The Isle of Skye Overview
The Isle of Skye is part of a chain of islands lying off the west coast of Scotland collectively known as the Inner Hebrides. Skye lies at the northern end of the chain and the main islands heading southwards include Rum, Eigg, Coll, Tiree, Mull, Colonsay, Iona, Jura, Islay, and Arran.
The Isle of Skye is also the largest of the Inner Hebrides islands. It is approximately 50 miles long running north to south and around 25 miles across at the widest point. The largest town, and Island capital, is Portree which lies on the northeast coast of the island.
Whilst many people will want to spend several days exploring The Isle of Skye, it is incredibly popular and accommodation can sometimes be hard to find. It is also a little challenging to drive with some narrow roads and tricky navigation. Given this, it is good to know that it is actually a fairly easy trip from Inverness and you can drive there and back in a day. Even better, should you not wish to do the driving yourself, there are many scheduled and private tours leaving from Inverness every day.
Many guests staying at Inverglen Guest House make a day trip to Skye a key part of their visit, and if you have limited time this makes excellent use of your time and saves having to pack your bags quite so often.
Skye wasn’t always as easy to visit. Indeed, before 1995 it required a ferry journey to reach the island. However, on 16th October 1995, the 500m long Skye Bridge was opened connecting the island with the Scottish mainland. In the early years, it would cost £11.40 to cross the bridge (affording it the accolade of being the most expensive toll per metre in Europe), however, in December 2004 the toll was dropped and it became free to cross. This further opened up access to the Island and has no doubt helped it become the tourist hot spot it is today.
When to Visit
Being best known for its scenery, the weather can play a major part in deciding when to go. The summer months from May to September are clearly the most popular. Not only do they afford the best chances of good weather, but they also offer the most choices of accommodation and attractions. Of course the downside is that just about everyone wants to visit at this time so it can be incredibly busy.
Personally, we feel that if your schedule allows you will have a better experience in either March and April or waiting until October or even November. Of course, the weather can be more challenging at these times (but then again it can be challenging in mid-summer), however, on the good days the scenery is even more spectacular in the early spring or autumn/fall. You also have the added bonus of fewer tourists competing for every parking space. Another benefit of avoiding summer is that you’ll also avoid the midgies (little biting insects) that can be rather annoying to say the least.
Where to Visit on Skye
The main attractions on Skye are centered around its spectacular scenery which includes such iconic locations as The Old Man of Storr, The Black and Red Cuillin Mountain Range, The Fairy Pools, The Quiraing, Elgol, and Talisker Bay. To name but a few.
With so many iconic locations on the Isle of Skye, it would be impossible to include them all in a short blog post, so we have concentrated on just a few to give you a flavour of what to expect. The locations we have chosen are amongst the most popular on the island, and with good reason. We hope they inspire you to make some time in your itinerary to visit this special place.
The Fairy Pools
The Fairy Pools is one of the most visited locations on the Isle of Skye. It is popular with both walkers and photographers. Its popularity can make it extremely busy in the summer months and you are certainly advised to visit either early in the morning or in the late afternoon/early evening if you wish to avoid the worst of the crowds. In summer we have plenty of daylight so there is ample opportunity to stretch out the day.
The Fairy Pools are naturally occurring cascading pools in the River Brittle. The crystal clear water reflects the surrounding colours of the landscape and sky, so they sometimes appear blue, sometimes green, sometimes grey. The river passes through several dramatic waterfalls. There is an underwater arch at one point in the river, so look out for this on your way.
Hikers will find that there are two main walks to consider. The short walk is approximately 2.4km and this is the route most visitors choose to take. Although it isn’t a long walk, it can prove challenging for some people especially as it involves crossing over some stepping stones that require a degree of confidence. Even if you can’t make it across the stones, it is still well worth walking down to this point.
For those wanting the challenge of a longer walk, it is worth taking on the 8km route as described by walk highlands.
The spectacular and unusual landscape of The Quiraing is the result of the UK’s largest post-glacial landslides covering an area of at least 8.5 kilometers. Indeed, the landslide is still ongoing today, but at a very slow pace.
The Quiraing is located on the summit of the minor road between Staffin and Uig, north of Portree. Like the Fairy Pools, this is a popular site for tourists, especially hikers and photographers, and it can be extremely busy during the summer months. Parking can be difficult so an early morning or early evening visit may make things a little easier.
The walk at The Quiraing is more challenging than that at the Fairy Pools, but the views are worth the effort if you are fit enough. The circuit is about 4 miles and whilst the initial part is fairly straightforward, it does become rocky and uneven after a while and one part involves a minor scramble.
Even if you aren’t up for the full walk, it is still well worth the visit. Just making the drive to the start of the walk and the parking area will take your breath away. Many people decide not to venture more than a 10-minute walk from the car park, but even then you will still see spectacular landscape views. All the photographs on this page were taken within a half-a-mile of the car park. Walkhighlands give great advice and directions for walkers, and please note that the route can also be used by mountain bikers.