Skye is the largest and nothernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Several peninsulas jut out into the sea, from a central chain of mountains known as the Black Cuillins The remote, rocky slopes and rugged coastline have created some of the most dramatic scenery in the country. Walking is popular and wildlife abounds. The tumultuous history of the area includes Norse rule and domination by the MacDonald and MacLeod clans. After the 18th century Jacobite uprising, the clans' powers diminished and several crofters were forced off the land in favor of sheep farming. Portree, a harbor town, is the capital and center of tourist activities.
1.Armadale Castle & Gardens
Clan Donald is one of the largest in Scotland and until 1493, the MacDonalds, sons of Donald, were Lords of the Isles. Systematically they were stripped of their titles by the king, and later had some of their land confiscated. Many sold their estates to cover debts. The MacDonalds of Sleat sold their land in 1971 to the worldwide Clan Donalds Land Trust. Armadale castle is a romantic ruin, situated on 20000 acres of working estate, overlooking the Sound of Sleat. The garden has been restored to its glory days of the 18th century and the Museum of the Isles showcases 1500 years of MacDonald history.
Armadale, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland IV45 8RS, Phone: 014-71-84-43-05
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The walk to Boreraig is classified as long and easy. It is a 10 km round trip, taking approximately 90 minutes each way. The walk starts at the church of Kilchrist, about 27 km from Portree. En route there is a village of ruined houses that were cleared in the 1850s to make way for sheep grazing. Further on there are the remains of a railway platform which was the terminal point for the now disused marble quarry. The gravel path along the old railway track is well maintained. The path gets rockier as it heads uphill. At the coast, a waterfall drops into a clear pool on the beach.
Rubha nam Brathairean is off the Trotternish Loop in the north of the Isle of Skye, 13 miles from Portree. Signs show the way to the coastline, along a gravel and dirt road which turns into a grass track. The beach is rocky and the cliff is steep and treacherous as the trail approaches the highest point, near the end of the peninsula. The terrain requires scrambling and can be slippery when wet. In 2018, researchers from Edinburgh found almost 50 dinosaur footprints in the tidal pools. Dogs are permitted on a leash.
This two mile walk is classified as short and easy, suitable for a family outing and picnic in any weather. It is 25 miles from Portree and 10 minutes from Dunvegan castle, just north of a crofting community. The beaches are made of bleached white crushed coral. The seaweed just below the surface of the water gives the sea the appearance of aquamarine. The contrast between sea and sand is most vivid when the tide is halfway in or out. The walk and a visit to Dunvegan castle make a good combination for a day out.
This Hebridean castle was built in five segments, over ten building periods, from the 13th to the mid-19th century. In 1850 the design was unified by adding defensive battlements and dummy pepper pots on all sections. The castle has been in the same McLeod family for 800 years and was opened to the public in 1933. There are several paintings and family heirlooms on display. The 5 acres of formal gardens comprise walled, vegetable, rose and water sections. The Black Cuillin mountain range is on the estate and camping is permitted. Several workers' cottages have been renovated and are available for hire.
Dunvegan, Isle of Skye IV55 8WF, Phone: +44-0-14-70-52-12-06
The best view of the Black Cuillin mountains is from Elgol, a small harbor in a scattered hamlet, on the south coast of the Isle of Skye. The drive from Broadford is 14 miles, along a single track, through the rugged countryside of the Red Cuillins. The road is shared with sheep and Scottish Highland Cattle. Crofters and fishermen inhabit the area and there is a refreshment stop at the Cuillin View coffee shop. Access to the mountains is via boat across sea Loch Scavaig or by a lengthy hike along the coast. The 'small isles' are visible out on the loch.
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Faerie Glen is a mythical place. A number of cone-shaped grassy knolls are clustered in a small area, interspersed with hollows and stone spiral pathways that were laid by ancient worshipers. The landscape was shaped by landslides. The paths are indistinct but no route is necessary as visitors wander in between the mounds. 'Castle Ewen', a rocky tower, is the highest point and requires some scrambling to reach the top. The summit provides the best view of the area. Faerie Glen is 1.5 km from the Uig Hotel, the nearest bus stop.
