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      Isle of Skye: Best Things to Do

      9 min read

      Looking to visit the Isle of Skye and don’t quite know where to start? Then sit back, relax and read our top suggestions for the best things to do in Skye.

      By John Walker
      More by John

      The Hebridean island of Skye is irrefutably popular amongst places to visit in Scotland. As a mountaineer and guide, I am often asked what are the best things folks should do when they do make the journey. My, what a question! As Scotland’s fourth biggest island, it has a lot to offer. From gentle strolls to the most challenging mountaineering in the United Kingdom. It has history, geology and wildlife, let alone great accommodation, food, and of course whisky. So where to start? Well, all I feel I can do is offer my Best Things To Do, and then let you explore…..

      Isle of Skye Map

      The Isle of Skye is located on the western side of Scotland with a bridge connecting the mainland to the Isle.

      Isle of Skye Things to Do:
      1. Get into the Mountains
      2. Walk Amongst Impressive Rock Formations
      3. Take Easier Hikes Around the Coast
      4. Take a Boat Trip
      5. Go Dinosaur Hunting
      6. Go Fairy Hunting
      7. Go and See a Waterfall on a Rainy Day
      8. Get a Taste of Skye
      9. Go into Hiding
      10. Visit a Castle
      11. Just Enjoy Skye

      Get into the Mountains

      Skye is famous for its mountains, especially the Black Cuillin. These are the remains of volcanic eruptions some 60 million years ago. The rock is wonderfully grippy black gabbro, often dissected by smooth red basalt intrusions that sometimes form wonderful staircase-like features.

      Most walks into the Black Cuillin are quite challenging, and should only be attempted by confident and properly equipped walkers. At the more amenable end are walks into the Fionn Coire from either Glen Sligachan at NG483958, or a shorter walk from the Fairy Pools car park.

      From the coire it is possible to climb the munro of Bruach na Frith following a clear but loose path South to the bealach, then turn right to the summit at 958m. The views along the rest of the ridge and beyond are breathtaking.

      Cuillin mountains

      Hiking amongst the craggy peaks of the Cuillin, Skye.

      Walk Amongst Impressive Rock Formations

      Walk amongst impressive rock formations on the largest landslip in the U.K.

      A visit to the Quiraing on the Trotternish peninsula is a must. It is a very slow motion landslip, where harder rock is moving over softer, and the result is breathtaking in any weather. It is very popular, so an early or late start is recommended. Park at the car park 4k west of Staffin after the hairpin bends at NG440679. The path does have one or two narrower sections, and a deep gully to negotiate, along with a certain amount of erosion, so stout footwear and a sure foot is required.

      The Quirang is a breathtaking sight.

      Take Easier Hikes Around the Coast

      There are many grand walks that take you through easy pasture to the rugged coastline, past ancient brochs and ruins to the wildlife on the rocky shoreline – Seals, seabirds aplenty, and if you are lucky, dolphins and whales. Favourites are Waternish Point, where you park at Trumpan Church, (scene of a gruesome massacre of the MacLeods by the MacDonalds of Uist in 1578) and walk along an easy track to the ruins at Unish, passing the brochs of Dun Gearrymore and Borrafiach. Then it’s off-piste to the lighthouse. You will almost certainly see seals basking as you have your lunch looking out to the Outer Hebrides, and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins.  If you are feeling adventurous, you can return by sticking to the Westerly cliff edges by sheep trods and feint paths if the weather is kind.

      Isle Of Skye Waternish

      Waternish Point

      Another lighthouse walk on the South of the island is to park at the Aird of Sleat, then walk along the track to NG566004 where a small signpost sends you South along a boggy path to the wonderful Camas Daraich beach with its golden sand. Then follow the path SW towards the lighthouse. On return, another boggy path takes you to the surprising delight that is Arcairseid an Rubha, a dilapidated old harbour that begs an artist’s brush. What a lunch spot.

      Skye does not have a wealth of sandy beaches to stroll on, but Glen Brittle beach is an easily accessed gem. It sits at the foot of the mighty Cuillin, and also the scene of Skye local Danny MacAskill’s outrageous leap over the fence on his bicycle. Google it! 

      Take a Boat Trip

      Isle Of Skye Boat Tours

      There are many to choose from, but my favourites go from the village of Elgol, up Loch Skavaig. This goes past the island of Soay, from where Soay sheep originate, and where Gavin Maxwell ran his shark business amongst other things. If you choose, get dropped amongst the basking seals at the head of Loch Coruisk. From there you can do a circuit of the loch, immersed in the grandeur of the Black Cuillin mountains, before being picked up again for the trip back to Elgol. The more energetic can take a hike up Sgurr na Stri for unrivalled views of sea and mountain, and the chance of spotting a Golden or White Tailed Sea Eagle soaring, but be down in time for the boat else it’s a fair hike back!

      Isle Of Skye Coruisk

      Loch Coruisk

      Go Dinosaur Hunting

      Skye has several groups of dinosaur footprints, all made in sand 165 million years ago, 100 million before the mountains were formed by volcanoes. This has now turned to sandstone, yet the prints remain. One set can be found at Staffin, not far from the ramp that goes down to the beach, best at low tide. In fact, it is often best in winter after a storm, otherwise, they may be covered in sand. Another even older set from the Jurrasic period are close to NG410738, just south of the castle.

