Planning a trip to Skye and don’t know what to expect? We were in your shoes when we came to this magical land of fairies, legends, misty lochs, crystal-clear pools, towering hillsides, and fresh local seafood. So, we drew up a fairly rough itinerary of things to do on the Isle of Skye and set off exploring.
As we went along, our Skye itinerary quickly filled up with hidden beaches, off the beaten path walks and one track roads into the wild.
And this is exactly why we want to share our experiences with you. We want you to have an unforgettable time on this Scottish island, just as we did.
There’s a lot of driving through narrow lanes on Skye so, be prepared and keep your eyes on the road. But be sure to take a detour or two. a drive to some of the more remote places will allow you to discover tiny villages and settlements far off the tourist trail.
Without further ado, here is our list of 15 insanely stunning things to do and see on Skye. Enjoy!
1. Stop at Portree, the Capital of Skye
You’ll be hard pushed to miss Portree, the beautiful capital of Skye. It’s a relatively young, 200-years-old town was established as a fishing village in the 19th century.
It’s the largest town in the area and a great spot to base yourself for exploring the Isle of Skye. The town has plenty of quality accommodation options, great restaurants, shopping and plenty of things to do.
There’s a decent Fish and Chip shop too, just across the street from the Co-Op store. Don’t miss that one!
One of the biggest attractions here is the harbour, framed with colourful Nyhavn-like houses lining the high cliffs.
For a great photo opportunity of the harbour, head downhill around the bay. Cross a small bridge and walk until you see a small carpark and a picnic area on your right-hand side. The carpark sits below the 4-star Cuillin Hills Hotel.
The Scorrybreac circular walk
From the carpark, you can take The Scorrybreac circular walk. It’s a 3 km trail that starts off as a leisurely stroll but gets a little harder further along. Don’t be deceived like us and wear comfortable footwear – be prepared to ascend a steep hill at the finish.
At the start of the walk, just passed the sailing club and a little gate, climb the Nicolson Clan’s memorial hill for great panoramic views over the harbour.
The walk will then take you along the shoreline and then start ascending into the woods. The path also passes the Cullin Hills Hotel where you can stop for lovely panoramic views or a bite to eat at their restaurant.
It took us roughly an hour to complete the walk with brief stops for photos.
2. Have an Exhilarating Hike to The Old Man of Storr
The hike up towards the Old Man is one of the most popular things to do on Skye and certainly shouldn’t be missed when you visit the island.
The Storr is a striking rocky hillside, forming part of the Trotternish Peninsula in the north area of Skye. The hills have been formed from ancient landslides which have peeled back layers of earth to expose the jagged rocky outcrops.
Standing proudly on his own up there, looking out towards the Isle of Raasay, you’ll find the Old Man of Storr. It’s a large pinnacle of dark rock that can be seen for miles around.
Be prepared to put the work in however if you want to take in some of the finest views on the island. The pathway is well worn and can get pretty muddy and slippery if it’s been raining so, take care!
Getting to the base of the Old Man takes around an hour with a couple of short breaks along the way. We’d suggest pushing on and climbing up to the highest viewpoint just past it if you can, you’ll be rewarded with some amazing photos.
There are views of the “Storr Lochs” to the south and then on to Portree and the Cuillin Hills beyond. It feels like you can see all of Scotland from the top on a clear day!
A full description of the walk can be found here.
How to get to the Old Man of Storr
The Old Man of Storr is found alongside the main A855 northeast coast road, around 7 miles north of Portree. It’s a 15-minute drive from the town or you can catch the 57A bus from Somerled Square in Portree which runs just a few times a day.
Car parking is at the start of the walk along the main road. It can get pretty busy in the summer months here but don’t park on the yellow lines as fines are regularly given.
3. Hike off the Beaten Track to the Brother’s Point
While everyone rushes to see the famous Kilt Rock, we headed off for a quick hike to Rubha Nam Brathairen next door, just north of Portree.
