Find and book the perfect holiday cottage or b&b on the Isle of Skye
Visit the Isle of Skye: the largest island of the Inner Hebrides
If you're visiting Scotland and you don't spend at least a few days on the Isle of Skye, then you're doing it wrong. Just 50 miles long, the Isle is a window into ancient history: complete with dinosaur fossils, clan warfare, the infamous Bonnie Prince Charlie, and even historical remnants of the Jacobite Rebellion from the early 18th century. It's rife with wildlife, such as the white-tailed sea eagle, whales, dolphins, red deer and more, and it's one of the best places in the world to spend an afternoon hiking and trekking. Just have a wander around the Cuillin Range and the Trotternish Ridge to see what we're talking about.
How to get to the Isle of Skye
Although it's called the Isle of Skye, it is actually possible to drive all the way there from anywhere in mainland UK. That's because of the Skye Bridge between Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin that connects the two pieces of land. Nevertheless, it is very far north, at the tip of Scotland, so driving can take a long time – even if you're only coming from Scotland itself. With that in mind, unless you plan on doing a full driving tour of the UK, we would only recommend driving to the Isle of Skye if you're coming direct from somewhere in Scotland – such as Glasgow or Edinburgh. If you're driving up from Glasgow, it's a 216-mile drive to Sky which will typically take between 5 and 6 hours, although the roads can become heavier with traffic during the summer months as this is the peak tourist season for the Isle of Skye. As it's such a long drive, it's worth making a few pitstops at some fabulous locations in the north of Scotland, such as Fort William, a small Scottish town that has some great cheap accommodation that makes for the perfect overnight stay. Similarly, driving from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye would take about 5 hours via the A87.
If you're coming from further afield, the best option is to fly into Glasgow or Edinburgh airport, and then hire a car to drive over to the Isle of Skye, which unfortunately doesn't have an international airport. Both of these airports have direct connections with many of the major cities across Europe, as well as New York, Dubai, Orlando, and more. Alternatively, travellers could fly into a London airport and then hop on a connecting plane to Scotland.
For travellers that don't fancy driving that long distance, there are a number of other ways to access the Isle of Skye – although they all pretty much require getting to Glasgow or Edinburgh first, however you may choose to do that. One way is to get a train from Glasgow to Mallaig and then get the ferry over to Skye, or travel from Inverness to Kyle and then hop on a connecting bus over to the island.
Where to book a holiday cottage on the Isle of Skye
The capital town of the Isle of Skye, Portree is tucked away in the island's beautiful landscape, surrounded by hills and overlooking a sheltered bay. It's closer to the Old Man of Storr, and if you get your bed and breakfast accommodation right, you'll get sweeping views over the bay, right the way to the Island of Raasay. According to local legend, the area is named after a visit from King James V in 1540, as the name Portree means King's Port in old Gaelic, but the area was there for hundreds of years before this visit and was named after the Gaelic word for a port on a slope.
Found on the Minginish peninsula, Carbost is a fairly large town known for the Talisker distillery, which was first built in the area during the early 1800s. Today, that distillery rightfully capitalises on its history with an excellent visitors' centre, and Talisker Bay itself is a beautiful spot hidden by the rising basalt cliffs on either side. If you like old fashioned B&B holiday rentals, then stay at the Number One Carbost; the cottage was first built during the 1950s, and it's still decorated using vintage and retro items, with handmade wallpaper and furniture from the 50s.
Sleat is known as the “garden of Skye” thanks to the dramatically beautiful landscape that surrounds it: from mountains covered in violet heater, to the glistening blue sea meandering its way through beaches and rocky shorelines, and the dense forests emitting a fairy-tale atmosphere. It's also a village home to award-winning restaurants and hotels, as well a ruined castle, whales, and ballet. Stay in the historic Ardvasar if you want the best holiday accommodation in Sleat; a proper boutique bed and breakfast, it's right next to the small ferry terminal and is one of the oldest hotels on the island. Or, if a short-term apartment rental is more your thing, stay at The Cabin: designed to use 100% green technology and overlooking the Isle of Ornsay on the Sound of Sleat, it's the self-catered luxury holiday rental of your dreams.
Things to do in the Isle of Skye
The Quiraing is a walk around some of the prettiest parts of the Isle of Skye. In total, it is a complete loop, passing through places such as the Trotternish ridge that was formed via a landslip in the cliffs, and it can be found via the villages of Staffin or Uig. In fact, the landslide is actually still moving despite being hundreds of years old, and it's one of the best places to go to get some amazing photos.
