After spending two weeks on the Isle of Skye, I can safely say that it’s one of the most unmissable stops on a trip to the UK. Full of dramatic landscapes, historic castles, and mystical nature, this island is a true Scottish gem.
Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast looking for the best hikes or a photographer in seek of stunning sunsets, the Isle of Skye has got you covered. Or, if you’re like me and were looking forward to fresh seafood, you’ll find plenty of restaurants on the island that you’ll want to go back to.
So, without further ado, here’s a complete guide to traveling on the Isle of Skye, from the best places to visit to where to stay on the island.
The Best Places to See on the Isle of Skye and Nearby
1. Fairy Pools
The enchanting Fairy Pools is one of the biggest reasons why Skye is so mystical. These crystal clear pools are surrounded by majestic mountains and waterfalls, making the scenery incredibly photogenic. This is especially true at sunset when the mountains turn into a fire-red color.
There’s a walking trail going from the parking lot to the pools, and it takes about 45 minutes to complete. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even take a dip in one of the pools.
This is one of the busiest places on the Isle of Skye, so starting your visit early in the day, before the crowd arrives, is always a good idea.
2. Neist Point
The Isle of Skye is known for its dramatic cliffs and lumpy landslides. Neist Point is the perfect embodiment of that and offers an incredible sunset view on top of it. There’s a row of different cliffs at Neist Point, and all of them are worth climbing — don’t worry, the incline isn’t that steep, and it’s an easy and relaxing walk.
Spend some time “hopping” from cliff to cliff and admiring the breathtaking view from each one. You’ll eventually spot a rock at the end of the cliffs, and it’s got a lighthouse standing on it. Bring a picnic and enjoy it on the grass next to the lighthouse. The atmosphere there is very serene, and you won’t find many people around — even at sunset.
Read also: 5 Fun Things to Do in Scotland
Portree is a colorful coastal town with tons of tourist facilities, including a cultural center and a swimming pool. It’s also home to many incredible restaurants. For that reason, it’s one of the best places to stay on Skye. Even if you don’t plan on staying the night here, it’s still worth stopping by for food and panoramic views.
In fact, the town’s main attraction is a row of colorful houses by Portree Bay. There’s a place called ‘Colourful Houses Viewpoint’ from which you can admire and photograph them.
Afterward, be sure to have a delicious meal at one of the countless restaurants nearby. Try Cuillin Hills Hotel Restaurant for the best ‘meal with a view’ experience, or Sea Breezes for some delicious seafood.
4. Sligachan Old Bridge
The mountainous sceneries on Skye are everywhere, and they’re made even more majestic when paired with an old pedestrian bridge. From the Sligachan Old Bridge, you can get a stunning view of the Black Cuillin mountains and the Sligachan River.
Take a peaceful stroll along this bridge (and many photos), then stop for a meal at the Sligachan Hotel next door. The hotel also has a parking lot which you can use when visiting the bridge.
If you’re keen on exploring off the beaten path, don’t miss the hidden gem of Plockton, a picturesque lakeside village right underneath the Applecross Mountains. It’s just an hour’s drive from many famous attractions on Skye.
Take a walk along Harbour Street in Plockton to see some incredible views of the lake. If the weather cooperates, you can witness breathtaking reflections of the village houses in the water.
The best thing about Plockton is that there are boat tours in town that take you to see adorable seals around the lake. When we went, we saw more than a dozen of them in two different locations, and it’s pretty common to spot them, especially since the organizers have been doing these tours for over 30 years. Animals lovers and anyone who wants to escape the crowds of Skye would love the peace and quiet found in Plockton.
6. Old Man of Storr
The Old Man of Storr is one of the most iconic landmarks of Skye and offers an incredible hiking trail with epic views. Situated on the Trotternish landslip, this massive piece of rock has a very interesting shape and is especially cool to see at sunrise.
Spend 2 hours hiking the circular trail here, and enjoy the beautiful views along the way. There are multiple trails for hikers of all levels, so even if you’re a beginner, you can easily complete the hike.
