Why visit the Isle of Skye?!
I was incredibly surprised by the Isle of Skye, Scotland. I had lived here in the UK for about 4 years and had never heard of this tiny gem. After Trevor talked me into taking a trip to the Scottish Highlands I found some incredible photos on Pinterest and knew this was the place we needed to go. It had everything: distilleries, hiking, wildlife, crazy rock formations and a lack of people! Seriously, the lack of people was astounding. We visited the #2 rated Trip advisor spot on a perfectly sunny Saturday and there were, at most, 7 other people there the entire time. The only areas that had large quantities of people were the Quiriang and the Old Man of Storr hikes. There was plenty of parking, however, and it still wasn’t overloaded with people.
Where to Stay
I can’t brag enough about Hotel Skeabost. We had a gorgeous suite for an incredibly low price. First and foremost, the hotel was absolutely stunning. They have 14 perfectly decorated (huge) rooms that used to be a Hunting Lodge until it was changed in 1871. It has recently been renovated to give a cosy woodland feel. It is nestled into the side of a Loch Snizort and is the only hotel on Skye boasting its own Golf Course. It is surrounded by a stunning picturesque backdrop or jagged rocky mountains and patches of interestingly colored grass. Skeabost is located 7 miles from the main city of Portree. After staying at Hotel Skeabost in the Snizort Suite we felt so lucky because it was the perfect location to get to all the things on our itinerary.
How to Get There
To get to the Isle of Skye, we flew to Inverness Airport and rented a car. It was extremely inexpensive (about $13 per day) and pretty essential for a trip to the Isle of Skye. I never saw any public transport the entire time I was there. Once you land in Inverness it takes about 3 hours to get to Skeabost Hotel.
What to Do
I planned the perfect itinerary to do and see all the coolest things in the Isle of Skye. Three days was the perfect amount of time to fit in all the things we wanted to do. I will be listing the things we did in order of how we did everything and grouped into regions.
Day One: Glen Ord Distillery > Eilean Donan Castle> Portree
On Day one we flew into Inverness around lunch time. Right outside of the town of Inverness (and still on the way to Skye) is an adorable little Scotch distillery called Glen Ord Distillery. The distillery is open from 10am-5pm every day but Sunday and tours cost between 6 and 25 GBP depending on the tasting experience at the end. This tour was perfect and the staff was extremely well versed in the process of making Single Malt Scotch Whiskey. Though I wasn’t a Scotch drinker, I did learn the best way to consume it and now find that I actually enjoy it! It was a really great experience and I would absolutely recommend it even for people who don’t really care much about Scotch Whiskey.
Eilean Donan Castle is about halfway from Inverness to Skeabost Hotel. It isn’t actually on the Isle of Skye but it’s right outside of it. It is a gorgeous 13th Century castle residing where 3 lochs meet. It has been built and rebuilt about 4 times as the History of Scotland has evolved throughout time. We went on the perfect day. It was covered in clouds that seemed eerily spooky. We walked from the Visitor Center across the bridge and directly into the museum once we arrived. The castle is my favorite castle I have seen so far (and I’ve been to Neuschwanstein). It is surrounded by impressive beauty no matter where you look. The history is equally impressive thanks to the Viking use of the castle.
Portree– This tiny little town is the biggest in Skye. It’s a colorful little fishing harbor with pubs and restaurants scattered around. We only made it to one restaurant that I didn’t really catch the name of, but the seafood was exceptionally fresh. Every time I attempted to go get food most of the restaurants were closed sadly. I don’t know if it was weird timing but this tiny town wasn’t all that interesting. It was nice to stock up on snacks and drinks though.
Day 2: Talisker Distillery> Fairy Pools > Neist Point
Day two should have been nicknamed ‘The Most Beautiful Day of Our Lives’ because it certainly was. The previous night it snowed up in the higher elevations leaving the mountain tops with a snowy cap. This made everything look even more majestically gorgeous. It was hard to even comprehend that much stunning beauty at one time. Again, there were virtually no other people at many of the locations we toured.
Talisker Distillery is the only distillery on the Isle of Skye (correct at the time of writing, another is currently being built) and has its own distinct taste. Knowing the process of making Scotch from the visit to Glen Ord made it a lot easier to understand at Talisker since they were operating at the time and it was difficult to hear the woman giving the tour. Since Talisker is the only distillery on Skye, if it’s raining it will be PACKED. It’s probably a good idea to book a tour ahead of time if you’re planning to go. There was also a tasting at the end of the Talisker tour, but there is only one type of Whiskey available to taste. It was still delicious though! If you have to choose one over the other I would vote #TeamGlenOrd due to how much more informative and intimate the tour was. It was still worth it to see both though.
