Updated on March 22nd, 2023
Many visitors rush the Isle of Skye on a day trip but to truly experience this magical island you need to take your time. Skye was one of the highlights of my time in the Scottish Highlands. Here are my top 15 picks for your perfect Isle of Skye itinerary. My list includes Old Man of Storr, Fairy Glen, Fairy Pools, Portree, legendary castles, jaw-dropping landscapes, fantastic walks, beautiful beaches and much much more.”
Isle of Skye, Scotland
The Isle of Skye is the 2nd largest island in Scotland and, after Edinburgh and Loch Ness, the countries third most popular tourist attraction. It is also home to some spectacular landscapes, miles of beautiful coastline, dramatic mountains, amazing wildlife, legendary castles and some very friendly locals.
Many visitors do an Isle of Skye day trip to tick off the sights. Anyone who has read my previous posts will know that I like to take my time while travelling. I spent 3 days and 3 nights on Skye. As with the rest of my Scottish road trip, the journey, incredible views and breathtaking stops were the most memorable part. I read that Skye is best experienced slowly, on #skyetime & I couldn’t agree more. I hope you choose to savour the experience too.
See Also: Scottish Highlands Itinerary – A Perfect 10 Day Road Trip for the Highlands and Islands
I visited in August 2020, when things were just opening back up after COVID-19. This meant that many attractions were still closed. I wanted to spend most of my time outdoors & was incredibly lucky with the weather I experienced. It’s not many people who can say they returned from Scotland with a tan!
Top 15 Picks for Your Perfect Isle of Skye Itinerary
Here is my list of Isle of Skye must-see attractions
1. Eileen Donan Castle
Although not officially on Skye, no visit here would be complete without a stop en route at Eileen Donan Castle. The castle was built in the 13th century and sits in a unique position on an island at the meeting of 3 lochs. It’s hard to find a more iconic castle, accessed by an arched bridge. We chose to just stop for a picnic lunch with a view, but why not consider exploring further and learn more about the legends that surround this legendary landmark?
Love a castle? Check out 15 Reasons to Visit the Tower of London
2. Old Man of Storr
The Old Man of Storr is the most popular of all the Isle of Skye walks. I began the hike in thick cloud before the Old Man started to make an appearance, with blue skies clearing as we reached the top. However, as the rock formations danced in and out of the mist it only added to the atmospheric nature of this iconic pinnacle. The rocks seemed to change shape as we moved into different angles with alternate views of the landscape and the clouds constantly shifting.
The Old Man is a tooth of basalt rock which was created during a massive ancient landslide. A dramatic start for a very magical landscape.”
It took us around 3 hours in total (perfect for our £3 parking choice!). It does get busy though so go early to find easier parking.
There are many other places to enjoy your Isle of Skye hiking. It is said that Skye offers some of the best walking in Scotland. Five of these walks are already featured in this guide.
3. Trotternish Peninsula
The Trotternish Peninsula is apparently one of the most striking landscapes in Scotland. It is a 20 mile stretch of remarkable rock formations between Portree and Staffin. The Ridge was formed by a massive landslip creating high cliffs, hidden plateaus and pinnacles of rock. On the day I visited, the clouds were playing games as they sat low around the coastline all day.
Stop as many times as you like, everywhere is stunning, but don’t miss Mealt Falls, plunging 55m straight into the sea. In addition, Skye is a major focus for research into dinosaur evolution after many remains have been discovered here. If you head down to the shore at Staffin you can see dinosaur footprints.
4. The Quiraing
Apparently, this is a dramatic basalt escarpment with cliffs and pinnacles which are one of the most remarkable landscapes on the Isle of Skye and Scotland itself. They have names such as ‘the Needle’ and ‘the Prison’. Dramatic stuff! There is a big car park and you can access the Quiraing by walking for half an hour. However, when I visited, we literally drove into a section of low cloud which sat on top of this stunning vista. I couldn’t see anything.
The photos (from other people) look very impressive though & I have read that it is a photographers paradise! Check out the video above to see the view we had as we approached.”
5. Fairy Glen
Although not signposted, Fairy Glen sits in contrast to all the big and bold scenery on the Isle of Skye. Here you will discover small hills, covered with ferns and a grass circle, obviously created by the fairies ;). It’s a great place to explore and the perfect antidote to all the drama that encapsulates the rest of Skye. However, it’s not easy to find. If you head out of Uig, pass the Uig Hotel on your left and then take the first left. Follow the road for approximately 1 ½ miles and you’ll find a place to park and explore from there.
