Visit weird and dramatic landscapes, taste the finest whisky in Scotland and enjoy a hearty welcome on our guide to the best things to do on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.

With a greedy stash of superb scenery, the Isle of Skye is one of the best places to visit in the UK.

At its southern end, a seething mass of razor-sharp black pinnacles separated by narrow ridges form the most inhospitable mountain range in the country. To the north a giant landslip has created an entire peninsula of geological shapes and bizarre landscapes.

In between, Skye has a traditional and welcoming personality. The colourful houses of Portree conceal gin schools and ice cream shops, while the whisky distillery of Talisker blends a tipple with a modern welcome.

Whether you drive to plunging waterfalls, hop on a boat trip to remote lakes or hike along the coast, there are weird and wonderful places to visit in Skye.

Our guide includes the best things to do and cool places to visit. We have included useful visitor information, suggested road trips in the area plus a 3-day Itinerary for visiting the Isle of Skye.

Booking your trip via the links on this page (or on our book page) will earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support – Paul & Mark.

A small row boat on a loch with the Old Man of Storr in the background

PLACES TO VISIT ON THE ISLE OF SKYE


1 – OLD MAN OF STORR

The Old Man of Storr is the iconic image of the Isle of Skye. This spectacular pinnacle of basalt on the Trotternish Peninsula was left behind after an ancient landslide swept the rest of the hillside away.

Today it is just one element in an array of fantastic geological features that make this one of the most photographed and Instagram-friendly places to visit in the UK.

The best views do, however, require a bit of work. From the Old Man of Storr car park (7 miles north of Portree on the A855), the Storr Trail steadily climbs uphill. After about 20 minutes it crests over a hill and the Old Man of Storr rises in front of you, with Trotternish escarpment behind.

But the most iconic views are a bit further. Keep walking past the Old Man to an elevated rocky platform further up the hill (45 minutes from the car park). From here, the views over the escarpment and the Old Man of Storr with the sea in the background is the Isle of Skye at its finest. Detailed instructions are on our Old Man of Storr post.

2 – PORTREE

Perched on cliffs above a harbour, colourful Portree is the capital of Skye and the largest town on the island. It was created as a fishing village at the beginning of the 19th century and today, it’s a popular tourist destination with a busy harbour used for both fishing and leisure boats.

Portree is a great base for exploring the Trotternish Peninsula area with several tours departing from town. See the highlights of the island on a Skye full-day tour, or take a luxury sea tour with Seaflower Skye.

In town, Café Arriba is a quirky lunch spot with a good selection of light bites, with plenty of vegetarian options. The Isle of Skye Ice Cream shop uses local produce to whip up mouth-watering flavours and just around the corner, the Isle of Skye Distillers Gin School offers 3-hour courses teaching you the art of distilling gin.  

3 – QUIRAING

The entire Trotternish Peninsula escarpment on the Isle of Skye was formed by giant landslips. But only one part is still moving today – the Quiraing.

This land of strange rocky shapes along undulating grassy slopes. Contorted pillars and buttresses of eroded lava have slipped off the side of the mountain to create an other-worldly scene of pinnacles, ridges, cliffs and lakes that appear to be marching towards the sea.

The most interesting of these shapes is the Needle – a 120 ft high pinnacle which rises to a spiky point above a sea of scree.  The Prison is a pyramid-shaped rocky peak which looks like a medieval keep, and the Table is a flat grassy area that has slipped away from the summit.

The best way to see it is to complete the 2 – 3-hour Quiraing walk – a fantastic expedition through the best of the area.

But even if you just drive to the lookout (marked on the map above), you’ll realise the Quiraing landscape is like nowhere else in the UK. It’s a must-visit attraction on the Isle of Skye.

quiraing isle of skye 7

4 – KILT ROCK & MEALT FALLS

The basalt columns of Kilt Rock form a dramatic cliff face that resembles a pleated kilt overlooking the sea. Over the years, the sea-weathered 90-metre wall of rock has adopted multiple colours which many believe now resembles tartan.

It takes a keen eye to make the tartan connection, but the slender beauty of Mealt Falls is immediately obvious. The 55-metre cascade which plunges over the cliffs and directly into the sea is one of the most scenic attractions on the Isle of Skye.

There’s a well-signed car park with a small lookout area which makes it very easy to see both Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls.

