20 Unmissable Attractions on the Isle of Skye

No visit to Skye is complete without seeing the Old Man of Storr
No visit to Skye is complete without seeing the Old Man of Storr | © Tony Wood / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Alexander Crow
3 September 2020

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.

Quiraing

Natural Feature
Map View
Morning light in the Quiraing rocky landscape, Isle of Skye, Scotland, United Kingdom
© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
This is one of those places you will recognise from the big screen, as it’s featured in 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

Museum
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Skye Museum of Island Life
© Clearview / Alamy Stock Photo
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

Museum
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Fossilised adult & young ornithopod dinosaur footprints found in rock slab on Skye and now in Staffin Dinosaur museum, Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK
© Photimageon / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Scorrybreac Restaurant

Cafe, Restaurant, European, British
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Portree Harbour, Isle of Skye, Scotland taken from Scorrybreac walk
© Jenny Bailey / Alamy Stock Photo
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

Natural Feature
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Whale watchers on a boat in the Isle of Skye, Scotland
© Marcus McAdam / Alamy Stock Photo

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

Building
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Clifftop lighthouse at Neist Point.
© David Tomlinson / Alamy Stock Photo
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

Museum
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Gavin Maxwell Museum Situated between Kyleakin on the Isle of Skye and Kyle of Lochalsh  Eilean Ban ('White Island') Scotland UK
© Alex Thomson / Alamy Stock Photo
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

Park
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Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland
© RooM the Agency / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Kilt Rock

Natural Feature
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Kilt RockIsle of SkyeScotlandUK
© Andrew Hopkins / Alamy Stock Photo
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

Distillery
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Whisky ferments in wooden washback tanks inside the Talisker Distillery on the Isle of Skye, Scotland
© Hugh Mitton / Alamy Stock Photo
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

Market, Seafood
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The Oyster Shed with fresh scallops and chips on whisky barrel tables,  Carbost, Highland, Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK
© Kay Roxby / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Sit on a beach and wait...

Natural Feature
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The Coral Beaches on the shores of Loch Dunvegan near Claigan with the island of Lampay just offshore.
© Izel Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
…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 the Coral Beach is a good start, as is Talisker Bay.

Camasunary Bothy

Cabin
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Camasunary, a remote location near Elgol on the Isle of Skye. Autumn colours in the moorland landscape.
© Andrew Kearton / Alamy Stock Photo
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 (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.

Cuillin Ridge

Natural Feature
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A climber approaching the summit of Sgurr Dearg on the Cuillin Ridge of Skye with Sgurr Alasdair in the background
© shoults / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Eagle spotting

Natural Feature
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White Tailed Sea Eagle, Portree, Skye catching fish from sea, photographed from boat
© Drew Buckley / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

The Storr

Natural Feature
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Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye,. Image shot 05/2009. Exact date unknown.
© Stephen Emerson / Alamy Stock Photo
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

Amusement Park, Historical Landmark
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Dunvegan Castle exterior and gardens Isle of Skye Highlands and Islands Scotland UK GB EU Europe
Even the shortest trip to beautiful, wild, craggy Skye is guaranteed to blow the cobwebs away | © eye35.pix / Alamy Stock Photo
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. Artefacts 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

Natural Feature
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Fairy Glen, Skye
© Steven Hunt / Alamy Stock Photo
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.
These recommendations were updated on September 3, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.