Isle of Skye Sightseeing & Accommodation
Skye Bridge photo © Adam Salwanowicz | Fotolia.com
One of the largest and best known Scottish islands, Skye is particularly famous for its mountain scenery. Many people come here to climb or walk in the Cuillin and the Quiraing. Quite an expanding population since the early 1990s, now there are just over 10,000 people living on the island (2011 census).
Due to its popularity with tourists, you will find many craft shops and cottage museums. As for sports, you can visit the swimming pool in Portree, play golf at Sconser and Skeabost or go pony trekking. Watersports available on the island include diving, canoeing, windsurfing and yachting. Skye is also the ideal place for fishing and birdwatching. But if it's whisky you want, why not visit the Talisker Distillery at Carbost?
How to get to Skye
From the west coast of Scotland,
Full details given below
By road, Kyle of Lochalsh is:
By driving or taking the train from Fort William and then getting the ferry from Mallaig to Skye, you can take one of the most famously scenic journeys of the west Highlands: full details on the official Road to the Isles web site.
Road bridge from the mainland:
By bus from the mainland to Skye:
Skye Bridge © Rudolf KotulŠn | Dreamstime.com
Trains run from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh where you can either walk or get the bus across the Skye Bridge to to Kyleakin.
Trains also run from Fort William to Mallaig where you can take the ferry over to Armadale. This is recognised as being the most scenic railway line in the country.
A daily service is operated by Scotrail.
In additional to the regular train service, the Jacobite steam engine operates during the summer months between Fort William and Mallaig.
By vehicle ferry from Mallaig to Armadale
The summer ferry runs 6 or 7 times a day (including some Sundays at the height of the season) between Mallaig and Armadale on the Isle of Skye. The winter service is limited to 2 journeys a day (Monday to Friday only). Journey time: 25 minutes. Vehicle reservation required. Bikes are carried free of charge.
The official Caledonian Macbrayne website lists the current timetables and prices in detail. Tel: 08705 650000.
By private ferry from Glenelg to Kylerhea
This community-run ferry takes you over the sea to Skye in 5 minutes and holds 6 cars plus foot passengers. Early April to October only. 7 days a week. Tel: 01599 522273 or 01599 522313. Visit the Skye Ferry web site.
Transport on the island
Buses on Skye:
Various local bus services operate on the island.
- The main roads are covered by the Citylink services between Kyleakin, Broadford, Portree and Uig.
- Stagecoach Buses operate other local routes including Armadale-Kyleakin, Portree-Dunvegan, etc.
- Also visit travelinescotland.com which is the official public transport guide with online timetables and a journey planner.
- M2 Motors - car sales and car hire with a wide range of vehicles (large and small, manual and automatic) including minibus and vans. Based in Portree. Drop off / pick up elsewhere can be arranged. Tel: 01478 613344.
- Jans has cars and vans to hire from 6 Broom Place on the Portree Industrial Estate. Tel: 01478 612087.
- Car hire on Skye is available from Portree Coachworks. Tel: 01478 612688.
- Self drive vehicles are also available from the Kyle Taxi Company. Range of vehicles from cars and vans to motorhomes available for hire from Kyle of Lochalsh. Can arrange delivery to Portree, Uig, Armadale, Plockton or even Inverness. Telephone: 01599 534323.
- Island Cycles, The Green, Portree (near the long stay car park) - telephone: 01478 613 121. Mountain bikes, touring and sport cycles available. Also repairs and spares.
- Kyle Taxi Company also has mountain bikes for hire. Telephone: 01599 534323.
My travellers' tips file may also be useful if you are planning a trip to Scotland. It covers airlines, national car hire, train information, maps, etc.
Self Drive Tours:
- Based in the Highlands, Scotland Made Easy can plan a customised itinerary for a self-drive tour to suit your interests, budget and time available. They will book you into recommended accommodation where you are assured of quality, comfort and hospitality - usually in 4 or 5 star B&Bs in Scottish homes. Optional 'specials' include a night in a castle, church, lighthouse, country mansion, etc. Skye is a popular destination on self-drive trips.
Whether you have already decided which places you want to visit or if you haven't a clue where to start, Scotland Made Easy will advise and take care of all the planning for you.
