We've written about many of the Scottish islands on our website, but perhaps the most famous of all the islands is the Isle of Skye.
Skye is the largest island in the Inner Hebrides archipelago (and is Scotland's second-largest island), and unlike many of the other islands within this area, there is quite a substantial population (10,000+) and a number of things to see and do. Although the isle is not an official part of the North Coast 500 Route, it is so close that many travellers add it to their journey.
We wanted to round up our favourite things to see, let's get into the article:
Travel tips for Skye
How should you get to Skye?
Should you bring your car?
How long do you need on the Isle of Skye?
The best things to do on the Isle of Skye
The Old Man of Storr (and the Storr walk)
The Quiraing is a stunning part of the Skye landscape which similar to the Old Man of Storr, offers amazing views and excellent walks. The Quiraing is a landslip (AKA landslide), which still moves but it is safe to walk around and admire from a safe distance. Interestingly, the continuous movement of the Quiraing means that the road at its base requires repairs every year. The Quiraing walk is a loop that starts and ends at the car park and is roughly 7km long. It'll take you about 2 hours to do this walk if you don't take any breaks (but the views are so stunning that you'll definitely be stopping a few times!). You can access the walk from either Staffin or Uig nearby. The Quiraing is located in an area known as ‘Trotternish’, in the North of the island. If it's windy we don't recommend you do this walk, but if it's nice weather then this is an absolute must during your visit to Skye.
As always, if you're visiting then be careful and dress appropriately.
Claigan Coral Beach
If your idea of bliss is walking along a beautiful beach and listening to the gentle sound of the waves lapping against the shore, then you absolutely must visit Claigan Coral Beach. This beach is based in the North of Skye, but it's quite hidden and isn't crammed with tourists like so many beautiful beaches can often be. When the sun is out, the sea has a tropical blueish colour due to the crushed white coral under the water, which reflects the sun. The beach is only 10 minutes away from Dunvegan castle (more on that below), making it a great stopping point after you've enjoyed an afternoon at the castle. The only thing to really be aware of at the beach is that dogs are to be kept on the lead at all times.
At the heart of the 42,000 acre MacLeod Estate you'll find Dunvegan Castle, a 13th-century castle where you can enjoy lovely walks and you can learn more about the MacLeod clan via exhibitions. Despite being more than 700 years old, the castle is in stunning condition (it was renovated in the 19th-century) and is beautiful to visit. If you really want to explore the castle fully then a tour is a great way to do so. The best part of the castle is probably the gardens, which are very well kept and include some stunning flora and even have a water lily pond. An adult ticket will cost £14.00 and a child ticket will cost £9, learn more on the website here - dunvegancastle.com
Kilt Rock (& Mealt Falls)
Kilt Rock is an ancient cliff that gets its name from the fact that it looks a bit like a kilt! The cliff was formed more than 60 million years ago during a period of intense volcanic activity, leaving behind a 90 metre high cliff which, due to the slightly tartan colouring and pleated looks, was given the name "Kilt Rock". There is an observation point on the Trotternish Peninsula which is probably the best point to look at the cliff from. Perhaps most interestingly, the cliff can sometimes emit an eerie noise during strong winds (it's actually coming from the fencing around the cliff, but that's not as interesting as some of the local folktales). Definitely make sure you look at this cliff during your trip!
You'll also get to see Mealt Falls, a 55m waterfall which is just along from Kilt Rock. What makes this waterfall really special and unique is that it plunges straight into the sea, something which is not often seen. The body of water at the bottom of the waterfall is known as the Sound of Raasay. There are designated viewpoints near the waterfall from which you can safely view it.
If you've never seen a double waterfall before then you should absolutely check out Rha Waterfalls on Skye. Located in Uig, this waterfall is particularly impressive after a night of heavy rain, so even if the weather isn't especially nice we'd recommend you get along to take a look. The interesting thing about the Rha Waterfall is that it is located near the popular Fairy Glen, so despite it being really stunning (and sometimes reports of eagles circling near there), it is often overlooked and rather quiet there. But don't tell too many people about how great it is! We don't want it to be too overcrowded.
The easiest way to get to Rha Waterfalls is to head towards On the River Rha, you'll find the waterfalls about 1 mile East of Uig pier. You can park on the street near the A87/A855 junction and it will only take you 5 mins to walk to the waterfalls from there. It's always open and always free!
MacLeod's Maidens are a group of 3 sea stacks (columns formed over time by wind and water erosion) located at Maiden's Point on Skye. These are worth a visit because they're stunning to look at - the largest of the stacks is about 70m high and really quite impressive. However, the main downside is they are tricky to get to. You'll need to get off at Orbost road end in Glendale then walk around 4km to Idrigill Point if you want to see them properly. This road has no name but is signposted so is fairly easy to follow. If you have time then you can continue to walk around the cliffs here (safely, of course), and if you're lucky then you might spot one of the sea eagles in the area. Legend says that the stacks represent the drowned wife and two daughters of one of the Chiefs of the Clan MacLeod, hence the name!
