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.
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 island:
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!
Skye has a range of villages to explore, all with their own individual charm and fascinating history.
In the east is the main village of Portree 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.
Also on the east of the island is Broadford, sat 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.
Head to the north of the island to find Staffin, which is a popular place with geologists and walkers due to it being close to the Old Man of Storr and the Quirang. It offers visitors a café, a launderette and a small shop.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: Dunvegan Castle, the ancestral home of the Clan MacLeod, and Armadale Castle, home to the Clan Donald since the 19th century.
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.
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.
Maybe you’re looking for a romantic getaway to a cottage for two or want a larger house to bring the whole clan together: our self-catering accommodation suits all needs and requirements. 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.
The food and drink:
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 – Torabhaig, near Sleat, and the Raasay Distillery on the Isle of Raasay, 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
With so much on offer, 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.