With soaring mountains, crashing waterfalls and blazing sunsets, it’s no wonder the Isle of Skye is Scotland’s biggest tourist destination after Edinburgh.
As well as the incredible scenery – often listed along with the world’s most breathtaking natural landscapes – the Isle of Skye boasts traditional fishing villages to explore, award-winning restaurants to dine in and many outdoor pursuits to take part in, including ample opportunity for Munro bagging. Enjoy this Isle of Skye guide.
Its accessibility contributes to its popularity; you can either get the ferry from Mallaig on the mainland or drive across the Skye Bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh. Once you’re on the island, you’ll discover a magical landscape which has captured the imagination of many visitors from around the world. Read our guide to the Isle of Skye below to find out more about this incredible destination...
About the Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye, or ‘Cloud Island’ in Old Norse, is the largest of the Inner Hebrides and the second-largest of Scotland’s islands, making it a great destination for a quintessential Scottish island holiday. And at only 50 miles long, it’s easy to see many of the island’s world-famous sites in one trip.
Explore Skye’s rich history, which includes clan warfare, Highland clearances, and the Jacobite rebellions and Bonnie Prince Charlie. You can visit An Corran in Staffin, one of the oldest archaeological sites in Scotland, which dates back to the 7th millennium BC and was once inhabited by dinosaurs. Around 30% of the island still speak Gaelic – a reminder of the island’s still-strong heritage.
Skye is also loved by keen geologists; from the Cuillin Range to the Trotternish Ridge, not forgetting the Old Man of Storr, there is plenty to keep rock-lovers amused. These ridges and rock formations also make the island a must-visit destination for hikers the world over, offering 12 Munros (peaks over 3,000ft) to bag!
How to get there from Inverness
- Head north west on A9 then taking the turning onto the A835 towards Ullapool
- After the village of Garve take the left turning towards Achnasheen
- Continue on this road until you reach Kyle of Lochalsh
- From here, you can take the famous bridge over to Skye and begin your adventure on this amazing island!
Highlights: You will drive part of the NC500. You will come across Eilean Donan Castle which is the perfect spot to stretch your legs, not to mention an amazing photo opportunity!
How to get there from the south
- Bypass Glasgow, continuing up through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
- Head towards Fort William on the A82
- After Fort William take the turning at Invergarry onto the A87 and continue on to Kyle of Lochalsh where you will get onto the same bridge
Highlights: Drive through the amazing Trossachs National Park and take in the views up Loch Lomond
Isle of Skye destinations
Skye has a range of villages to explore, all with their own individual charm and fascinating history. Here are a few of our favourites but there are loads more that can be discovered when travelling around this magical island.
This is the main village on Skye which is surrounded by hills and close to the popular site, Old Man of Storr. It was originally a fishing village and has all the amenities you’ll need while staying on the island, including banks, places to eat, leisure facilities, petrol stations and supermarkets. It also has lovely views across the bay to the Isle of Raasay.
Highlight: The award-winning Aros Centre runs regular concerts, theatre and film screenings adding even more culture to your trip.
Place to stay: Loch View Lodge is set on the banks of Loch Portree and sleeps 4.
Broadford sits beneath Beinn na Caillich, or the ‘Hill of the Old Woman’. It’s packed with craft shops and artists’ studios, plus a hospital, a supermarket, a post office and a bank. You can enjoy a delicious meal at one of the restaurants or cafes or take a boat trip to Kyle and Kyleakin. There is also a big beach for the days you want to just chill outside.
Highlight: Wildlife like otters, seals, sometimes orca whales, whooper swans, brent geese and many other marine and bird life can be spotted here.
Place to stay: Rum View is a bit further south, in easy reach of Broadford and sleeps 2.
Settled in a sea loch in the north is Dunvegan. As well as Dunvegan Castle, the ancestral seat of the Clan MacLeod for 800 years, the village also has a grocery shop, a post office and a medical centre.
Highlight: Dunvegan Castle stands proudly on the shore and is open to the public to explore its impressive interior and beautiful gardens.
Place to stay: Sgurr Mor House is set in the pretty nearby village of Glendale and sleeps 6.
Round to the west of the island is Uig, which has a ferry port with boats to Uist and Harris. It’s also popular with walkers, being close to the Trotternish Ridge and the world-famous Fairy Glen.
