Isle of Skye: The Complete Guide

Old Man Of Storr On The Isle Of Skye

Visiting the Isle of Skye is a journey into the heart of Scotland’s breathtaking natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. From its rugged coastline to its mist-shrouded mountains, Skye captivates visitors with its dramatic landscapes and ancient history. The largest of the Inner Hebrides, it’s home to some of Scotland’s most iconic landscapes. The island’s peninsulas radiate from a mountainous hub dominated by the Cuillin, the rocky slopes of which provide some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in the country. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, Skye offers something for every traveler.

One of the highlights of a visit to Skye is exploring its iconic landmarks, such as the Old Man of Storr, a towering rock formation that looms majestically over the landscape. Hiking to the summit of the Storr offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and is a must-do activity for adventurous travelers. Another must-see attraction is the Fairy Pools, a series of crystal-clear pools and waterfalls nestled in the Cuillin Mountains. The pools are said to be inhabited by magical creatures, adding to the enchanting atmosphere of the area.

History buffs will delight in exploring Skye’s ancient ruins and historic sites, including Dunvegan Castle, the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland. Home to the MacLeod clan for over 800 years, Dunvegan Castle offers guided tours of its opulent interiors and lush gardens, providing insight into the island’s feudal past. Other notable historic sites on Skye include the ruins of Duntulm Castle, once a stronghold of the MacDonald clan, and the ancient standing stones of the Callanish III circle.

For those seeking a taste of local culture, Skye boasts charming villages, artisanal craft shops, and traditional pubs where you can sample authentic Scottish cuisine and locally brewed whisky. The town of Portree, with its colorful waterfront and bustling harbor, is a hub of activity and a great base for exploring the island. Be sure to visit the Skye Museum of Island Life, where you can learn about the island’s rural heritage and traditional way of life.

Whether you spend your days hiking in the mountains, exploring ancient castles, or simply soaking in the stunning scenery, a visit to the Isle of Skye is sure to be an unforgettable experience. With its wild beauty, rich history, and warm hospitality, Skye offers a glimpse into the soul of Scotland and leaves a lasting impression on all who visit.

 

 

History of Isle of Skye

The history of the Isle of Skye is rich and varied, with evidence of human settlement dating back thousands of years. Here’s an overview of its historical significance:

  1. Early Inhabitants: The Isle of Skye has been inhabited since prehistoric times, with evidence of Mesolithic and Neolithic settlements dating back to around 6,000 BC. The island’s rugged landscapes provided ample resources for early inhabitants, including hunting, fishing, and agriculture.
  2. Celtic Influence: The Isle of Skye has a strong Celtic heritage, with the Gaelic language and traditions deeply rooted in its history. The island was inhabited by Celtic tribes, such as the Picts and the Scots, who left behind stone circles, brochs, and other ancient structures that can still be seen today.
  3. Clan Warfare: Like much of Scotland, the Isle of Skye was divided into territories controlled by powerful clans during the medieval period. Clan warfare was common, with rival clans vying for control of land and resources. Skirmishes and battles were fought across the island, leaving behind a legacy of fortified castles and clan strongholds.
  4. MacLeod and MacDonald Clans: Two of the most prominent clans on the Isle of Skye were the MacLeod and MacDonald clans. The MacLeods controlled much of the northern part of the island, while the MacDonalds held sway in the south. The rivalry between these two clans often led to conflict and bloodshed.
  5. Clearances and Emigration: In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Isle of Skye, like much of the Scottish Highlands, was impacted by the Highland Clearances. Landowners forcibly evicted tenants from their homes to make way for more profitable sheep farming, leading to widespread hardship and emigration. Many Skye residents emigrated to North America, Australia, and other parts of the British Empire in search of a better life.
  6. Victorian Tourism: In the 19th century, the Isle of Skye became a popular destination for Victorian tourists seeking adventure and romance. The island’s rugged landscapes, dramatic coastline, and ancient ruins attracted visitors from across Britain and Europe, leading to the development of hotels, guesthouses, and other tourist amenities.
  7. Modern Era: Today, the Isle of Skye continues to attract visitors from around the world with its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. The island’s economy is largely dependent on tourism, agriculture, and fishing, and its Gaelic language and traditions are still celebrated and preserved by local communities.

Overall, the Isle of Skye’s history is a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of its inhabitants, who have endured centuries of change and upheaval while maintaining a strong connection to their ancestral homeland.

