Isle of Skye: 10 Irresistible Things to Do on Scotland’s BEST Island

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Portree Isle of Skye Scotland

Inside: From dramatic landscapes to historic castles, Isle of Skye Scotland is world-renowned for its natural beauty. Here’s the everything guide to planning your trip!

With stunning coastal views, translucent fairy pools, and rolling emerald hills, the Isle of Skye Scotland is the perfect escape from city life.

It’s also one of the most popular travel destinations in the entire United Kingdom. Mostly due to its awe-inspiring natural landscape and the cheery capital of Portree (an excellent home base for visitors, but more on that in a moment).

When my husband and I took a recent week-long road trip to explore the Scottish Highlands, the Isle of Skye was my favorite of all the beautiful places we visited. Hands down.

Read More: The Bucket List Scotland Road Trip Itinerary in 7 Amazing Days

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to book through these links, I receive a small commission, which I will undoubtedly blow on more flights (it’s a vicious cycle).  All of this internet voodoo takes place at no additional cost to you. 

And while I initially planned to include Skye island within this detailed write-up on the Highlands, once I started writing I realized that was impossible. There’s just so much to see and do on the Isle of Skye, that it would be an absolute crime not to devote an entire post to the island. So, here we are.

Sidebar: I first thought I could include Edinburgh in that Highlands road trip post as well. But again, a fantastic city like Edinburgh can never be whittled down to just a few paragraphs.

Read More: Epic Edinburgh: 16 Can’t-Miss Things to Do in Scotland’s Sensational Capital City

Where is the Isle of Skye Scotland?

Located just a stone’s throw off Scotland’s western coast, the Isle of Skye is the largest and most northerly island in the Inner Hebrides chain.

What is the Isle of Skye famous for?

Skye is famous for its dramatic scenery, lush countryside, and misty forests.

It’s also home to some of Scotland’s most notable landmarks, including the Old Man of Storr, the Cuillin Hills, and Dunvegan Castle.

Outdoor enthusiasts will delight in the island’s abundance of gorgeous hiking trails and scenic viewpoints. Not to mention outstanding fishing and birdwatching.

So whether you’re a hiker, photographer, or just a nature lover seeking the perfect escape to the countryside, there’s no doubt the Isle of Skye will enchant you.

Isle of Skye Scotland UK Travel

But before I move on to the myriad of fantastic things to do on Skye island, let’s cover some basic logistics.

How to get to Isle of Skye

There’s no airport on the Isle of Skye, so getting there requires a bit of work. But hey, the island’s remoteness is all part of its charm, right?

So, where IS the closest airport?

The closest airports to the Isle of Skye are:

  1. Inverness International Airport (INV) – 120 miles from Portree, the drive takes approximately 2.5 to 3 hours. This is by far the easiest gateway to the Isle of Skye.
  2. Glasgow International Airport (GLA) – Just over 200 miles from Portree, the drive can take as long as 5-6 hours in the summer months. A stopover in the lovely town of Fort William is a nice way to break up the drive.
  3. Edinburgh International Airport (EDI) – Just over 230 miles from Portree, the trip from Edinburgh is a bit of a haul and can take 6+ hours. Again, it’s a good idea to make a stopover to break up the drive.

Can you take a train to the Isle of Skye?

Unfortunately, there is no railway on the Isle of Skye. Without a rental car, the best way to get there by train is to take a train from Inverness to the Kyle of Lochalsh, then a bus over the bridge to the island.

Or, from Edinburgh or Glasgow, take the train to Mallaig and then the ferry to Armadale on the island. Just keep in mind that public transportation options are minimal on the Armadale side of the ferry.

Once you’re on the ground, there are two ways to access the Isle of Skye – a short bridge or a car ferry:

  1. By Bridge – The convenient (and free) bridge to the Isle of Skye connects Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland with Kyleakin on the island.
  2. By Ferry – If you’re coming from the south (or if you plan to make a stop at the Glenfinnan Viaduct on your way to the island, the car ferry is a convenient option. Connecting Mallaig on the mainland with Armadale on the island, the Calmac car ferry runs approximately every 2 hours during the summer season and takes just 30 minutes. For the current fares and schedules, and to book tickets, check the Caledonian MacBrayne official website.

