Planning Your Visit – When to Go and Where to Stay
With its dramatic mountains, sweeping moors, and breathtaking coastline, the Isle of Skye is one of Scotland’s most magical destinations. The island’s scenic landscapes and rich history beckon visitors from across the globe. Planning a trip to Skye? This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know to plan your ideal Isle of Skye itinerary.
Isle of Skye Overview
The Isle of Skye sits off Scotland’s northwest coast, part of the Inner Hebrides archipelago. Skye measures just 50 miles long and 30 miles wide yet packs in incredible diversity. Rugged peaks and sea cliffs dominate the north. The pastoral south contains quaint crofting villages. In between lie dreamy glens, moors, lochs, and plentiful waterfalls flowing from the Cuillin Hills.
With a population under 10,000, Skye offers an escape from the bustle of modern life. The island has been inhabited since the Mesolithic period. Clans like the MacDonalds and MacLeods wrestled for control through turbulent centuries of Viking raids and British rule. Traces of Skye’s colorful past remain in the form of castles, dungeons, and croft houses.
Getting to Skye involves crossing the Skye Bridge from the mainland or catching a ferry. Visitors are rewarded with endless opportunities for outdoor recreation coupled with rich history and hospitality. Let’s look at the many wonders you can experience on the Isle of Skye.
Must-See Isle of Skye Attractions
From otherworldly rock formations to Eilean Donan, one of the world’s most photographed castles, Skye offers iconic attractions plus hidden gems. Here are some top sights you don’t want to miss:
The Old Man of Storr
This imposing pinnacle of crumbling basalt perched atop rolling hills captures Skye’s mystical allure. Hike two hours round-trip through boulder-strewn landscape for close-up views.
Neist Point and Lighthouse
Located in northwest Skye, dramatic cliffs plunge into the sea. Watch for whales and other marine life as you take in panoramas of the Outer Hebrides.
This magical series of crystalline pools nestled below the Black Cuillin mountains features many small waterfalls. Wade in for an unforgettable dip.
Bizarre rock spires and pinnacles give this landslip area an otherworldly atmosphere. Walk the trails through grassy slopes for phenomenal views.
Eilean Donan Castle
Perched at the convergence of three lochs, this iconic 13th century castle provides a glimpse into Highland history. Its picturesque setting makes it one of Scotland’s most photographed castles.
Dunvegan Castle & Gardens
Explore the 800-year history of Clan MacLeod at their stronghold, featuring castle ruins, sea views, and formal gardens.
Whisky lovers can tour Skye’s sole distillery and enjoy tastings of their signature smoky single malt Scotch whisky.
Best Outdoor Activities on Skye
With sweeping landscapes carved by ice age glaciers, Skye provides limitless opportunities to get active in the outdoors. Popular activities include:
Challenge yourself scrambling through the iconic Cuillin Ridge or take easier hikes through glens and along sea cliffs. Trails abound across the island.
Paddle along Skye’s scenic coastline to secluded coves while spotting seals, otters, and seabirds. Guided tours available.
Bike rentals make it easy to explore Skye on two wheels. Meander along country roads between villages and lochs at your own pace.
Test your mettle scaling challenging cliffs and rock faces like the Cioch, An Diallaid, and the Cuillin Ridge Traverse.
Cast for wild salmon and trout in Skye’s bountiful lochs and rivers. Guided tours help you catch your dinner.
Several operators offer wildlife watching and sightseeing cruises. Spot seals, minke whales, porpoise, puffins, and more.
Top Destinations and Villages on Skye
Beyond its natural attractions, charming local villages offer glimpses into daily island life. Here are some top spots to explore:
Skye’s largest town features pastel cottages and panoramic harbor views. Browse shops along its cobblestone main street.
Home to geological wonders like the Old Man of Storr and Quiraing, this northern peninsula showcases Skye’s wild beauty.
Isle of Raasay
Catch the ferry to this smaller nearby island for walks to Dun Caan and the ruins of Raasay House.
Tour the Talisker Distillery and try seafood in this scenic village framed by mountains.
Base yourself in this port village near Dunvegan Castle and visit the peaceful Isle of Oronsay just offshore.
At Skye’s south end, explore history at Armadale Castle along with pretty gardens.
When to Visit Isle of Skye
Skye sees visitors year-round. Peak tourist season runs May to September when temperatures are mildest. For thinner crowds and lower prices, visit April to June or September to October. Pack layers as weather shifts frequently.
July and August are the warmest and driest months, though rain is possible any time of year. Many hotels and tours close from November to March. Brave off-season travelers will find solitude and dramatic storms, but be prepared for closures.
Where to Stay on Isle of Skye
From hotels to B&Bs to vacation rentals, excellent accommodation options exist across Skye. Choices include:
For convenience, stay in the island’s largest town. The Cuillin Hills Hotel, Royal Hotel, and Bosville Hotel are top picks.
Family-run B&Bs and guest houses provide a local experience. Try Glenview House, Pebble House, or Kilmuir House.
Rent a cottage for home-like amenities. Look in Dunvegan, Waternish, and other scenic locales.
For budget rates and camaraderie, check Skye hostels like Skyewalker, Saucy Mary’s, or Glen Brittle Youth Hostel.
Reserve accommodation early, especially for summer visits. Off-season offers more availability.
How to Get Around Isle of Skye
Though small, traversing Skye requires planning due to winding roads and sparse public transportation. Options include:
This is the most flexible way to explore. Reserve early for peak season. Drive carefully as roads are narrow.
Public buses run by Stagecoach link Portree and other towns but service is limited. Useful for day trips.
Relax on organized minibus tours focusing on sites like the Fairy Pools and Neist Point Lighthouse.
Cycling lets you travel at your own pace. Consider electric bikes to assist with Skye’s hills.
On Skye, remote sights require planning. Using multiple modes can give you flexibility.
Top Tips for an Isle of Skye Trip
To make the most of your journey, keep these tips in mind:
Pack for All Conditions
Skye weather shifts quickly so bring layers. Include waterproofs, hiking shoes, and warm clothing.
Book Accommodations Early
Popular hotels and B&Bs fill up quickly. Reserve rooms 4-6 months ahead for summer.
Purchase a Visitor Pass
Some attractions like Dunvegan Castle offer money-saving multi-site passes.
Fill Your Tank
Petrol stations are scarce on rural Skye. Don’t let your tank get low.
Allot Enough Time
Distances are deceptive on Skye. Allow time to relax and avoid an overly rushed trip.
With jaw-dropping scenery around every bend, the magical Isle of Skye deserves its reputation as one of Scotland’s most beautiful destinations. Visit for mist-shrouded mountains, charming villages, outdoor adventures, and vestiges of a storied past. Venture to Skye and let this stunning island work its spell on you.