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Experience a relaxing long weekend on the Isle of Skye

17 January 2022

With its dramatic cliffs, unique rock formations, alluring beaches and mysterious hills steeped in history, the Isle of Skye is quite simply a fascinating place to explore.

There’s so much to see, and we know how tempting it is to try and fit everything the “land of the fairies” has to offer in one trip.  

But this itinerary will guide you through all the well-photographed spots as well as a few hidden gems, so you’ll get some well-deserved rest while still gazing at the breathtaking views. 

Where should you stay?

We think a prime location for bedroom views and ease of travel is the north of the Isle – the extra miles to reach it are undoubtedly worth it.

Not only will you be reasonably close to some of the main villages, but the area also offers magnificent scenery.

Our favourite is the Duirinish peninsula, coupling the privacy and untouched northern landscapes with the convenience of the nearby Dunvegan village.

Here you’ll find several accommodation options, from traditional croft cottages converted into guest houses, to bed and breakfasts and quirky Airbnbs. 

Indulge in a marvellous feast

Dunvegan also hosts some of the spectacular restaurants, such as The Three Chimneys in Colbost, a five-star restaurant serving exquisite Nordic and haute Scottish cuisine.

We recommend booking well in advance as the waiting list can reach several months – it really is that popular!

Old School, in the heart of Dunvegan, is another eatery to indulge in fine cuisine. Within the former Duirinish School building from the 1870s, you’ll feel at home as you tuck into some Scottish staples – a rewarding experience after a day out exploring the Isle. 

But if you prefer the self-catering approach, or if you want to grab a quick bite to take on your hike, you’ll spot coffee shops, bakeries, and corner shops to stock up.

Fasgadh Stores is the heart of the village and has everything you might need during your stay.

For a coffee pit stop, Dunvegan Bakery and Coffee Shop serves a wide selection of homemade cakes and treats in a scandi-inspired setting.

How to get to Skye

The best way to travel around Skye is by car. Although it can be reached via ferry or coach and the island boasts an efficient local bus network, driving still offers unparalleled freedom.

Depending on where you’re travelling from, the drive to the Skye Bridge, the only road access to the isle, can take five to six hours from Glasgow and a couple of hours from Inverness.

But once you’re on the island, the travel time from the far north to the very south is only one hour and a half.

Day One - A first taste of Skye

Whether you’re travelling from the south or the north, it’s a good idea to depart in the morning to take full advantage of the day.

Elgol, in the southern part of the island, is well worth a visit for its unique views of the Black Cuillins. After crossing the Skye Bridge, continue on the A87 until Broadford.

The road to Elgol alone is worth the detour, with stunning landscapes where craggy hills meet gentle pastures and the placid waters of the lochs.

Our favourite spot for a stretch and some panoramic snaps is past the villages of Kilbride and Torrin, where the scenery opens up to reveal Bla Bheinn, an outlier to the Cuillin range, reflecting in Loch Slapin.

Continuing towards Elgol, you will be able to catch a glimpse of the Cuillin pinnacles, perpetually hugged by a mist. But it’s only when you cross the Strathaird peninsula that you’ll fully appreciate their magnificence.

After entering the hamlet, follow the road down to the shore until you reach a car park. From here, a short walk will take you to a rocky beach overlooking Loch Scavaig, displaying fantastic views of the Cuillins.

A walk to remember

Feeling super adventurous? Boat trips and hikes along the coast and into the mountains depart from here.

In the journey towards your final destination in the island’s north, Portree also deserves some admiration.

Retracing the road from Elgol to Broadford, this time you’ll take the A87 northbound and follow the road to the capital of the Isle of Skye.

A stroll in the picturesque harbour with colourful dainty cottages is a must. Built as a fishing village, Portree also offers great views over the namesake loch, which acts as a sheltered bay.

The town has everything you might need before making for the backcountry, with banks, a tourist information centre, cafés, restaurants, and shops.

Day Two - The Trotternish Peninsula

Day two will follow the Trotternish Loop, the road running along the coast of the Trotternish Peninsula. You’ll soak up some gorgeous views, the most famous being the Old Man of Storr.

The Old Man is a rock pinnacle, remnant of an ancient landslip that originates from the Storr. Located in the Sanctuary, the area in front of the Storr cliffs, legend has it that the Old Man was a giant who lived on the Trotternish Ridge.