Can you take a day trip to Isle of Skye?

Yes, you can take a day trip to the Isle of Skye. But it’s really only possible from Inverness. And it’s a LONG day. But if a single day is all you have, a day trip is a great way to get an overview of the island. From Inverness, this is the top-rated day trip to the Isle of Skye:

#1 Pick
Dunvegan Castle Isle of Skye Scotland

The Isle of Skye & Eilean Donan Castle from Inverness

This hugely popular full-day tour from Inverness is the perfect way to see the highlights of Isle of Skye plus Eilean Donan Castle. Skip the rental car & book this.

From Edinburgh, a day trip isn’t realistic. Too much driving, not enough time to see the sights. The most popular tours from Edinburgh are 3-day tours that are the perfect way to see all the best of the Isle of Skye plus the surrounding Scottish Highlands. This is my favorite 3-day tour option from Edinburgh:

#1 Pick
Scottish Highlands Road Trip

3-Day Isle of Skye & Scottish Highlands Small-Group Tour from Edinburgh

This top-rated small group 3-day tour includes 2 nights in Portree, Loch Ness & Scottish Highlands highlights.

So, if you don’t book a tour, how to get to Isle of Skye?

Do I need a rental car?

Truthfully, yes. It’s far more difficult to get to the island (and around it) without a car. And to fully enjoy the Isle of Skye once you arrive, you really need your own wheels.

A rental car allows you to explore all the different corners of the island at your leisure. Plus, there are some great hikes and viewpoints that are only accessible by car.

And, let’s be honest, driving on the Scottish roads is just part of the adventure. Just make sure to keep your eyes open for sheep and other wildlife!

Driving on Isle of Skye
Adorable road hazards on the Isle of Skye

But if driving on the left just isn’t your cup of tea, be sure to stay in one of the larger towns – Portree, Dunvegan, or Broadford – where you’ll find limited local bus services around the island and restaurants within walking distance.

We rented our car through which is my favorite booking site for comparing rates across multiple companies. It also ensures there are no surprise extra charges when I arrive at the counter.

MY Pick
Scotland Road Trip Car

Discover Cars

My favorite rental car booking site to use all over the world. No hidden costs, free cancellation, and 24/7 customer support.

Is driving difficult on Skye island?

As we learned on our recent trip to the Faroe Islands, the most challenging part of driving in this part of the world are what’s known as “Single Track Roads.” That’s just a catchy name for a road barely wide enough for a Smart Car at times that is alarmingly utilized for two-way traffic.

The most important rule of driving on single track roads is to always KEEP LEFT. There are frequent pull-over spots along these roads that allow for two-way encounters. If the passing place or “layby” is on the left, you should pull over. If it’s on the right, the oncoming vehicle is expected to pull over.

Keep in mind that you may also have to reverse if the most recent layby was just behind you. And don’t forget to give a friendly wave as you pass if the oncoming driver pulls over for you. It’s expected.

What’s the best time of year to visit the Isle of Skye?

The best time to visit the Isle of Skye is during the summertime. The weather is warm and sunny, and there are plenty of activities to enjoy.

A visit during the spring or autumn offers mild temperatures and smaller crowds. The island is beautiful any time of year, but the scenery is especially stunning in the fall when the air is crisp and the leaves are changing color.

However, be aware that the roads can get icy in the wintertime, so it’s not always a good idea to visit then if you’re not comfortable driving in these conditions.

How many days do you need on the island?

While it’s just 50 miles long and 25 miles wide, Skye feels like a much bigger island. In fact, it takes at least half a day to drive around it without stopping. So, if you only have one day, it’s tough to see very much (I’ve outlined my suggestions for a few one-day itineraries below).

