Romantic, rugged and beautiful – the Isle of Skye is a truly unique island and has huge amounts to offer lovers of the great outdoors, including the spectacular Cuillin Hills in the south, the weird and wonderful landforms of the Trotternish in the north and a wide array of wildlife, including sea eagles, dolphins, whales and otters.
With so much to see and do, it would be easy to spend several full days on Skye. However, with a bit of planning, many of Skye’s highlights can be enjoyed over a single day. Here are our tips on how to get the most out of your trip if you are short on time.
Skye is easily accessible from the Scottish mainland as there is a road bridge spanning the sea between the villages of Kyle (mainland) and Kyleakin (Skye) - set off early to make the most of your first morning in Skye.
A great way to introduce yourself to Skye’s landscape is to take the scenic drive between Broadford and Elgol when you arrive. There is spectacular scenery throughout the journey, including great views of the mighty Bla Bheinn which looms over Loch Slapin. On a clear day, the crowning glory at the end of the drive is the panoramic view of the Cuillins from the end of Elgol pier. Many will passionately argue that the Cuillin Hills are Britain’s most spectacular mountain range – it’s hard to argue when presented with this view.
Elgol is a pretty little harbour and there are a number of trips that can be taken out in the bay. For example, you could visit the spectacular Loch Coruisk surrounded by the Cuillin Range, also taking in sightings of its seal colony. But if the boat trips / wildlife watching cruises don’t distract you, then head back down the road and continue up to the North of the island to explore the fantastic Trotternish peninsula.
Stop on your way at the cute town of Portree – Skye’s main settlement - and pick up supplies for a picnic later in the day (try Relish, a small deli that stocks lots of local produce and has tasty daily lunch specials to take away).
The Trotternish ridge is the longest on Skye, and its unique eastern escarpment has been sculpted by Europe's largest landslide into a remarkable landscape. The journey north is another beautiful drive – stop at one of the viewpoints on the east coast for excellent views back over to the Scottish mainland to the mountain ranges and munros of the highlands (a good option for your lunch spot) – before continuing north into the weird and wonderful rock formations of the Trotternish.
An excellent short walk to get in amongst the rocks is a walk through The Quiraing. Head up to the rock formations of the ‘prison’ and ‘needle’ and appreciate the views back down the island (and across to the mainland). There are a couple of steep sections on the walk and some slippery slopes which require careful attention – a link to the full walk description from Walking Highlands is at the bottom of this page.
If you still have time and energy to spare, travel back south to the famous ‘Fairy Pools’, a series of beautifully crystal clear blue mountain pools and streams on the River Brittle. They make a great place for ‘Wild Swimming’ for those brave enough to enter the water – be warned though, the water is always absolutely freezing (even in Summer)! There’s a well-marked car park on the road down into Glen Brittle and a clear path (starting just on the other side of the road) takes you up the left hand side of the pools and right up to the base of the Cuillins.
To relax after a full day’s sightseeing, head to the famed hikers’ bar, The Seumas Bar, next to the Sligachan Hotel to pick up some food and try some of the dazzling array of Scottish whisky which surrounds the bar or a beer brewed at the on-site micro-brewery.
Next morning, start your day with a tour at the only whisky distillery on Skye, Talisker. It has one of the most inviting settings of any of the Scottish distilleries (and that is saying something!), right on the banks of the sea loch of Harport, with the Cuillin Hills rising sharply in the background. The tour is informative (naturally finishing with a wee dram!) and the shop is full of tempting mementos of your trip. The distillery can be very popular and tours book up quickly so it is worth trying to book ahead if you’re tight on time (there’s a booking form on the Talisker website or you can call the visitor centre).
After the tour, to sample some more of Skye’s fantastic local produce, it’s well worth taking a quick trip up the hill past the distillery to pay a visit to Skye’s ‘Oysterman’. With a humble barn setting, there’s no better place to try oysters fresh out of Loch Harport that morning. The quality of the seafood is stunning and this is a great way to try quality seafood without paying restaurant prices. There’s plenty of other local produce on sale and hot seafood options are served at lunchtimes. Get some oysters to enjoy on the picnic tables just outside the Oyster Shed and take some time to savour the finest oysters you’ll ever likely to taste alongside panoramic views of the entire Cuillin range.
Suitably sustained, your hectic 24 hours are over and it’s time to head back down south and onto the mainland.
No matter how long you have on the island, memories of Skye will live long in the memory! If you would like any help in planning a trip to Skye or Scotland generally, please just get in touch here.