ISLE OF SKYE - WHAT TO DO
The Isle of Skye is truly one of Scotland’s best destinations for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. Visiting various habitats you'll get a chance to see:
Grey and Common seals
Porpoise and dolphins
Minke, humpback and killer whales (if lucky)
White-Tailed Sea Eagles,
Great Northern and Red-Throated Divers,
If you're lucky you may also see soaring sea eagles and kittiwakes and shags on the cliffs.
Watch Seals - Take a Seal Boat Trip at Dunvegan Castle in spring. Get up close to grey and common seals sun bathing on the rocks in Loch Dunvegan.
Whales and Dolphin watching
Skye is possibly one of the best places in the UK to see marine wildlife, from seals and dolphins to porpoises and whales.
The deep waters of Rubha Hunish at Skye's northern tip, offer a high chance of seeing a Minke Whale, and also Humpback and Killer Whales.
The second largest fish in the world, the basking shark, is regularly found here during the summer months.
The best way see these beautiful creatures is by boat tour, with experienced guides.
Take a Boat Trip to see the Sea Eagles
The white-tailed eagle (Sea Eagle) is the largest bird of prey in Britain and the Isle of Skye is home to Scotland's biggest population. One of the most reliable ways to see these birds is by taking a boat trip from Portree.
These magnificent raptors are found all over Skye and although they usually stick to the sea and lochs, they are also found inland.
Skye is home to both white-tailed sea eagles and the iconic golden eagle. With 30 pairs, the Isle of Skye probably has the densest population of Golden eagles in Scotland. They are found throughout the island, from the high peaks to the sea cliffs and if you spend any time at all outside you have a good chance of seeing them. Although a good knowledge of the bird's habitats and habits (get a guide), a lot of patience and a bit of luck definitely helps.
Watch an Otter Play
You need a bit of luck and a lot of patience to see an Otter, but there are wildlife guides that can be hired to take you to the best locations and increase your chances for spotting these amusing and playful creatures.
Skye's rocky coastline is an ideal habitat for Otters, with seaweed beds that hold a plentiful supply of fish. They can also be found on Skye’s rivers and inland lochs, although they are a little harder to see in these locations.
Besides being a great way to see wildlife, taking at least one boat trip during your stay on Skye is a unique experience in itself.
GO FOR A WALK/HIKE
Hike to the Old Man of Storr
No visit to Skye is complete without hiking up its most famous mountain; Storr, and seeing the "Old Man". This is a part of the Trotternish landscape, and a place you've most likely seen in a movie. The Old Man is a giant, erect pillar of rock, that dominates the landscape in the north east of the island.
The easy walk up, is suitable for low level walkers and experienced hikers alike, and is located just north of Portree, the islands main town. It's a beautiful uphill walk, including a forest trail, clambering over rocks and passing a couple of mountain streams. It's well worth the effort and the views from the top, over Raasay and the mainland of Scotland are breathtaking.
An alternative route starts in the village of Peinaha, where we have a long uphill walk to reach the Trotternish Ridge. The view from the top affords amazing and rarely seen views in all directions, with dramatic vertical cliffs plunging down towards hidden lochs of black water. Heading further along the ridge you'll see Storr looming large in the foreground. You'll skirt around its northern flanks seeking out the best view of the Old Man and the Sanctuary. This is a viewpoint used by professional photographers and artists, and avoids the crowds.
There's also a chance, although rare, that you'll see eagles on the mountain.
There are parking spaces at the foot of the mountain, and you can also get a bus there from Portree.
Climb Ben Tianavaig
Ben Tianavaig is also near Portree, and is another great walk and climb that you shouldn't miss during your stay on the Isle of Skye. It is significantly more challenging than Storr, but the coastal views are magnificent and well worth the effort.
The walk itself takes around 3-4 hours, and the ascent is over 1,200 ft.
Walk the Quiraing
The Quiraing, is part of the Trotternish ridge escarpment which was formed by a series of landslides. The Quiraing is the only part that is still moving, to such an extent that the road to its base has to be repaired each year. Because of its outstanding beauty and also it's easy access, it's one of the most visited location on Skye. It's a playground for passionate landscape photographers and outdoor lovers.
The best to experience its amazing landscape, is to explore it's hidden canyons and ridges via the spectacular Quiraing loop, however, the vast majority of visitors never venture much further than the car park.
