Summary: In this post, I’m sharing ten things to do on Isle of Skye in Scotland and recounting some of the experiences we had on the island.
Isle of Skye was easily my favorite part of our Scotland trip. Coming from the magic of Edinburgh, my spirits were already high and Isle of Skye really lived up to all of my expectations. The scenery is gorgeous, the Scottish accents are thick and the food is phenominal! It truly needs to be on your Scotland itinerary.
How to get to Isle of Skye
I highly recommend renting a car in whichever city you’re starting in. There are plenty of car rental options in Edinburgh or Glasgow. Unfortunately, there is no train station on Isle of Skye. There is a bus service, but once you get to Isle of Skye, you’ll want to be able to drive around yourself. This is why I always recommend getting a rental car.
Keep in mind that in the UK, they drive on the left side of the road and the driver side of the car is on the right. This takes some getting used to, but it’s really not that bad!
–> Looking to visit more of Scotland? Check out my 7-10 day Scotland Road Trip Itinerary! <–
Where to stay on Isle of Skye
There are a number of small towns on Isle of Skye. We decided to stay in Portree because it was one of the “larger” towns (still pretty small) and it was relatively central to everything we wanted to do and see. We stayed in the Portree Hotel, right on the main square in town. The room was satisfactory for what we needed: a place to sleep. The restaurant was excellent for breakfast!
Regardless of where you stay, the island is relatively small, so most things won’t be too far away.
Let’s get right to it! Here are 8 things to do on Isle of Skye:
1. Old Man of Storr Hike
Quick story time: this was the first thing we set off to do in the morning of our first day on Isle of Skye. It was rainy and cloudy, but we had expected this and weren’t too bummed out about it.
We ate breakfast, we packed up our hiking boots, and we were driving the short half hour drive to the trailhead of the infamous Old Man of Storr. About 0.3 miles away from the trailhead, we started to hear a funny sound, so we pulled over and saw we had a flat tire. Austin checked the back for a spare and of course, there wasn’t one.
So, we called the car rental place and they put us in touch with a local shop that could come out and change the tire for us. Usually, I would have been incredibly annoyed that we had to sit there and wait for someone to come help when we could be exploring, but Austin and I were both weirdly content about the whole situation. We just sat in the car and chatted for an hour until John, the nicest Scottish handyman that has ever lived, came and changed our tire for us.
After that fiasco, we finally made it to the trailhead only to see clear blue skies and a rainbow! If we had started the hike on time, it would have been rainy and foggy, but because we had to wait a bit, we had perfect weather! The universe has some excellent timing sometimes.
This day ended up being my favorite day of the whole trip and this hike was my favorite part of Isle of Skye. It’s 3.5 miles and pretty steep going up, but the views are incredible.
The parking lot (with plenty of parking) has a building with bathrooms to use before and/or after your hike. I’d also highly recommend bringing hiking boots for this if you can. At the very least, wear athletic shoes of some sort. I saw some people trying to hike in ankle booties and they did not look happy.
2. Fairy Pools Hike
Another incredible hike on Isle of Skye is the Fairy Pools Hike. This one might be classified as more of a walk because it’s much less strenuous than Old Man of Storr, but it is just as long.
You’ll start the hike walking down into a valley and toward a mountain range. Along the pathway, there will be several areas with waterfalls (the fairy pools). Toward the end, you’ll see a longer stretch of waterfalls. This is where the iconic “Fairy Pools photo” is taken, but in order to get the shot, you’ll need to climb down to the water. It’s not hard. Just make sure someone is with you in case you slip or something else happens.
From here you can continue on into the mountain range or turn back. We opted to turn back, so if you continue on, let me know what you see!
3. Neist Point
Walking to Neist Point is one of the coolest things to do on Isle of Skye, in my opinion. Neist Point is a peninnsula with a lighthouse at the very end of it. You can hike down to the lighthouse, or just enjoy the view from the cliffside. It’s an incredible sight and an iconic photo of Isle of Skye can be taken here.
