How to get to the Isle of Skye: ferry, car and public transport options

It’s one of the most popular Scottish islands to visit and one of the most well known too. There’s so much to do on the Isle of Skye from whisky tasting to exploring the fairy pools and since you don’t even need to get on a boat to get there it’s no wonder it has so many visitors.

When we visited Skye it was the busiest time of the year, the end of August, and it still was easy to find quiet spots and time to yourself. One time our only friends were some highland cows that came to visit!

Even though Skye can be easily reached by land it’s not the only way – this post will be talking about how to get to the Isle of Skye from many different places in Scotland (and also London) so you can be more informed to make your trip.

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Skye Bridge with snowy hills

A note from the writer: Hey! I’m Kirsty and I’m a UK travel expert – while I grew up in Scotland, as an adult I now return to visit almost every year – there’s so much to see! Shout (or comment below) if you have any questions about your next trip and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

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Tours to Skye: (let someone else worry!)

You might also like our guide to the best tours to the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh

Which way to get to Skye? Sea or road?

In general, whether you’re trying to get to the Isle of Skye using your own transport, or by public transport you need to make a decision – do you take the ferry from Mallaig to the south of the island (Armadale) or do you arrive on the east side after driving over the Skye Bridge.

You could, of course choose both! Go one way on the way to Skye and the other on the way back.

Incidentally, if you like to see some sights on the way, the Mallaig road will go past the Glenfinnan Viaduct (where you might see the Harry Potter train) and the Skye Bridge road goes past Eilean Donan Castle, one of Scotland’s most famous landmarks.

Times and prices are correct at the time of writing (October 2022)- always check before booking!

How to get to the Isle of Skye from Fort William

We’re going to start off this section with discussing how to get to the Isle of Skye from Fort William – it’s one of the main, large towns in the Highlands and it’s likely that you’ll pass through it if you’re coming from Edinburgh or Glasgow (see below)

By Car

You have two options to get to Skye by car from Fort William. One requires a ferry and the other is a longer drive and goes over the Skye Bridge:

Harry Potter train in Scotland going over viaduct

Option 1: Road to the Isles and Ferry

Distance: 45 miles to Mallaig and just over 1 hour drive, then a 30 minute ferry.

From Fort William you’ll drive along the A830 which is otherwise known as the ‘Road to the Isles’. You’ll drive all the way to the end, past the Glenfinnan Monument and Viaduct (where you might see the Harry Potter Train) and end in the small fishing harbour town of Mallaig.

Car ferries will take you over to Armadale in the south of Skye. The ferries are run by Calmac and take around 30 mins. In the summer there are up to 9 sailings a day and in the winter there are fewer, but still a couple a day. (Best to check the Calmac website for exact times on your proposed dates)

Tickets should be bought in advance and you should be there at least 20 mins before boarding.

Option 2: By road and over the Skye Bridge

Distance: 75 miles and approximately 1 hour 45 mins drive

This is a great option if you don’t like ferries! You’ll drive north on the A82, past Loch Lochy and then turning left on to the A87 at Invergarry.

The bridge is free to go over, tolls were abandoned in 2004 when it was bought by the Scottish Government, and you’ll be on Skye at the east of the island.

By Public Transport

The 916 bus, run by CityLink, will take you from Fort William to Portree on Skye. This takes around 3 hours and costs around £36.50 for a single.

If you’d rather take the ferry then a train runs to Mallaig. It takes around 1 hour and 20 mins and the train station is just a short walk to the ferry terminal. Book trains on Trainline and Ferries on Calmac.

How to get to the Isle of Skye from Inverness

Inverness is a city in the Highlands but still is quite far from the west coast and the Isle of Skye. If you’re based in Inverness and looking for a trip to Skye here’s how to get there.

By Car

Distance: 80 miles and around 2 hours driving.

Skye is easily reached by car from Inverness and you’ll not need a ferry to get there either. The Skye Bridge is the best way to get there.

Head down past Loch Ness on the A82, always keeping an eye out for Nessie on the way, and at Invermoriston take the A887 (which turns into the A87) to the Kyle of Lochalsh.

You’ll arrive in Skye on the eastern side of the island.

By Public Transport

If you need public transport from Inverness then you’ll want to take a look at the CityLink bus 917 which goes direct to Portree and takes just under 3.5 hours. A single ticket is just under £30.