I think three days on the Isle of Skye is ideal. And for that reason, I’ve broken down my Top 10 list below into a relaxed 3-day itinerary focused on the different regions of the island to explore.

Two days is doable to hit the highlights. But plan on a LOT of driving and less time for hiking. Of course, there’s also plenty to do on the Isle of Skye to keep you busy for a week or more, especially if you’re partial to all those lovely hikes.

And that’s a splendid opportunity to explore Skye’s beauty at a relaxed pace (as it’s truly meant to be enjoyed). 

Where to stay on Isle of Skye

Thanks to its central location and variety of hotels and restaurants, the island’s colorful capital of Portree makes the ideal home base. Of course, if you’re looking to fully embrace the beauty of the countryside, there are plenty of great options to fit that bill.

Tip: No matter where on the island you decide to stay, book early! Hotel options are limited and the best places to stay are booked up months in advance.

Here are some of my favorite places to stay around the Isle of Skye:

Best Places to Stay in Portree

Cuillin Hills Hotel – Just a 10-minute walk from the town center, this is one of Skye’s finest luxury hotels. Set amidst 15 acres of lush private grounds, this stunning location features the island’s best panoramic views of Portree Bay and the Cuillin mountains.

Harbour House – Back down at sea level, this holiday rental is located in the heart of Portree. And for the best view of the town’s colorful harbor, it’s impossible to beat this spacious 3-bedroom, 2-bath home. With a full kitchen and plenty of room for everyone, this one is a fantastic choice if you’re traveling with the whole family.

Rockview Bed & Breakfast – Also centrally located in Portree, this elegant B&B has comfortable rooms, sea views, and terrific food.

Best Places to Stay in the Countryside

Kinloch Lodge Hotel – If you’re looking for a romantic country escape, this luxury family-run lodge is the ideal choice. Located in the South of Skye, the 17th-century former hunting lodge is a peaceful retreat with amazing water views. The hotel is also known for its excellent restaurant and exceptional service.

Edinbane Lodge – This cozy, traditional Scottish lodge on Skye’s western coast is straight out of Scottish central casting. Dating back to 1543, the vibe is a charismatic blend of stone walls, wood paneling, and even clawfoot tubs in some rooms. Rooms here are spacious, comfortable, and feel a bit like staying at a wealthy friend’s Scottish country house. Bonus: The lodge’s fabulous restaurant is Michelin worthy. Unfortunately, staying here won’t guarantee you a reservation so if that’s your goal, check for tables before you book your room.

Carters Rest Guesthouse – Also located on Skye’s western shore, this charming adults-only guesthouse is just a 10-minute walk from the beach. With delightful hosts, delicious breakfasts and jaw-dropping surroundings, it’s the perfect place for a peaceful, romantic getaway.

Best for a Unique Stay in the countryside (& a Tighter Budget)

If you’re looking for something different on your visit to Skye, try one of the unique “pod-type” guest houses or vacation rental options. I’m not sure exactly how to categorize these but think of them as the Isle of Skye’s version of the tiny house experience.

Typically surrounded by spectacular countryside, these are detached structures ranging from cabins, to chalets, to yurts. But don’t be fooled, these are definitely not like camping. In fact, even though most are very affordable, they are also modern, cozy, and loaded with luxury conveniences.

Here are a few great options to consider:

Skeabost View Pods Skye – Located in the countryside just 5 miles outside Portree, these cozy detached pods each have a kitchenette, private bathroom, wifi, a quaint terrace, and both river and mountain views. And while the word “pod” hints at their compact size, they’re still larger than the average hotel room. There’s also plenty of parking nearby.  

Treaslane Stable Rooms – These cozy chalets, each with a panoramic view of Loch Snizort Beag, are centrally located in Skeabost, a 10-15 minute drive northwest from Portree. Each one comes complete with a fully-equipped kitchenette, private bath, and a spacious terrace to enjoy the brilliant views. The location is not just gorgeous, it’s perfect for easy access to all of Skye’s best sights.