Love Scotland? See also 18 Best Things To Do In Fort William & Things To Do in The Trossachs – A One Day Road Trip
6. Dunvegan Castle
The most visited of all the Isle of Skye castles & home of the chief of the Clan Macleod for over 800 years. Dunvegan is the oldest continuously-inhabited castle in Scotland. Along with Portree and Trotternish, it is also one of Skye’s most visited attractions. The castle is situated on a rock, surrounded by sea so if you drive beyond you can see it by looking back. The setting is beautiful, so well worth a visit even if the castle itself is closed (thank you COVID!).
7. Armadale Castle
If you are a lover of castles, you can also visit magnificent Armadale Castle and its 20,000-acre estate.
Armadale is home to Dunvegan’s bitter rivals the Clan Donald, the largest & most powerful clan in Scotland.”
The castle has some beautiful gardens with magical trails through the woodlands.
Want to try an epic train ride? Check out Everything you need to know to ride the Hogwarts Train, Scotland.
8. Neist Point Lighthouse
Neist Point is well worth a drive for the stunning lush green headland, never mind the dramatic cliffs guarded by the lighthouse. When we visited, we were told that dolphins, basking sharks and a minke whale had been spotted in the water that week. I was convinced we saw the whale, so keep your eyes peeled. Even if the lighthouse itself doesn’t interest you, the view is exceptional.
9. Fairy Pools
In the shadow of the Cuillin Mountains lie this gem of small, crystal clear pools and waterfalls along the path of the River Brittle. On a warm day, or if you’re feeling brave, they are the perfect place for a wild swim or dip. There is a large car park (£5) from where you can access a path which takes you the length of the pools. It takes 15 minutes to reach the first but to go to the end and back is around 3 miles and 1 ½ hour walk. The first few are busy but the crowds thin as you head further along. Don’t miss the horseshoe falls towards the end.
We were advised that the best time to visit is later in the day, around 5pm when the sun is on the pools & the crowds have subsided.”
This is Skye’s largest town with a picture-postcard harbour surrounded by colourful houses. As you drive in, if it’s a clear day, you can see the legendary Old Man of Storr making his presence felt as he overlooks the town. Portree is the perfect, central location for your stay and has many excellent restaurants to choose from to sample the local produce. More on those later.
Want to see more? See Top 10 Things to do on the Isle of Mull & 16 Fantastic Things to do on Lewis & Harris in the Outer Hebrides
11. Broadford to Elgol drive
If you are lucky & have a clear day then I would highly recommend taking this stunning drive. There are 3 particular spots where you can get a spectacular panoramic view of the island and the dramatic backdrop of the Cuillin Mountains.
I guarantee you will have numerous reasons to stop the car for your photo opportunities along the way before you reach you end of the road at Elgol pier.”
Grab an ice cream from the van, sit above the dock, in amongst the heather and admire the view. If you’re feeling brave the water here is crystal clear, perfect for a dip!
12. Loch Coruisk
One of the activities that we discovered but just ran out of time for was a visit to Loch Coruisk. The loch sits in the heart of the Cuillin mountains and was featured as one of the top 16 views in Britain. If you are interested in the Isle of Skye wildlife, then this is also the place for you. The boat trips depart from Elgol (perfect for you to take the drive above!) & are usually 3 hours in total.
You may be lucky to see some rare species of birds such as oyster catchers, golden eagles, puffins and maybe even a sea eagle. If you’re less interested in birdlife then you could also spot dolphins, basking sharks or the occasional minke whale.”
However, the loch is most famous for its seals, which are pretty much guaranteed. Check out the website for Misty Isles Boat Trips for all the information and to book your place.
13. Coral Beaches
We had plans to visit Coral Beaches but with everything else we wanted to do, the drive was just too long in the end. If you get chance though it is home to stunning white beaches made of coral which create clear turquoise water in the sunshine. Head here for swimming and some great walking trails.
14. Talisker Distillery
If you want to sample some local whiskey, then look no further than the Talisker Distillery as they have been producing the ‘water of life’ in the same way here for 175 years. You can take a tour and also enjoy a tasting session. Just past the distillery is The Oyster Shed which I hear is an excellent stop with delicious oysters available to sample.
15. Dark Sky
The Isle of Skye has some of the darkest skies in Europe and as such has 9 designated Dark Sky Scotland discovery sites. It is one of the best places in the UK to view the legendary Northern Lights.
How to get to the Isle of Skye?
