Our time in the Isle of Skye was everything we had hoped for, this gorgeous island off the Western coast of Scotland is blessed with the wildest, most magnificent landscape imaginable. You really feel like you have stepped onto the set of a movie and with every corner a surprise awaits.
We chose to split our week into South and North of the island as the major landmarks are quite spread out and we wanted to try and reduce the amount of time spent in the car.
During our time in the South of the island we stayed at a beautifully located campsite called Glenbrittle Campsite. Its situated directly on the beach of Loch Brittle bay and at the foot of the Cuillin mountains so you really do have 360° of breathtaking views. Overall we enjoyed our stay here, the facilities are well maintained and the staff were very friendly but at £10 a night each, plus a £2 fee to charge one battery, we did think it was a little steep. That combined with the 20 minute drive down the single-track, pot-hole infested road each time we wanted to leave or access the campsite, meant that after our fourth night, we felt ready to pack up and head elsewhere. (I would note that on our final morning we were lucky enough to see a pod of dolphins and some gannets in the bay hunting for fish, which was spectacular! This was a day with absolutely no wind and we were very lucky but still a good idea to keep your eyes peeled.)
Our stay in the North of the island was at a lovely, secluded campsite called Staffin Campsite, just half an hours drive from Portree. The wardens Allan and Dags are just wonderful and so so helpful. You can charge your camera batteries here for free plus the showers were super warm and with great water pressure. There is also clothes washing and drying facilities and overall we found the campsite had much more of a ‘homely’ feel to it; without charging an arm and a leg (they charged £8 each a night). The famous Scottish Midge was definitely more prominent in Staffin though, where we had barely noticed them in the South, we were both bitten in Staffin.
There are countless B&B’s to choose from if you are not comfortable camping but, weather permitting, I would encourage using the campsites as it gives the whole week a bit more sense of adventure. There were 3 items that we took that we were super grateful for and would highly recommend for anyone contemplating a trip to Skye:
- Our tent: OEX Husky iii Expedition. This tent was like our best-friend on our trip. It’s so easy to put up and take down (less than 10 minutes), it has hooks for lighting and pockets for phones in the bedroom and it is really well aired. We only experienced condensation on one morning, which I think is pretty good going! So we highly recommend this tent – although, we purchased the tent from GoOutdoors and at the time of writing this blog post I cannot see it listed.
- Our Stove: Campingaz Bistro Gas Stove. A gas stove is an absolute must unless you plan on eating out for every meal. It’s great for cooking breakfast, boiling water or any other cooking needs as you require! We have used ours on a couple of trips now and its a fantastic little purchase. Remember to buy gas though!
- Our BBQ: La Hacienda 58106 Firebowl. We bought this BBQ purposely for this trip and I’m so glad we did because our evenings would have been miserable without it. You can use it as a BBQ; which is great as its off the ground and both campsites were happy for us to use it on site. But after dark once the temperature drops off and you start shivering, this BBQ doubles up as a firepit. So chuck them logs on and keep warm whilst the sun goes down! Highly, highly recommend.
The fairy pools are a series of small waterfalls and ‘pools’ that occur down a stream coming off the Cuillin Mountains. The unique geology on these slopes means that the water shines gorgeous, vivid shades of greens and blues which against the mountainous backdrop makes you feel like you’ve wandered into a fairy tale.
This destination is obviously incredibly popular with the tourists so be prepared to fight it out for a parking space. There is a free car park located opposite the start of the hike but this will fill up quickly, leading to cars parking on the side of the single-file road. Luckily for us, this was located only a 15 minute drive from our campsite in Glenbrittle!
Hike Difficulty *
The hike takes around 2 hours to complete, including stopping time for photos and is not steep until the final 100 metres back to the road. We recommend walking past the sign that says you’ve reached the end of the fairy pools as there are some great photo opportunities just a few more minutes walk up the pathway.