Skye Museum of Island Life
Although the name might suggest that the Skye Museum of Island Life dictates the history of island life since it began, it's actually specifically focussed around the latter part of the 1800s. First opened in 1965, the museum is a collection of traditional buildings from the 19th century, as well as a number of items that would have been used during that time.
Dolphin and Whale Watching
The isle of Skye is surrounded by some amazing water sights. Thanks to its remote location in the north of Scotland, the water around the island is vastly untouched by tourism, pollution, and a number of other factors that decrease the quality of the water in other coastal areas – especially in the UK. Of course, the water is freezing, but that doesn't stop a number of marine animals making it their home. In fact, the waters around the Isle of Skye are home to seals, dolphins, porpoises, and even whales – and even basking shark during the summer months, which is the second largest fish in the entire world. A great afternoon activity is to head off on a boat tour with experienced guides and see what you can spot.
Neist Point Lighthouse
One of the best spots in the island, it has panoramic views around the Isle of Skye and the sweeping ocean. Here, you not only get an incredible walk to what feels like the edge of the world, but you can also spot dolphins, whales, and more from the lighthouse. Plus, it's one of the best spots on the island to see a spectacular sunset, as it's the most western point on the island.
Armadale Castle is, confusingly, not actually a castle, but a ruined country manor in Armadale. Once owned by the MacDonald family, it was first built in 1790 before being half-destroyed by fire during the mid 19th century. Today, the house has been turned into a museum, complete with beautiful gardens to explore.
The Isle of Skye is home to a variety of wildlife, the most notable of those being the white-tailed sea eagles – which are huge – as well as the golden eagle. Look out for them while you're on any walk or hike during your stay, or you can go on a specific boat tour to see the sea eagle if you're really keen to spot it.
Its official name is the Old Man of Storr, and it's actually a giant column of rock that stands alone in the landscape, straight up like a finger. Part of the Trotternish landslip, it can be seen from miles around – and from a distance it can resemble the figure of an old man, hence the name. recently, it has been featured in a number of movie and TV shows, such as 2012's 'Prometheus'.
Walking along the Cuillin Ridge requires every budding hiker to learn and follow basic safety protocols – at the very least, its actually recommended that your hire an experienced guide to take you. Not for anyone who's scared of height, the ridge is worth all the extra precautions and worry of hiring a guide – with panoramic, sweeping views, its one of the best spots on the island.
The Fairy Glen
Like the name suggests, the Fairy Glen is like something straight out of a fairy-tale. The entire area is near Uig and features a number of odd and unique geological features that have earned it its mythical status.
Locally known as the dinosaur museum, Staffin Museum is a treasure trove of fossils and dinosaur collections that have been found in the local area. While the museum might seem tiny, it manages to hold a wealth of information, and the staff will point you in the right direction of the preserved dinosaur footprints that can still be seen on the beach – as long as the tide is out.
The Fairy Pools
The Fairy Pools in the Isle of Skye are known as some of the best places in the whole of the UK to swim in a “wild” setting. A collection of beautifully clear pools set amongst a picturesque narrow valley; the water is freezing – so maybe don't fully immerse yourself in the dead of winter.
Unlike Armadale, Dunvegan is actually a castle - and it's much older. In fact, the castle dates back to at least the 13th century when it was the seat of Clan MacLeod, and it's actually the oldest castle in Scotland that has been continuously inhabited. If you wander a bit further out of the gardens, visitors can even find a seal colony.
Best Time to Visit the Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is right on the northern coast of Scotland, so understandably the weather is pretty cold for most of the year – but that doesn't mean it's completely void of sunshine. In fact, during the peak summer months of July and August, temperatures average around 20 degrees Celsius, which isn't too different from the rest of the UK. However, this warmer weather does come with an increased chance of rain; Scotland is known for its rain, and it's part of the reason why the country is full of beautiful waterfalls, lochs, and green, green grass, so don't let that put you off. If you want to avoid the rain showers, April and May tend to be the driest months – although there is still the chance of a fresh spring shower. If you want a beautiful wintry landscape covered in snow, then winter in the Isle of Skye is the place to be – although between October and December when it does fall it typically doesn't stay on the ground for too long.
If you're looking to visit the Isle of Skye when there aren't too many tourists around, then you want to avoid the peak summer months of July and August, as these are most definitely the busiest times. Throughout May, June, and even September, the weather is still fairly pleasant, but there are fewer people – and you have the added bonus of cheaper holiday accommodation. Any other time of the year and you're likely only going to find locals around, with tourists few and far between, although double check all the places you want to visit as outside of the peak season a number of tourist attractions do close.