Isle of Skye Rotunda – This circular, yurt-style vacation rental is a roomy individual apartment located in Ollach, just 4.5 miles south of Portree. It features one bedroom, one bathroom, private parking, and a full kitchen. But the show-stopper is a terrace with a 5-star view of the sea and countryside. It’s everything to love about the Isle of Skye in 350 charming square feet.

The Coach House – Conveniently located for exploring Skye’s western shore, this cabin-style unit is located in Orbost, between Dunvegan and Neist Point. Like the Isle of Skye Rotunda, it’s an individual apartment with all the modern amenities and an incredible view. It’s also nearly as roomy at 300 square feet. Bonus: It has a relaxing soaking tub and it’s just a 10-minute walk to the beach.

Skye Cabins – Also located in Skeabost, this circular chalet is another structure of the yurt variety. With gorgeous loch views and a comfortable wood interior, this tastefully decorated chalet also has a private bath and a kitchenette. Huge Bonus: An outdoor hot tub for soothing aching muscles after all those hikes!

BONUS OPTION: For History Buffs!

The Stein Inn – At more than 200 years old, it’s the oldest inn (not lodge, Edinbane Lodge claims that title) on the Isle of Skye. Set in a stunning location by the water’s edge in Loch Bay, all rooms have sea views. Rooms are small and quirky, as you’d expect with a property of this age. If modern conveniences are a must for you, you might try a visit to the inn’s popular seafood restaurant instead of booking a room.

Alright, now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to all the awesome things to see and do on the Isle of Skye!

10 Best Things to Do in Isle of Skye

When it comes to Isle of Skye things to do, there’s a lot of ground to cover. And each region of the island has can’t-miss sights.

So, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve broken down this Top 10 list by region and made suggestions for a foolproof 3-day itinerary. For example, stops #2-4 on this list (the northern part of Skye) are ideal for a one-day itinerary due to their proximity to each other. As are stops #5-7 (western Skye) and stops #8-10 (southern Skye).

If you have less than 3 days, just pick one or two regions, but be sure not to miss Portree! Fortunately, Portree is centrally located and can easily be added to any of these three one-day itineraries.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll assume you’re staying in Portree.

So, let’s start there!

1. Portree

Portree is Skye’s capital, main town, and cultural hub.

The town originated as a fishing village in the early 19th century, which makes it practically brand new by Scottish standards. Most hotels are located here and its central location makes a terrific base for exploration.

Portree Isle of Skye Scotland
Portree, Isle of Skye

Pastel-colored houses line the waterfront and there are plenty of delicious dining options and unique shops to explore. For wildlife enthusiasts, the popular Stardust boat trips operate out of Portree harbor and offer a sporting chance to spot sea eagles, seals, whales, and dolphins. The standard Portree Bay trip takes about 2 hours and costs £25 per person.

If you’re looking for a lively environment and restaurants within walking distance, Portree is the best home base for your visit.

Once you’ve properly explored Portree, it’s time to head north to the island’s most popular region, the Trotternish Peninsula. The jaw-dropping scenery in this part of the island is most likely what you’ve seen in images of the Isle of Skye.

2. The Old Man of Storr Hike

This towering rock formation is the highest point of Trotternish Ridge and the most iconic image of the Isle of Skye. It’s the island’s most famous (and busiest) hike and a must-see for visitors.

The “old man” in this case refers to one soaring rock pinnacle that can be seen for miles.

Old Man Of Storr
The Old Man of Storr hike

I recommend doing this hike first thing in the morning. The small car park has a tendency to fill up later in the day during the summer months. Plus the trail gets busier and hotter the later it gets.

From Portree, head north up the A855 to the Trotternish Peninsula. The drive takes just 10-15 minutes and the car park is located right next to the main road. From the parking area, follow the gravel footpath that leads to the Old Man of Storr.

It’s not a particularly challenging hike, however it is steep at times. But the views from the top are definitely worth the effort. Be sure to bring your own water and snacks.

