The Isle of Skye is the best known of the Highlands islands and the most visited thanks to the magnificent scenery. It is also known as the Isle of Fairies for its dreamy landscapes and hidden places. These remote lands in the North of Scotland, which has inspired writers and painters, also continue to arouse great admiration among travelers. The Isle of Skye was always separated from British soil until a bridge was built in 1995 linking the towns of Kyleakin and Kyle of Lochalsh.
Known simply as La Isla, it has served as inspiration for many stories, as relief for sailors and as refuge for kings. But it is also home to fairies and giants, one of Scotland’s best whiskeys and cliffs that defy the north. Let’s get to know a little more about the largest island in the Inner Hebrides , which we visited on a three-day tour from LochNessbus.com .We offer you a little tasting with this Isle of Skye guide.
What to see and what to do
If anything characterizes this island, it is its impressive landscapes, linked to its incredible history. Although it is possible to visit it in one day, the truth is that it is worth stopping to enjoy its locations. Castles, valleys and cliffs are home to numerous plant and animal species that connect you with the incredible nature of the island. Here we recommend the most essential places to visit on your trip to Skye.
One of the mandatory stops on this Isle of Skye trip is Dunvegan Castle . On the west side of the island , where the current chief of the MacCleod clan resides, Dunvengan Castle stands out. This castle is the perfect sample of the life of the clans, as well as its history and traditions such as that of Rory Mor’s Horn, of which the new chiefs have to pass a test and drink 2.5 liters of wine without stopping. This tradition is still being done today to test the bravery and vigor of the new clan chiefs.
On the other hand, Dunvengan Castle is surrounded by gardens that could be the dream of all botanists because of all the exotic species, as well as being on one of the great sea lochs in Northern Scotland . There the seals arrive to take refuge from the voracious hunger of the whales that cannot enter the nooks and crannies that protect the majestic castle.
If you would like to learn about the history and ways of life of another important clan, enemies of the Macleods, and a neighbour in this island, it is necessary to approach the castle, which is partially in ruins, but surrounded by spectacular gardens and with astonishing views of the sea loch. In addition you can visit the MacDonald Clan Museum and the Museum of the Islands and the Highlands in the same grounds. In the museum you can have a look at the history of this powerful clan that ruled the north of Scotland for many years.
One of the natural wonders of the Isle of Skye, next to the Valley and Pool of the Fairies , is precisely the famous cliff of Kilt Rock in a unique setting on the shores of the immense ocean where different types of birds, fish, cetaceans and others can be sighted animal species.
This cliff and the Mealt Waterfall are one of the many natural wonders that can be found on the Isle of Skye and one of the few in the world so impressive, since this famous cliff is reminiscent of the shape of the “Kilt” or the typical Scottish skirt, as its name suggests, next to one of the few river waterfalls that empties directly into the Atlantic Ocean; in addition that the natural frame itself gives a more impressive image of this part of the Scottish coast.
Fairy Glen (Fairy Valley)
Explaining exactly how to get to this particular place on the Isle of Skye can be difficult. In fact, you won’t even find signs for how to get there, just a little square with the name “Fairy Glen”. From there, it is best to go asking the people of the island to find out if you are on the right path.
Once you are there, it will have been worth the search. The valley of the fairies will take you to a parallel universe. The intense green landscape, its natural mountains and the views obtained from the surroundings will leave you breathless for a few moments.
Throughout the valley you will find some lagoons known as the “fairy pools” , a fallen tree worthy of a fairytale scene and the occasional sheep along the promenade.
We move to the westernmost area of the Isle of Skye . This part of the island became famous thanks to its lighthouse, being today one of the best known in the world. Before approaching it, the views of the lighthouse mixed with the sea and the cliffs will be one of the best photographs of the trip.
To get to the lighthouse itself, you will have a long way to enjoy the scenery, which will be seen differently on the way back.
Although everything you will mainly see on the island are mountains and cliffs, the truth is, despite not being very popular, there are many white sandy beaches worthy of the Caribbean in Scotland. One of them is Claigan Beach , a coral beach that you wouldn’t expect to find in this latitude. Despite receiving this name, the coral is not the main material of the beach. Instead, looking closely we will find algae bleached by the sun.
A few kilometers from the shore is the island of Lampay. Thanks to the hours on the beach we can know when the tide is low to be able to cross to this oasis of tranquility.
Portree is the largest town on the entire island. Translated from Gaelic the name would mean “the king’s port” in honor of a visit by James V of Scotland in 1540 . That is why the most striking thing about Portree is the port itself which is full of low houses of different colors. Surely when you visit this area sounds familiar to you. It has appeared in the movie “My Girlfriend’s Wedding” or in the well-known Harry Potter novels, where the Quidditch team “Portree’s Pride” appears with its headquarters, of course, in this city.
Old man of Storr
Very close to Portree and Kilt Rock is a hill that stands out for its strange anatomical rock formation. This is the Old man of Storr , a menhir-shaped pinnacle that can be seen from miles away. Its imposing figure has become one of the most important images of the island, and it is one of the locations that attracts the most tourists during the summer season. Even the path that leads to it is worth walking. In total there are 45 minutes walking from the car park located on the main road of the island, divided into 3 stages. After having traveled the steep paths, you will arrive at your destination and enjoy the spectacular views it offers. You can see the Old Man Of Storr at the beginning of the movie “Prometheus”
How to get there
Getting to the island has been much easier since the Skye Bridge was opened in 1995 , a bridge that connects it to the rest of the UK. If the only possibility of access before was the ferry, nowadays you can count on various options by road or ferry too. Depending on the option you choose, it will be more or less economical.
You will have to travel the A87 road , passing the island of Eilean Bàn through the Skye bridge. This is a good option if you are traveling from the Highlands or from Inverness.
The Citylink company offers direct buses to reach the island. From Glasgow there are three direct services a day and a fourth to Fort William. If you are traveling from Edinburgh , you can reach Skye by stopping in Glasgow with the 900 Service or traveling to Fort William with the 913 Service, which operates every day during the summer season between May and October. There are also two services daily between Inverness and Portree. As there is not many option to reach the island you can take on of our trips and visit all the main attractions in the island and many more on the way there and back to the island from Edinburgh.
If you prefer to travel by train, you should bear in mind that this service only reaches Kyle of Lochalsh , a town located near the Skye Bridge. Once there, you will have to cross the island by bus. Through ScotRail you can take the line that begins in Inverness to reach that destination.
The Caledonian MacBryane shipping company offers three routes to the island: from Mallaig , from Lochmaddy and from Tarbert .
Historical figures attached to the Isle of Skye
History has given characters related to the Isle of Skye as Bonnie Prince Charlie , the last Stuart to claim the throne of Scotland. After the defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, on the outskirts of Inverness, the Jacobite Wars being ended, he escaped to the isolated places of the Highlands , finally escaping to the Isle of Skye, disguised as a lady under the name of Flora MacDonald . Apparently when he saw the Cuillin Mountains, where climbers and mountaineers want to climb to its top to enjoy the best views in Scotland, he said the following: “Not even the devil, when he sees these mountains, will be able to pursue me here .
Another of the great characters in history was the aforementioned King James V on his visit to the town of Portree . This small fishing town stands out for its dynamism and activity in the port area with its small houses and buildings painted in different colors. At night, the pubs and restaurants fill up to enjoy an authentic Scottish dinner and night by the sea.