SligachanOur stop in Sligachan was only a passing visit really, as it is only a small village, but it is worth stopping off for an hour or so. There is a picturesque bridge, called the Sligachan Old Bridge, that a small stream runs underneath, and the Cuillin mountains are visible behind, looking utterly magnificent. I noticed some cyclists coming off a pathway that heads towards the mountain ranges so there are some walks that can be done from this point, although we didn’t check them out for ourselves. We did stop off for a drink at the Seuma’s Bar (adjoined to the Sligachan Hotel) since it was a sunny, warm-ish day, which was pleasant and it looked like the restaurant served some good food too! It’s also a good place to stop and catch up on social media as its one of the very few places on Skye that actually has 4G connection.
PortreeWe would say Portree is the hub of Skye, it is bustling with energy compared to the tiny villages dotted across the rest of the island and has all the amenities you need – you will find yourself here multiple times even if its just for the Co-op (there are 2 in Portree of which one has a large car park!). There are a couple of notable points to make about Portree; to start with make sure you head down to the harbour and get yourself some local fish and chips! Just be careful because those seagulls are crafty devils and we watched one snatch the chips right out of a ladies hand. Secondly, there is a lovely walk you can take which allows you to look out across the Sound Of Raasay called the Scorrybreac Trail. Its a loop that took us less than 2 hours and although we didn’t plan to do the walk originally, I think it was one of my favourite finds of the whole week. If you’re lucky you might see a White-Tailed Sea Eagle or some dolphins – unfortunately for us we saw neither on this occasion.
Hike Difficulty **
Most of the hike is flat and very easy, but there is one section round the back of the trail which is a steep incline and was a little tough. Once you’re up though you are rewarded with fairy-tale woodland and its totally worth it.
Neist PointAt the most Westerly point on the Isle of Skye lies Neist Point lighthouse, a fantastic location to head to for sunset. The views are spectacular, just open water and the distant Scottish Isles (I believe the ones we could see were the Isle of Lewis and Harris to the North). There is plenty of free parking on the road once you reach Neist Point. From here you can choose to walk to the end of the pathway where the lighthouse is, or pick a spot on the grass verge further around the cliff face- this is what we chose to do so Brad could photograph the sky above the lighthouse.
Hike Difficulty **
I have decided to give this 2 stars only due to the fact that the way back to the car is quite challenging, especially for those that are unfit. To reach the pathway to the lighthouse you need to descend down some concrete steps, which is absolutely fine on the way down but this is a hefty, steep ascent and both of our legs were burning on the way back up!
Kylerhea Otter HideIf you’re into your wildlife like Brad and I, then I would recommend trying to squeeze a trip to the Otter Hide into your itinerary. You can access this via turning onto a long, single-track road in Broadford, this takes you right down to the coast. The Otter Hide actually looks out across the most narrow section of water between the Isle of Skye and mainland Scotland, which may be one of the reasons it attracts so much wildlife. We easily spent a couple of hours in the hide watching out for anything exciting, its a good place for some down time if your legs are tired from all the walking! Although we were told Otters are a common sighting on the rocky beaches below, we never saw any but were told by another couple who had come the previous year that they had seen a whole family of Otters down there! However, we saw tons of seals (common and grey) plus the White-Tailed Sea Eagle, which is the largest bird of prey in the UK! Dolphins and Orcas are advertised as being spotted here but when speaking to a local RSPB volunteer we found out this occurrence is incredibly rare.
If you have time for it and this is up your street, definitely take a drive down because you don’t know what might be swimming in the water!
ElgolElgol is a secluded, little fishing village sat looking out across the water with the Cuillin mountains as the picturesque backdrop. The sun sets behind the Cuillins, but even during the day with some moody clouds drifting across the mountain tops, it makes great viewing. Once you park down by the harbour, take a stroll down the cobbled beach and around the corner. There you can set up your cameras and blankets and take in the beautiful views that Elgol has to offer. We arrived at Elgol initially in the afternoon and loved it so much we decided to drive back to Broadford for dinner, and return to Elgol for sunset. Luckily the 30 minute drive from Broadford to Elgol is stunning and has its own photo opportunities looking across Loch Slapin!