Highlight: You can visit the islands of Harris and North Uist with the ferry service leaving from Uig, giving you even more adventure opportunities.
Place to stay: Taobh an Uillt is a trendy, modern house with wide-spanning countryside views and sleeps 9.
Also in the west is Carbost, the largest settlement on the Minginish peninsula. It’s most famous for being the site of the Talisker whisky distillery and also has a shop, a café, a doctor and a post office. Visitors to the island come here to visit the enchanting Fairy Pools.
Finally, in the south of the island is Armadale, which has stunning views towards Eigg and Rhum. If you get the ferry across from the mainland, this is the first place you will visit on Skye as it’s the main ferry port on the island. It also has a shopping area, a pier, a petrol station, a farm shop and a post office, as well as Armadale Castle, the former seat of the Macdonalds of Sleat.
Isle of Skye beaches
While Skye stretches for 50 miles, its meandering coastline extends much, much further. It’s ripe for exploration, boasting unspoilt beaches backed by the island’s mountainous landscape.
In the north of the island is Staffin Beach, well worth a visit if you are a fossil hunter as you’ll find some incredible dinosaur footprints here. Choose from the main bay or a small area of sand by the slipway.
Visit the east of the island for Braes Beach, Camas Ban and Waterloo Beach. Braes Beach has incredible views towards the Sound of Raasay and is close to caves and sea stacks, so is great for an explorative walk. Camas Ban in Portree is a sandy beach at the end of a hike – so this isn’t a great beach if you have limited mobility but does mean it rarely gets busy. Waterloo Beach near Broadford is another sandy stretch and has plenty of rock pools for little ones to explore. It is often windswept, so pack a hat.
In the south, choose from Elgol Beach, a Fjord-like sea loch overshadowed by the Cuillin Range and once the hiding place of Bonnie Prince Charlie, and Camas Daraich, a sheltered beach that is a moderate walk from the nearest road.
Head west to the large, sandy Glen Brittle Beach, which has a nearby shop great for keeping kids fed and watered. Or visit the breathtaking Talisker Bay – at the foot of Glen Oraid, it boasts high cliffs and waterfalls to make a visit to the beach a little more spectacular.
What wildlife can you see whilst on the Skye beaches?
- Sea eagles
- Red deer
- Atlantic salmon
- and cows!
Isle of Skye attractions and places to visit:
Whether you’re looking to discover more about Skye’s rich history and heritage, visit the island’s incredible natural sites or take in some cultural destinations, there is plenty to see and do on a holiday to the Isle of Skye.
History lovers should visit the two clan castles on the island:
Skye’s prehistoric history can be best explored at Staffin Beach, where you can see dinosaur footprints dating back 165 million years. It’s best to visit in winter for a chance to see the footprints up close, or you can learn more about Skye’s terrible lizards at the Staffin Dinosaur Museum.
The Isle of Skye boasts incredible natural attractions at almost every turn, but people visit from around the world to see the majestic Old Man of Storr. This dramatic rock formation on the Trotternish Ridge has captured imaginations for centuries and has even appeared in the film, Prometheus. Another popular natural site is the Mealt Waterfall, which is fed by the nearby Mealt Loch. When it plunges over the cliff into the sea below, an eerie howling noise can sometimes be heard.
And while you may not want to leave the island at all, if you fancy a day trip then the Isle of Raasay makes a great excursion; you can catch the 25-minute ferry from Sconser.
Isle of Skye places to eat and drink
A holiday is made complete with good food and drink, and shopping locally and eating local produce is just the icing on the cake!
Whisky lovers will be in their element on the Isle of Skye, as the island produces some of the world’s best whisky. The Talisker Distillery was built in 1830 and should be your first port of call to learn about the island’s whisky-producing heritage. You can take a range of different tours, from the classic tour to the masterclass and sample delicious island produce.
There are also two new distilleries to visit which were both established in 2017.
Read more at our guide to the Isle of Skye’s whisky distilleries.
Skye also has an impressive array of restaurants to match its high-quality distilleries. Most notably is Loch Bay, near Stein, which has won a Michelin star for its Scottish-influenced contemporary menu. Also in Stein is the 18th-century Stein Inn, the oldest pub on the island, which specialises in fresh Skye seafood and local ales and whiskies.