Guided Tours / Day Trips:
The Great Sleat Tour runs from 8 July to mid August 2014. This 8-seater minibus takes you on 2.5 hour trip about the Sleat peninsula in south Skye. Departs daily at 11.30am and 2.30pm from Armadale Pier, and at 11.45am and 2.45pm from Sleat Community Trading at Armadale. Tel: 01471 844249.
- Skye Seaplanes will be offering 35-minute flights over the island from April - October 2014.
- Skye Magical Tours are based in Kyle of Lochalsh, next to the Skye bridge. Local driver-guide Brian offers hourly rates for guided tours of Skye and Lochalsh. Minimum 2 people. Transport is in a Scottish Blue 6 seater with a glass panoramic sunroof. Also available for airport, train & ferry transfers and pick-ups for walkers. Mobile: 07951 190 886
- From 2 June 2014 to 6 September 2014, bus company Stagecoach operates an open-top bus service from Portree to Dunvegan Castle, the Museum of Island Life, the Old Man of Storr and Kilt Rock on the Trotternish Peninsula. Hop-on hop-off tickets available.
- Based in Broadford, the International Otter Survival Fund offers otter watching day trips for small groups or individuals - led by Dr Paul and Grace Yoxon who have 23 years experience of studying and watching otters on Skye. Contact 01471 822 487.
- Skye Tours operate a mini bus from Kyle of Lochalsh (on the mainland by the Skye Bridge) to various destinations in Skye from Easter to October. You can get a combined ticket for a bus tour and a boat cruise. Contact the Tourist Information Centre in Kyle of Lochalsh - tel: 0800 980 4846 or 01471 822716. Mobile: 07765435424.
- Glenedin Coaches operate 4-hour tours from Portree with plenty of photo stops. Operates Monday to Saturday from May to October. Wheelchair friendly. Contact Kathleen MacAskill. Freephone: 0800 756 3083.
- In association with Shiel Buses, the ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne offers a day trip from Fort William to Armadale on Skye. This includes entrance to the Clan Donald Skye museum, gardens and castle ruins. This operates on Mondays - Fridays from 4 April until 17 October 2014. Visit the CalMac ferry web site for details.
- Ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne offers non-landing cruises to the Small Isles from Armadale on Skye via Mallaig on the mainland. These operate on various days from April to early October 2014. Visit the CalMac ferry web site for details.
- Scottish Tours offer scheduled day tours from Inverness bus station on certain days from March - October. The Isle of Skye tour visits Loch Ness, Eilean Donan Castle and Portree.
- The Hebridean Explorer offers a day trip from Inverness via Eilean Donan Castle and Portree to the Trotternish mountains in the north of Skye for small groups of up to 8 people. Contact John Macdonald - Tel: 07943 863292 or 01456 450595.
There are many local people who operate taxis on the island. They will take you on private tours and also take you to the starting point of walks if you need transport. Here are a few:
- Kyle Taxi Company offer day tours of Skye & Lochalsh, or Plockton, Lochcarron and Torridon, or even Inverness and Loch Ness. Full day or half day options. Driver with local knowledge. They also have a classic Daimler for wedding hire. Telephone: 01599 534323.
- Nicolson Hire in Sleat. A 16 seat mini-coach and 6 seater people carrier are available for private tours.
- Skyeways (based at Dornie) offer bus and taxi services. Tel: 01599 555477.
- Other taxis available on Skye include:
Armadale and Ardvasar taxis - tel: 01471 844 361
Sleat: Clan MacDonald Taxis - tel: 01471 844 272
Broadford: Waterloo private taxis (Space Wagon and minibus available) - tel: 01471 822 630 / fax: 822 033
Broadford: Duncan MacLean Taxi and Private Hire - tel: 01471 822 343
Dunvegan Private Hire - 01470 521560
Portree: Don's Taxis - tel: 01478 613 000
Portree: Ace Taxis - tel: 01478 613 600
Skye Hire by Angus Anderson - tel: 01599 534 110 (or mobile: 0378 594 194).
- Golf - Isle of Skye Golf Club at Sconser and the Skeabost Golf Course
- Cuillin Trail Riding, based at Struan. Open May - September. Pony trekking for all abilities. Tel: 07789 714106 or 01470 572324
- Isle of Skye Trekking Centre near Portree. Tel: 01470 582419.
- Isle of Skye Falconry has various birds of prey. Available for displays and courses.
- Isle of Skye Yachts - charters (bareboat and skippered), RYA training courses, moorings and boatyard services at Ardvasar, near Armadale. Tel: 01471 844216.