Visiting Isle of Skye for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Isle of Skye on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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21 Best places to See in Isle of Skye

This complete guide to Isle of Skye not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.

This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Isle of Skye and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!

Sligachan Old Bridge

Sligachan Bridge Isle Of Skye Scotland United Kingdom
CC BY-SA 3.0 / 500px
Sligachan is a small settlement on Skye, Scotland, close to the Cuillin mountains and provides breath-taking views of the Black Cuillin mountains and the River Sligachan. There are unending hiking routes here, each offering impressive views; many avid climbers choose Sligachan as the starting point for their ascent of the Cuillins, but for less ambitious […]
Visiting Sligachan Old Bridge

Click here to read our blog about Isle of Skye Castles you need to visit!

Fairy Pools of Skye

The Fairy Pools, Skye. Underwater Arch
CC BY-SA 2.0 / gailhampshire
At foot of the Black Cuillins near Glenbrittle are the Fairy Pools, beautifully crystal clear blue pools on the River Brittle. The spectacular Fairy Pools are located near the village of Carbost in Glenbrittle on the Isle of Skye. Glenbrittle runs roughly south to north along the River Brittle and is overlooked by the Cuillin mountains. […]
Location: Fairy Pools, Glenbrittle, Isle of Skye, UK | Hours: 24 Hour | Distance: 3.70km
Visiting Fairy Pools of Skye

Click here to read our blog about Skye's Trotternish Peninsula

Portree

Portree Harbour Front
CC BY-SA 4.0 / DeFacto
Portree, the main town on the Isle of Skye, situated on the east side of Skye overlooking a sheltered bay, is the capital of the island. It is surrounded by hills – Ben Tianavaig to the south and Suidh Fhinn or Fingal’s Seat to the west, both about 1000ft (413m and 312m respectively) and Ben […]
Visiting Portree

Dunscaith Castle

Dunscaith Castle,Isle Of Skye (Inner Hebrides, Scotland, UK)
CC BY-SA 4.0 / PaulT (Gunther Tschuch)
Dunscaith Castle also known as Dun Scaich, Dun Sgathaich Castle and Tokavaig, is a ruined castle on the coast of the Isle of Skye, in the north-west of Scotland. It is located in the Parish of Sleat, in the Highland council area, and in the former county of Inverness-shire.  The castle stands on a rock […]
Location: Sleat Peninsula, Tokavaig, Isle of Skye, Western Isles, Scotland | Hours: 24 Hours | Price: Free | Distance: 21.00km
Visiting Dunscaith Castle

Old Man of Storr

Old Man Of Storr, Scotland
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Sanshiro KUBOTA
The Old Man of Storr is one of the Isle of Skye’s most popular tourist attractions and an incredible iconic sight, with its spiky pinnacles of rock set against the backdrop of rolling green hills. It is situated atop Trotternish Ridge—a peninsula in the northeastern region of the Isle of Skye, created as the result of […]
Visiting Old Man of Storr

Caisteal Chamuis (Knock Castle)

Knock Castle, Isle Of Skye
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Nealwhitehousepiper
Knock Castle is a former stronghold of the MacDonalds. The castle is also known as Caisteal Uaine or Caisteal Camus. It lies on the east coast of Sleat, approximately five miles (8.0 km) north of Armadale on the Isle of Skye, south of Cnoc Uaine, on the eastern side of Knock Bay. Currently the castle […]
Visiting Caisteal Chamuis (Knock Castle)

Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum of the Isles

Armadale Castle
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Mike Peel
Armadale Castle is a ruined country house in Armadale, Skye, former home of the MacDonalds. A mansion house was first built here around 1790. In 1815 a Scottish baronial style mock-castle, intended for show rather than defense, designed by James Gillespie Graham, was built next to the house. After 1855 the part of the house […]
| Hours: Gardens open Wednesday – Sunday, 9.30 – 5.30, to end October. Last entrance 5pm. | Price: Adult: £8.00 Concessions: £7.00 (60 and over, students with student card, disabled people) Child under 5: Free Child 5-15: £5.00 | Website | Distance: 29.50km
Visiting Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum of the Isles

Dunvegan Castle and Gardens

Dunvegan Castle & Gardens
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Dunvegancastle
Dunvegan Castle and Gardens sits on a rock overlooking Loch Dunvegan and has been the home of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod for over 800 years. The oldest part of the castle was built in the 13th century but its been added to and remodelled right up until the 19th century. Inside you can explore […]
| Hours: 10am-5.30pm Easter–mid-Oct | Price: adult/child £14/9 | Website | Distance: 29.70km
Visiting Dunvegan Castle and Gardens