His finger was left sticking out from the ground after being buried, creating the iconic landmark.

From Duirinish, take the road back to Portree and head north on the A855. The Storr trail is located just after Loch Leathan, and is accessible through the wide Storr car park on the left.

After a winding section, keep to the right as the path forks. As you gain height, you’ll start to make out the profile of the Old Man against the Storr cliffs.

When you’ve reached the plateau where the pinnacle sits, there’s a chance to ascend to a small mound on the right. This will give you a view of the Old Man from above, with the scenery of the loch and the sea below.

To descend, follow the path running close to the Old Man, which later joins the original path from which you ascended. The loop takes one and a half to two hours to complete.

Next is a quick stop at an observation point that offers two magnificent sights.

Got your camera ready?

One is Kilt Rock, a 90-metre formation of basalt columns resting on a sandstone base that resemble the iconic Scottish garment. The other is the Mealt Waterfall, where Loch Mealt plunges into the sea below.

As you continue on the loop road, you’ll be able to enjoy spectacular views of the Quiraing, a landslip on the eastern face of Meall na Suiramach, the northernmost summit of the Trotternish Ridge.

But the Quiraing walk is considered more challenging, rough, and rocky with some scrambling, and is not suitable in every weather condition. We recommend you carry on to the tip of the peninsula, as you reach the western coast, you’ll come to an inlet.

Stop as the road emerges at the small settlement of Duntulm, where you’ll be welcomed by astonishing views of the rocky promontory and incredible blue waters.

If you have enough time, you can walk beyond the viewpoint to reach Duntulm Castle, a ruined but well-conserved fortress, first erected during the Iron Age.

You’ll rejoin the A87 as you continue on in the important port of Uig, connecting Skye to Harris and North Uist in the outer Hebrides.

It’s well worth stopping here to take a stroll along the pier and browse some of the local businesses. Uig Pottery offers a wide range of handmade ceramics and you can even watch the artist at work.

The Isle of Skye Brewing Company sells award-winning ales crafted on the island – our personal favourite is the Skye Red, also known as Red Cuilin, a tribute to the other mountain range on the island.

Day Three - The “land of the fairies”

This is where you’ll be jumping into some magical places on the isle.

First up, the famous Fairy Pools. Located five and a half miles from the village of Carbost, this series of waterfalls and aqua-blue pools are embedded in the glen on the course of the river Brittle, which flows from the Cuillin Hills.

From Dunvegan, take the A863 road to Drynoch. Here you’ll drive towards Merkdale, where a single-track road will take you to the dedicated car park.

The first section of the path runs for approximately one kilometre and offers up-close views of the pools, with a chance to jump in if you are brave enough to defy the freezing mountain water!

Keep an eye out for an underwater stone arch, truly an enchanted spot, while directly ahead you will see the dramatic pinnacle of Sgùrr an Fheadain rising from the heather.

We suggest spending some time walking up the river from the first waterfall, as the beautiful crystal-clear pools are well worth the walk.                                               

After the morning hike, the afternoon will be spent exploring the Dunvegan area. The highlight is the Coral Beach, whose name comes from the crushed white coral sediments that make the water look tropical blue on a sunny day.

From Dunvegan Castle, carry on north towards Claigan. The Coral Beach car park is signposted, and a farm track departs from here.

Relax on the beach

While the walk is suitable for any weather, the beach looks its best when the sun is out, making it the perfect spot for a picnic too.

After spending the afternoon at the beach, you will want to return to base before sunset. Depending on the season, this might be before or after dinner, but be sure to depart in plenty of time before the sun goes down.

There’s no better way to conclude a holiday on Skye than by watching the sunset at Neist Point. It’s one of the most recognisable lighthouses in Scotland and is on the far westerly tip of Skye, near the township of Glendale.

The road will guide you to a car park where two trails start. Rather than walking to the lighthouse, for the best view of the sunset we suggest taking the path on the right, to the Neist Point Cliff Viewpoint.

It’s only a few minutes’ walk and allows you to admire the cliffs on which the lighthouse sits in all their glory, as the sun casts an orange hue on the white stone.

For an even better experience, bring a blanket and a thermos flask with your favourite hot drink and toast to many more trips to Skye.