Fairy pools are small waterfalls on the south-west of the Isle of Skye with crystal clear water and possibility of wild swimming for the brave souls who are ready to jump off the rock into a pool of cold water. Again, haven’t had a chance to get there, but would definitely want to see it.
Where to eat?
There are a couple of great eateries in Portree, which offer not only good local food but the cozy atmosphere as well. Since there are not so many places to eat in Portree, during high season you will find queues outside of the restaurants. Therefore, it might be a good idea to reserve a table beforehand.
Here are a couple of places to eat in Skye, which I have personally tried and loved.
1. The Lower Deck. The no.1 Quality Sea Food Restaurant, at least it says so on their signboard. Great fish is served in here.
2. The Caledonian Cafe. This place is super cozy and has one of the most amazing puree soups I’ve ever had (could be because we rushed there straight after being poured over by rain).
3. The Granary Coffee Shop. Beautiful interior in the old British stylebuilding. It was a pleasure to have a cup of coffee in this place.
Isle of Skye weather
The best time to visit Isle of Skye ranges from March to September. The time to catch the sunny weather and warm days is between June and September. But don’t be too optimistic about the sun, the annual weather averages for summer are 9-13C. If you want to avoid the rain, it might be best to come between March and July. We have visited in end of August and the chance to get rain was 50/50.
There are plenty of B&B’s all over the Isle of Skye. However, most of them are full during the touristy season of July-August, so you might find it hard to get something on the spot. It is safer to book in advance.
In Portree, we stayed in the Youth Hostel in the city center. It has all the facilities needed: laundry room, kitchen, internet and so on.
The great thing about Scotland is that it is open for wild camping. So, if you bring a tent you’ll be able to save some cash on staying in the hotel and in the same time, enjoy the beauty and wilderness of the island. There is a campsite called Torvaig, which is situated just a little bit outside of Portree. It charges 7£ per person per night and has bathroom and laundry facilities.
Just remember, for the best availability, book well in advance. Skye is rather limited on accommodation it can offer, especially during high season.
As you might have guessed, Scotland is not a cheap travel destination. However, a great thing about it is that many experiences are for free, like nature activities, national parks, and museums. On the other side, you are facing expensive stay and transport costs.
Spending 3 full days in Scotland we spent an average of 120£ per person, which makes it 40£ per day for everything. Here is a more specific breakdown of costs per person per day:
- Stay costs*: 14£
- Transportation**: 13£
- Eating out: 8£
- Food: 5£
* one of the 3 nights we spent in a tent, therefore, for free
** we moved around by buses and rented bicycles
- Regardless of when you are going to visit the Isle of Skye, pack a waterproof jacket
- If you decide to go around the island on a bicycle, I recommend starting from Portree and going up North via the East coast. The road will be easier this way, with more downhills rather than uphills
- Leaving the town (whichever you start with), be sure to make your grocery shopping in there and pack snacks with you, as you won’t see a lot of shops on your way (we only met one in Staffin up North)
- Even though you can wild camp anywhere on the Isle of Skye, keep in mind that temperature drops during nighttime, therefore, I don’t recommend staying on hilltops overnight
- Most of B&B’s and hostels might be booked during high season of July-August, therefore, book your stay early
Traveling to Scotland? You might also like my post on ONE WEEK SCOTLAND ITINERARY.
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When are you planning to go to the Isle of Skye? What do you wish to visit? Let me know! Comment on the article and share your experiences.
Wow, what a comprehensive guide! I haven’t been there so far, but it is on my travel list! 🙂 Thanks for the information and tips!
You’re welcome Julius! I hope you get to travel there, Scotland is more beautiful than I thought.
Great information, one thing I would like to know about is ferry routes. Any information about this type of transportation?
Hi Jodie. Try this website for bookings: https://www.aferry.co.uk/
For Skye, you’d use the Mallaig- Armadale route.
Enjoy your trip!
Wow this is such a great guide! Isle of Skye is on my bucket list and I will definitely be returning to this guide when the time comes to travel there. Pinned 🙂
What a great post about my favorite place in the world. I love how the island is gorgeous, even when it’s not sunny. You certainly captured some great pictures of it! I still need to get to that cafe in Portree. I’ve only been to the city a couple dozen times. :p
I am traveling to the Isle of Skye in August and hope to see castles and ruins of the MacDonalds. I also want to see the place where Flora MacDonals was buried.