Caisteal Maol

Caisteal Maol
CC BY-SA 2.0 / mhx
Caisteal Maol occupies a rocky site overlooking the Kyle Akin from Skye, near the harbour of the village of Kyleakin. The Kyle is a narrow stretch of seawater which allows access to Lochalsh and the several sea lochs facing Skye, including Loch Duich, which leads to Glenshiel and the main route to the Great Glen […]
Visiting Caisteal Maol

Caisteal Uisdean

Caisteal Uisdein
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Dave Fergusson
Caisteal Uisdean (also known as Hugh’s Castle) was built by Hugh MacDonald who was the son of a deposed clan chief. Hugh had become an outlaw but was pardoned and built the castle around 1589 to serve as his new residence. However, he continued to seek revenge against those who had killed his father and, […]
| Hours: 24 Hours | Distance: 31.00km
Visiting Caisteal Uisdean

Lealt Gorge and Waterfall

Lower Falls At Lealt
CC BY-SA 2.0 / John Allan
The dramatic gorge and waterfall at Lealt rank as one of the hidden pleasures of Skye. Lealt waterfall is located 7 kilometers south of Staffin, south of Culnacnoc on the Isle of Skye in Scotland (United Kingdom). After Culnacnoc, along road A855, you pass a river where Lealt gorge is located, there is a small parking. […]
Location: Lealt Falls 12 Stormy Hill Portree IV51 9DY United Kingdom | Distance: 32.60km
Visiting Lealt Gorge and Waterfall

Brothers’ Point

Rubha Nam Brathairean, Isle Of Skye
CC BY-SA 4.0 / User:Colin
A short walk out to Rubha nam Brathairean (Brothers’ Point) – a dramatic headland marking the easternmost point of Trotternish. Brothers’ Point, also known as Rubha nam Brathairean in Gaelic, is a dramatic headland in the Isle of Skye which juts out into the Atlantic ocean. It is believed that Brother’s Point was so-named because […]
Visiting Brothers’ Point

The Fairy Glen of Skye

Isle Of Skye The Fairy Glen
On the West side of Trotternish at Balnacnoc (which means – the village or township in the hills) above Uig, is the Fairy Glen. A magical landscape of strange features lies above Uig, where time has sculpted weird and wonderful geological formations odd enough to give the area its fairy name.  Located on the Trotternish […]
Visiting The Fairy Glen of Skye

Claigan Coral Beach

Claigan (Isle Of Skye, Inner Hebrides, UK)
CC BY-SA 4.0 / PaulT (Gunther Tschuch)
Claigan Coral Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on the Isle of Skye, with stunning views over Camas Ban. Known locally as a ‘wee gem’, Claigan Coral is a fantastic place to spend a day. Despite its name, the beach is not actually made of coral but of fossilised and sun-bleached algae. At […]
Visiting Claigan Coral Beach

Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls

Insel Skye, Kilt Rock Wasserfall
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Herbert Frank
Indeed, the 90 metre Kilt Rock on the Trotternish Peninsula does look strikingly similar to a pleated kilt. Its has vertical basalt columns that form the pleats and intruded sills of dolerite forming the pattern. From the cliff-top viewpoint you can also get a nice look at Mealt Falls, a waterfall that plummets 328 feet […]
Location: Kilt Rock, Portree, UK | Hours: 24 Hours | Distance: 37.60km
Visiting Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls

Staffin Dinosaur Museum

Staffin Dinosuar Footprint
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Nature scotland
The Staffin Dinosaur Museum is home to an internationally acclaimed collection of dinosaur fossils. The Staffin Dinosaur Museum was established by Dugald Ross in 1976 when he was only a teenager. The species he identified in the area include Stegosaurus, Megalosaurus, Cetiosaurus, Hadrosaurus, and Ceolophysis. It is located in an old stone barn by the […]
Location: Ellishadder Staffin IV51 9JE | Hours: April - October10:00am-5:00pm 7 days a week | Price: Adults: £4 Children: £2 Family Ticket: £10 | Website | Distance: 37.70km
Visiting Staffin Dinosaur Museum