8.Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls
Kilt Rock is a sea cliff on the north east coast of Trotternish, the northernmost peninsula on Skye. It is a stopping point between Portree and Staffin. The cliff has a sandstone base with basalt columns and sills of dolemite, that together look like tartan. The Mealt Falls carry water from the Mealt Loch, 60m down the cliff face to the Sound of Raasay below. The viewpoint is fenced as there have been fatalities. Holes which have been drilled in the fence poles emit whistling sounds that vary with the sound of the wind, not unlike bagpipes.
9.The Three Chimneys
© The Three Chimneys
This award-winning restaurant on the shores of Loch Dunvegan, does indeed have three chimneys. It was established in 1985 and has obtained an international reputation for its blending of the local culinary heritage with a Nordic connection. The Skye Land and Sea tasting menu has gained it 3AA rosettes for the past 19 years. In 1990 it was named as the best Scottish Restaurant and in 2018, the best UK Restaurant. The wine list has won awards in it own right. There are 6 sea-facing rooms available as lodging in House-Over-By, adjacent to the restaurant. The establishment's remote location has been turned into a unique selling point.
, Michigan beaches
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Loch Coruisk, which means 'cauldron of water' is a freshwater loch, surrounded by the Black Cuillin mountains. It is accessible by boat or hiking from Elgol. The hike is between 3-5 hours along the coast, each way. En route is the Elgol Bad Step, a treacherous overhang. A circuit of the loch would require an overnight stay and crossing the river is difficult after heavy rains. The trail is rough and rocky in places and boggy in others. Wet feet are an inevitability. Small colonies of seals inhabit the rocky outcrops in the loch and it is possible to see otters.
This is the point at which the Giant's Causeway from Northern Ireland reaches Scotland. It is the most westerly landmass on the Isle of Skye. The western isles can be seen across the waters of Moonen Bay. The unmanned lighthouse was built in 1909 and automated in 1990. Its tower is 62 m high and houses a 480000 candle power lamp which is visible for 24 km. Five crofters share the land as communal grazing. The cottages nearby are privately owned and not for hire to visitors. There are 14 species of fish found in the waters, along with whales, dolphins and basking sharks.
12.Old Man of Storr
This is the most famous walk on Skye, and the busiest. It is part of the Trotternish landslip which runs for 30 km along the peninsula and has been declared a Special Area of Conservation. The pinnacles of rock can be seen for miles and are popular with landscape photographers. The path to the top is well laid out, with steps in the grass and stretches of gravel path. It can get muddy at the top but is a walk that is suitable for all weathers. It is 3.8 km long and takes about an hour of walking. It is classified as medium length and medium difficulty.
13.Point of Sleat
The walk to the southernmost tip of the Isle of Skye is classified long, with medium difficulty. It is almost 9 km long and should take around two hours. It is best done on a clear day when the small isles of Rum, Canna and Eigg are visible in the west. At low tide the stretches of white beach sand are visible. The path through the heather moors rises and drops repeatedly and is used to and from the end point. The unmanned lighthouse on the peninsula was flown in to be installed. The walk is 45 miles from Portree and 4.3 miles from Armadale along a single track.
Quiraing is at the northern end of the Trotternish ridge, between Staffin and Uig. The spectacular landscape is an icon of Scotland and a popular destination for hikers and photographers. Landmark outcrops such as the 'prison' and the 'needle' are passed along the way. The walk is medium in length (6.8 km) and classified as difficult. The first part of the path is the easiest and most popular. Thereafter, it becomes rocky and scrambling is required. The descent is boggy and eroded in parts. It is dangerous when misty because of the steep cliffs. On a clear day, the views are the greatest reward.
© Raasay House
Raasay is a small island off the east coast of the Isle of Skye. Raasay House is a 4 star hotel with de luxe sea facing rooms and family suites. The cozy lounge has a perennial, welcoming wood burning fire. The House's signature dish is Cuillin Skink, a traditional Scottish soup made with haddock. Another specialty is the venison casserole. Whisky is used lavishly in the sauces, desserts and cocktails. The area is popular for kayaking, sailing, rock climbing and archery. Regular boat trips take passengers sightseeing around the small island. Budget accommodation is available in 6-8 bed dormitories.
