The Isle of Skye is ranked in the top three of the most popular Scottish tourist destinations, along with Edinburgh and Loch Ness and it’s not hard to see why. National Geographic recently voted it as the ‘fourth best island in the world’. Located on Scotland’s West Coast, Skye is the second largest of the Scottish isles at 50 miles in length and 25 miles in width and is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides. Its coastline is formed from a series of peninsulas and bays and it is the wing-like shape of its two northern peninsulas, Waternish and Trotternish, which gave the island its Gaelic name, An t-Eilean Sgitheanach, which means ‘The Winged Isle‘. There’s something very magical about the Scottish Isles and Skye is no exception. There are few places in the UK which feel as remote and unspoilt, giving you the feeling of really getting away from it all. Despite its remoteness, there is plenty to do for visitors to the island. Here I will highlight some of the top attractions on offer.
Explore The Fairy Pools
Few places on the island feel as magical as the famous Fairy Pools. Situated near Glen Brittle on the South of the island you will find the crystal clear water of these enchanting pools, which are surrounded by waterfalls and rocky cliffs. The pools draw visitors from all over the world and are particularly popular with those who enjoy ‘wild swimming’. If swimming in very cold water is not your idea of fun, the pools are great as part of a walking trail or a photo opportunity. From the car park, it will take you about 20 minutes to half an hour to reach the pools and there are plenty of places nearby to sit and have a picnic. If you don’t have access to your own vehicle you could enjoy this trip as part of an organised tour.
Take A Tour of Dunvegan Castle
What better place to soak up some of the wealth of culture and history of Skye than Dunvegan Castle. This is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and for over 800 years it has stood in idyllic surroundings on its 30-foot rock outcrop by the shore of Lake Dunvegan. Throughout its long history, the castle has been inhabited by one family, the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod, in fact, 30 generations of the clan have lived here over 8 centuries. The surrounding scenery is incredibly picturesque. The castle is surrounded by five acres of beautiful formal gardens, set against a stunning backdrop of rolling hills and waterfalls.
Not surprisingly Dunvegan Castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island and there is a lot to see there. Aside from some very impressive paintings and heirlooms, such as the Dunvegan Cup, you can also see the prized clan treasure, the Fairy Flag. This silk flag, which measures about 18 inches has miraculous powers, according to legend. There are many stories and traditions associated with the Fairy Flag. This famous talisman is certainly looking the worst for wear and can now be seen framed in the drawing room of the castle. Given that it is at least 1500 years old and, it’s remarkable that anything remains of it.
Take A Walk To Neist Point Lighthouse
A walk to Neist Point Lighthouse will give you an outstanding outlook to the Outer Hebrides. This is the most westerly headland on Skye and is regarded as the best spot to view dolphins, whales, basking sharks and porpoises. Aside from marine life, it is also a haven for birds such as black guillemots, razor bills and gannets who gather in vast numbers around the point. This is one of Skye’s iconic images and it is one of the most famous lighthouses in Scotland. The walk down from the car park is relatively short and follows a good concrete path, but the climb is steep. I’d say it is definitely worth visiting though as the views make the walk worthwhile.
Watch Out for Marine Mammals at Rubha Hunish
From the most westerly point at Neist Point Lighthouse, the most northerly point, Rubha Hunish gives you more magical views. If you want to enjoy watching sea birds or marine mammals, this is by far the best walk on Skye. The walk can be quite challenging but the rocky formations and spectacular scenery add to the appeal of the location and make it a very enjoyable day out.
Visit The Iconic Old Man of Storr
The most famous walk on the Isle of Skye has to be the Old Man of Storr Walk. The Storr forms the highest point on The Trotternish Ridge and below The Storr is The Sanctuary, the home of the incredible rock pinnacles The Old Man of Storr and The Needle Rock. The summit is 719 metres and the walk will take you along well-constructed paths. It is one of the island’s most iconic features and for anyone who loves walking, this will not disappoint. The rock dominates the landscape and this icon of the island has featured in many Hollywood films as well as television programmes and attracts huge numbers of visitors each year. The drama of the landscape is epic and will give you plenty of photo opportunities.
Take A Trip To The Museum Of Island Life
For indoor activities on the island, a great place to visit is the Museum of Island Life, Kilmuir, which is situated close to the Trotternish Peninsula. Opened in 1965, this is an amazing, award-winning attraction which gives great insight into island life in the 1800s. The museum is comprised of seven croft-style thatched cottages, of which four have been furnished and equipped in keeping with how they would have looked at that time and to illustrate different aspects of life on the island. At one time these houses would have been commonplace on the island but have now almost entirely disappeared.
Visit Armadale Castle
No visit to Skye would be complete without taking a trip to Armadale Castle. The historic gardens, which cover an area of almost 40 acres and the woodland trails which surround the castle are a joy to explore. Moreover, there is also an award-winning museum within the grounds, which is the home of Clan Donald. The museum tells the story of the island’s history through the island’s most powerful clan – the Clan Donalds. There are six differently themed galleries spanning 1500 years of history. This clan were the Lords of the Isles and are integral to its history. The castle itself is a ruin but the real beauty is in the surrounding landscape.
No matter where you choose to visit on the island, you will be simply blown away by the dramatic scenery. This is what the islands are known for and it is breathtaking. It is worth noting though that the unspoilt nature of the island means you have to be prepared. Don’t expect to be able to just turn up and get somewhere to stay. You need to book your accommodation beforehand, don’t leave things to chance. Also, pack a waterproof jacket. Even if you are travelling in the summer, the wind here can be very cold. If you are travelling during the summer months be sure to take insect repellant with you and some good walking shoes. The best way to enjoy the island is on foot, so you’ll definitely need them.