There have been a few places I’ve been to that have left a mark on my heart and soul, the Isle of Skye being one of them. I know I’m prone to fits of hyperbole, but guys I really mean it. This little island off the coast of Scotland has some serious charm, stunning natural beauty and the friendliest people. When you have the chance to visit you’ll feel it too: you’ll be dreaming of this place for a long time after you leave.
We spent two nights in Portree, right off the town square. We had one full day to explore the island even though I could have easily spent more than a week. An entire summer, perhaps. You can roam through fields of heather, climb some stunning hills and walk along beaches at your leisure. It’s island life at its finest!
There are so many amazing reasons to make the trip into the Highlands to Skye, many more than I’ve included here. This is just a taste of what the Isle of Skye has to offer. It’s my way of making you want to rent a car and head up to the island yourself.
You’ll capture some of the best photos of your life on the Isle of Skye.
I overheard someone say that the Isle of Skye makes anyone into a photographer. I couldn’t agree more with this; even if you have the most meager of skills, travelling around Skye you’ll be inspired to take photo after photo. And the best thing about is that all of your photos would turn out incredible! Unless you accidentally take photos of your feet (guilty as charged).
In all seriousness, I don’t think it’s possible to take a bad photo anywhere on Skye. The colors around you are out of this world. It could be raining and grey, and you would still have some atmospheric shots that you’ll cherish forever. But when the sun shines so does the whole island.
There’s plenty to explore on the Isle of Skye.
The Isle of Skye is the largest of the Inner Hebrides, an island archipelago off the northwest coast of Scotland. At just over 600 square miles and with a population of around 10,000 there is plenty of interesting land to wander over and people to meet.
There are plenty of little villages and clusters of houses to see, but the main attractions of Skye are all nature. There are lochs and rivers, mountains and shorelines to visit, with some of the most photographed and well known places such as The Old Man of Storr and Kilt Rock calling the Isle of Skye home.
Go dinosaur (fossil) hunting at Staffin.
I can’t be the only person who geeks out over dinosaurs and fossils! When I was younger I swore up and down I’d grow up to be a dinosaur hunter à la Dr. Alan Grant.
The history of Skye goes all the way back to the age of dinosaurs. You can find footprint fossils on the shore at Staffin, where a family of Ornithopods dinosaurs walked across the sand over 165 millions years ago. They along with Megalosaurus, Cetiosaurus and Stegosaurus all populated the Isle of Skye, causing it to have the nickname ‘dinosaur isle’.
You can also find fossils of ammonites, belemnites and gryphaea here and on other shores on Skye.
If fossil hunting isn’t your deal, check out the Staffin Museum, where they have plenty of fossils and other interesting artifacts on display.
Find the grave of Flora MacDonald in Kilmuir Cemetery.
Flora MacDonald is a Scottish heroine best known for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape after he was defeated at the Battle of Culloden. The Prince had landed on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides after this defeat where he met Flora. After she was approached to help Charlie escape the island, they made it all the way to the Isle of Skye before she was arrested. Prince Charlie made it back to France in large part thanks to Flora.
She emigrated to North Carolina in 1774 and lived there for a few short years. She came back home to Skye in 1779 and is buried in Kilmuir Cemetery.
On the Isle of Skye you have the chance to be cut off from the real world.
This might not convince everyone, and in fact when I realized I had no service or Internet for two days I broke out into hives. But the fact that it’s so remote is part of the charm. You’re cut off from home which forces you to stop and breathe. Take it all in. Stand in awe of the beauty around you. It’s so quiet on the island, perfect for reflection.
There are a few grocery stores on the island as well as some stores in Portree. But other than these few shops, it’s all nature. You can’t walk down the street to Starbucks. But you can drive a little bit and find yourself at Lealt Falls, enjoying the Sound of Raasay.
Looking back, I’m glad I couldn’t connect with anyone but those I was with. My experience there was unforgettable. And that’s just it – I experienced it. I wasn’t there as well as on the Internet at the same time. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter… They were all forgotten while there. Unplugging felt so good. I think everyone should unplug more often.
Say hello to the Old Man of Storr.
The Old Man of Storr is a 160-foot pinnacle of rock that stands among the Trotternish Ridge. Because he sits so high, you can see him for miles. Created during an ancient landslide, it’s amazing that it’s still standing today. At one point there was also an Old Woman of Storr, but she is no longer standing tall; she broke off years ago, leaving the Old Man to stand alone.
By the time we got to Storr, the clouds were starting to close in, so we were able to snap some photos before watching the clouds swallow him up.
You’ll meet the nicest people ever in Portree.
The man who ran our hostel was just the friendliest person. He had recommendations for good food, strong coffee, and the places around town we had to make sure to get to. The bartenders talked us through Skye beers like it was the only thing they had to do that evening. Even the woman manning a register in one of the shops helped me pick out the perfect sheep souvenir. They were warm and welcoming without making me feel like I was one more tourist in a long line of others.
