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The best things to do on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

Updated On 2nd August, 2021

The Isle of Skye is without a doubt one of the best places to visit in Scotland, it’s even a strong contender for the best places to visit in the UK.

The Isle of Skye is the largest and northernmost of the major islands in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It’s full of stunning coastal and mountain landscapes, famous for the Cuillin mountains which rise us dramatically from the sea and create some of the most iconic views in Scotland. If you’re looking for things to do on the Isle of Skye, exploring the Cuillin is definitely one, and in this post I’m going to share many more!

The Cuillin and hikes on the Isle of Skye such as the Old Man of Storr make it a great place to go walking in Scotland. But this is not all the Isle of Skye has to offer. From the picturesque harbour of Portree to the Glen Brittle fairy pools, or from seeing Neist Point lighthouse at sunset to cycling the Trotternish circuit, there are so many things to do on the Isle of Skye, you’ll have a hard time deciding what to put on your Isle of Skye bucket list!

From going on challenging day hikes to trying water sports, from wild camping in Scotland under the dark skies to exploring some of the picturesque towns on the Isle of Skye, my time in Scotland has been nothing short of adventurous! 

The best things to do on the Isle of Skye...​

With this Google Map, you can have all my tips and recommendations at the touch of your fingertips. These are all the things I wish I knew and spent a lot of time researching before my 4-week adventure. 

This Google Map Legend includes:

  • Best walks, hikes, viewpoints, beaches and activities
  • Lochs and waterfalls to visit
  • Road trip tips (campsites, laundrettes, lunch spots)
  • My favourite places for coffee, brunch and dinner
  • Things you must add to your bucket list!
  • Travel guide links within each location

If you’re the type of traveller that seeks challenging hiking trails, dramatic mountain views, and plenty of adventure, the Isle of Skye is going to be right up your street. The very British weather I’ve experienced there (a complete mix of glorious sunshine and drizzly/cloudy days), has not taken away from the beauty and fun I’ve had in this beautiful part of Scotland. The weather on the Isle of Skye is typically mild, wet and windy, but you can get some wonderful spring and summer sunshine too! The influence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream create a mild oceanic climate on the Isle of Skye. 

In terms of how to get to the Isle of Skye, you have a few options. You can drive across the mainland from the NC500 route, which is what I did on the way back. Alternatively, another way of getting to the Isle of Skye is to get the ferry from Malhaig (if you’re coming via Glenfinnan Viaduct and Traigh Beach) over to Skye for £13.40 (the cost of my van, anyway). It took 45 minutes. Check out ferry tickets to the Isle of Skye here. 

Tip: Harry Potter fans will recognise the Glenfinnan Viaduct as the classic view of the Hogwarts Express going to Hogwarts! The Jacobite steam train goes across this so make sure you see that pass to feel like you are in the movie. Skip the official viewing platform and walk over the bridge and follow the path up (20mins) to see the classic view!

In this Isle of Skye travel guide I am going to share with you the best things to do on the Isle of Skye, the best places to visit on the Isle of Skye,  and my favourite adventures so far. Get your pen and paper ready to create the ultimate Isle of Skye bucket list!

Looking to plan the ultimate Scotland road trip? Why not do what I did, and combine your trip to Skye with a trip to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National ParkCairngorms National Park, and the NC500?

The best things to do on the Isle of Skye...

1. Hike to the Old Man of Storr.

One of the most popular hikes on the Isle of Skye, if not one of the most popular hikes in Scotland, is the 4.7 km Old Man of Storr loop trail. It’s near Lealt and you will be treated to stunning views across the lake, coast and hillside. According to legend, the Old Man of Storr was a giant who lived on the Trotternish Ridge. When he was laid to rest upon his death, his thumb—the “Old Man”—remained partially above ground.

It can get windy at the top, so be prepared to have some layers! There are toilets at the entrance to the trail, and parking for 3 hours (which is enough time to go up and down) is £3. 

