The Isle of Skye is the largest of the Inner Hebrides in Scotland and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Some come to lay eyes on the staggering natural landmarks, some to retrace their family history, others to see the landscapes in one of the many films to have been shot here on location. Whatever your reason, there’s plenty of attractions waiting in store on the Isle of Skye – and here’s our roundup of the best.
Looking for a real adventure? You can now travel with Culture Trip to the Isle of Skye, as well as the Isles of Harris and Lewis, on a week-long discovery of the islands, taking in the highlights and some top secret spots only your local guide will know about.
You might recognise this spot from the big screen: it’s featured in 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. Popular attractions include the Needle, a rock pinnacle; the Table, a concealed plateau; and the Prison, a rock formation that can look like a castle.
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, especially if you have ancestors from Skye.
Dinosaur footprints and Staffin Museum
The tiny museum at Staffin 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. Scorrybreac is a tiny seaside restaurant in Portree, so booking ahead is essential. The service is impeccable and the food is some of the most memorable on the island.
Dolphin and whale watching
Skye is surrounded by some of the clearest water in the UK, so look out for the local marine life, which includes 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 the waters.
Neist Point Lighthouse
Neist Point Lighthouse is the best place to get a glimpse of marine life (including minke whales) if you don’t fancy heading out to sea. There’s a lovely cliff walk, too, with views over the dramatic Skye coastline – and as the most westerly point of the island, it’s the best place on Skye to watch the sunset.
Bright Water Visitor Centre
This small visitor centre 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 of its history.
The Fairy Pools
One of the most magical places to go wild swimming in Scotland, this series of beautifully clear pools cascade through a picturesque glen. The walk is lovely, as is 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 walks with epic views, incredible landscapes and reminders of history everywhere. Even the shortest strolls, like the one at Kilt Rock, 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 one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Scotland here, Mealt Falls, a tall cascade dropping from the cliff into the sea below.
Talisker whisky distillery
Skye’s oldest working distillery, Talisker, is a must-visit spot for any whisky lover in Scotland. But even if you’re no whisky whizz, the connection between the drink and Scottish culture will help you understand the country on a deeper level. What’s more, Talisker sits on a beautiful bay that’s 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 reasonably priced 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; the residents shipped abroad to places such as Canada and Australia. Take the long walk to Boreraig to see this now-abandoned settlement for yourself.
Armadale Castle Gardens and Museum
If you’ve got the clan Donald blood in your veins, a trip to Armadale Castle is a homecoming – but there’s plenty to see here even if not. There’s a museum, beautiful gardens and, of course, the castle itself to explore.
A bothy is a small building in which you can sleep, 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 (anglicised 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. Spend time outside for a good chance to see one – even if only from afar. Your chances of spotting a sea eagle are greatly increased if you take a boat tour.
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 here, over to Raasay and the mainland of Scotland, are breath-taking.
Dunvegan Castle and Gardens
The oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland, Dunvegan has been home to the MacLeod clan since the early 1200s. It sits right on the coast, and the thriving gardens are contrast the surrounding moorlands. Artefacts here include pieces belonging to Bonnie Prince Charlie, who Flora MacDonald, one of the MacLeod clan, helped escape 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 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.
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