A tip for those wishing to spend sunset in Elgol: bring your own provisions! The only shop we could see closes early and there is no where else available to buy food or drink in the evening. There are free public toilets which were kept in pretty good condition, though I’m unsure if they are locked at night!
Staffin CoastlineThe North Eastern coastline of the Isle of Skye up near Staffin is full of little wonders to explore and stumble across. This is the coastline that is full of wondrous waterfalls (namely Leilt Falls and Kilt Rock Falls), prehistoric tidal zones with fossilised dinosaur footprints and much more! From our second campsite we were in prime position to make the most of this beautiful part of Skye and as each significant site has its own tourist board and map it is quite easy to navigate the area for yourself. Most tourists will want to visit Kilt Rock Falls but we actually found it a bit disappointing as you really can’t see the waterfall well at all and, unless you have a drone or reach the beach below, you’re unlikely to get any decent photographs. Instead, we turned to Lealt Falls for our waterfall fix, which we found far more accessible. If you walk right to the end of the pathway upon arrival you’ll see a small windy path that takes you all the way down to the coast and allows you to walk right up to the falls. We were the only two people down there and, considering the pathway above was flooded with tourists, it was a gorgeous secluded find.
For those interested in finding those elusive Sea Otters, we were told that they can be found on the beaches beside the harbour in Staffin. This is the same general location as the dinosaur beach – just keep driving to the end of the road until you reach the harbour. Again for us, the otters were nowhere to be seen, but honestly is was so serene when we sat there one evening with the backdrop of a young Scottish boy practising his bagpipes that I didn’t mind we hadn’t seen the otters.
All locations have free parking and there is certainly something for everyone, whether it be nature, history or coastal walks.
Old Man of StorrArguably the most famous landmark on Skye is the Old Man of Storr, and rightly so. The rock formations stand high and proud, emerging from the cliff face like jagged needles. Again, there is plenty of free parking on the road at the start of the hike but despite this it still gets seriously busy. The best time to visit would definitely be for sunrise, as we did, if nothing else to beat the crowds but also for the fantastic colours in the sky. We woke up at 3am to ensure we were in position for the 5am sunrise, luckily the start point of the hike was only 15 minutes drive from our handy campsite. The sun rises behind the Highland mountains on the mainland Scotland and lights up the sky, shining across and onto the Storr, it really is breathtakingly beautiful. Once you have got your fill of sunrise photos you can explore the pathways that wind in and around the rocks, mesmerised by the sheer size of them and then make your way back to the car. By this time you’ll probably notice that the rush of tourists has already begun.
Hike Difficulty ***
Time to complete the hike varies depending on experience and fitness levels, some may be able to do it in 45 minutes and others may take 75 minutes, for us it took about an hour. It is virtually all uphill and can be quite tiring. There are a lot of steps (large ones that are more like climbing for my little legs) and we did take a few breaks to catch our breaths. But ultimately its doable and completely worth it!
QuiraingThis spectacular ridge winds across a vast area and from it the views over the coastline are just stunning. You can take the pathway right or left (when facing the coast), or both if you really fancy it. We went right initially as the main pathway was bustling with tourists, which we didn’t fancy contending with. The pathway goes right the way around to a point off in the distance which you may have been able to see The Storr from, though we just walked about 15 minutes up and then sat to enjoy the views with our lunch.
Hike Difficulty *
The actual hike itself is not difficult or too long and everyone should be able to walk it (with appropriate shoes). The main pathway, towards the famous ‘needle’ is a little sketchy, as there have clearly been many a landslide here, but once the crowds have subsided towards the end of the day it wasn’t too bad to walk along. Our biggest regret of the entire trip to Skye was not completing this hike and making our way to other other side of The Needle. We stopped perhaps 15 minutes or less from the best viewpoint in the Quiraing and then turned back – please don’t make the same mistake!
There is so much to explore on Skye and, though we had a jam-packed 6 days, there was still so much we didn’t see. On our next trip to Skye our to do list would definitely include: Fairy Glen, The Needle, taking a boat trip from Elgol, explore more of the beaches and taken a proper hike into the Cuillins… What’s at the top of your to do list on the glorious Isle of Skye?
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