The walk could be classed as “easy” and “short”, mostly downhill at the start. But remember, you’ll have to take the same path to get back which means a slight incline towards the end of the hike.
First, you walk on a gravel trail and pass by a couple of lovely white cottages. What a setting for a home! Then the trail changes into a pebbly path and eventually, the stones by the shore are replaced by wet and bouncy grass.
There isn’t much of a path so just keep going towards the beautiful headland sticking out in front of you. As you walk along, to your left you’ll be able to see (on a clear day) a great view of the Kilt Rock in the distance with the waterfall plunging down into the sea.
If you are brave, climb Dun Hasan, the summit of the peninsula. It’s not a difficult climb, just a little steep and narrow. At the top, you will be rewarded with more beautiful coastal views.
Step down a level from Dun Hasan and step onto the sheep territory. Have some rest here before heading back. This part of the headland makes it a great spot for a picnic so take a few snacks with you.
We didn’t find any dinosaur footsteps here but we found them elsewhere. Where? Well, keep on reading…
How to get to Brother’s Point?
A small car park for the Brother’s Point is located in Culnacnoc, just past the Glenview Hotel.
From the carpark head south and look for information board named “Rubha Nam Brathairean”. Unfortunately, the information board is a little worn out so it’s not clear who the brothers actually were.
Your trail starts across the street from the sign. Just be careful crossing the road, the traffic is fast and busy here.
4. See the Tartan-Looking Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls
Made up of massive basalt columns resting on a sandstone base, the Kilt Rock is well worth a quick stop off on your tour of the Isle of Skye.
The columns give the rock face the look of a pleated tartan kilt worn by Scotsmen, hence the name. You can get a great photo from the cliff edge viewpoint found just a little further along the coast.
Also, besides the viewpoint is the mighty Mealt Falls which cascade downwards towards the sea. It’s a rare treat to see a waterfall going directly into the sea like this and makes the stop a great two-for-one.
If you’re feeling peckish then make sure you pick up a tasty Haggis or Veggie Haggis bap from the Black Sheep food truck here. We loved our filling snacks and it was a great way to get our first taste of the famous Scottish Haggis!
How to get to Kilt Rock
The Kilt Rock Viewpoint is found off of the A855, 15 minutes further north from the Old Man of Storr. Combining the two make a good day out from Portree.
There’s a decent-sized car park here right next to the viewpoint, no long walk needed. Phew!
5. Spot Dinosaur Footprints on the Marble Beach
An Corran Beach is a lovely spot for a peaceful walk on the marble effect sands at low tide. Whilst you take in the fresh sea air, keep your eyes downwards onto the rocks below your feet.
As the nearby information board tells you, dinosaur footprints have been discovered here, embedded into the rocks millions of years ago and revealed only at low tide.
We parked our van a little further along by the jetty, which turned out to be fantastic wild camping spot, and waited for the tide to draw out.
We’re not 100% sure that we found a prehistoric footprint but it pretty much matched up to what others had posted online.
There’s a lot of green algae and sand amongst the rocks so, you might need to poke around with a stick. It’s great if you need to entertain the kids for a while!
If you fancy walking a little further, take the hiking trail from the end of the roadway, over the hills to the Columba 1400 social enterprise centre. There’s a reasonably priced cafe here if you’re in need of a quick refuel.
Find An Corran Beach
The beach is easy to find. Look for the Saffin Road turn off from the A855, around a 35-minute drive north of Portree.
Once you turn off, follow the narrow road less than a mile down to the beach.
The 57A bus stops at the turn off too.
5. Get Lost in Mystical Fairy Glen
Despite the name, Fairy Glen isn’t a gay man living alone in the Scottish hills. Yeah, we were disappointed too 🙁
It’s actually a magical little area of tiny hills, pools and valleys which looks like it could be home to any number of mythical creatures.
The best way to describe it is like a Scottish glen in miniature. Standing atop one of the various hills in this area will make you feel like a giant looking down on your mighty kingdom.