      Corran Beach near the village of Staffin – Can you spot more dinosaur footprints around this area?

      Go Fairy Hunting

      It isn’t all about wildlife, mountains and dinosaurs….we have fairies too! Go to Uig in the North of the island, and take the turn off the A87 just before the Uig hotel NG397633. Just drive up the glen for a mile or so, park up and wander about. Go just before dusk, and you’ll see……….

      Isle Of Skye Fairy Glen

      The Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye

      Go and See a Waterfall on a Rainy Day

      So what to do when it’s raining, which is quite common on the Misty Isle? Go and see a waterfall, of course! 

      They are at their best after a good downpour, so a great thing to do in winter. There are the very famous and justifiably popular Fairy Pools at the head of Glen Brittle. Here you find a succession of jacuzzi-like plunge pools where the Allt Coir’ a’ Mhadaidh (Fox’s Coire River) tumbles down from the mountains. Make sure it’s either out of season or very early or very late, otherwise, parking and crowds are a problem, unfortunately.

      The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye. Photo Credit: VisitScotland

      Other less known falls are Rha Falls at Uig, just off the A855 as it winds up from the village. You climb over a stile just before the road bridge over the river and make your way up the path. It is steep, but a wooden walkway enables an easier descent to the river a little further on, and the double falls are impressive in spate.

      The final favourite is just South of Staffin at Ellishadder, a 60m drop off a cliff into the sea, so far that if it is windy, the water gets blown around before it gets there, or even back up! This is where the water from Loch Mealt makes its short journey to the sea, and plunges off the cliff. It can be seen (carefully) from the viewpoint at the end of the road at NG397633, where looking North you can also see Kilt Rock, a cliff that was formed of volcanic basalt and resembles a pleated kilt.

      Get a Taste of Skye

      If it’s too wet or wild for even waterfalls, how about seeing how the water is turned into the ‘water of life’, or uisge beatha, otherwise known as whisky (no ‘e’!). Skye’s most famous whisky is the peaty Talisker, made surprisingly not at Talisker but at Carbost nearby. It has tours all year round, which of course includes sampling. Talisker tastes ‘heavy, full of smoke and iodine, but is sweeter than it smells…..with a hint of seaweed’.

      Isle Of Skye Nosing Whisky

       

      It is great in a warm pub, by the fire, after a walk. Indeed, one of my favourite pubs on the island is the Old Inn at Carbost, so why not leave the car and have a dram there to warm you? Talking of the Old Inn, on a nice day, there is no place better to enjoy a pint than in their beer garden overlooking Loch Harport. You can get a great view of the Cuillins from there, and if you have just climbed Bruach na Frithe, you can soothe your weary feet as you gaze back up to see where you were. Lovely!

      Go into Hiding

      Take some sandwiches, a flask and your binoculars and spend some time at the Otter Hide at Kylerea. This is one of the best places to spot marine mammals, seals and of course the elusive otter. Park at NG786211 where there is a RSPB eagle hide, and staff there to advise you during the summer. The otter haven (hide) is further down the track, open all year. The best time to see them is dawn and dusk, so set your alarm, be patient, and you may just be rewarded!

      Orkney wildlife

      Go Otter spotting on the Isle of Skye!

      Visit a Castle

      Undoubtedly the best castle on the island, (the busiest and best maintained), is Dunvegan Castle and gardens. It is open 1st April until the 15th October, and is the seat of the McLeods, and has been for 800 years continuously. The guided tour is fascinating, although you can wander at your leisure too, a great way to spend a day. The gardens are also wonderful whatever the weather, and it is surprising what species they have managed to grow in the relatively mild climate.

      Just Enjoy Skye

      So there you have it, my ideas for things to do on Skye. I initially thought I would struggle coming up with sufficient ideas, and then realised that actually I could go on an awful lot more. In truth, the best way to explore the island is just that, explore. Take these as a starter list, then let them draw you to different areas of the island. Take your time. Open your eyes. Be creative with your planning, particularly on what time of day you plan to do things. Be flexible. Skye is understandably popular, and no one of us deserves the monopoly on its attractions, so try to maximise your enjoyment by spreading the pressure of people.

       

      Dress appropriately….the weather can be changeable and challenging, but if you plan the right activity at the right time, the weather can enhance the experience.

      Did you enjoy this read? Visit John Walker’s website here for more blogs and guiding information.

      Fancy Visiting Skye on an Adventure Holiday? See Below to Discover our Tours.

      Meet the Author: John Walker

      “After a long career in retail management, I decided my desire to be outdoors needed to come first, so as the children were independent now, I took the plunge! I started out on the hills at an early age, being taken to the Peak District and Lake District of England by my parents, graduating to holidays in Scotland, but it wasn’t until I first visited the Alps with my wife Tracey on our motorbike that I realised how deep my passion was for all things mountainous. We bought a pair of boots each in Chamonix, and have never looked back!”

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