Isle of Raasay, IV40 8PB, Phone: 0-14-78-66-03-00
16.Red Moon Cruises
© Red Moon Cruises
Scott and Mary, who operate Red Moon cruises, are both skippers who have been sailing professionally since 2002. They have refurbished a 1945 Admiralty fishing vessel and rigged it for sailing and motor cruising. They offer chartered cruises around the Isle of Skye with stops for walking, viewing wildlife and photography. On board, there is one double cabin and two singles for hire. A full catering service is offered with seasonal meals being made from scratch, using locally sourced ingredients. Seafood and whisky are the mainstays of the menu. In the off-season, the boat is hired out for parties and other functions.
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© Kinloch Lodge
Godfrey and Claire MacDonald opened their former hunting lodge to the public in 1973, offering roaring fires, whisky on tap and large rooms with giant beds dressed in highland colors. The white stone building is at the foot of the Kinloch Hill, on the shore of sea Loch na Dal. Claire MacDonald's simple cooking, made from local ingredients, was ahead of its time. Her daughter now runs the lodge with author and Michelin starred chef, Marcello Tully. The chef's table offers diners a window into the kitchen to watch their meals being prepared. A seven course tasting menu is an option.
Sleat, IV43 8QY, Phone: 0-14-71-83-32-14
At 992 m, this is the highest peak on Skye. The small summit is exposed and difficult to reach. The Great Chute is a large part of the climb and requires a slog over scree on a path that gets narrower and steeper higher up. Most of the loose stone has been dislodged, leaving larger rocks at the top. After the saddle is reached, there is a rocky scramble before arriving at the summit. The panoramic views and the sight of the Inaccessible Peak make the effort worthwhile. Helmets are advised as falling rocks and small stones are likely. The descent along the same path is easier.
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19.Skye Museum of Island Life
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For centuries, crofters have been building low, streamlined houses, according to a design that could withstand anything the weather could throw at them. These buildings are disappearing from the landscape and this award-winning museum seeks to preserve their heritage. The first cottage was opened to the public in 1965. The museum is now a small village, depicting life as it was a century ago, where fish oil was used for lighting, clothes were made from homespun cloth and entertainment was found in the bagpipes and a fiddle. The museum is on the coast, at Kilmuir, two miles south of Dunthulm and six miles north of Uig.
Kilmuir, By Portree, Isle of Skye, IV51 9UE, Phone: +44-0-14-70-55-22-06
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Skyeskyns is the last remaining commercial wool skin tannery in Scotland. It is run by the second generation of the Hartwell family. Their sheepskins are natural with designs that vary as much as the sheep on the highlands do. They are featured in the décor of most establishments on Skye and the mainland. Clothing, footwear, belts and jackets are made from the skins and jerseys, cardigans and ponchos are knitted from the wool. The main showroom is a 5 star destination in Portree. At the Waternish tannery, a yurt pops up in spring, where coffee and confectionery is served.
17 Lochbay, Waternish, Isle of Skye, IV55 8GD, Phone: +44-0-14-70-59-22-37
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21.Stardust boat trip
© Stardust boat trip
This boating company specializes in wildlife adventure trips around Portree Bay and the Raasay Sound. They operate three power boats, each around 10 meters long and carrying 12 passengers. The trips are between 12 and 20 miles long and take several hours. The crew know the best spots to find the rare, territorial white-tailed eagles. These raptors are the fourth largest in the world with a wingspan of 2.5 m, and are the rarest birds in Britain. Puffins, gannets, dolphins, seals, whales and basking sharks have also been sighted. The company operates all year round and can be found at the fish and chips shop in Portree Harbor.