Neist Point Light House

Neist Point Lighthouse Calm Day
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Lionel Ulmer
Neist Point is one of the most famous lighthouses in Scotland and can be found on the most westerly tip of Skye, offering excellent views over the Outer Hebrides. It was designed by David Alan Stevenson and was first lit on 1 November 1909. An aerial cableway is used to take supplies to the lighthouse […]
Visiting Neist Point Light House

Quiraing

Blue Is Coming In Quiraing
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Luis Ascenso Photography
The Quiraing is located in the northern Trotternish Peninsula o the Isle of Skye. The peninsula has a long, dramatic mountain ridge, Trotternish Ridge escarpment which was created by a massive landslip. The Quiraing is the only part of the slip still moving – the road at its base, near Flodigarry, requires repairs each year. […]
Visiting Quiraing

Skye Museum of Island Life

THE SKYE MUSEUM OF ISLAND LIFE
The Skye Museum of Island Life is a museum in Kilmuir, Skye, Scotland, which is dedicated to preserving a township of thatched cottages as they would have been on Skye at the end of the 18th century. Step back in time and experience how islanders really lived at the unique and informative Skye Museum of […]
Location: Kilmuir, By Uig, Isle Of Skye, IV51 9UE | Website | Distance: 44.00km
Visiting Skye Museum of Island Life

Flora MacDonald Grave and Monument

Isle Of Skye (Inner Hebrides, Scotland, UK)
CC BY-SA 4.0 / PaulT (Gunther Tschuch)
Near the tip of the Trotternish Peninsula is one of Scotland’s most fascinating – and most beautifully located – graveyards. Kilmuir Graveyard is famous because of the grave of Flora Macdonald. The inscription on the tall Celtic cross at the monument reads “Flora MacDonald. Preserver of Prince Charles Edward Stuart. Her name will be mentioned […]
Visiting Flora MacDonald Grave and Monument

Duntulm Castle

Isle Of Skye (Inner Hebrides, Scotland, UK)
CC BY-SA 4.0 / PaulT (Gunther Tschuch)
Duntulm Castle stands ruined on the north coast of Trotternish, on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, near the hamlet of Duntulm. During the 17th century it was the seat of the chiefs of Clan MacDonald of Sleat. It is a scheduled monument. Access to the castle is by way of a short track across […]
Visiting Duntulm Castle

Best Time to Visit Isle of Skye

The best time to visit the Isle of Skye in Scotland depends on your preferences for weather, activities, and crowd levels. Here’s a breakdown of the seasons:

  1. Spring (March to May): Spring is a beautiful time to visit the Isle of Skye, with longer daylight hours and blooming wildflowers. The weather is generally mild, although it can be unpredictable with occasional rain and wind. Spring is ideal for hiking, as the trails are less crowded compared to the summer months, and you can enjoy the stunning landscapes in relative tranquility.
  2. Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season on the Isle of Skye, with longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures. This is the best time for outdoor activities such as hiking, photography, and wildlife spotting. However, be prepared for larger crowds, especially at popular attractions like the Old Man of Storr and the Fairy Pools. Accommodation and transportation may also be more expensive during this time.
  3. Autumn (September to November): Autumn is a magical time to visit the Isle of Skye, with the landscape bathed in vibrant hues of red, orange, and gold as the leaves change color. The weather can be unpredictable, with some days still warm and sunny while others are cool and rainy. Autumn is a great time for photography, as the changing colors create stunning vistas. It’s also a quieter time to visit compared to the summer months.
  4. Winter (December to February): Winter is the quietest time to visit the Isle of Skye, with fewer tourists and lower accommodation prices. The landscape takes on a dramatic beauty, with snow-capped mountains and moody skies. Winter is ideal for cozying up by the fire in a traditional Scottish inn, enjoying hearty meals of local cuisine, and taking scenic drives along the rugged coastline. However, be aware that some attractions and accommodations may be closed during the winter months, and the weather can be cold and wet.

Ultimately, the best time to visit the Isle of Skye depends on your preferences for weather, activities, and crowd levels. Whether you prefer the vibrant colors of autumn, the long daylight hours of summer, or the cozy atmosphere of winter, the Isle of Skye offers something for every traveler throughout the year.

Average Temperatures in Isle of Skye

  • January 9°C 21
  • February 9°C 21
  • March 10°C 17
  • April 11°C 12
  • May 13°C 14
  • June 17°C 12
  • July 17°C 15
  • August 16°C 19
  • September 15°C 21
  • October 13°C 27
  • November 11°C 25
  • December 10°C 25