One of the most popular restaurants on the island, and almost impossible to book into, is The Three Chimneys near Dunvegan. Situated in a former crofter’s cottage, it has won multiple awards for its menu which celebrates the island’s Scottish and Nordic heritage – we’d recommend the Skye, Land and Sea tasting menu.
But for a light bite, refreshment, or coffee and cake, we all seek out the best cafes in any area. Here are our favourites on Skye:
Isle of Skye walks
Walkers and Skye go together like neeps and tatties. Skye is home to both the Cuillin Range, Britain’s most formidable mountain range, and the Trotternish Ridge, as well as the highly picturesque Quiraing, giving walkers of all abilities plenty to get stuck into.
First of all, we have to mention the Cuillin which has earned its fierce reputation due to its Alpine-like peaks which tempt hikers from around the globe. It boasts 12 Munros to bag including the Inaccessible Pinnacle, known amongst climbers as the In Pinn.
Despite its fearsome appearance, the Cuillin also creates the beautiful turquoise Fairy Pools – crystal-clear rock pools filled with spring water by waterfalls from the mountain range. They are accessed by a short walk from Carbost to Glen Brittle and you can visit to enjoy the natural beauty of the pools, or even take a dip in the chilly waters if you’re feeling brave! It's best to get there early to avoid too many on-lookers as you take a dip!
For those who don’t fancy bagging a Munro, the Quirang – an array of unusual rock formations and high cliffs – will appeal to you. Experience the unique collection of pinnacles, crags and bluffs on the 6.8km circular walk from a car park on the Staffin to Uig road. And remember, if you don't feel like walking you can get on the mountain bike too!
If you’re looking for a simple but spectacular walk, visit Neist Point, the most westerly point of the island, just before sunset. A very easy walk along a concrete path leads you to Neist Point Lighthouse and some of the most jaw-dropping views on the island, as well as an incredible sunset on a clear evening. Look out over the Minch towards the Western Isles and see if you can spot whales, dolphins, porpoises or basking sharks.
For a walking holiday, set off on the Skye Trail which runs for 79 miles around the island and will take you off the well-worn tourist track and towards incredible coastal and mountain scenery.
Isle of Skye events
Like many other Scottish islands, Skye celebrates its history and heritage through traditional festivals; time your visit right and you could take part, too!
The Skye Show has been held annually since 1907 and celebrates the very best of rural island life. As well as livestock shows, the agricultural event also has local food and drink stands, outdoor activities and cookery competitions.
Another traditional festival is the Isle of Skye Highland Games, held annually since 1877 with the exception of the war years. Over two days of events in August, there are track and field competitions, piping competitions and a regatta plus lots more to see and do. It’s a great community event that captures the true spirit of life in the Highlands.
Holiday cottages to rent on the Isle of Skye
From old crofters' cottages with views across the bay to historic country houses backed by towering mountain ranges, our Isle of Skye holiday cottages allow you to get a true feel of island life. Whether you want to hill walk, sample the whisky or simply enjoy the incredible views, a visit to this magical island will always be remembered.
- Rum View - A charming 1830s cottage, fully modernised providing stylish and comfy accommodation. Sleeps 2.
- Colqhuhoune's Byre - A rural cottage with breathtaking views our over mountains and sea. Sleeps 2, 2 dogs welcome.
- Mandallagh Cottage - A hillside retreat brimming with rustic charm and homely touches. Sleeps 6, 2 dogs welcome.
- Cnoc An Theine - A purpose-built holiday home set on the south of the island with amazing views out over the sea. Sleeps 3, 2 dogs welcome.
Group holiday homes
- Hamara Lodge - A traditional hunting lodge offering homely and spacious rooms and wonderful big garden. Sleeps 10, 2 dogs welcome.
- Uiginish Lodge - A lovely big lodge perfect for groups and families seeking a relaxing holiday on Skye's coastline. Seeps 12.
There’s no need to leave your four-legged friend behind either - our dog-friendly cottages mean you can explore the island’s many attractions with your canine companion by your side.
With so much on offer and lots of places to visit, it’s no surprise the Isle of Skye is Scotland’s most popular island destination. Take a look at our great range of Isle of Skye cottages and book your next stay.
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