Portree Harbour, Portree, Isle of Skye, Phone: +44-0-77-95-38-55-81
© Talisker Distillery
Talisker Distillery, on the shore of Loch Harport, is the oldest working distillery on Skye. The MacAskill brothers were born on the tiny island of Eigg and moved to Skye in 1825. They established the distillery five years later. By 1898, after the distillery had changed hands several times, Talisker whisky became the best-selling single-malt in Scotland. Guided tours explain the various processes involved in whisky making, including malting, milling, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation. Their full range of 82 whiskies, between 12 and 25 years old, is on sale. The distillery is open 7 days a week, all year round.
Carbost, Isle of Skye IV47 8SR, Phone: +44-0-14-78-61-43-08
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There are two Cuillin mountain ranges. The Red Cuillins are gently rounded, granite hills that are popular with walkers. The highest point is Glen Glamiag at 2543 feet. The Black Cuillins are the most challenging mountains in the UK. Eleven of the 12 Scottish munros, i.e. mountains over 3000 ft, are found in this range, and there are 16 other summits. The black appearance is due to the rough gabbro which is mixed with the smooth basalt. The weather changes rapidly in the mountains and it is essential that hikers leave information about the routes taken. Mobile and GPS reception is unpredictable. It is advisable to hire a guide.
24.The Fairy Pools
At the foot of the Black Cuillin mountains runs the River Brittle. It is punctuated by a string of small pristine water holes that provide unique photo opportunities. The ice cold water makes them popular with 'wild swimmers' and there are several natural waterfalls along the way. The walk to the first pool is 2.4 km from the start and is considered short with medium difficulty. The path is rocky in parts and boggy in others. After heavy rains, the terrain is considered hazardous. Access is from the nearest village, Carbost, along a single track.
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25.Sea Skye Marine
© Sea Skye Marine
This island hopping service is run by five qualified team members. They have two inflatables that provide very different experiences. The 10 meter long Voyager Seafarer has room for 12 passengers and 2 crew members. The two 200 horse power engines make for a fast and exhilarating ocean going experience. Waterproof clothing is advised. The 11 meter Infinity is covered and has a heater for cold weather and toilet facilities. The boats have a 200 nautical mile range and are popular with photographers and campers who need to be dropped off at remote sites.
Talisker Pontoons, Carbost, Isle of Skye IV47 8SZ, Phone: +44-0-77-89-91-41-44
25 Best Things to Do on the Isle of Skye, Scotland
- Armadale Castle & Gardens, Photo: duncanandison/stock.adobe.com
- Boreraig, Photo: Volker Loche/stock.adobe.com
- Brother’s Point, Photo: Lukassek/stock.adobe.com
- Coral Beach, Photo: chbaum/stock.adobe.com
- Dunvegan Castle, Photo: catuncia/stock.adobe.com
- Elgol, Photo: Natureimmortal/stock.adobe.com
- Fairy Glen, Photo: Ludovic Farine/stock.adobe.com
- Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls, Photo: egemony/stock.adobe.com
- The Three Chimneys, Photo: The Three Chimneys
- Loch Coruisk, Photo: Alexey Fedorenko/stock.adobe.com
- Neist Point, Photo: danielkay/stock.adobe.com
- Old Man of Storr, Photo: ColobusYeti/stock.adobe.com
- Point of Sleat, Photo: e55evu/stock.adobe.com
- Quiraing, Photo: Jon/stock.adobe.com
- Raasay House, Photo: Raasay House
- Red Moon Cruises, Photo: Red Moon Cruises
- Kinloch Lodge, Photo: Kinloch Lodge
- Sgurr Alasdair, Photo: Chris/stock.adobe.com
- Skye Museum of Island Life, Photo: Francesco Bonino/stock.adobe.com
- Skyeskyns, Photo: Skyeskyns
- Stardust boat trip, Photo: Stardust boat trip
- Talisker Distillery, Photo: Talisker Distillery
- The Cuillins, Photo: imagesef/stock.adobe.com
- The Fairy Pools, Photo: Lukassek/stock.adobe.com
- Sea Skye Marine, Photo: Sea Skye Marine
- Cover Photo: bennymarty/stock.adobe.com