Hi, I am about to head to Edinburgh and have a few days after so thought I’d hike In skye. I’ve had some terrain hiking experience, would you reccomend the skye walk? I think it’s 128 km? Also how easy is it to get around the island via bike? Do you have any recommendations for rental places? I’ll take your suggestion and camp in most places as I want to do it on the cheap. Thanks for the post!
It all depends on how fit you are and how much time you’ve got. It took us three days to cycle just a tip of Skye from Portree to Quiraing and back, which was about 40miles in total. Honestly, we were exhausted! It was twice as hard because of the rain. We rented our bikes at Island Cycles (see link in article text) for nearly 18 GBP per day. So, if you are lucky with the weather you might be able to do more 🙂
Thank you for your informative article. We are in the early stages of our trip planning and this is so helpful. My family tree is traced to this isle and the Macorda Clan. Are there any historical landmarks, etc re: the Battle of Killiekrankie. Thanks.
Hi Lee, so you are visiting to rediscover more about your roots? This is amazing! Unfortunately, I don’t know much about Scottish battles, so I wouldn’t be the person to ask. But when you are there, locals will be more than happy to tell you more, I am sure of it. As I have discovered, they are very proud of their history.
good guide apart from forgetting about the south of the Island, you can travel to Elgol, a jewel in Skye’s crown & from here take a boat trip with Misty Isle boat trips to Loch Coruisk in the geart of the Cuillin mountains which are famous all over the world with mountain Climbers, you will also see an Abundance of wildlife during your trip across the Loch such as Dolphins, Porpoises, Basking Sharks, Seals and their pups at the right time of years, thousands of sea birds, the occasional Whale,
when you land in Loch Coruisk, you take a short walk up to the Loch itself which is set in the heart of the mountains and is a spectacular natural amphitheater in its setting, it also has one of the shortest rivers in the world, the River .Scavaig…
The Skipper of the boat, Seumas Mackinnon,s ancestors helped Bonnie Prince Charlie, (Charles Edward Stuart) escape from Skye in 1745 and can direct you to Prince Charlies Cave located nereby where the Prince hid till the Ship carrying him back to France came to collect him,
The Sleat Peninsula is called the Garden of Skye due to its fertile landscape and is home to the MacDonalds of Sleat and the castle there is a reminder of their past battles, There is also the Gaelic College at Sal Mhor Ostaig where you can do research into your families history if you have Clan links to Skye,
You can also walk right down to the tip of Skye and see the lighthouse that keeps ships from the rocky reef of the coast,
So there is more to Skye than meets the eye especially in the South of the Island so be sure to spend some time down there you will not be disappointed, Some call Elgol, Gods own bit of Paradise on Skye, such is the beauty of the place……..Enjoy.
Wow, Calum, thank you for so many extra suggestions! I am sure Isle of Skye has much to offer. Roadtripping Isle of Skye was one of the best trips so far in my life and I cannot wait to come back and explore more
Thanks for your kind comments Lena, South Skye has so much more to offer, I hope you return many times to enjoy the Island in all its glory, There is always something to do no matter the weather & the landscape can look so different With the changing of the seasons,
If you want wild swimming in the summer there is a place on the road to Elgol called the Torrin Pools, as you leave the township of Torrin heading towards Elgol, you go past an old Quarry on your right hand side, there is a small bridge with a lay-by where you can park, Follow the river upstream about 100 yards & there are lovely deep pools where you can swim in the crystal clear mountain river, you can jump of the high rocks round about n have fun just lazing in the sunshine….
There is also a sandy beach at Elgol and you can jump of the jetty there when the boats are away plying their trade across to Loch Courisk, You can get ice cream or tea, coffee n home bakes from the Elgol shop n make a day of your trip to Elgol,
Hope this inspires you to return to the Beautiful Isle of Skye n visit Elgol, the Jewel in the Crown….
You may travel the world n see some awesome sights but there is something about Elgol that gets under your skin n keeps drawing you back, so many people have experienced it n can’t begin to explain what it is, all we know is it has Magical Properties n is a journey you will NEVER regret making……..Enjoy your next trip n finding out if it’s true or not…????
Hi. I’m a member of Clan Macleod n was very disappointed you didn’t mention Dunvegan Castle, home of Macleod’s. We’ve visited Skye n found it to b gorgeous!!!! Shall return one day to my ancestral home.