I’m not sure if it’s like this all year round, but when we visited, it was incredibly rainy and windy on the cliffside. It was actually a little scary to walk to the point where you can see the lighthouse, but a line of hooded photographers holding their ground made us what to see what they were trying to capture and we powered through. I have to believe the conditions are tamer in the summer, but I wanted to give a fair warning.
4. Explore Portree
Whether or not you’re staying in Portree, I recommend carving out a bit of time to explore this little town. I’d make sure to walk down to the harbor to see a line of colorful buildings. You can also walk the quiet streets to find gift shops and restaurants tucked away, ready to be discovered.
5. Find Highland Cows
This isn’t as easy as it sounds! The highland cows on Isle of Skye are free to roam vast distances, so there’s no telling exactly where they might be, but if you drive around long enough, you’re sure to spot a few.
Jakub Bors has an excellent guide on where to find highland cows. His first recommendation is to check Sconser. We found a few cows here, but they were too far away to photograph, so we kept driving until we found the beauties below in a random area. You may even see them on your way to any other activities on this list!
6. Eat at Cafe Cuil
We noticed the stricking red building of Cafe Cuil before we even knew what it was. We were on the hunt for a place to stop for lunch, so when we realized it was a cafe, we decided to pop in and our experience was such a treat!
The first thing we noticed was a table of a beautiful red-headed family. There were about 8 people total, all playing a different instrument and they sounded amazing!
We sat down at a table next to them and each ordered a bowl of soup. The food was suprisingly delicious and the atmosphere was incredibly cozy. If you need a place for a quick bite to eat, or a spot to spend a slow afternoon, Cafe Cuil is the perfect place!
7. Visit Dunvegan Castle
Austin and I were both bummed that we weren’t able to visit Dunvegan Castle because they are only open April through mid October and we were visiting in Novemeber. However, I’m still confident in adding it to this list of things to do on Isle of Skye because it looks stunning.
The castle and gardens are located on the West side of the island, in the town of Dunvegan (makes sense). You can take a guided or self-paced tour through the property. They even have holiday cottages if you’d like to stay on this side of Isle of Skye!
8. Kilt Rock
Kilt Rock is a picturesque cliffside toward the Northeast side of Isle of Skye. It’s a beautiful stop where you can see a waterfall running over the side of the cliff. It doesn’t take long to stop here, but it’s worth a look if you’re headed North for any reason. Supposedly, when the wind blows just right, you can hear some natural music being played off the rocky edge.
9. Quiraing Hike
If you didn’t get enough hiking in with Old Man of Storr and Fairy Pools, the Quiraing Hike is another great option. We didn’t do this hike, unfortunately, because hikers before us reported it being very muddy. It sounds like it’s best attempted in the summer months.
That said, photos from it look otherworldly. If you find yourself on Isle of Skye in the summer, please try it and let me know what you think! It appears to be around 4 miles long and it’s classified as “moderate.”
10. Eat at The Three Chimneys
Our anniversary fell on one of the days we were spending on Isle of Skye, so we were looking to find a nicer place to have dinner this night. We had what we both believe to be the best meal of our lives at The Three Chimneys restaurant.
The restaurant is set back in a secluded part of Isle of Skye. It has a soft, cozy feel and only about 20 tables (or maybe even less) in the whole restaurant. We ordered one item from each course section on the menu and it was one delicous bit after another.
It’s pricey, but if you’re celebrating something, or in the mood to splurge on an excellent meal, I cannot recommend this restaurant enough!
10 Things to do on Isle of Skye
- Old Man of Storr Hike
- Fairy Pools Hike
- Neist Point
- Explore Portree
- Find Highland Cows
- Eat at Cafe Cuil
- Visit Dunvegan Castle
- Kilt Rock
- Quiraing Hike
- Eat at The Three Chimneys
If you’re reading this, I’m already excited that you’re planning to visit one of my favorite places in the world! Please reach out on here or on Instagram if you’d like to chat more about Isle of Skye or Scotland in general. I could talk for hours about this place!