- Integrity Cruises offer day trips from Uig on the Isle of Skye to St Kilda, the Shiants and other islands. 11-metre vessel for 8-10 passengers. Contact Derek Gordon - mobile: 07836 611699.
- Woodbine Guest House at Uig offers guided walks, mountain biking, archery, water skiing, sea kayaking, RIB trips, fishing and dive trips. Contact Vicki & Andi Dunkel. Tel: 07904 267 561.
Walking / Hiking Trips:
- North-West Frontiers have guided walking holidays in small groups.
- Wilderness Scotland offer a wide range of guided walking holidays, wilderness expeditions, combined sailing/walking holidays and historical journeys. The holidays are graded for all levels of ability and feature the wildest and most unspoiled regions of the Highlands, including Ben Nevis and Glencoe, Knoydart, Kintail, Skye, Road to the Isles, Loch Ness, and the Western Isles.
- Skye Walking Holidays - explore the magic of the Quiraing & Trotternish area of northern Skye with local guides. Excellent accommodation and food at Duntulm Castle Hotel.
Choice of leisurely guided walking holidays (weekend or 7 days) with different themes such as wildlife, heritage, whisky or Gaelic music. Visits to local museums, historic sites, standing stones, Dunvegan Castle, Talisker distillery, Isle of Skye Brewery can be incorporated along with boat trips, piping and a ceilidh.
Watersports activities, cycling, horse riding & pony trekking can be arranged.
Self guided packages also available (2, 4 or 7 nights dinner, bed and breakfast, or self-catering cottages).
- Hebridean Pathways, based in Broadford, offer guided walks, coastal treks, mountain scrambling, private guiding, skills courses for climbing, navigation, etc. Special interest walks are also an option, covering geology, flora & fauna, and local history. Areas covered include Skye, Raasay, Torridon, Eigg & Harris.
Watersports and Boat Trips:
- Skyak with Gordon and Morag Brown offer Sea Kayaking around Skye.
- Dive & Sea the Hebrides offer complete diving holiday packages. These can include boat charter and accommodation if required. Contact: Gordon MacKay & Aileen Robertson at Shorepark, Lochbay, Waternish, Isle of Skye. Phone/Fax: 01470 592219. Mobile: 07980 106263 or 07778 761313.
- A variety of local boat trips operate from Armadale, Kyleakin, Broadford, Elgol and Portree (see separate entries below for each of these places).
- You can take a day trip or non-landing cruise on the Caledonian Macbrayne ferry from Uig (north Skye) to Harris or North Uist. Coach tours are sometimes available in connection with this ferry during the summer.
Portree harbour © The Internet Guide to Scotland 2011
Events for 2014:
SEALL (Skye Events for All) organises music, theatre & arts events throughout the year.
Monthly markets are held at the Portree Craft Gallery in the Gathering Hall.
There are many events on Skye such as local gala days, agricultural shows, Gaelic concerts, sheepdog trials, piping competitions, etc. Here are some highlights:
- 23 April: Run the Skye Mile (Clan Donald Skye rasing money for Sport Relief)
- 3 May: SEALL's 1,000th Concert - a Homecoming spectacular
- 24 - 25 May: Garden and Craft Fair at Armadale Castle.
- 22 - 24 May: Skye Accordion & Fiddle Festival
- 6 June: Donald MacDonald Quaich, annual piping competition at Armadale Castle.
- 14 June: Skye Half Marathon
- 1 July - 25 August: Feis an Eilein - Skye Summer Concerts every Tuesday at Sabhal MÚr Ostaig (enjoy a great traditional music night interspersed with theatre, jazz, film and ceilidhs). Additional special events during July & August include opera, jazz, theatre and much more.
- 5 July: Glamaig Hill Race (Sligachan)
- 19 - 26 July: Clan MacLeod Parliament, Dunvegan
- late July: Dunvegan Show
- 3 - 4 August: Glendale Craft Fair in the Glendale Community Hall
- 5 - 6 August: Piping competitions in Portree
- 6 August: Skye Highland Games in Portree
- 9 August: Skye Agricultural Show in Portree
- 23 August: Skye Sportive - cycle road race
- 4 - 6 September: Skye Book Festival at the Aros Centre, Portree
- 4 - 15 September: Blas Festival - music at various venues
- 30 October - 3 November: Skye Swing Jazz Festival - A Homecoming spectacular
- early November: Dunvegan Castle fireworks display
- 22 November: Christmas Craft Fair in the Stables at Clan Donald Skye (Armadale) from 10am-5pm.