Make sure you grab a photo of the hill with the basalt rock still on top of it. We swear that the front of it looks like a giant face which just adds to the mysticism at Fairy Glen.
Down in the valley area, there’s even a fairy circle. Some photos showed us that it used to be complete with stones, but these had disappeared when we visited. Oh, those naughty fairies!
How to find Fairy Glen
Look for the turnoff from the A87 just outside of Uig. It’s immediately after the Uig Hotel on the left-hand side if you’re coming from Uig.
The road to the glen is a classic Skye single-track road and is steep in places so, take it nice and easy. Parking is just on the gravel by the roadside once you reach the tiny green hills.
6. Discover the Oldest Inhabited Castle in Scotland
Overlooking Loch Dunvegan, a sea loch, Dunvegan Castle sits in a truly spectacular location.
Loch cruises and fishing trips are organised by the estate for this very reason. But you’ll have to come here early if you want to catch a boat to see the Loch Dunvegan seals. Bookings operate on a first come first serve basis.
Dunvegan Castle, just as many others on Skye, is remodelled to look like a 19th Century medieval castle. It belongs to the Chief of McLeouds, one of the most prominent Highland Scottish clans on the Isle of Skye.
Plus, it is the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland and has been home to the MacLeod clan for 800 years.
While there’s not much preserved of the actual 13th Century castle, there are stories and legends surrounding the heirlooms of the famous Clan MacLeod.
One such relic is the mysterious Fairy Flag that was given to MacLeods by the fairies. Made from fine silk it’s associated with magical abilities: If it was waved in times of danger, help would be provided on three occasions.
However, if it was waved more than three times it would either be taken away by an invisible being or lose its magical powers for good. Therefore the flag was entrusted only to the most deserving flag bearers.
Has the flag been waved three times already? There are numerous manuscripts noting the waving of the flag, but the MacLeod clan insists that it was unfurled only twice so far.
Wild Camp by Dunvegan Castle
As a fabulous thing to do on the Isle of Skye, add wild camping to your Skye itinerary. Wild camping is widely popular in Scotland and could give a quirky twist to your trip.
We wild camped on the shores of Loch Dunvegan and enjoyed sipping our morning brew with a view to the misty castle. The road nearby was quiet and cars didn’t start passing by till later in the morning.
Where is Dunvegan Castle?
Dunvegan Castle is located in the north-west of Skye, 1 mile from Dunvegan village.
You can even get the ferry across directly from Mallaig on the mainland to shorten your journey.
7. Spend a Day in Hidden Paradise – Coral Beach
You’ll find that almost all amazing things to do on Skye require either hiking up a hill or at least a good walk. You’ve got to work for it eh?!
The tropical-looking Coral Beach (Traigh a’ Corail) is no exception. It’s located a nice long walk away from the car park. Some people even asked us if it’s worth the effort. It’s not that far away. And yes, it’s totally worth it.
As you approach the beach, take your time to admire the white coral stretch and the turquoise blue surf from afar – it’s a sight to behold on Scottish soil.
When you get to the beach, climb a small hill for fantastic panoramic views over the beach. The climb is steep but not difficult and only takes five minutes to reach the top.
Coral Beach isn’t just a beach but evidence of ancient marine life. The coral sand here is formed from bleached red coralline seaweed called Maerl, therefore, is a little bit sharp to walk on.
This kind of seaweed has a lot of nooks and crevices that attract sea life such as starfish and shellfish, which attract cod – a seals’ favourite meal. If you are lucky you will spot one or two having a swim further away from the shore.
How to get to Coral Beach?
There’s only one single-track road to get to Coral Beach. From Dunvegan Castle head north for around 3 miles until you reach a small carpark.
Parking is free but space is very limited. Therefore, it’s best to arrive here early in the day.
From the carpark, it’s a short fifteen-minute walk to the beach. The route is pretty easy, mainly gravel but you still might want to wear comfortable shoes.