7. Eilean Donan Castle
The iconic Eilean Donan Castle is the most photographed castle near the Isle of Skye, and it’s not hard to see why. This castle is incredibly picturesque and set against the backdrop of nearby hills and lakes. Built in the 13th century, it was used to protect the island from the Vikings.
If you enjoy photography, you’ll love shooting at this castle. Get here after 6 pm to see it gorgeously lit up in the dim sky, and bring some quality wide-aperture lenses to capture the scenery. As a photographer who’s shot there myself, I recommend the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM, one of the best low-light Sony a7III lenses. This camera is perfect for travel photos and works great in dim lighting, too.
Don’t forget to go inside the castle as well. You can take an interesting tour of its premises for £10 and discover all the historical artifacts that have been discovered there. Afterward, be sure to take a stroll on the large bridge next to the castle to see its magnificent reflection in the water.
8. Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls
No trip to the Isle of Skye would be complete without a stop at the picturesque Kilt Rock and the dramatic Mealt Falls that runs down from it. These are some of the easiest attractions to see on Skye because they don’t require hiking or walking to get to. Simply drive to the Kilt Rock Viewpoint, and the view is right in front of you.
Snap some pictures, and then take a walk along the coast to admire more scenic vistas.
9. Fairy Glen
The magical Fairy Glen on Skye will transport you to a fantasy world. This famous landmark is located on vast farmland and is full of geological wonders. It mainly consists of Castle Ewan, a gigantic rock formation that looks like an ancient ruin. Underneath it, there are mysterious circles drawn on the grass.
There are countless grassy mounds and hills that you can climb at the Fairy Glen. Hop from hill to hill to get different perspectives of this landmark, and take in the enchanting views because you won’t find them anywhere else on earth.
Essential Isle of Skye Travel Tips
My top tip for traveling on the Isle of Skye is to download Google Maps before you arrive. Some parts of the island don’t get any mobile coverage, and it’s likely that you’ll be driving somewhere, and suddenly, your navigation stops working. This island is pretty remote, so having offline maps (or a compass) can be lifesaving.
If you’re planning to travel to Skye in the peak season of summer, be sure to book hotels six months in advance. At the very least, book them three months in advance. Restaurants, especially the good ones, get booked out very fast, too. So if you’re a big foodie, be sure to make reservations weeks ahead.
How to Get to the Isle of Skye
There are many ways to get to the Isle of Skye from the main cities in Scotland. From Inverness, you can either drive for 2.5 hours or take a bus for 3 hours. From Edinburgh, the fastest way to get to Skye is to drive for 5.5 hours. From Glasgow, you can either drive for 5 hours or take a bus for 6.5 hours.
My top recommendation is to rent a car and drive to Skye. This is because public transport is very limited on the island, so it’s very difficult to get around the Isle of Skye without a car. Plus, driving will allow you to visit a lot more places, including the remote hidden gems.
Where to Stay on the Isle of Skye
There are many good accommodations on Skye suited for all kinds of travelers. If you enjoy a touristy and urban setting, then look no further than Portree. Alternatively, Isleornsay offers incredible sea views, and Uig is a great base for hikers and adventurers.
Top comfort choice: Cuillin Hills Hotel
A stunning accommodation overlooking Portree Bay. It offers magnificent views of the coast and is home to an award-winning restaurant; one with an epic view.
Top budget choice: Ballintoy B&B
This hotel is about as affordable as it gets on Skye. It has a stunning garden and is situated very close to many attractions on the island. The rooms are also very clean.
For a unique stay: Uig Chalets Idrigill Hill Chalet
This is a perfect place to stay if you enjoy calming sea views and want to get away from the city. These chalets are very well-equipped and even have free WiFi. You can also easily get to the main attractions in Skye from here.
Final Thoughts on the Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is a true paradise for hikers, photographers, and foodies alike. Whether you’re looking for a thrilling adventure or a relaxing outdoor retreat, you can find a great mix of both on this stunning island. So the next time you’re in the UK, be sure to head up north to discover the incredible gems on Skye.
Jiayi Wang is the writer and photographer behind The Diary of a Nomad, a travel and photography blog with a special love for less-visited destinations. She has been living in the UK for over 6 years and enjoys exploring all the corners of the country.