SLEAT PENINSULA AND SOUTHERN SKYE
Sleat (pronounced slate) is known as the Garden of Skye for its soft green appearance. There are many good forest walks in this area.
This is where the ferry docks from Mallaig. By the pier there is a lovely knitwear shop called Ragamuffin and great gift shop 'Skyelark' featuring photos by "grumpygeorge". Look out for The Shed (seafood takeaway / cafe) and the sign pointing up a track to the forest trail, seal island and otter hide. Along the road from the pier, you'll find The Bay Pottery, as well as Nigel Grounds gallery full of his paintings, and a garage. Pictured left is the old pier.
Sea.fari Adventures offer trips from Armadale in a new boat with seating inside and outside for all weathers throughout the year. Trips can be made as far as Rum & Canna, and Knoydart. Rides in RIBs also available. Contact Peter Fowler - telephone: 01471 822 361. They operate a nautical giftshop on the pier at Armadale.
Armadale Castle ruins photo copyright Clan Donald Skye
Not to be reproduced without permission
Along the main road and within 15 minutes walking distance of the pier,
you'll find Clan Donald Skye Visitor Centre incorporating the Museum of the
Isles and the historic ruins of Armadale Castle surrounded by the elegant
formal gardens. The Museum has a family research study centre, as well as
historical exhibits, an audio tour in different languages and a video show.
Within the Visitor Centre there are gift shops and a restaurant which is open
for evening meals. You can explore 40 acres of woodland walks and nature trails, plus the new
children's adventure play area. Suitable for disabled access. The gardens
are open all year. The Visitor Centre is open daily 9am - 5.30pm from
4 April to 23 October 2011 (tel: 01471 844 305).
Special events take place here throughout the year, as well as monthly food fairs.
South Skye Carriages is a small family based business in Armadale where they offer horse and carriage rides with a Scottish Clydesdale. Heavy Horse experience days and half days available. Contact mobile: 07867793574.
Also known as Caisteal Chamuis (Castle Camus), Knock Castle is located just off the main Broadford road on the way to Armadale (easily visible from the road). Only ruins are left of this old MacDonald stronghold but it is said to be haunted by a 'Green Lady'. Some of the stone was removed in 1825 to build Knock Farm.
Laurence Broderick Sculptures creates sculptures of otters and other wildlife in stone and bronze. These can be seen at Gallery An Talla Dearg, overlooking the pier at Isle Ornsay. He is joint president of the International Otter Survival Fund.
Floraidh is a boutique at the top of the pier at Isle Ornsay. It sells tweed and woollen clothing, accessories, gifts and Laurence Broderick sculptures. Tel: 01471 833 347.
The Gaelic Whisky Shop (tel: 01471 833 496) is adjacent to the Hotel Eilean Iarmain.
Also nearby is Heavenís Ocean - an art studio with paintings, driftwood sculptures & handmade greetings cards. Open daily Easter to October (and by appointment during the winter months).
KYLERHEA OTTER HAVEN
Located just north of Kylerhea on the southern coast of Skye. Open daily all year round. Free admission. Details.
The name of the village comes from 'kyle' - the narrow strait of water between Skye and the mainland - and 'akin' after the Norwegian King Haakon IV who sailed through here in 1263 on his way to defeat at the Battle of Largs which ultimately decided the ownership of the Hebrides.
This is where the ferry used to land from Kyle of Lochalsh, but today it is all but bypassed by the new bridge. However it is worth detouring to see the ruins of 14th century Castle Maol. There is also a restaurant, bar, youth hostel, etc. in the village. Near the main car park, take the gravel path up to the cross on the hillock as it is a viewpoint where you will get some good photos. It is thought that a Norwegian princess started the first toll here - by stretching a chain across the strait and stopping boats getting through without paying. Known as Saucy Mary, she is reflected with her name in the village today!
Castle Maol © Anthony Dodd | Dreamstime.com
Castlemoil Restaurant, Bistro, Gift Shop (open 10am - 10pm) also includes the King Haakon Bar (live music 6 nights a week) - Tel: 01599 534164.
Check out the online guide including photo tour, walks and history of Kyleakin produced by Ray Shields.