We chose to drive over the Skye Bridge to access the Isle of Skye. It was a great introduction to the moody weather we would experience throughout our time on the island. The peaks of the mountains were obscured by the clouds, but we were driving in blue skies and sunshine. The other alternative from the mainland is to take the ferry from Mallaig.
Where to stay on the Isle of Skye?
We chose to stay in Portree at the Oronsay B&B. It was immaculately clean and run by Gordon who is a font of all knowledge and enthusiasm about the Isle of Skye. Find your perfect bed for the night here:
Where to eat on the Isle of Skye?
My top advice for restaurants is to book ahead. We visited when the Isle of Skye was very empty in comparison to normal years but still struggled to get a table for 2 out of 3 nights. In terms of recommendations:
The Granary for meat and cheese platters.
For take away, we were told that the Fish & Chips place on the Harbour, next to the Lower Deck (also recommended) were the best in Portree. They were delicious too! You could also opt for Scorrybreac and Dulce & Brose.
If you are looking for something more special, then why not try the Three Chimneys Restaurant? Here you can dine in a 100-year-old crofters’ cottage on award-winning food.
Top Tips for visiting the Isle of Skye
The weather can change depending on where on the island you are and can then change quickly from there.
We were lucky to have glorious sunshine on most days. However, on our trip around Trotternish, we literally drove into cloud and back out again. In the mist, with a sea breeze it can be very cold, & in the sunshine, hot. Bring layers.”
Wild swimming in Scotland is something to try at least once. Always make sure you bring an easy quick-change costume. This comes from experience after being without one many times! I went swimming in my underwear once and when I did have it, it was too tight for an impromptu change. I ended up half in my costume & half in my sports bra. But at the end of the day, I couldn’t resist the opportunity for a dip!
The Isle of Skye is best experienced at your own pace, with your own transport. If you choose to drive, then make sure you fill up with petrol before you arrive on the island. There are opportunities to buy more, but they are not frequent. In addition, as with all my Scotland posts, here are my tips for driving on a single-track road:
- Keep left.
- Stop to let vehicles pass.
- Stop and wait at the designated ‘Passing Places’ if you see any traffic coming.
- Look out for ‘Passing Places’ so you know where they are if you need to reverse.
- Cross to the right, even if there is a ‘Passing Place’ there.
- Create a queue. Pull in to let others pass (that way you enjoy the drive so much more too!).
- Park or drive on the verge or park in ‘Passing Places’.
- Make others reverse a long way back.
The Isle of Skye boasts some of the most spectacular & dramatic scenery I have seen anywhere. Take your time & enjoy. And please come back next time for more of my Scottish adventures in Fort William…
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I’ve heard so much about Isle of Skye and there are so many wonderful things you’ve included in this itinerary. I like that there are so many beautiful places here. We recently had our first trip to Scotland, but didn’t make to the outlying islands. I would love to return one day and visit here!
Thank you, Jenn, & I hope you do make it back & to Skye next time, I have no doubt you would love it too! Sue x
I wanted to visit Scotland forever, however, I must admit that I’ve never heard of the Isle of Skye before. And it’s so funny, I never imagined Scotland the way you describe it and most of all not as sunny as it looks on your pictures. These blue skies over the mesmerizing landscape! This sounds rather like a vacation in the Mediterranean – amazing. Now I want to go even more than before. I just wonder if it would be possible to visit by public transportation since I’m not driving?!
Thank you, Renata & I have to say that we were incredibly lucky with the weather! I certainly didn’t expect to return from Scotland with a tan, which I did! I think it would be possible to do on public transport, as long as you have time. The joy of much of my trip was the ability to go off the beaten track & just stop & take photos along the route. You may miss out on some of this by not having your own transport. Sue x
The Isle of Skye has always sounded like a magical spot to visit. Now even more after reading your post. I can see why you needed to stay several days to take it all in properly. The geological features would have us stopping regularly. And those Scottish Castles with their fascinating histories won’t be passed by. And what is a visit to Scotland without some fairy pools. My Scotland itinerary keeps growing! Thanks.
Thank you, Linda, glad to have added another place to your Sottish Itinerary! I know you would love it when you get there ;). Sue x
It was so long ago..almost a life time that I made my visit to the Isle of Skye. I remember it so well and locals telling me I was lucky for a sunny day. Looks like you visited on a beautiful day too. It’s so truly Scottish – beautiful island.