Start the hike in Flodigarry on the northern tip of Skye, climbing up past hidden lochs towards a seemingly impenetrable cliff face. Zigzag between towering pinnacles of rock to reach a breathtaking, moss covered plateau called the 'Table'. Surrounded by vertical cliffs, it feels like walking through paradise. This moss covered Follow the ridge of the Trotternish hills up Bioda Buide and then down through Garden of the Gods, where you're likely to see the majestic golden eagles that call this place home. With the mighty Beinn Edra ahead of you you'll continue downhill into Uig Bay, where you're hike ends.
Quiraing is a tougher hike than Storr or Ben Tianavaig, but has one of the prettiest views on the island.
The best time to go is early morning of late afternoon. Go on a clear, sunny day (late spring is ideal) to see views of the Outer Hebrides and the Scottish mainland, as well as surrounding cliffs and hills .
The standard circuit is about 4.25 miles and takes about 2 hours to walk.
Climb the Cuillin
This rocky mountain range dominates Skye's landscape and can be seen from many places around the island. It's highest point, Sgurr Alasdair looms at 3,255 ft above sea level, and the challenging hike is a must to for experienced hikers and explorers (who can read a map).
The second highest point Sgurr Dearg, has a 150ft high "inaccessible Pinnacle" which is a favourite amongst rock climbers. The Cuillin is home to twelve Munros and offers some of the best walking and climbing in the UK.
Walk to Neist Point Lighthouse
On a cliff at the most westerly point of Skye is Neist Point Lighthouse. A hike to the lighthouse is a must for any visitor to the Island.
If you can brave the strong winds here, you'll be rewarded with some stunning cliff top scenery and possibly the most beautiful sunsets on the island. Perched on jagged black rocks the lighthouse presents panoramic views of the surrounding area and of the vast, often stormy, ocean.
Walk the Cuillin Ridge
Completing this famous 80 mile mountain trek is a must for the experienced hiker. Over 7 days you'll explore this beautiful mountainout islands, starting at Broadford in the South and ending at the most northerly tip of the island. It offers unparalleled views and an emersion into the natural environment!
- Walking around the Quiraing.
- The Trotternish Ridge.
- Views of the famous The Cuillin Ridge.
This hike should not be attempted by anyone who is remotely scared of heights. For the inexperienced hiker a guide is definitely recommended.
Scorrybreac Circuit walk
This 3-km circular walk is beautiful, and is a perfect way to spend an hour near Portree.
Kilt Rock & Meat Falls
From the Trotternish Peninsula, you can view two magnificent natural sites – Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls.
Said to resemble a kilt, Kilt Rock towers nearly 300ft above the ocean below and is made up of basalt columns resting on a base of sandstone. Getting there involves a short, 5 minute walk from the parking lot (a sign just south of Staffin will direct you there), and a viewing platform provides wonderful views of the whole bay, the Rock, and Mealt Falls, which cascades into the ocean below.
What makes the falls even more fascinating is that dinosaur footprints were discovered at its base. It definitely something to put on your to-do-list!
VISIT THE GLENFINNAN VIADUCT BRIDGE
You know that bit at the start of the Harry Potter films where they go off to Hogwarts on a train via an awesome bridge? Well, the Glenfinnan Viaduct Bridge on the Isle of Skye is the one they used. You can see the viaduct for the legendary Jacobite train journey in all its glory from the lookout point in Glenfinnan.
Two words of advice for visiting the Glenfinnan viaduct. First of all, do check the train schedule to see the Jacobite steam train passing over the viaduct. Secondly – do not, I repeat, do not take the viewing platform directly next to the parking lot. The view from there is..not especially noteworthy. Walk over the bridge and follow the winding path upwards (20min walk) to see the classic view!
SWIM IN FAERY POOLS
In Glen Brittle, at the foot of the Black Cuillin mountain range you'll find the Fairy Pools. Melt-water from the Cuillin has created a cascade of waterfalls and pools, almost a km in length. These unbelievably beautiful deep blue and turquoise pools are filled with crystal clear water, and have become popular for ‘Wild Swimming’.
In July and August people sometimes swim here, although the water is very cold.
GET FACE TO FACE WITH HAIRY COOS
The highland cattle, affectionatel known as “Hairy Coo” , are long-haired, long-horned, hardy cattle that has been bred in western Scotland since at least the 6th century. You’ll see them all over when traveling through the Highlands. They have a double coat that makes them well-suited to the wet, windy weather conditions typical of the Isle of Skye.