When is the best time to visit Coral Beach?
The best time to visit Coral Beach is either early in the morning or later in the evening. We got there at around 10 am (in June) and by midday, the car park started filling up quickly forming a long queue alongside the main road.
As we had some work to do on the day, we didn’t leave our van conversion till around 4 pm. By which time the beach was nearly empty. This hidden gem, however, can get pretty busy during the school holidays.
8. Visit Neist Point Lighthouse
There’s no doubt that Neist Point Lighthouse, located in the most westerly point on the Isle of Skye, sits on one of the most dramatic sets of rocks in Scotland.
It was built in the 1900s and is now listed as a Category B building to preserve it for future generations.
The lighthouse itself looks pretty ordinary in the day time, especially on one of the many hazy days in the Scottish isles. So, it’s best to try and visit the site during the golden hours – just before or during the sunset.
There is only one way to get to the lighthouse. You’ll see it immediately from the top of the cliff. Although steep, the trail to the lighthouse is within easy reach when going down the cliffs.
But it’s a completely different story when going back up. The last leg of the road up will leave you breathless if you are not used to steep climbing. Good exercise, though.
Be careful when ascending or walking around the cliffs, especially when trying to take photos. The cliffs drop 100 meters and can be slippery. It can also be rather windy at higher points.
The lighthouse is quite out of the way and takes a little effort navigating the notorious one-track roads. You will, however, get to see the vast and beautiful Scottish countryside if you decide to make your way over to the cliffs.
Where is Neist Point Lighthouse?
To reach Neist Point Lighthouse drive west from Dunvegan for around 30 minutes (around 1 hour from Portree) until you reach the end of the one-track road.
Parking, located right near the start of the trail, is rather small and the best bet is to park your car on either side of the road further back.
9. Sip a Wee Shot of Whiskey at Talisker Distillery
You can’t visit Skye, or Scotland for that matter, without sipping a wee dram (shot) of whiskey. The ideal spot to do this, and learn all about the distilling process too, is at the Talisker Distillery at Carbost.
Founded in 1830, Talisker is now part of the drinks behemoth Diageo. This is obvious when you step inside and see the branded goods and polished displays on offer. They certainly know their marketing!
The basic distillery tour costs £10 and lasts 45 minutes with a taste of some single malt at the end. Fancier options are available for whiskey aficionados but booking ahead is strongly advised as spaces are pretty limited.
It’s a good place to head if the weather isn’t being kind to you, which can be quite often on Skye.
Combine a visit with some tasty treats from the Oyster Shed (below) which is only 1 mile further up the road.
The Talisker Distillery Opening times: 10:00 to 16:30 daily all year round.
How to find the Talisker Distillery
Head to the village of Carbost, sitting pretty on the side of Loch Harport. It’s around a 30-minute drive from Portree.
You can also catch the 145 or 608 bus to Carbost from Portree.
10. Slurp Down Fresh Oysters in the Oyster Shed
As the name suggests, the star of the Oyster Shed is the fresh oysters grown locally on the west coast of Skye.
Eat them raw with a dash of Tabasco sauce right at the counter or order a platter and head for the picnic area next door, overlooking the beautiful Scottish countryside.
The locally sourced produce here is fresh, simple and affordable. Their scallops are perfectly fried in garlic butter and if you happen to be allergic to shellfish, order hot smoked mackerel or salmon and chips. It’s super tasty stuff!
They also have prepackaged takeout options if you are in a rush and other jarred goodies for you to take away. But if you are not in any rush, why not stay and enjoy the cool vibe here.
Where is the Oyster Shed located?
The Oyster Shed is located in Carbost village, around the corner from Talisker Distillery (above). Approx 1 minute from the main car park by the water.
11. Dip Your Toes in the Magical Fairy Pools
One of the most fun things to do on the Isle of Skye is to swim in vibrant Fairy Pools at the foot of the stunning Cuillin Mountains.
