We’d been itching to visit the Isle of Skye for years and years; Louise and I were smitten the second we caught our first glimpse of its dramatic mountains and tundra.
In one word, the Isle of Skye is simply spectacular, but you could easily throw in dramatic, beautiful, rugged or a dozen other adjectives. I struggle to find any word that truly sums up how we feel about this place though; it’s unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been and I could honestly spend weeks or even months here at a time.
Our first trip to Skye was sadly only for a few days, but it was more than enough time to explore the major sites. Before we get to the top 5 things to do, here’s a bit more info:
How to get to the Isle of Skye:
The easiest way to get to the Isle of Skye is flying to Inverness Airport in Scotland. We took a 2 hour flight from London Gatwick and rented a car directly from the airport. We picked up a tiny Fiat 500 and actually, it was the perfect little car for two people to drive around in. The country lanes can get pretty narrow so you don’t really want a big car.
From Inverness Airport, we drove to Inverness and spent our first evening there. The following morning we drove the 3 hours to the Isle of Skye, passing Loch Ness and Eilean Donan castle along the way. We left early so didn’t see the sun until about halfway through our drive but you have to do the drive during the day time in at least one direction. The drive itself was honestly one of the most beautiful aspects of our trip, and to do both directions in the dark would be a huge shame.
Driving to Portree, the major city in Skye is straightforward, beautiful and definitely to be recommended. You can take the ferry to Skye, but driving seems like the more interesting way if you ask me.
When to go
We were there during the first week of October and the fall colours were magnifique! I’ve never seen so many different colours in one place, and the breathtakingly colourful leaves lined the highway for at least 2 of the 3 hours we were driving. Once you get to Skye, many of the mountains and tundra are covered by colourful grasses, mosses and bushes, meaning that you’re hit with a barrage of autumnal colours from virtually every direction.
Part of me was sad that we missed the first snowfall, but believe me, you don’t really want to be driving those country lanes when it’s icy. If you ask me, October is the best time of year to go.
Most of the photos I’d seen suggested that the weather would be miserable, and for the first day at least, that was pretty accurate. It was extremely wet, but actually not cold at all. Louise and I wore our rain gear and were perfectly warm and happy as we trudged around the hills.
On days two and three, the rain disappeared and we had some amazing sunshine for the most part. The only downside was that the rain gave way to extremely high winds that were quite a bit colder than the rain. I don’t think I’ve come across such strong winds back in Canada, but it seemed to be part of the package in Scotland.
Here are our top 5 locations to visit in the Isle of Skye:
This was easily my favourite part of the trip. Incredible cliffs, jagged rocks and panoramic views of both sea and mountain. As a photographer, I was like a kid in a candy shop.
You can’t go to the Isle of Skye without visiting the Old Man of Storr. It’s a 1.5km hike and 250m elevation up to the general plateau, but I’m inclined to say it’s a bit more if you plan to run around and explore the area. If you like taking moody photos, this is going to be your favourite place, but it also has an amazing sunrise if you’re lucky.
This is a beautiful river that cascades down several waterfalls in front of an incredible mountain backdrop. It gets busy with busloads of walkers (as it’s pretty easy), so don’t expect them to make it easy for you. Bring hiking boots because it gets quite muddy (not dress shoes like a few people we saw…*sigh*). FYI, parking costs £5 cash so don’t forget to bring change.
This isn’t that far from Portree as the crow flies, but it’ll take you quite a long time to get there because the roads are all single lane and if you get stuck behind a slow-poke (you will), it’ll be excruciatingly slow. It’s the far west side of the island, so it’s the perfect spot for a sunset. Look out for the beautiful lighthouse!
This is a waterfall off the edge of a cliff into the sea. Enough said really, and worth stopping for a few minutes. Take a quick look at the info about dinosaurs too because there are several fossilized footprints on the nearby Staffin beach that are worth checking out at low tide.
Sligachan is a tiny town (basically one building) at a junction in the road on Skye. It’s famous for two things, its beer and its bridge. The bridge is extremely photogenic and is a nice place to stop and take photos. The Cuillin brewery is a great place to try some locally brewed ales and their food is fantastic. Definitely the best food we had while we were there.
Technically this isn’t in the Isle of Skye, but it’s along the way so it’s definitely worth stopping at. Eilean Donan a privately owned castle that’s open for tours and a quick coffee break. Probably one of the most picturesque castles we’ve ever seen and it’s right off the highway.
You’re going to need two outfits for the Isle of Skye: one for wet weather and one for windy weather. The weather is super unpredictable so having layers, a decent shell/windbreaker and some good boots is going to be pretty important. The weather never got too cold so we really just needed protection from the elements and a light layer of insulation underneath.
Helly Hansen Women’s Lyness Coat – Great for torrential rain!
Timberland Women’s Six-Inch Premium Waterproof Boot– waterproof for muddy hiking
Fjallraven Kanken backpack – nice little backpack to carry our supplies
Scotland Sweater by Free People (warm to wear under the Helly Jacket)
Arcteryx Women’s Beta SL Jacket for light hiking
Diesel Men’s Jeans