Need to Know: The total distance round trip from the car park is 2.4 miles and will take the average person about 1hour, 15min. Getting to the foot of the Old Man takes about 45 minutes up and another 30 back down. You can hike the challenging steep path to the very top but it’s not advisable for the average hiker (and, in my opinion, not necessary to appreciate the view). For detailed, step-by-step trail information visit the Isle of Skye’s official website.

3. Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls

From the Old Man of Storr, continue your drive north on the A855 for about 15 minutes to the viewpoint for Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls.

The rugged basalt columns on this portion of the island’s coastline bear a striking resemblance to a pleated kilt, hence the name Kilt Rock. And somehow the colors of the rock formation seem almost tartan-like.

Fed by Mealt Loch, just across the street, Mealt Falls plummets from the cliff’s summit into the rocky sea below. Together, they are yet another reason the Isle of Skye is one of the world’s most photogenic.

Both spectacular sights are conveniently visible from the same viewpoint so this one is a quick and easy stop on the drive around the Trotternish Peninsula.

Mealt Falls Kilt Rock Isle of Skye
Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock in the distance

Need to Know: There is a well-marked car park just off the main road. From there, the walk to the viewpoint is .2 miles and takes just 5 minutes.

4. The Quiraing Hike

After the Old Man of Storr hike, this is probably the 2nd most popular hike on the island. The challenging Quiraing trail is a loop through one of Scotland’s most spectacular landscapes. The minute you arrive in the car park you’ll immediately be able to appreciate the beauty of the trail ahead.

From Portree, the drive to the car park takes about 30 minutes and, like the Storr hike, the lot is small and can fill up early.

Need to Know: This hike is definitely more strenuous than the Old Man of Storr hike. The round-trip distance is 4.2 miles and takes the average hiker about 2 hours (with no stops). Since you’re obviously going to stop along the way, plan on at least 2.5 hours. For detailed, step-by-step trail information visit the Isle of Skye’s offical website.

For the next three stops we’ll head southwest to the remarkable western shores of Skye. Stops #5 to #7 are another excellent one-day itinerary. Total driving time roundtrip from Portree (without stops) is approximately 2.5-3 hours.

First up, let’s hit the beach…

5. Coral Beach

Does the Isle of Skye have any good beaches, you might ask? Indeed it does! And, in my humble opinion, Coral Beach is the best of the bunch. It’s also a great starting point for exploring the Skye’s rugged west coast.

Located in Claigan, the 26-mile drive to Coral Beach from Portree takes about 45 minutes. The drive across the island is a breeze but from Dunvegan north the single track road will slow you down a bit.

At the end of the single track road, you’ll arrive at a gravel car park. From there, the scenic path to the beach stretches just over a mile. Though the beach looks like sparkling white sand from above, it’s actually made up of bleached crushed skeletons of Red Coralline seaweed.

The waters here are a crystalline turquoise and look almost tropical on a sunny day. And if you don’t mind chilly waters, they’re even suitable for a swim on a warm day.

Coral Beach Isle of Skye Scotland
Coral Beach

Looking for more awesome beaches on the Isle of Skye?

If you have more than a few days to explore (or you just want to take a quick peek between stops), here are a few more terrific beaches to visit:

  • Camas Daraich (Aird of Sleat) – Closest to #10 below, in the island’s SW corner.
  • Staffin Beach – Stop by this one while visiting nearby Mealt Falls (#3).
  • Talisker Beach – An easy add-on to your visit to #8 below.

Need to Know: Round trip from the car park to Coral Beach is 2.2 miles and takes about 45 minutes. For more details on the walk (including crossing a small stream with stepping stones) visit the Isle of Skye official website.

6. Dunvegan Castle & Gardens

From Coral Beach, it’s just a short 15-minute drive south to one of Skye’s most impressive sights.

Dunvegan Castle has been the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for more than 800 years. It’s the oldest, continuously inhabited castle in all of Scotland and one of Skye’s top historic sights.