See all the best walks and hikes in Scotland here. 

The best things to do on the Isle of Skye...​

2. Swim in the fairy pools on the Isle of Skye.

This relatively short walk entices people from all over the world, and it is one of the best walks in Scotland, as well as one of the best on the Isle of Skye. At foot of the Black Cuillins near Glenbrittle are the Fairy Pools, beautifully crystal clear blue pools on the River Brittle.

If you’re brave enough to enter the cold water, the fairy pools on the Isle of Skye make for a great wild swimming spot. Regardless of whether you swim or not, they make for some great photos! 

It’s a 2.4km linear route, so it shouldn’t take that long, but you’ll want some time to explore the area. There’s a paid car park (£5) at the start of the trail, but if you want to save some pennies on your trip to Scotland then bear in mind that further down the road before you get to the trail there is an unpaid spot for parking (you’ll just need to add an extra 10-15 minutes to your walking time). 

The best things to do on the Isle of Skye...​

3. Soak up the local culture and history at Dunvegan Castle and Gardens.

A must-do on your Isle of Skye bucket list is visiting Dunvegan Castle and Gardens. Dunvegan is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and has been the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years.

One of the best things to do on the Isle of Skye is to enjoy a tour of the Castle and visit the beautiful gardens, delighting in the beauty of the Walled, Round and Water gardens, as well as the Woodland Walk. 

It’s open 10.00-17.30 every day, and tickets for a trip to the castle and gardens cost £14. 

4. Go chasing waterfalls on the Isle of Skye.

One of the best things to do on the Isle of Skye has got to be seeing the waterfalls. They’re absolutely gorgeous! Furthermore, waterfalls hold a special place in Gaelic tradition, often being places where supernatural creatures were located, even though it it said that evil spirits couldn’t cross running water.

There are so many stunning waterfalls here, go and chase them all! It can be hard to choose. Some of my favourite waterfalls on the Isle of Skye are:

  • Fairy Pools
  • Glen Brittle
  • Sligachan Waterfalls
  • Blackhill Waterfall
  • Talisker Waterfall
  • Eas a’ Bhradain
  • Lealt Falls
  • Falls of Rha, Eig
  • Bride’s Veil waterfall
The best things to do on the Isle of Skye...​

5. Go wild camping on the Isle of Skye for a night.

If you love the solitude of a ‘wild camping’ experience and a night under the stars, there are plenty of great places to go wild camping on the Isle of Skye. As part of Scotland’s access legislation, the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, you are allowed to camp on most unenclosed land. This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place.

One of the best things to do on the Isle of Skye is to find a quiet space away from roads and attractions, pitch up a tent, and enjoy being at one with nature.

Note that the rules are different if you want to camp with a campervan – you should have permission to park or a permit. If you’re looking for a campsite on the Isle of Skye, I fully recommend Staffic Caravan and campsite. A pitch for my van with electric hook up was £18. Dogs are free, and they have a laundry service and hot showers!

See more about responsible van life here. 

Get the ultimate camping packing checklist here. 

Alternatively, if you don’t want to go camping on the Isle of Skye, there are loads of cool Airbnbs overlooking the lochs! Check out the best airbnbs in the UK here. 

The best things to do on the Isle of Skye...​

6. Visit Neist Point Lighthouse at sunset.

Neist Point marks the most westerly point of the Isle of Skye. The setting of this lighthouse on the peninsula with the high cliffs is absolutely stunning. From the car park, it’s about a 40-minute walk to the lighthouse. 

One of the best things to do on the Isle of Skye is to complete this walk to the lighthouse at sunset, when the views are particularly gorgeous! (Tip: other places for sunsets on the Isle of Skye include Waternish and Duntulm). 

But, don’t just visit Neist Point for the scenery. It’s also a great place to spot some of the wildlife on the Isle of Skye! Here you’ll see whales, dolphins, porpoise and even the occasional basking shark, as well as many sea birds. 