The location is breathtaking and the mountain range makes it a beautiful backdrop to the waterfalls. It’s some pretty fantastic scenery for your swim in crystal-clear waters.
The water though can be very chilly even in the summer months but refreshing nonetheless. So, don your swimwear, grab a towel and water shoes if you have them.
Or, sit on the edge of the rocks and dip your toes in if you are not keen on ice-cold waters.
Spare at least a couple of hours to relax by the pools and walk along the falls. Each of them is naturally formed into all shapes and sizes and tumbles down into translucent blue and turquoise pools.
How long is the walk to Fairy Pools?
Although some sources claim that it takes around an hour to walk to the falls from the carpark, it took us 20 minutes max.
The trail is visible from the road and easily walkable, mainly gravel. The start of the route is marked “Sligaghan.”
You’ll have to cross a small river just before you reach the first waterfall, but it’s a quick hop over a couple of stones. Nothing to worry about unless it’s been raining heavily, which is very possible in Scotland.
There’s also a grassy well-trodden shortcut at the top of the trail but it can get muddy and slippery so beware if you decide to take it.
How to get to Fairy Pools
Fairy Pools are located near Carbost on the road to Glenbrittle. The road down to the carpark is pretty spectacular and steep so drive carefully.
The two-level car park “Glumagan Na Sithichean” is spacious so you should be fine to find a space to park. It costs £5 for a car and £8 for a campervan.
You can also book an Isle of Skye Tour with Fairy Pools from Inverness.
12. Find the Tiny Fishing Village Elgol
If you fancy a little trip to discover something special at the end of the road then make a beeline for the remote fishing village of Elgol.
Located towards the end of the Strathaird peninsula on the edge of the shores of Loch Scavaig, Elgol is a scattered settlement with the main hub focused around the cute harbor and beach.
After descending down the steep road towards the water you’ll see a couple of huts offering boat trips to see a whole range of wildlife.
The trips will take you across Loch Scavaig to the entrance of Loch Coruisk, which translates as “cauldron of water”, a glacial loch nearly 2 miles long but fairly narrow.
This secluded loch is at the heart of the Cullin Hills and the perfect vantage point for the mighty 3,255-foot mountain, Sgurr Alasdair.
How to reach Elgol
To navigate to Elgol you take the B8083 single track road that heads south-west from Broadford. Keep going and you’ll find it after a thrilling 30-minute drive.
The number 55 bus also follows this route and takes 1 hour each way.
13. Admire the Spectacular Cullin Range
If you spend any time on Skye at all, we’re sure you’ll stop in your tracks once you catch a view of the mighty Cullin mountain ranges.
The Black Cuillin and the Red Cuillin, separated by Glen Sligachan, dominate the landscape towards the south of the island. Walking the ridge is best left to experienced hikers and rock climbers though.
In fact, the “Cuillin traverse” is 12km long with 3000m of ascent across 11 Munros (peaks over 914m or 3000ft). This earns its top spot as the most challenging mountaineering journey in the United Kingdom.
For the rest of us, we can admire the vista from afar and if you get the timing and weather spot on, enjoy a stunning sunset projected onto the Cullin ranges.
We found that one of the best places to get closer to the base of these mighty formations was at the Fairy Pools. You can hike past the pools and up to the foot of the Cullin range from a southeastern direction easily.
How to get to the Cullin Ranges
One of the best and most remote spots to view the ranges from is the secluded Glenbrittle Campsite & Cafe.
It’s at the very end of the single track road which runs past the Fairy Pools and makes a pretty remote place to stay for a night or two.
Otherwise, you’ll get a decent view of the distant mountain range at any pull-off on the A863.
14. Visit the Former Home of the Mighty Clan Macdonald
There is a tendency among Scottish clans on Skye to turn their mansions into mock-castles. And the 19th-century Armadale Castle, guarded by the magnificent Western Red Cedar at the entrance, is exactly that, an extension of the former home of mighty Clan Macdonald.