Dunvegan Castle Isle of Skye Scotland
Dunvegan Castle

Guided tours are sometimes offered but during our visit, it was a leisurely self-guided tour from room to room. Highlights include family relics like the Fairy Flag and an expansive garden to explore.

From April 1 – September 30, you can also take the popular 25-minute boat trip across Loch Dunvegan to get up close and personal with the nearby seal colony. Seal trips operate Sunday-Friday on a first come, first served basis (weather permitting). If you’re visiting with kids, this boat trip is a must!

Need to Know: Open daily April 1 – October 15, 2022 from 10:00am – 5:30pm. Tickets to tour the castle and gardens are £14 for adults and £9 for children (5-15). For the seal trip, tickets are £10 for adults and £7 for children. There’s no need to book either ticket in advance and plenty of free parking is available at the castle. For the most current information, visit the Dunvegan Castle official website.

7. Neist Point Lighthouse

Located on Skye’s most westerly tip in the Durinish area, the Neist Point Lighthouse is one of the most famous lighthouses in all of Scotland. Built in 1900, it was once manned but today utilizes an automated system that doesn’t require daily maintenance.

Full disclosure, the drive to get here is a bit of a nail-biter.

Be prepared to brave 10 miles of single track roads and a preposterous quantity of wayfaring sheep. And while the drive from Dunvegan Castle is only about 12 miles, it can easily take 45 minutes (and at least an hour if you’re coming directly from Portree).

Here’s why:

Sheep on the road in Scotland
The road to Neist Point

This seems like a good time for a quick lesson in single track roads

The picture above is a prime example of a Scottish single track road with a passing place, also called a layby. Note that the layby is on the right here so you would NOT use it since you are (obviously) driving on the left, remember?

Here’s where it gets tricky.

Since this is just a single lane road, you’re literally driving in the middle (the correct thing to do, in this case), so most of us would instinctually pull over to the right in this situation.

Don’t do it. Crossing to a layby on the right is very dangerous and will out you as a tourist faster than whipping out a selfie stick at a castle.

Also noteworthy in this photo, you cannot see around the corner. And the sheep – while adorable – are merely wooly balls of additional stress. Proceed with caution.

Now back to the lighthouse…

Once you survive the drive, you’ll arrive in a small parking lot. This lot can fill quickly on a sunny day but don’t worry. There are additional places to park farther back along the road. From the parking lot, simply follow the well-marked concrete path to the lighthouse.

While most of Skye’s hikes can be done in a variety of weather conditions, this is not one of them. To get to the actual lighthouse, good visibility is a must. It’s not an especially difficult walk. However, the path does go near steep cliffs and is not recommended in high winds or misty conditions with low visibility.

And unfortunately, as you’ll see in the photo below, low visibility is exactly what we got. The tip of the peninsula was fully shrouded in fog when we arrived so, after persevering through the dicey drive, we never even got to see the actual lighthouse. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck.

Of course, the emerald peninsula itself is pretty stunning so it wasn’t a total waste of time in my opinion (I should mention that this was not the unanimous opinion in the car on the drive back).

If you do pick a good day and make it all the way out to the lighthouse, look for the field of stone towers built by previous hikers. And in the summer months, whales and Basking Sharks (I had to google that one) are often spotted off the point. Bonus Tip: Allegedly, the view here at sunset is also a real stunner.

Need to Know: The walk to the lighthouse is 1.4 miles roundtrip and takes the average person about 45 minutes. Between the road to get here and the hike, budget about 2.5 hours in your day for this one.

And now, it’s time to head south!

The final three stops on my list are located in the southwestern portion of the island. Together, they make a good one-day itinerary on the Isle of Skye since they provide a well-balanced taste of both the island’s history and its incredible natural beauty. Bonus: The total driving time from #8 to #10 is just 90 minutes without stops.

Tip: Stop #10 leaves you in Armadale where the ferry connects to the mainland so these three stops are a good choice for your first or last day on the island if you travel by ferry.