VISIT ELGOL BEACH
Situated on the south side of the island, Elgol is a rocky beach and a great walk for hikers and walkers of all fitness levels.
This walk can be as long or as short as you desire, but it is recommended that you at least reach the sheltered cliff, which is a great spot for a picnic or a warming drink. It offers exciting places to climb, pretty rocks and a real sense of adventure, and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. It's also a great place to explore with children.
There are many hidden bays & beaches around Skye that are best explored from the Sea. If you don’t have your own boat, rent a Sea kayak to explore the area. If you are less confident on the water you can get a guide.
Coasteering is an exhilarating activity if you’re confident in the water and not afraid of jumping from heights. Under supervision of a experienced guide you can challenge yourself to jump, swim and scramble along the Skye coast.
EXPLORE A FAIRY GLEN
Wander around the hillocks above Uig, at the Fairy Glen. These small hills were created by a landslide and legend has it that this magical landscape of strangely sculpted geological formations is home to the faeries of Skye.
The exact location of Faerie Glen is said to be a closely guarded secret that only the locals know and there's an unspoken agreement to keep it quiet.
SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
In the right conditions, on a winter's evening, the Aurora Borealis can be seen on Skye. Look up into the night sky to see the colorful light show.
GO WILD CAMPING
Camp out for a night and cook your dinner by campfire. There is no better way to experience the beauty and wildlife of the island, than spending a night outdoors. With guidance from your experienced guide you'll set up a comfortable camp, build a fire and learn some basic survival skills. You may even get to cook your own catch, if you happen to go fishing.
ENJOY A MOUNTAIN BIKE ADVENTURE
Scotland's open access laws mean that you can (attempt to) ride anywhere you can see. Yet at every turn you come up against a land battling to contain the vastness of its scale and the weight of its past.
Popular routes on Skye are the Quiraing loop, Glen Sliglachen and the Sligachan loop. The riding in this region is remote and rocky with dramatic scenery.
HUNT FOR DINOSAUR FOOTPRINTS
Skye is home to some of the UK's most important dinosaur finds. At An Corran, on Staffin Slipway beach you can hunt for dinosaur footprints. As incredible as it may sound, you can still see the claw-shaped, foot-long prints of a meat-eating dinosaur from around 175 million years ago.
A few miles away at Duntulm beach there’s a whole series of football-sized prints left by huge Sauropods, a four-legged herbivore from a similar time. It easier to see these footprints from afar as a group of shallow depressions in a line. From up close they just appear like hollows in the sand.
You’ll find more fossils and information at the small Staffin Dinosaur Museum, an old stone building that was once a cowshed.
VISIT DUNVEGAN CASTLE
Dunvegan Castle is situated on an elevated rock overlooking Loch Dunvegan, and is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland. It is by fare the most impressive castle on Skye and has been the ancestral home of Chief of Clan MacLeod for more than 800 years, in face the current chief still resides here (although today he only has a small flat on the grounds). Explore the gardens and wander through the halls where family heirlooms and traditional clan gear still have their place.
There is also a grey seal colony close by, with tours leaving right from the castle grounds.
TAKE A DAY TRIP TO CALLANISH
Probably the most famous site in the Outer Hebrides is The Standing Stones of Callanish (or Callanais to give it it’s Gaelic spelling. This is Scotland's version of Stonehenge and is often referred to the ‘Stonehenge of the North. However, being built in the Neolithic age, around 3,000 BC, the standing stone of Callanish actually predate Stonehenge by approximately 2,000 years.
This circle of Standing Stones is situated near Loch Roag, on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis. Rows of stones branch off from the main circle forming a rough cross. They are one of a number of ancient sites and are classed as Lewisian Gneiss – which refers to the oldest rocks in Britain, and possibly some of the oldest rocks in the world. For hundreds of millions of years they lay hidden under the earths surface.
Although no-one really knows why the stones were built, many historians and scientists believer they were a type of astronomical observatory. The stones appear to be aligned with movements of the solar system and are positioned to align with the path of the sun and the moon at different points in the solar circle.
People from around the world flock to Callanish each year on June 21st, to celebrate the summer solstice (the longest day of the year)and watch the sun both set and rise within a few short hours.