If you have a drone, the views from out at sea looking back at the falls provide a breathtaking shot. However, this is a popular location for birds and drones are prohibited during nesting season (February to July).  

mealt falls isle skye

5 – FAIRY GLEN

Fairy Glen is an area of natural rock formations, small cone-shaped hills and grass-framed ponds giving it a whimsical appearance. Created from a landslip similar to the event which formed Quiraing, Fairy Glen is like a mini version of the much larger geological feature.

A road winds in and out of the round-topped grassy hillocks and tiny ponds (lochans), with several walking paths allowing you to head off and explore. The tallest summit in Fairy Glen is still capped in basalt and the short scramble to the top provides the best views over the area.

The car park on the western side of the Trotternish Peninsula (a short distance from Uig) is small and often full so try to arrive early or late in the day. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to explore the area.

6 – BLACK CUILLIN HIKES & SCRAMBLES

Black Cuillins is a mountain range on the Isle of Skye with some of the toughest hiking in the UK. Perched on the southern end of the island, the Black Cuillins are composed of basalt and gabbro – a jet-black, extremely hard and abrasive rock.

The summits are connected by narrow ridges with precipitous drops creating an ominous and jagged outline. Two of them, Munro Bruach na Frithe and Blà Bheinn, can be reached by walking, but most require a difficult scramble.

One of the most challenging adventures in the UK is traversing the entire Black Cuillin ridge – a 4,000-metre ascent across 22 peaks using a mix of scrambling and technically easy climbing.

It’s a massive test of endurance. You’ll need to be fit, have no fear of heights, and some basic climbing experience. It can just about be done in one day, but it’s more sensible to allow two.

7 – SLIGACHAN HOTEL & BLACK CUILLIN VIEWPOINTS

Hiking in the Black Cuillins is tough but it’s easy to get great views of these jagged mountains from the roads that run around them.

Carbost to Glenbrittle // The minor road running south from Carbost to Glenbrittle campsite has excellent vistas almost all the way along. As it winds over a ridge and drops into Brittle Valley, the western edge of the Black Cuillins rise ominously in front of you.

B8083 // The B8083 that runs southwest from Broadford winds around Lock Slapin and under the ominous peak of Blà Bheinn before revealing the eastern side of the Cuillins etched in the distance above the sea.

Sligachan Hotel // The best and easiest Black Cuillin viewpoints to reach are around the Sligachan Hotel. An old stone bridge and valley dotted with small lakes frame the imposing black craggy peak of Sgùrr nan Gillean.

8 – FAIRY POOLS

On a warm day, one of the best things to do on the Isle of Skye is to take a dip in the Fairy Pools. At the foot of the Black Cuillins near Glenbrittle, these crystal-clear rock pools are connected by a series of cascades in the Allt Coir’ a’ Mhadaidh brook.

It’s a beautiful location on Skye with plenty of spots to take a refreshing dip. But, if the often-grey skies are not enticing you into the water, there are plenty of great walks in this scenic part of the island.

From the Fairy Pools Car Park it’s a 15-minute walk to the first of the pools. Follow the path further along the stream and magnificent views of the Cuillins opens in front of you. After 20 minutes from the first pool, a small waterfall offers a great foreground with the Black Cuillins behind.

9 – ELGOL BOAT TRIP TO LOCH CORUISK

Loch Coruisk is an inland lake at the foot of the Black Cuillins mountains. It’s a rugged and remote area with several hikes under the imposing flanks of the mountains. A boat trip is a great way to see it.

Misty Isle Boat Trips runs a few trips daily (book in advance in summer), departing from Elgol. The 40-minute boat ride stops at a seal colony where you’ll get great photo opportunities and learn about the wildlife in the area. There’s also a chance you’ll see puffins.

Once at Loch Coruisk you’ll have the opportunity to stroll around this beautiful part of Skye before returning.  

There are different ticket options based on what you want to do:

  • Mini Return – Allows 30 minutes ashore to explore the Lake Coruisk area, then return.
  • Standard Return – Allows 90 minutes ashore to explore before returning.
  • Maxi Return – Explore Loch Coruisk for as long as you want and return on any boat. (Maximum stay is 7 hours if you get the first and last boat of the day).
  • One-Way – Take the boat out and do the 4-hour hike back.

10 – TALISKER

Talisker is one of the most famous brands of Scottish Whisky. This premium single malt has been distilled in Carbost on the Isle of Skye since 1831. Today it is operated by Diageo and its 10-year-old whisky is considered one of their classic malts.

Recently renovated, the oldest distillery on the island reopened its doors in August 2022. Matching a Nordic-inspired tasting room with an updated distillery, Talisker is bringing traditional whisky-making into a more modern age.