8. The Talisker Distillery Tour

You’re in Scotland, so a wee sample of the local libation is a must, right?

I mean, no visit to Scotland would be complete without popping by a Scotch whiskey distillery for a dram. And the Isle of Skye just happens to be home to one of the best.

The oldest working distillery on the Isle of Skye, Talisker is synonymous with the island’s rich history. This picturesque distillery has been producing delightfully full-bodied single malt scotch whiskey since 1830. The distillery’s dramatic setting alone – along the shores of Loch Harport with spectacular views of the Cuillins – makes this one well worth a visit.

Once you arrive, there are two tour options to choose from:

  1. Made by the Sea Tasting Experience – This tour takes just 30 minutes so it’s a good option if you’re short on time. It includes a guided three-dram tasting but does not include an actual distillery tour. Tickets are £15.
  2. Signature Talisker Distillery Tour – This is the standard 1-hour tour which includes all of the above plus a tour of the distillery. Tickets are £20.

Tragically (for my husband), the distillery was closed for a major renovation project during our visit. But luckily for you, it reopened for tours on August 5, 2022. Since it was closed for quite a while, it’s a good idea to book tickets a few days in advance if you’re planning a visit this summer.

Tip: Don’t miss the (sort of) restaurant recommendation I mention below. It’s an absolute MUST while you’re in the area.

Need to Know: Open daily 10:00am – 5:00pm. Children under 8 are not permitted. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Talisker Distillery’s official website.

9. The Fairy Pools

From the Talisker Distillery, the drive your next stop, the Fairy Pools, is a quick and easy 15 minutes.

These magical crystal blue pools are one of the most famous attractions on the Isle of Skye. You’ll want to plan at least an hour or two to fully appreciate them, as well as the gorgeous surrounding landscape.

The car park is not exceptionally well-marked so keep a sharp eye out when you get close. Once you park, it takes about 20 minutes along a gravel path to reach the first waterfall and pool. This waterfall is the highest and the pool is the deepest, but it’s just the beginning of the Fairy Pools.

From there, follow the main path along the river and you’ll find several more incredible pools and waterfalls of varying sizes to explore. The second waterfall has the clearest pool and is the most popular with visitors. It’s also the best option for a swim if you’re of the hearty sort.

Fair warning, the water is not warm any time of year. Unless you brought a wetsuit or it’s an especially hot day, you probably won’t last long in the water.

Fairy Pools Isle of Skye Scotland
The Fairy Pools

Why are they called the Fairy Pools?

If you’ve been on the Isle of Skye for a hot second you’ve probably caught wind of the fairy theme (for example, the Trotternish Peninsula’s Fairy Glen is another popular hike).

And because it’s Scotland, you’d expect to discover some sort of enchanting local legend behind it (I see you Loch Ness monster).

While I did find one enticing reference to a legendary marriage between a Clan MacLeod chief and a fairy princess, the real story is probably not as juicy. If you’ve already visited #6 above, Dunvegan Castle, you learned the story of Clan MacLeod and their infamous Fairy Flag.

It’s most likely that the fairy nicknames used liberally around the island are simply a nod to the illustrious flag of Clan MacLeod.

Need to Know: The roundtrip walk from the parking lot to the first pool is 1.5 miles and takes about 40 minutes. Like the walk to Coral Beach, this walk includes river crossings over stepping stones so be sure to wear sensible shoes. The Isle of Skye’s website also has an excellent step by step guide to this one.

10. Armadale Castle & Gardens

From the Fairy Pools, the drive to Armadale Castle involves a bit of backtracking since, not surprisingly, you can’t just drive through the Cuillin mountain range! Plan on an hour and 15 minutes to make the 43 mile drive. The castle is near the ferry terminal.

Located at Skye’s southern tip, the Sleat Peninsula is often called the “Garden of Skye” due to its verdant landscape. Set amidst this dazzling landscape and surrounded by lush gardens, sits Armadale Castle, the ruins of the former manor house of the MacDonalds of Sleat.