Thank you, Justine & I couldn’t agree more! I was so lucky with the weather too – totally unexpected. Sue x
I have also heard so much of Isle of Skye and always wanted to visit this beautiful location. It is good you shared lovely itinerary and also your favorite locations. Hopefully I may also find sunny day like you. I really loved Old man of Storr and it really looks wonderful. Other places too are worth visiting. Saving your itinerary.
Thank you, Yukti, glad you found the info useful! Sue x
You certainly capture the best of Scotland in your blog.
You’ve now got me craving scallops ! We just don’t get them down here in the Med. I usually get my scallop fix on a cruise but that’s off the cards for the moment!
Thank you, Adele! The scallops & seafood in general were delicious! Sue x
Scotland looks so beautiful, I would love to visit. You’ve got so many awesome ideas, this is definitely a blog I’ll come back to later
Thank you, Lucy & I hope you get there one day. Pleased to have whetted your appetite! Sue x
That scenery! Absolutely stunning. I hate rushing through a place and not be able to really experience what the area has to offer and I think I would find it difficult to leave Isle of Skye in a hurry.
Thank you, Alma & I agree, once you are there, it really hurts to have to leave! Sue x
I went to Skye many years ago, and like you, I was very lucky with the weather. I didn’t visit all of these places on your itinerary – I can see that I missed out! Lovely post 😀
Thank you so much for your comment & glad you were lucky with the weather too. It seems we are rare as it is often very changeable! Hope you have a chance to get back there someday. Sue x
Great guide to a fantastic place. Looks like you were lucky with the weather too! There’s nowhere better than Skye on a sunny day
Thank you, Katy & I couldn’t agree more! We were very lucky & it just went to showcase the amazing landscapes even more. Sue x
Love Scotland! I had wanted to see the fairy pools when i was in the Isle of Skye but not enough time. Brought back great memories and looks like you had a fabulous trip and saw fairy lands as well! I find it intriguing that Scotland and New Zealand are such fairy lands. Really interesting about the dinosaurs. I didn’t know that!!
Thank you, Heather, & at least visiting Fairy Pools gives you a reason to return 😉 There are so many similarities in the landscapes as well between New Zealand & Scotland. Loving all the fairy references this week! Sue x
Such a great guide, with tips and tricks for intinery planning. This is on my list, so I have pinned for future reference. Hope to see this beautiful landscape you have described for myself one day.
Thank you, Renee & hope you get there one day. I have no doubt you would love Skye too! Sue x
This is a fantastically comprehensive guide. I’ve long wanted to visit Skye but would like to spend a good week here to make the most of it. There looks like there is plenty to keep you busy, especially if you like walking like we do. I hope to come for your advice when we’re able to make it up here!
Thank you, Alice & a week there would be perfect. I’m glad you found the post useful & hope you get to visit sooner rather than later. Sue x
I love the Isle of Skye, I have been over there three times now and I’ve not managed to see all these places. For a small island, there’s so much there. I failed at finding Fairy Glen once, that’s unfinished business! But I like having an excuse to go back, and now I have even more places to add to the list when I go back 🙂
Thank you Nat & I agree, I always like a reason to go back! I hope I’ve given you good enough instructions to find Fairy Glen next time…it’s such a beautiful place when you eventually get there! Sue x
Wow the landscape here looks amazing- so wild and green! This would be perfect for photographers! Great guide with beautiful pics!
Thank you, Sam & that describes it perfectly! Sue x
I love the way you have styled your photos. Isle of Skye was on our plan this year in July but it was cancelled due to covid. Hope to check it out soon.
Thank you, Sinjana & glad you like the photos. Sorry, you didn’t make it to Skye this year but I hope you get the chance to discover it soon. Fingers crossed. Sue x
Skye seems like such a romantic place. Probably because of Bonny Prince Charlie and all that, and the song Over the sea to Skye. Of course way back then it really would have been over the sea not a drive across a bridge. I’ve never been to Scotland, but your posts certainly entice me. One day . . . . .
Thank you, Alison & glad I’ve managed to add Scotland to your list. I know you will love it when you get there 😉 Sue x
How could I have missed this post?!
I am instantly sending you itenary to my husband, he keeps insisting that we take a trip to Skye on our next Scotland visit… and the way we are planning our UK trip we might have to say all summer 😀
Thank you, Ann & you definitely need to add Skye to your itinerary. You will love it! Sue x
For some reason, I would never have thought of visiting Skye – I guess I fear cold and rain lol. But it looks absolutely stunning. I’m a big fan of castles, lochs and whiskey 🙂
Thank you, Sarah & it sounds like you would love Skye! Sue x