“Largest of the Inner Hebrides”
Onto another of the great islands of the United Kingdom archipelago itself. The Isle of Skye, the largest of the Inner Hebrides. Coming from such an exuberant green, mountainous nature and incredible landscapes in the highlands region of Scotland, to this rather eerie landscapes, with such a variety of green and brown colours of the ground, almost no trees and so empty. A very beautiful place, fascinating scenery truly unique and worth every kilometre we did, enhanced by its characteristic coastline of peninsulas and bays radiating out from the mountainous core dominated by the Cuillin Hills.
The nearest “major” city to Skye is Inverness, where we did our base in the nearby and drove for a full day tour of the island. Driving to Skye was part of this great trip, passing through some of the most spectacular landscapes in Scotland and the world famous castle of Eilean Donan, our second time here by the way. The island size might not look big, however the longest distance is around 100 kilometres from edge to edge. I could not imagine any other way for really enjoying the island than by having your own transport because of the many places and spots to admire such as dramatic mountain landscapes, nature, views, villages, harbours, coastline and ancient prehistoric Iron and Bronze Age settlements.
A day is well more than enough for completing the entire circle without any rush giving you plenty of that extra time you will appreciate for stopping everywhere out of your original plans. Believe me when I tell you this will happen much often than you though. At every turn of the road a different landscape, a different view, and every time getting better and better. The good side in coming here during the summer months is the extra long hours of daylight you will have. Being that north, towards the end of June having sun at 23.00pm is normal, therefore that we could enjoy of an over-extended day!
When in search of a place to eat, do not worry on this. Along the way you will find such great pubs and restaurants serving incredibly fresh food, however in general a bit pricey. Of course not the same value you would pay as if in Inverness, but still OK for what you get. Fish & chips is always a great option, and by Portree harbour you will find few restaurants serving it freshly done upon order.
There is not much more needed to be said in this brief introduction, however and as usual, for more information about Isle of Skye check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. The United Kingdom’s currency is the British Pound (£). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Isle of Skye:
Considering a tour from its southeastern bridle linking it with mainland Scotland, on a circle route heading first northeast then along the western coast back south:
- Skye Bridge Linking mainland Scotland with the island, is the only direct road access, being the others ferry crossings.
- Portree The small capital city of the island, with its beautiful charming fishing harbour.
- Rock pinnacles of the Old Man of Storr One of the famous sights and icon of Skye, 10 kilometres north from Portree, after Loch Leathan, however from the car park is a longer walk to the site itself.
- Kilt Rock Named this way for its resemblance to a kilt complete with a tartan like pattern. It is located 3 kilometres south of the village of Staffin, and is best known for the stream from Loch Mealt falling in a small waterfall to the sea.
- An Corran Just east from Staffin, famous and unique for the fossilized footprints of dinosaurs by the beach, however only visible at low tide.
- The Quiraing Right after An Corran farther north, one of the most spectacular setting in the island with the rock pinnacles formations.
- Duntulm Castle By the northernmost area of the island, on Tulm Bay, a beautiful settlement lying in ruins.
- Uig Heading south from Duntulm, now along the western coast of Skye, this is the main port to reach the Outer Hebrides islands.
- Dunvegan Castle Overlooking towards the Duirinish Peninsula, at the mouth of Loch Dunvegan, the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland.
- Neist Point Lighthouse From Dunvegan taking the road towards the westernmost point of the Isle of Skye, on the MacLeod’s Tables within the Duirinish Peninsula.
- MacLeod’s Tables Home to the UK’s highest cliffs, some of which coming out at sea standing lonely, known as the MacLeod’s Maidens located at the southwestern tip of the Duirinish Peninsula.
- The Fairy Pools After driving towards the south along the western road of the island A863, south of Drynoch is this “hidden” place, a series of small pools with jumps on waterfalls between them.
- Carbost West from Drynoch as the road splits towards the west, this small village is home to the Talisker whisky distillery.
The nearest international airport is Inverness, 130 kilometres east from the easternmost point in Isle of Skye, Kyleakin. It is the main gateway and most convenient way for arrival. The city of Inverness is very well connected to the rest of the United Kingdom’s major cities and an ever expanding European network, notoriously growing thanks to the low-cost carriers. From the airport, the bus number 11 from Stagecoach heads towards the city centre every 30 minutes, at either 11 or 41 past the hour for £4.20 single. Once in the city you will need to continue overland either by bus all the way into Skye (Portree and Uig) or by railway and change for the buses once at the last village before the bridge connecting with Skye.
You can get on trains from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh at the mainland end of the Skye Bridge, or from Glasgow to Mallaig and continue for the last stretch of the journey on a boat. By bus you have direct connections from Inverness and Glasgow to Portree and Uig more frequently, while from other mainland Scotland ports along the west coast you can get on a ferry. In Skye, from Uig at the northwest you have the ferries to the Outer Hebrides.
Once in the island itself, as a tourist the only way for really visiting and enjoying its beauty and sights is by having your own transportation. Renting a car is you best bet. On public transport, there are only buses linking the cities and few other places, concentrating into its little capital city, Portree. It would not really make much sense if you want to come here and depend on public transport to move around. In the other hand, however, you can get on a day tour, where they will take you to the most famous places in the island giving you enough time to enjoy at your own peace. There are day tours offered from Inverness, and from Portree.
Scotland in general, but as higher north you go, it becomes the most expensive to get a hotel, and even a B&B. Of course I am here talking about a nice place with good reviews and breakfast included. It is incredibly costly, aggravated during the summer months (as the time of our trip, right by the summer solstice). Then bear in mind this is a region extremely popular, not just the island but all the way towards Inverness and beyond. Majority of the hotels were already fully booked as we started doing our hotel research a month before the trip. Seriously difficult situation. Fair enough you can venture without booking, and drive around in search of the many B&B’s which majority are not advertised on the internet, yet we like to have everything in order to avoid surprises and losing any time.
A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers. Since our base for this weekend was Inverness, we cannot say any further on the accommodation situation in the island itself other than be careful and book well in advance. Almost every b&b we passed through were fully booked and so were the hotels.