7. Explore the picturesque harbour of Portree.

If you’re looking for places to visit or places to stay on the Isle of Skye, your best bet is Portree. Portree is the main town on the Isle of Skye and a great base for you to have for your trip. There are loads of places to stay in Portree, whether you want to go camping, stay in a luxury hotel, or everything in between. 

The harbour is stunning, and the town is centred on the port. Portree also boasts stunning cliff and mountain views! As well as being a cultural hub (don’t miss a visit to the Aros Centre for arts and culture) and one of the best places to visit on the Isle of Skye, it’s also a great location for getting to other attractions on the island, such as the Trotternish Ridge, the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock and the pinnacles of the Quaraing. 

If you’re embracing van life on the Isle of Skye, it’s probably worth noting that Portree is a great place to fill up with fuel, do your shopping (there’s a big Coop) and get laundry done (there is a laundry service at Portree Independent Hostel). Another place to visit in Portree is Birch Cafe, who do amazing coffee and cakes!

The best things to do on the Isle of Skye...​

If you’re looking for more places to add to your Isle of Skye bucket list, other towns and villages worth a visit include… 

  • Kyleakin
  • Broadford
  • Breakish
  • Dunvegan
  • Uig
  • Waternish
  • Carbost
Carbost was my personal favourite! I really enjoyed lunch and coffee on the harbour, and a visit to the Talisker Distillery! While you’re in Carbost, make sure you visit Caora Dhubh Coffee Company for coffee on the waterfront, The Old Inn & Waterfront Bunkhouse for lunch on the water, and The Oyster Shed for a decent seafood takeaway!

8. Go cycling on the Isle of Skye.

If you enjoy cycling, one of the best things to do no the Isle of Skye is to rent a bike and enjoy the cycle paths. Whether you want to cycle along the quiet village roads and stop for a cup of tea, or to enjoy a full day cycling through the countryside, the Isle of Skye offers something for every avid cyclist. 

Some popular cycle trails on the Isle of Skye are:

  • Trotterish Circuit (starting from Portree, this is a fairly hilly 50 mile circuit round the northernmost peninsula on the Isle of Skye, passing iconic sites such as the Storr and the Quirang and with great views over the sea in all directions)
  • Carbost to Talister Bay (loop)
  • The Struan (turn into a loop to/from your accommodation)
  • Mealt Waterfall (turn into a loop to/from your accommodation)

If you’re feeling brave and want an active adventure, I reckon it would be lovely to spend a few days cycling around the whole island! 

Fancy a bit more of an adrenaline rush? Try mountain biking at Glen Sligachan, one of the best places in Scotland to go mountain biking!

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9. Drive around and appreciate the views.

I was absolutely gobsmacked at the views when I was driving around the Isle of Skye. The dramatic mountain panoramas, the lochside lunch stops, coastal roads to take in the view… If you have the time to turn your adventure into an Isle of Skye road trip, definitely do so. I thoroughly enjoyed driving with these stunning vistas, stopping off for lunch or tea and then continuing to find more jaw-dropping views!

The best things to do on the Isle of Skye...​

10. Taste the local whiskey.

Scotland is famous for its whiskey, and one of the best things to do on the Isle of Skye is to visit a local distillery and to have a tour and try it for yourself. There are many places to go on a distillery tour on the Isle of Skye, where you can learn about how to make Scotch whiskey and then try the famous drink at the end. Some Isle of Skye distillery tours even allow you to make your own blend of whiskey. 

Some places that you can go on a distillery tour on the Isle of Skye include: 

  • Torabhaig distillery
  • Talisker distillery

11. Witness some of the wildlife on the Isle of Skye.

One of the best things to do on Skye is to appreciate the variety of the wildlife here. You’ll find animals such as the golden eagle, otter, red deer, sea eagle, atlantic salmon, seals, whales, dolphins, basking sharks and more on and around the island!