Everyone just seemed so happy to be there. I love people watching more than most other activities, and watching people in the town square at Portree was a lot of fun. I couldn’t help but imagine what their lives must be like living on Skye. Although I’m sure the winter is hard, I’d like to think the summer makes up for it.
But even other travellers on the island were so much more relaxed and friendly. There was a general good vibe surrounding the island.
Visit Kilt Rock and decide for yourself if the name fits.
Kilt Rock is one of those places that can inspire heated discussions. Or in the case of our group, a bunch of silence and one or two people nodding in agreement with our tour guide. It was named for a kilt because, quite simply, it looks like one. The rock is made of vertical basalt columns which appear pleated, with some dolerite layers that look like they almost weave together. To me, it look exactly like nature’s own kilt. Take a look for yourself, and let me know what you think.
I have to say that I agree with the person who came up with the name. After comparing Kilt Rock with the kilt worn by our tour guide, the two did bear a striking resemblance to each other.
Pause and reflect on the brutal history that is the Highland Clearances.
I know I tend to romanticize life in the Highlands, but I’m also fully aware of how hard life is (and has always been) there. One of the most devastating sections of history occurred during the Highland Clearances. This was a brutal time when clan society was devastated and much of Gaelic culture was destroyed. More than half a million people left Scotland during this period, leaving their families and way of life behind.
On Skye, the Highland Clearances can be seen in plenty of abandoned houses and even villages. While some were left voluntarily because they were too remote, others were abandoned by force. Many clansmen were forced out of the Highlands when sheep became easier tenants on the land than people.
While it’s nice to stop and enjoy the natural beauty of this area, I think it’s also important to take some time and remember the past and pay our respects.
Try a dram of whisky at Talisker Distillery.
Confession: I say this as someone who didn’t actually go to the distillery. However I have had a dram of Talisker and it was delightful. It was supposed to be a stop on our tour, but because of our group size and how busy the distillery gets during the summer we had to skip it.
Every region of Scotland has a distinct type of whisky, and I think if you enjoy the drink checking out the local distillery wherever you find yourself is a no-brainer.
Stand in awe at Lealt Falls.
Lealt Falls looks like something out of a movie. Seriously, it doesn’t get much greener than the valley surrounding this waterfall. With sheep dotting the landscape on the other side of the view point, it makes for an incredible moment. Even if you just stop here to take photos, you’ll be so happy you did.
You’re surrounded by green at Lealt Falls. Looking out in the Sound of Raasay, keep your eyes peeled for any marine life; dolphins and whales can be seen occasionally off the coast of the island.
You can find eternal beauty at Sligachan River.
Although the entire Isle of Skye is gorgeous, the view at Sligachan River just screams Highlands to me. With the Black Cuillin sitting perfectly behind this river, it’s picture perfect. Take time to get out of your car or coach and walk down to the river, you won’t regret it.
It’s said that if you dip your face in the river you’re granted eternal beauty. It had grown quite chilly by the time we reached the river, so I let others dip their face in. I figured I’m beautiful enough, I should share the wealth.
The Cuillin provide a backdrop for the Isle of Skye you’ll see nowhere else.
I love mountains. After living in Seattle I wasn’t sure I’d ever find a place that had quite the dramatic scenery as the Emerald City. But then we crossed over on to the Isle of Skye and I was blown away.
You take notice of the Cuillins immediately, it’s hard not to. This mountain range on Skye is made up of the Black Cuillin and the Red Cuillin, two very distinct ranges. It’s easy to spot the difference between the two based solely on appearance; the Black Cuillin are much more jagged while the Red are rounded.
They’re also made of different types of rock, which aid in their distinct appearance. The Black Cuillin appear black in color due to the gabbro (a rough, black igneous rock) and basalt. The Reds are composed of granite and appear red in certain lights. It doesn’t matter which one you’re looking at though, because they’re both really striking in appearance.
Immerse yourself in 800 years of history at the MacLeod family castle.
I wrote an entire post about Dunvegan Castle that you should check out for more information!
My favorite reason: there are more sheep on Skye than you can count.
I know you’re probably thinking this is a silly reason, but I would disagree with you. Sheep are everything. I was thisclose to trying to steal one.
I have this dream where I own my own little farm one day, maybe even on Skye, and I own a whole bunch of sheep. And a few dogs, maybe some chickens. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?
The Isle of Skye was incredible. I can’t encourage you enough to go and visit, whether on your own or via tour. Trust me, when you find yourself in Scotland you’ll want to get here.
And if you take one thing away from this post, I hope it’s the following bit of advice. Enjoy all of your moments there and tuck them away for future enjoyment. You won’t find another place like this anywhere else.