Ok, so bear with us here! It might sound outlandish but incredibly, there are real dinosaur footprints that you can visit on Skye. The footprints can be hard to find as they're often covered by seaweed or sand, but it's well worth the effort to look for them. You can spot the footprints in the following locations:
- An Corran Beach - there are prints on the rocks near the ramp
- Score Bay - this is where the big footprints are, and these footprints are believed to be more than 150 million years old
- Brother's Point - these were discovered in 2020 by Edinburgh researchers, and can be found on the beach (you'll have to walk about a mile to reach the beach from the nearest parking spot).
Not only are these incredible to see, they're totally free!
Dun Beag Broch
Dun Beag is an iron-age broch located about near the village of Struan on Skye. You'll only find brochs in Scotland, although the origin of brochs is a subject of continuing research and controversy, with lots of different opinions and theories about how and why they were built. We recommend visiting Dun Beag because it provides amazing views of the surrounding area, and despite being more than 2000 years old is safe to climb still, but we do recommend sturdy footwear and good balance as parts of the climb are a little steep. Dun Beag means "little fort", and that is exactly the sense that you get when you explore the interior - some of the stone walls are 4m thick, and experts estimate that when originally built, Dun Beag would have been 10m higher than it is today.
You can visit Dun Beag by visiting towards the top of Loch Beag, from there you'll spot a car park on the Western side, and from there you can access Dun Beag. Learn more about this broch here - historicenvironment.scot
Although technically not in Skye, Eilean Bàn is definitely worth a visit during your trip. This island sits between Kyle of Lochalsh and the Isle of Skye and is only 6 acres in size, but is worth a little look. The Kyleakin Lighthouse that sits on the island was built in the 19th century and is a Category B listed building, so is quite beautiful to look at. The great thing about this island is that you can actually get to it via the Skye Bridge, so no need for any ferries! Learn more about this small island here - eileanban.org
Clan Donald Skye/ Armadale Castle (& Visitor Centre)
At the south of the island, you'll find Clan Donald Skye (Armadale Castle), a 20,000-acre estate which includes Armadale Castle, the Museum of the Isles, and the Clan Donald Visitor Centre. You can walk around the amazing historic gardens and woodland trails, and also learn about the history of Clan Donald through engaging and fascinating exhibitions. There are some lodges within the estate which can be stayed in, but even if you're staying elsewhere it is well worth visiting the estate. The area was part of the traditional lands of Clan Donald and you can feel the history as you walk around. And like many other areas of Skye, you can see some incredible wildlife there including red deer, golden eagles and sea eagles. Learn more about Armadale Castle here - armadalecastle.com
The Aros centre is described as a community cultural centre, but it is really much more than that. You'll find a number of different things to see and do there, from live performances to a lovely restaurant and even a cinema. If you're looking for somewhere with a bit of everything to visit during your time in Skye then Aros is a great option. We also love the exhibitions which run there, because these are generally about different aspects of life on Skye and the surrounding islands. One particularly popular exhibiton from a few years ago was all about St. Kilda.
The centre is closed at the moment as it undergoes some changes under the new management of the Isle of Skye Candle Co, but we hope to see it open again soon.
We go into a little bit more detail about all of the best whiskey distilleries to visit in Scotland in our dedicated post, but we couldn't exclude the Talisker Distillery from this post either.
Talisker is the oldest, biggest, and (personal opinion) best distillery on the Isle of Sky.
It is situated near Carbost on the west of the Isle. The main roads will direct you to the distillery as it is one of the biggest attractions on Skye.
The Isle of Skye has countless iconic views, and none is more iconic than Neist Point.
The point is not only a stunning cliffed outcropping but is home to the Neist Point lighthouse. The building was designed by David Alan Stevenson and was first lit in 1909 (November 1st). The Lighthouse is now operated from Edinburgh, and the keeper's cottages are now under private ownership.
If you wish to visit the point then you may find it on the most westerly tip of Skye close to Glendale.
It is possible to follow the gravel path down to the lighthouse and the sunsets here are said to be life-changing. Learn more about the lighthouse here - nlb.org.uk
The Skye Trail - the 127km route from the North to the South of the island
The Skye Trail might be an unofficial walking route along the island but it definitely isn't one to approach half-heartedly. The route will take you across coastal cliffs, steep trails and all sorts of terrain, but also past some of the most breathtaking scenery in the UK. It's popular with experienced walkers and has even become popular with ultra runners.
Typically the trail is split into 7 sections and the distance covered is just over 127.5km. Again, nothing is signposted nor official about this route, but typically you start at Rubha Hunish in the North and finish in Broadford in the south. It's simply about getting from one end of the island to the other in the most efficient way possible. You won't find any waymarks and there are hardly even paths for large stretches of the route.
We might be making it sound a little dangerous but that's because it is! If you do decide to tackle this route then it's very important to do so as part of an experienced group, and to also make sure that you're comfortable with maps and compasses. You can also grab yourself a copy of 'The Skye Trail' from Amazon, a handy guide written by Paul and Helen Webster. Good luck!
Our final thoughts about this stunning Scottish island
So....is the Isle of Skye worth visiting?
We definitely think so, and thousands of visitors to the island agree. If you look at the Tripadvisor reviews for the Isle of Skye you'll see that the majority of visitors had a great time during their stay on the island, and although there are a few negative reviews the rating is mostly positive.
Isle of Skye ferry information - https://www.calmac.co.uk/article/7815/Skye-Mallaig---Armadale
Isle of Skye weather - https://www.bbc.com/weather/8299863