You could also choose to go via Fort William which takes a little longer but requires a change of bus, or get the train to the Kyle of Lochalsh (just before the Skye Bridge) and then a bus from there. Both these options are around 4 hours long. I prefer direct and simple!

How to get to the Isle of Skye from Glasgow

Glasgow is on the west side of Scotland so you’re at least on the right side to get to Skye. As you travel north you’ll head towards Fort William and once you get there you should look at the directions above to get you on towards Skye.

By Car

Again you have two options, one is going via ferry from Mallaig and the other is by road over the Skye Bridge. Both go via Fort William.

From Glasgow you’ll take the A82 north all the way to Fort William which goes via Loch Lomond, Crianlarich and Glencoe.

From Fort William you must decide whether to go via ferry to the south of Skye or by road over the bridge. See the Fort William section for more details.

By Public Transport

Train is the best way to get to Skye from Glasgow as there is a single option that will take you all the way to Mallaig where you can get the ferry. You can also change in Fort William if you want to explore there too.

The train takes around 5 hours and 20 mins and there’s about 3 trains per day. Single tickets cost around £40. You can check times and buy tickets on Trainline.

If you want to get straight to Skye with no overnight stops on the way you’ll want to get the 8.20am train from Glasgow Queen Street which should get you to Mallaig in time for the 2pm ferry.

From Mallaig there’s the ferry to Armadale which is available for foot passengers.

Bus is also an option using the CityLink company. Buses will take you all the way to Portree so an excellent way to get to the heart of Skye if you don’t have your own transport.

The bus takes around 6 and a half hours and costs around £50 for a single ticket.

Check CityLink here.

How to get to the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh

Since you’re on the East side of the country it’s a little more effort to get to Skye from Edinburgh.

By Car

We often drove from Edinburgh way to the Highlands and the best way is to M9 to Stirling and then onto the A84 past Callander and many, many lochs. It changes to the A85 and then A82 at Crianlarich where you head on to Fort William.

It’s a stunning road this way so be prepared to stop lots for photos!

From Fort William you can choose the ferry or the road option. See above for more details.

By Public Transport

Again, it’s a little harder from Edinburgh but still doable.

One option is to take the train to Inverness and then take the Citylink bus from there to Portree. It takes around 7-8 hours this way but is probably the simplest way.

Alternatively you could get yourself to Glasgow by bus or train and follow the instructions from there.

Ferry going to Scottish islands
Ferry at Uig on Skye

How to get to the Isle of Skye from the Outer Hebrides

While many people will be wanting to get to Skye from the mainland it’s also useful to know that you can get there from the Isle of Harris and North Uist too which are in the Outer Hebrides.

This might be good to know if you’re island hopping or also if you’re short on time and have taken a flight to the Hebrides from Glasgow or Edinburgh (Stornaway airport gets you to Lewis – a great place to check out one of Scotland’s ancient sites – Callanish).

By Ferry

To get to Skye from the Outer Hebrides you’ll need to take the ferry.

From the Isle of Harris: The ferry goes from Tarbert to Uig which is on the north side of Skye. The ferry takes around 1 hour and 40 mins and runs 1-2 times per day (depending on the season). It’s run by Calmac and should be booked in advance.

From North Uist: The ferry departs from Lochmaddy and takes around 1 hour 45 mins. It arrives in Uig, the same as the ferry from Harris. Again it’s run by Calmac.

How to get to the Isle of Skye from London

It might feel like a gargantuan journey to get to Skye from London in the south of England, but here’s an option that might make it palatable:

The Caledonian Sleeper is a train that makes light work of transporting you to Scotland, whether to just Edinburgh or into the Highlands and beyond. You can leave London at around 8.30/9pm and be in Fort William for just before 10 am the next day.

From Fort William you can then take the train to Mallaig and ferry over to Skye or a bus (see above). Either way you’ll be in Skye in less than 24 hours!

Check the Caledonian Sleeper site here for options. You can book a room so you can sleep laid down or try the sleeper seats which are a budget option but a bit harder to sleep on!

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Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty Bartholomew is a travel expert and has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for over 10 of those. She loves to help people explore her favourite places in Scotland, England and beyond. She cannot stay away from historical sites.

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