Built in 1815, it’s actually more of a country house than a castle. In 1925, the MacDonalds moved out and in the years that followed the castle suffered a fire resulting in the ruins that remain today.

Unlike the well-preserved Dunvegan Castle, you can’t go inside since all that remains are ruins. However, it’s still a lovely setting with the castle façade and the surrounding gardens (in fact, it’s a popular location for local weddings due to the romantic backdrop).

Armadale Castle Isle of Skye
Armadale Castle ruins

You can explore the gardens and also visit the Museum of the Isles, which traces the history of the world’s largest Clan. This museum is a particular pilgrimage site if your last name happens to be MacDonald. A curious descendant of this Clan could easily spend several hours here.

Need to Know: The Museum of the Isles, Castle Gardens, and gift shop are open Wednesday – Sunday through October 31, 2022 from 9:30am – 5:00pm. Tickets are £12/Adults and £7/Children (5-15). Note: Tickets can only be purchased on arrival and the last museum entrance is 4:30pm. For more information, visit the Armadale Castle official website.

After all that sightseeing, you’re probably craving a delicious meal. And you’re in luck! There are plenty of restaurants on the Isle of Skye to soak up the local culture and enjoy some traditional Scottish cuisine.

Best places to eat on Isle of Skye

From cozy ancient inns to elegant Michelin stars, you’ll find it all on the Isle of Skye. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • The Three Chimneys – Located on the shores of Loch Dunvegan in a 100-year-old stone cottage, this is one of Scotland’s most famous restaurants. The cozy, romantic setting and Michelin-rated locally-sourced Scottish cuisine are a must while visiting Skye, as are advance reservations.
  • The Stein Inn – I covered the hotel portion of this historic 200-year-old inn in more detail in the “Places to Stay” section above. But the restaurant is worth a visit if you you’re looking for local seafood and historic charm. Located in the pretty fishing village of Stein, 15 minutes north of Dunvegan Castle, it’s a easy detour for lunch if you’re visiting the castle.
  • Loch Bay, Waternish – Also located in Stein, this Michelin-starred restaurant serves up fresh Scottish seafood with an irresistible French flair. Despite its high acclaim, the atmosphere here is decidedly relaxed and intimate. As with any Michelin-rated establishment, advance reservations are essential.
  • The Oyster Shed – Located on the sea in Carbost, near the Talisker Distillery, this is a terrific place to stop for lunch before or after touring the distillery. Don’t expect an actual restaurant (the “shed” part is literal). Instead, it’s a real seafood shop where you’ll order your takeaway inside the shed, grab a number, and then dine at one of the many stand-up whiskey barrels. It’s a must for seafood lovers with fresh from the sea, and delicious options like oysters, scallops, and mussels.

Best Restaurants in Portree

If you’re staying in Portree, some of the best restaurants to try for fine dining are Scorrybreac (Michelin rated), Sea Breezes, and Dulse & Brose at The Bosville.

For quick and easy nourishment on the go, try Pizza in the Skye (takeaway only but arguably the best pizza you will ever eat outside of Italy), The Red Brick Cafe (just outside Portree but worth the trip), and Cafe Arriba.

Wrapping up a visit to Scotland’s Best Island!

And that’s a wrap! Are you exhausted? I sure am!

There are so many amazing reasons to visit the brilliant Isle of Skye and an endless amount of incredible things to see and do.

I hope this Top 10 list has given you just a few things to add to your itinerary when you visit Scotland’s BEST island. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for fairies!

And the sheep.

Looking for more awesome destinations in this part of the world? Start here:

The Great UK Road Trip! Scotland, England & Wales in 5 Days

15 Wild & Wonderful Things to Do in the Faroe Islands (Don’t Miss #6!)

Top 3 Reasons to Visit Isle of Man? Castles, Coasts & Cats (if you’re lucky!)

Incredible Iceland: Europe’s Geothermal Wonderland

How to Survive Driving in Ireland (and Actually Enjoy It!)