I had read that the Isle of Skye is quite touristy, so I wasn’t super keen on going there. The articles said that the Skye Bridge had made the Isle of Skye rather too accessible, diminishing it’s beauty as it grew more popular. They couldn’t have been more wrong! There might be touristy spots on the Isle of Skye, but it is still worth visiting! Like Big Sur, you will find something that is completely your own – untouched and untroubled by other tourists. The beauty of the Skye Bridge is that it makes a day trip possible, so you don’t even have to commit too hard if you don’t want to!
If you plan to do a day trip like we did, I recommend you start very early in the morning. There’s so much to see on the Isle of Skye that you’ll definitely regret the extra two hours you spent in bed, or lounging by the breakfast table. A picnic lunch would be perfect, unless you plan to stop in Portree for lunch. Then, bring a picnic dinner.
I know that I said you want to get to the Isle of Skye as early as possible, but don’t miss out on the random cool little spots you pass by on the road! The real beauty of Scotland to me was these unexpected stops – a lake in the middle of nowhere, crossing a river by jumping over some rocks, searching for Highland Cows and making friends with the ubiquitous sheep. The best part about these random spots also is that you get them completely to yourselves, for maximum frolicking potential.
Your first planned stop right before you cross the Skye Bridge to the Isle of Skye should be Eilean Donan Castle. The Eilean Donan Castle is a restored 13th century castle that is built at the intersection of three lochs (lakes). This is definitely one of the most fairy-tale like castles in this part of Scotland. We did not go inside since we were keen to get to the Isle of Skye, but it’s just so lovely even from the outside! There is plenty of parking in their lot (it’s a little deceiving because it looks smaller from the entrance than it actually is). There are also clean bathrooms here (a must for every road trip).
Your next stop should be to fill your tank with gas. Gas on the Isle of Skye is more expensive, and harder to come by (but not impossible, we saw a gas station in Portree for instance). Once you take care of this and feel more like a responsible adult, you can cross the Skye Bridge. Between you and me, I was rather disappointed in the Skye Bridge. With such an impressive name, I imagined a impressive structure, but it is truly, just a bridge.
Your disappointment won’t last very long however, because entering the Isle of Skye is like entering a fairytale. The houses look more Scandinavian, the countryside is even greener (did not think it would be possible!), random waterfalls line the sides of the road, and colorful towns await you.
One of my favorite moments on this trip was playing in this waterfall we came across. When I say playing, I mean that we all daintily dipped our feet in, except for my cousin, who was determined to touch the waterfall, and promptly slipped and got soaked. It was all good fun however, and she laughed harder than any of us, almost making me consider (but only for a split second) getting soaked myself. The sun had just come out, making it pleasantly warm, and the water on our feet felt pleasantly cool. It was perfect.
After our waterfall fun, we headed to Portree. This is one of the cutest towns on the Isle of Skye, with an iconic row of colorful houses. We parked behind the youth hostel, in a free parking lot. The youth hostel is not hard to spot, being bright yellow.
Our aim was to eat some lunch and drink some coffee but we got there at 3 pm. Cafe Arriba was nice enough to serve us some hot food (Mac and cheese made much better by the addition of red chilli flakes) and serve up some views as well. If you get to Portree around dinner time, ScorryBreac sounds like a delicious place to eat.
I highly recommend walking around this cute little town. It was so unlike any of the ones we came across during our North Coast 500 drive. I do agree that we saw more tourists than locals, but surely all can be forgiven in such a lovely spot?
Unfortunately for us coffee seekers, everything here closed at 5 pm. So we headed onward, coffee-less, to the Old Man of Storr. The Old Man of Storr is not, as you might expect, an old man living in Storr, but a large rock. It is also one of the most popular “walks” on the Isle of Skye, taking about 1.5 hours to complete round trip. It’s worth it for the views. Unfortunately, we didn’t have too much time left on the island, so just drove past, but I would have loved to do this walk! If you go, let me know how you liked it?
Close to the Old Man is another famous Skye view point, Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls. Kilt Rock is so named because it looks like a kilt (did the rock come first or the kilt? This is not your classic chicken and egg problem, the rock is ancient!). When we went, the Mealt Falls were just a trickle, but I’ve seen pictures where they looked pretty impressive. Now this is definitely a touristy spot, in fact, this was the first place where we saw a tour bus. Fear not though, the busses leave within 10 minutes, and then you can have the spot all to yourself. Well you have to share with the lucky sheep that live there though.
The sea was so calm, and the one boat zooming across, such a juxtaposition, that I quite forgot to admire the Kilt Rock as much as I should have!
Next, we would have loved to stop at Fairy Glen, but unfortunately, time was against us. This place is supposedly full of magic, a place where the faeries dance. I will just have to return to the Isle of Skye to find out! At the end of this post, I have attached a map with all the spots I had bookmarked for the Isle of Skye. Hoping you have more time there than we did!
We headed back regretfully, but the Isle wasn’t ready to say good-bye just yet. On our way, we passed by a little lake with three lovely fishing boats. Of course, we just had to stop to see what was up.
We scrambled out of the car and down the path. Once we got closer to the lake, we saw one of the most serene sights ever.
The water was still, the only movement being the slight drifting of the boats. The lake was fiercely protected by a band of flies, but they left us alone if we left them alone. We drank in the stillness, the beauty of the unexpected. The flies went about their business, the boats continued to drift. Back in the distance was the Old Man of Storr, watching over us. It was a fitting way to say Good-Bye.
This just shows that you can find magic anywhere on the island! If you don’t have time to check out other people’s magic – make your own!
Isle of Skye Helpful Map