The Isle of Skye is the largest of the Inner Hebrides in Scotland and visitors can’t seem to get enough of it. Whether they had ancestors from the island, have seen its landscape in one of the many films it appears in, or simply know the name and want to experience the place themselves, people keep coming. Fortunately, there is a lot to do. Here’s our roundup of what to see and do.
This is one of those places you will recognize from the big screen, as it’s featured in films as diverse as The BFG, Macbeth, Stardust, The Land That Time Forgot, Snow White and the Huntsman, 47 Ronin, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and Transformers: The Last Knight. The landscape is formed by an ancient landslip that is actually still moving. With features such as the Needle, the Table and the Prison, it is evocative, no matter the weather.
Skye Museum of Island Life
Opened in 1965, this museum helps you understand what life was like for islanders at the end of the 19th century. This is achieved by preserving a wee township of traditional buildings and collecting items that would have been used then. The results are fascinating and a must-see, especially if you have ancestors from Skye.
Dinosaur footprints and Staffin Museum
The tiny museum at Staffin is deceptive and holds a huge collection of fossils and dinosaur-related information. It is worth visiting this first to talk to the knowledgeable staff, before then moving down to the beach in search of the internationally important preserved dinosaur footprints.
Visitors to Scotland are often pleasantly surprised by the quality of food on offer, and Skye is no exception. Here there are several top-notch restaurants, cafes and even takeaways. Scorrybreac is a tiny seaside restaurant in Portree, so booking ahead is essential. The service is impeccable and the food is some of the island’s most memorable.
Dolphin and whale watching
Skye is surrounded by some of the clearest water in the UK to see marine life, including seals, dolphins, porpoises and even whales. The second-largest fish in the world, the basking shark, is regularly found here during the summer months. The best way to get close to these magnificent creatures is on a boat tour, with experienced guides who know and understand the waters.
Neist Point Lighthouse
This is the best place for you to come to get a glimpse of marine life, such as minke whales if you don’t fancy heading out to sea. It is a lovely cliff walk, with stunning scenery of the dramatic Skye coastline – and as the most westerly point of the island, it’s the best place on the island to watch the sunset.
Bright Water Visitor Centre
This small visitor center is a must for those who want to know more about the tiny island of Eilean Bàn, and especially its association with the writer Gavin Maxwell. Maxwell is best remembered for his book Ring of Bright Water (1969), and the otters he lived with. This is also the place to book tours of the island if you want to visit and learn more about its history.
The Fairy Pools
One of the most magical places to go wild swimming in the UK, this series of beautifully clear pools cascade through a picturesque glen. The walk is lovely, as is just sitting by the water, but the icy thrill you get – even if it’s only a tentative paddle or dipping of the toes – makes these pools a must-visit.
Skye is full of fascinating long walks with epic views, incredible landscapes and reminders of history everywhere. Even the shortest walks, like this one, are spectacular. This cliff gets its name from of the vertical and horizontal stripes on its face, making it look like tartan, especially in certain lights. There is also a tall and stunning waterfall here, Mealt Falls, cascading spectacularly from the top of the cliff into the sea below.
Talisker whisky distillery
Skye’s oldest working distillery, Talisker, is a fascinating place to visit, even if you don’t like whisky. As tied up as whisky is with Scottish culture, learning about the making and history of it will help you understand the land in surprising ways. Talisker also sits on a beautiful bay that is a great place to view wildlife.
Eat at the Oyster Shed
A minute’s drive beyond the Talisker distillery is the Oyster Shed where you can get some excellent local produce including game, cheese, honey and, especially, seafood. You can eat in or buy food to eat later, and the takeaway menu is ridiculously cheap for how good the food is.
There are several places on Skye where whole settlements were cleared and their inhabitants removed to make way for sheep, before being shipped abroad to places such as Canada and Australia. This long walk is a good place to see what was left behind. It is hard not to feel the past here.
Armadale Castle Gardens and Museum
Another must-see, especially if you are one of the many with Clan Donald blood in your veins, this is the spiritual home of that clan and offers a museum, beautiful gardens and, of course, the castle itself to explore.
Sit on a beach and wait…
…for the wildlife to come to you. There are several places on Skye where this is not only possible but likely. The best thing to do is make yourself comfortable, perhaps with binoculars to scan the water and beach, then wait and watch. If you do not make much noise or move too suddenly, you may see playful seals and even otters, as well as birds, and maybe even whales. Pretty much any beach will do, but Coral Beach is a good start, as is Talisker Bay.
A bothy is a small building to sleep in, and the one here at Camasunary sits on a beautiful bay, with the backdrop of one of the most famous Munros on Skye: Blà Bheinn (anglicized as Blaven, the Blue-Black Mountain). Adventurous types will love this place, not least to meet kindred spirits from across the world. It draws in people who want to experience this wild corner of Skye and the Cuillin mountains in particular.
This is not for the faint-hearted or those remotely scared of heights. Unless you know exactly what you are doing, hiring a guide is wise, and it’s essential you follow basic safety protocols. The walk is worth the extra precautions, though, offering unparalleled views and that wonderful feeling of freedom that you get from being high up.
Skye is home to both white-tailed sea eagles, often referred to as flying barn doors due to their immense size, and golden eagles. If you spend any time at all outside you have a good chance of seeing an eagle, even if only from afar, although your chances of seeing a sea eagle are greatly increased if you go on one of the boat tours on offer.
No visit to Skye is complete without seeing the Old Man of Storr. This is a part of the Trotternish landscape, south of the Quiraing, and one of the places you are likely to have seen on film. The Old Man himself is a giant column of basalt rock standing straight up from the ridge like a finger. You can’t miss it! The views from up here, over to Raasay and the mainland of Scotland, are breathtaking.
Dunvegan Castle and Gardens
The oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and the seat of the Clan MacLeod, Dunvegan has been home to the clan since the early 1200s. It sits right on the coast, and the thriving gardens are in stunning contrast to the moorlands that surround the grounds. Artifacts here include pieces belonging to Bonnie Prince Charlie, who Flora MacDonald, one of the MacLeod clan, helped flee to France in 1746. Don’t miss the chance to take a boat trip to a nearby seal colony.
The Fairy Glen
A magical landscape of strange features lies above Uig, where time has sculpted weird and wonderful geological formations odd enough to give the area its fairy name. There are no supernatural legends here, but that’s beside the point; its strange beauty is captivating enough and needs to be seen to be truly appreciated. Some people have started moving rocks to create spirals, but these are removed by locals who, rightfully, believe the landscape is best experienced in its natural state.
By: Alexander Crow