Designed by the acclaimed architect James Gillespie Graham in 1815, the two castle-looking buildings were built purely for the show rather than defence.
Sadly, the castle you can visit today is just hollow ruins. It was abandoned by the family in 1920s and, without proper supervision, the west part has become dilapidated.
But the remains of a staircase leading down into what was the main hall, allow your imagination to create a bigger picture of the sumptuous interior. Imagine beautiful arches and a stained-glass window depicting Somerled, the ancestor of Clan Donald.
What makes the visit to Armadale Castle worthwhile is the nature trails around the estate.
The garden features ponds, ancient trees, beautifully arranged wildflowers, cute statues, and a few viewing points. Parts of this beautifully manicured green space date back to the 1790s.
During our visit, the woodland trails were completely deserted making the walk extra relaxing. The Red circular trail takes around an hour to walk and is very easy, although slightly muddy in places. It elevates lightly towards the end but offers lovely panoramic views in return.
As you reach the end of the trail, it branches into the Blue, a slightly longer walk. You can then choose to either complete the Red trail and walk back into the castle grounds or carry on trekking deeper into the countryside.
How to get to Armadale Castle?
Armadale Castle is located in Armadale, south Skye, on the A851, right next to the Mallaig–Armadale ferry.
To get to Armadale Castle you can either drive, take a bus or grab the ferry.
If you are driving, then it’s a half an hour drive south of Broadford. Follow the signs for Armadale/Ferry. The Castle is located a 2-minute drive from the ferries.
There’s a free carpark, a cafe and restaurant, and clean restrooms at the entrance.
15. Walk the Oronsay Hiking Trail at Sunset
Here’s another remote walking trail to enjoy if you’re taking your sweet time to explore the hidden gems on the Isle of Skye.
Oronsay is a tiny rocky outcrop, sitting in Loch Bracadale, which you can only reach across a pebble causeway at low tide.
Although there’s nothing on the island itself apart from the local sheep heard, it’s the views that make the trek oh so worth it. Looking out from the highest point, across Loch Bracadale to the other distant islands is truly awe-inspiring.
We made the walk across at around sunset for added effect and had the place all to ourselves. It was super handy that we could pitch up and wild camp in our van in the tiny car park at the trail starting point.
The key thing to remember with this one… check the tide times to ensure you can cross to Oronsay and back without needing to swim!
How to get to Oronsay
You’ll need to seek out the remote village of Ullinish for this one. Take the turning off the A863 right beside the Dun Beag Broch Car Park.
It’s a highly scenic 30-minute drive from Portree to reach the appropriately named Oronsay Path Car Park.
Amazingly you can get here on the A6100 bus from Portree. We didn’t take this so, check at the tourist office before you set off.
Bonus Sight: Stop at an Iconic 13th Century Castle
Just before the bridge into the magical Isle of Skye, stop at Eilean Donan Castle. Many folks think that the castle is dedicated to a woman because of its feminine name and therefore find it romantic.
But, as a local chap explained to us, it’s named after an Irish Saint, Bishop Donan who landed in Scotland in the 6th Century and formed a small community there.
The original castle was built in the 13th century as a defensive fortress from the Vikings raiding Northern Scotland at the time.
Proclaimed as the most beautiful castle in Scotland, the 13th century Eilean Donan has lived through four reconstructions and stood decayed for almost 200 years until the castle was fully re-opened in 1932.
The most charming part of the castle is the surroundings. It sits on an island where three great sea locks meet. The scenery is spectacular, but the best way to take pictures of the castle in its full glory is away from the castle itself.
You can either park your car at the free parking lot next to the castle and walk back up onto the road bridge.
Or you could park your car past the bridge at a small car park on your left. From here you can get a much better view of the breathtaking landscape.
Our Google Map of Things to do on Skye
What are your favourite things to do on the Isle of Sky? Did we miss anything out? Let us know in the comments below…
Sunset over Harris and Lewis from Duntulm Castle, Trotternish Point