Fairy Pools are the reason why some people come to the Isle of Skye in the first place. The Pools are a short drive from the Talisker Distillery sitting at the foot of the looming massive mountains in the distance. The Fairy Pools are a collection of waterfalls flowing down the hills into a river. They really are stunning and should not be missed. There is a small car park nearby and the hike is relatively difficult, however, I saw several elderly people tromping around. I honestly have no idea how they leapt over the river to get to the hike or managed to make it but they certainly did. I recommend that comfortable hiking boots are worn due to slippery rocks and sinking mud. Several girls were wearing white Air Forces (why?!?!) and left with brown Air Forces. As you make your way past the waterfalls you will want to stop and look at each one. Each one is more beautiful then the last and you won’t be able to stop walking down the path. Be prepared to spend a few hours here exploring all that the area has to offer. Also, be sure to bring tons of space on your camera and lots of extra batteries. You will be inclined to take more photos than you know what to do with.
Neist Point is a little bit of a drive from the Fairy Pools but it is MORE than worth it. Be sure to stock up on lunch when you see a restaurant in town because there is literally nothing else out that way. You WILL be hangry if you don’t get food beforehand. Neist Point is a viewpoint on the most Westerly point of Skye. It has a lighthouse (that we didn’t feel we needed to walk to but if you do, be sure to add a few hours of time to make the trek) and is surround by colossal cliffs that provide homes to much of the wildlife. In fact, it is known as the best place in Skye to see whales, dolphins, porpoises, and basking sharks. It has this little mass of land that juts out into the ocean like a small mountain that you can climb, not without its fair share of sheep dotting the hill. Neist Point is perfect for bird watching as well as sunset gazing. If it’s rained recently, it will be really slippery so wear hiking boots and watch your footing. Neist Point is perfect for a picnic or just enjoying the sheer beauty and magnitude of nature and the world around you. Neist Point is home to several rare and unusual plants, including saxifrages (I have no idea what these are). The rock formations are also very similar to those at the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. Be sure to be extra careful, however, one visitor fell off a cliff to her death in 2013.
Day Three should have been known as the day of the Mountain. We spent the whole day circumnavigating the northeastern portion of the Isle of Skye before heading back to Inverness. We should have woken up earlier in order to be able to complete both hikes, but instead opted for the Old Man of Storr as the main hike we wanted to do.
Quiraing is a world-renowned 6.8 kilometer hike which you need a minimum of 2 hours to complete (without stops). We didn’t have enough time, so we didn’t exactly complete it but many others do. It has been called an ‘essential walk for any photographer.’ The drive to the Quiraing was one of my favorite parts of the trip because the surrounding area is divinely lush. I couldn’t even believe how lucky we were to see such a beautiful sight. The hike is a loop that returns you to the car park (definitely a bonus!) with a hike rating of difficult. You’ll definitely want to be in shape for this one. You’ll also want to have optimal weather conditions (not windy or misty) since the walk takes you alongside several high cliffs and slippery rocks. You can find a more detailed description here since we didn’t actually complete the hike.
Kilt Rock is a waterfall going off a cliff and into the ocean. It definitely wasn’t the highlight of the trip, but it still was really cool to see. The landscape surrounding it was the best part. You are standing hundreds of feet above the ocean as waves crash onto black rocks below you. There are many spots to sit down and have a snack or chill out after your Quiraing hike and relax for a moment. This is the perfect 20-30 minute stop right before the Old Man of Storr hike.
Old Man of Storr walk is a spectacular hike up to the ridiculously impressive rock formations and cliff faces. It is part of the Trotternish ridge and the ‘Storr’ portion was created by a landslide a long, long time ago. The rocks can be seen for miles along the roads and you may see it when you drive to Portree initially. Unlike the Quiraing, this trail isn’t a loop. In my opinion, it’s so gorgeous that you won’t even mind seeing everything twice. The total distance is 3.8 kilometers but it feels like it is way further, and without stopping it should take around 1 hour and 15 minutes. It’s classified as a difficulty level of Medium, but I found it really tiresome. You will definitely want to wear sturdy footwear that you can get muddy. We managed to run into the same people wearing the white Air Forces here (from the Fairy Pools) and the girl did not seem very happy with her choice in footwear. Most of the path is pretty muddy and you’ll have to tromp through a bit of sinking mud. On the way down it is pretty steep so go easy on your knees. Also, dress in layers if the sun happens to be out. It gets really hot at points and really cold at others. Be sure to bring plenty of battery and memory in your camera bag, you will want to take hundreds of photos along the way. The views from the top are unparalleled and you can see panoramic views of lush greenery as far as the eye can see. The hike was a total Must-Do while in the Isle of Skye.
In conclusion, I am more than happy that I visited the Isle of Skye. I would kick myself forever if I had passed up this incredible opportunity to travel to one of the most gorgeous and unspoiled locations in Europe. Have any of you visited the Isle of Skye? What were your opinions? What are you most excited to see on your future trip there?