The ultimate Isle of Skye bucket list experience is to take a wildlife boat trip. Some even have glass bottoms so you can see what’s happening under the water! The majority of these boat tours depart from Lochalsh or Portree. Another would be going whale watching at Rubha Hunish, the northern most point on the island, or Neist Point, the most westerly point on the Isle of Skye. 

The best things to do on the Isle of Skye...​

12. Go stargazing on the Isle of Skye.

While you’re in Scotland, head to the Isle of Skye to look at the stars. Just imagine… lying back on the sand, listening to the lap of the waves, and watching the wonders of the night sky with the naked eye. You can see even more if you have a telescope or a pair of binoculars.

Scotland has some of the largest areas of dark sky in Europe. Dark skies are found in rural areas that are free of urban light pollution. From a city centre you can only see fewer than 100 stars with the naked eye, but under a dark sky you can see over 1,000, and you can even see the Milky Way, shooting stars and satellites!

One of the best things to do on the Isle of Skye is to appreciate the dark skies and snuggle up under the stars! Being free from light pollution, the Isle of Skye is one of the darkest places in Scotland, making it the perfect destination for stargazing. The Isle of Skye is a haven for astronomers, with nine Dark Sky Discovery Sites. The best time to go stargazing on the Isle of Skye is from September-April.

If you’re really lucky, you might even get a chance to see the Northern Lights on the Isle of Skye, which are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. 

Check out how to improve your travel photography in this blog post. 

13. Get in the water!

Skye is an island, so natural covered in miles of stunning coastline for you to explore! One of the best things to do on the Isle of Skye is to pack your swimsuits and get in the water. As well as the fairy pools I mentioned earlier, there are many stunning lochs on the Isle of Skye, and two of the best beaches on the Isle of Skye are Camas Daraich and Coral beach.

If you’re looking for more of an active water adventure, the Isle of Skye is a great place to try water sports! On Skye you can do sports such as paddleboarding, coasteering, sea kayaking and more. Check out companies such as Skye Adventure to find out more!

The best things to do on the Isle of Skye...​

14. Enjoy a ceilidh!

A ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) is a Scottish gathering or party. Full of fun and laughter, not to mention Scottish music, dancing and food, if you have the chance to go to a ceilidh, it’s one of the best things to do on the Isle of Skye. While they are often reserved for special occasions, you may well find one happening in a village hall or in a hotel. 

15. Go hiking or walking on the Isle of Skye.

There are so many walks and hikes on the Isle of Skye… it really is one of the best places to go walking in Scotland and even in the UK. with breathtaking mountain views, stunning moorland and coastal paths, it’s enjoyable come rain or shine! 

There are loads of walks and hikes on the Isle of Skye for you to try, no matter whether you’re a beginner hiker or if you’re looking for a bigger challenge. (If you’re a beginner hiker, check out my hiking top tips here!). The Isle of Skye is home to a variety of landscapes, so whether you want hills or cliffs, waterfalls or heather moors, there’s something for you here. With so much on offer, it’s no surprise that walking and hiking are some of the best things to do on the Isle of Skye.

Some of the best places for hikes on the Isle of Skye include: 

  • Old Man of Storr (mentioned above in more detail and pictured below)
  • Alllllll the heather moorland!
  • Quiraing (it’s particularly beautiful at sunrise if you don’t mind the early start!)
  • Kitt Rock
  • Cuillin Mountains
  • Fairy Glen
The best things to do on the Isle of Skye...​

What are your favourite things to do on the Isle of Skye?

Where are your favourite places to visit on the Isle of Skye? Anything you’d add?

Love as always and happy adventuring,

Mollie.

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I’M MOLLIE AND I STARTED THIS BLOG BACK IN 2013 WHEN I HEADED OUT ON MY FIRST BACKPACKING ADVENTURE. I’D LOVE TO SHARE MY STORY WITH YOU…

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