Try 3 whiskies on the 1-hour immersive tour (£20 per person). Make sure you book online in advance.

11 – NEIST POINT LIGHTHOUSE

On the far western end of the Isle of Skye, where the road can go no further, the Neist Point Lighthouse is one of the best photography locations on the island. Perched at the end of a series of jagged precipitous cliffs, it’s a scenic section of coastline and a great place to explore.

From the car park a rocky trail leads down behind the cliffs to the lighthouse, but the best views and photo spots are a short walk – in the other direction – a little further along the cliffs.

It is often wild and windy up here, but that just adds to the atmosphere of this desolate place. Even on a misty dull day, the white lighthouse cuts an eerie figure through the haze as sea birds soar from the cliffs beside it. 

12 – DUNVEGAN CASTLE

If you are looking for things to do on the Isle of Skye on a rainy day, one of the best options is Dunvegan Castle, the only Highland fortress to have been continuously occupied by the same family for 800 years.

It was developed from the 13th century to the 19th and its five separate buildings – unified by a single outer skin – are a mish-mash of different styles of architecture through the ages.

A collonaded portico leads into an impressive entrance hall and up to ornately decorated State Rooms. Outside, the formal gardens which began life in the 18th century, are packed with exotic plants, colourful flowers, and a wide array of strange trees surrounded by streams and ponds.

13 – HIGHLAND CATTLE

Highland Cattle have become one of the iconic images of Scotland. These shaggy beasts with their long pointy horns and low-hanging fringe are a hardy breed. Able to withstand the rough weather that Scotland throws at them, their orange-brown coats light up even the murkiest of days.

They can be spotted all over the Isle of Skye but are commonly found at Coo viewpoint and in the village of Sconser on the A87 between Broadford and Portree.

Another excellent location is in the village of Duirinish on the mainland. Here they can often be found strolling the street and fields that surround it. The Croft Café offers excellent coffee and cake while you snap away.

14 – ISLEORNSAY

Isleornsay is a village on the eastern coast of the Isle of Skye with a collection of charming white houses scattered on rocks overlooking the sea.

The reason to visit Isleornsay is for the thoroughly atmospheric Hotel Eilean Iarmain. During the day a well-curated art gallery sits alongside a classy shop selling an eclectic mix of candles, cashmere, tweed and silk as kayakers head from the shore.

In the evening, its log fire and candlelit dining room is a genteel and refined spot to treat yourself to a locally sourced dinner. The Bar Am Pràban pub is a winter warmer with wood-panelled walls, a cosy atmosphere, and more brands of whisky than you could possibly drink.

15 – CAFÉ CUIL

Housed in a modern airy building, award-winning chef Clare Coghill has brought her Café Cùil restaurant from London’s Hackney to Carbost in the Isle of Skye. Open for brunch and lunch she offers an innovative menu using locally sourced, sustainable produce combined with traditional ingredients.

The light space and modern food makes for a great change from the traditional fare usually available on Skye.

Brunch on a stacked veggie hash with goat’s cheese and onion jam or warm up with a hearty soup or comforting toasty.

16 – ISLE OF SKYE FERRIES

The easiest way to get to the Isle of Skye is by driving over the bridge spanning the Kyle of Loachalsh. It’s much more fun, however, to hop on a ferry and arrive by sea. Standing on the docks as they sail through the lochs with the mountain landscapes drifting by is a magical welcome to Skye.  

There are two main access points. From the mainland ferries, run from Mallaig to Armadale on the southern tip of Skye and take 45 minutes. The other service runs from Uig in the north of Skye to the Outer Hebrides of Harris and Lewis.

Both take passengers and cars, but it is wise to book in advance. In particular, the Outer Hebrides ferry from Uig on summer weekends can be fully booked up 4 to 6 months ahead.

Ferry going to the Isle of Skye Scotland

VISITING SKYE


WHERE TO STAY ON SKYE

During the peak season (June-August) accommodation on the Isle of Skye can book out very early. If you are travelling over this time, book your accommodation at least 4-5 months ahead.

PORTREE

CANOWINDRA

Superb location just outside Portree, this B&B is a perfect base for exploring all the great things to do on the Isle of Skye with rooms, good showers, homely atmosphere and helpful hosts.


ISLEORNSAY

HOTEL EILEAN IARMAIN

Log-fired reception rooms, wood-panelled dining rooms and an old-school pub all perched on a rocky coast. A class act in a wonderful location.


