The Isle of Skye is one of the most popular highland vacation spots in Scotland and for good reason. There is a huge amount to do on this island whether the weather is being kind to you or whether you’re being treated to one of the regular downpours in the area.
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If you like natural wonders you’ll love walking the island, finding the fairy pools and the ‘Old Man’ . If history and culture is more your thing you’ll love the town of Portree or the many villages around or even the museums and castles. Don’t forget to learn about how whiskey is made on a tour round the distillery too!
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Here are some of my favourite and must-see spots on the Isle of Skye that you should definitely take time out to visit:
Portree is the largest town on Skye and as such can be busy in the summer months. When we visited on an August bank holiday it was very busy with tourist buses but outside of these times it can be a pleasant place to explore. There are numerous cafes, shops and restaurants to try out and some lovely walks around the harbour to take too.
If Portree is your first stop in Skye then definitely check out the Tourist Information office on Bayfield Road, just back from the harbour as they will be able to advise on any of the walks or other attractions mentioned in this guide.
Parking is easy in the town so you shouldn’t have any issues there. Follow the signs for the car parks rather than trying to get street parking though.
Portree is the main accomodation hub – see here for hotels and bed and breakfasts
Talisker Whisky distillery
No trip to Scotland is complete without a trip to a whisky distillery, am I right? Even though I’m not the biggest fan of the drink myself (I leave that to my husband) I do enjoy a trip round where they make the famous fire water and Skye is no exception to having a good drop made there. Talisker is the famous local tipple and you can visit the distillery to have a tour.
The Talisker distillery sits on the western side of Skye about a half an hour drive from Portree and you can do a number of tours here. The basic one lasts 45 minutes and costs £10. Children aged 8 and over can come along too and learn (mine loved visiting the distilleries in Scotland!) at a reduced price of £5.
Old Man of Storr
The Old Man of Storr is a large upright rock that was left behind after a landslide and now it’s a popular area for walkers and hikers. There are many walks around the area, some more difficult than others, but all incorporating the stunning landscape of this area.
This is located in the North East of the isle of Skye and isn’t far from Portree (about a 10 minute drive) with many buses also going past too which is great if you have come without your own transport. There’s a small car park nearby which like many others does get full up quite quickly so be aware in high season.
Set amongst the dramatic landscape is a gorgeous spot in Skye called the Fairy Pools and they are a really popular destination if you want to get out in the scottish countryside. The pools are a series of waterfalls that collect together from the tributaries of the River Brittle to create this stunning feature.
There are many walks you can do in the area or you can paddle in the pools themselves. If you want to go for a swim then do be aware that the water can be terribly cold and a wetsuit might be advisable!
The fairy pools are reachable by car and they are in the south west of the island. Be aware there are many single track roads in this area. There is parking near the pools.
Skye Museum of island life
Skye and the rest of the Scottish Highlands has a history of a hard living, not least with the highland clearances that took place there. If you’re interested in what life was like living on Skye in the 19th century then the museum of island life is definitely worth a look. There are various cottages that have been retained in the style that would have been of that time that you can look at so you can see what the crofters would have lived in.
The museum is based in the North of the island around a 40 minute drive from Portree. It’s open in the summer months from Easter until late September and it costs £3 entry.
Keen walkers should definitely take time to visit the Quirang which is one of the most stunning areas on the island. It’s situated in the North of the island, not far from the Old Man of Storr – even if you don’t want to go for a walk then definitely take some time to park up nearby and just soak up the landscape.
Dunvegan castle has been occupied by the same family for over 800 years which is unusual with Scottish castles. It was built in the 1200s and has been a site of importance for many years, initially being a fortress designed to keep people out – now it welcomes you in!
There’s lots to do here from exploring the castle itself to the gardens around it. The gardens were begun in the 18th century and it’s a real treat to see the variety of plants here.
There is also a seal colony nearby and the castle runs some boat trips to spot them. Highly recommended if you get the chance – as well as seals there’s a wealth of wildlife to be seen around here. Tickets are extra on top of the castle admission – £9.50 for adults and £6.50 for children (under 5s free)
The castle is open from April to October and tickets are £14.00 for adults and £9 for children (family tickets are available)
Situated near the Black Cuilins is Sligachan and you’ll likely have seen images of this place – with the old bridge, river and towering hills in the background it’s a very picturesque place to visit. Many people who are looking to climb the Cuilins will base themselves in this area too. It’s remote with not much else to do in the area excpet walk, but for many this is just perfect!
It is in the centre of Skye, on the main A87 road to Portree and you’ll likely see it if you’re driving that way – there’s a small car park just off the main road.
In contrast to Dunvegan castle referenced above, Armadale castle is a ruin. It’s also not the vintage of that castle either having been built in the 19th century in a kind of mock castle style as an extension to the existing mansion that was built the previous century. It was the seat of the MacDonalds of Sleat, a part of the Clan Donald. The castle was destroyed by fire in 1855 and it became a ruin when the family moved out in 1925. Now the castle is not able to be explored, although the area is stunning and you can still get some amazing photographs!
There is plenty to see still with the castle gardens and museum and some woodlands to wander round. Dogs are welcome on leads.
It’s situated in the south of the island and would be a convenient place to visit if you arrive in Skye on the ferry from Mallaig. Tickets are £8.75 for adults and £7.20 for children.
Neist Point Lighthouse
On the most westerly point of Skye is the gorgeous Neist point lighthouse and the amazing scenery that it surveys. You can walk around this area and you may be lucky to be able to see some amazing marine life – some people have spotted whales and dolphins from here! Certainly you’ll see and hear many sea birds that nest in the cliffs.
Although there are walks in the area do take care near the edges of the cliffs as there have been accidents in the past.
If you like beautiful white beaches then the Highlands of Scotland is a surprising place to find them, but they have some amazing ones. The Isle of Skye has some great beaches too but one of note is the coral beach at Claigan. It’s not actually coral that it’s made up of, but actually fossilised algae that has been sun bleached.
The beach is situated at the North West of the island and there is a car park nearby. Be aware that the car park does get incredibly busy especially in the summer months.
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