PORTREE

SKEAPOST VIEW PODS SKYE

Looking for something different? These pods are just 5 minutes from Portree with views over the countryside of Peiness. All pods have a kitchenette, heating, private bathroom and patio with views over the river and mountains.


ISLE OF SKYE MAP

All the Isle of Skye attractions listed in our guide are on the below map to help you get your bearings.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


BEST TIME TO VISIT THE ISLE OF SKYE

May and June is the best time to visit the Isle of Skye when you have the most sunlight to enjoy all the scenic sights and it’s not yet peak season.

July and August may potentially be slightly warmer but the increase in visitor numbers means that accommodation will be booked out well in advance and ferries and restaurants can also be very busy.

Skye gets a lot of rain, so whenever you visit, it’s a good idea to build some flexibility into your plans.

The other consideration for when to visit Skye is midges. These annoying little insects don’t like the colder months so May or September is better for avoiding them.

Hiking on the Quiraing Isle of Skye Scotland

ISLE OF SKYE TOURS

Full-day and multi-day tours run from Portree and major cities on the Scottish mainland to the Isle of Skye. Here are some tours we recommend.

HOW LONG TO SPEND ON THE ISLE OF SKYE? –  A 3-DAY ITINERARY

The best places to visit in the Isle of Skye can be separated into three different days.

  • Day 1 – Explore the Trotternish Peninsula including Old Man of Storr, Quiraing, Fairy Glen, Kilt Rock & Portree.
  • Day 2 – Explore the Black Cuillins by visiting the Sligachan Hotel and Blá Bheinn viewpoints, looking for Highland Cattle, taking the Elgol Boat Trip and ending the day in Isleornsay.
  • Day 3 – Explore the west of Sky including Neist Lighthouse, Dunvegan Castle, the Talisker Distillery, Café Cùil & the Fairy Pools.
Fair Glen waterfalls on the Isle of Skye Scotland

PLACES TO VISIT NEAR THE ISLE OF SKYE

Most visitors to Skye come across the bridge at the Kyle of Lockalsh. This small peninsula of land has a few stops well worth making, either on your way out or on your way back.

EILEAN DONAN

One of the most distinctive castles in the entire UK, Eilean Donan sits on a tidal island where three great sea lochs meet. This small fortress was first built in the early 13th century and has expanded and contracted ever since.

Today many head over the charming stone bridge to explore inside, but the real drama is captured in the views of the castle from the shore.

PLOCKTON

Quite possibly the most beautiful village in Scotland, Plockton sits on the edge of a sheltered bay in Loch Carron. Often referred to as the ‘Jewel of the Scottish Highlands’, a string of attractive stone houses line the harbour front. Breath-taking landscapes of coral beaches, tiny islands, and castled hills stretch into the distance.

The harbour is often packed with visiting yachts, locals taking tourists out to sea the seals, and adventurers heading out on kayaks. End the day in one of the atmospheric pubs or try the fresh fish on the seafront.

The village of Plockton with the harbour often packed with visiting yachts.

BEALACH NA BA VIEWPOINT

If Skye is part of your Scottish road trip, then consider heading north towards the sandstone giants of Torridon and the weird and wonderful world of the Assynt. The drive to these regions uses the NC500 (North Coast 500), a 516-mile loop that runs from Inverness around the northern part of the Scottish Highlands.

The most dramatic section of road is over the Bealach na Ba viewpoint before it drops down to the village of Applecross. Just over an hour from the Kyle of Lochalsh, it’s well worth taking the time to see.

OUTER HEBRIDES

The Isle of Skye is a gateway to the Outer Hebrides of Harris and Lewis. These remote islands have some of the best beaches in the country and fine examples of standing stones. Ferries leave from Uig daily.

Dramatic section of road over the Bealach na Ba viewpoint before it drops down to the village of Applecross

WHERE NEXT?

As London-based travel bloggers, we’re often exploring exotic destinations far from home, but there’s a wealth of great experiences to be had within the UK. Here are some of our favourite guides to our home country. For more see our Britain page.

HIKING & OUTDOORS

Best wild swimming locations in the Lake District

Top circular walks in the Cotswolds

Best things to do in Pembrokeshire

Great country walks near London

Wild Swimming in the Thames

CITY BREAKS

Our curated guide to Oxford

A wonderful day exploring St Ives

Best things to do in colourful Tenby


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Guide to visiting the Isle of Skye, Scotland including must-see attractions, best things to do, plus where to stay and visitor information.