The Bright Water Visitor Centre is located on the pier and contains a shop plus exhibits about the local lighthouse and wildlife. Open Monday - Friday from Easter to end September, from 10am - 4pm. Tel: 01599 530040. Boat trips are available from here to Eilean Bàn - one of the islands now under the Skye Bridge, where Gavin Maxwell once lived (remember his otter story, The Ring of Bright Water?).
Moira and Nigel Smith operate the Seaprobe Atlantis, which offers panoramic underwater vision. It sails from Kyleakin and Kyle of Lochalsh (the mainland opposite Skye) taking people to explore the incredibly beautiful world beneath the waves, as well as the spectacular scenery above. The boat has a seated outdoor observation deck, a sheltered indoor saloon, toilets and of course the underwater viewing gallery. You will see fish, jellyfish, crabs, seals, seabirds, etc. and possibly otters and porpoises. The extended cruise also shows you the World War II shipwreck, HMS Port Napier, a 500ft long minelayer which sank in 1940, and is now rated one of the best dive experiences in Britain. Cruises operate at least 4 times a day depending on the tides, 7 days a week, from Easter to October. Please book in advance to avoid disappointment. For further details, see their web site or phone 01471 822 716 or use the freephone number 0800 9804846.
The Spirit of Adventure offers 2-hour boat cruises twice daily from Easter-October from Kyle of Lochalsh to spot dolphins and other wildlife. Tel: 01471 822716.
Kyle of Lochalsh viewed from Kyleakin
The second largest settlement on the island has a lots of places to stay, restaurants such as Creelers, a post office, Co-op supermarket, several shops and garage. A secondhand bookshop called Mor Books can be found on the Old Pier Road (tel: 01471 822669).
Broadford library (open Tuesday - Friday) can offer Internet access but advance booking of a slot is recommended and ID is required for you to have guest access (tel: 01471 820522).
Located in the Old Mill is a reptile exhibition and breeding centre called the Skye Serpentarium which is unique in Scotland. Open Easter to October. Telephone 01471 822 209.
Red Skye Restaurant is located in The Old Schoolhouse at Breakish near Broadford and has an excellent reputation (tel: 01471 822180). Open Monday - Saturday from 12 noon - 9pm (last orders).
The Dancing Dolphin at 11 Waterloo, Breakish, is just outside Broadford. They produce high quality organic aromatherapy body care products and can also offer holistic therapies such as Reiki, Reflexology and Indian Head Massage. B&B also available. Contact Britt and Graham. Tel: 01471822409.
THE BROADFORD TO ELGOL ROAD
The Broadford to Elgol road is only 15 miles long, but it can easily take 45 minutes to drive since it is only single track, quite winding and very scenic. You have excellent views of mountains such as Blaven, over 3000 feet high. The Post bus goes down here twice a day I think, but it is best if you have your own vehicle. On the way to Elgol you will pass a picturesque old graveyard and ruined Pre-Reformation church at Kilchrist and the Skye marble quarry at Torrin.
Three miles before you arrive at Elgol is Kilmarie. Two walks are possible from here. It's only a mile down to the sea to the ruins of Dun Ringill, traditionally the stronghold of the Mackinnons, which you can reach by an ornamental bridge near Kilmarie House. For a longer walk, drive through the village and leave your vehicle at the car park on the left-hand side of the road. Go over the stile on the right of the road and take the footpath made by the Royal Engineers in 1968. The return journey from here to Camasunary and back is 6.5 miles (3.5 to 4 hours).
Elgol © Mykung | Dreamstime.com
The name Elgol is thought to derive from the Gaelic 'the weeping of the Swan' which goes back to the story that the captain of the Viking longboat called the Swan was killed in a sea battle here when they came to attack the local population.
The view from the pebble beach at Elgol is featured on many postcards, together with the honeycomb cliffs. You can walk over to the rocks and let the children roam around.
Just south of the village, there is a cave called Suidhe Biorach where Bonnie Prince Charlie is said to have taken refuge before his final departure in 1746.
Another cave can be found 1.5 miles east of Elgol. This is Spar Cave which Sir Walter Scott described as having incredible stalactites. I am not sure if you can still access it today. The road from Elgol signposted Glasnakaille will take you some of the way there.
Photo copyright 2007 The Internet Guide to Scotland
BOAT TRIPS FROM ELGOL
Photo copyright 2010 The Internet Guide to Scotland
Sligachan Bridge photo © steaminhaggis | Fotolia.com
The Collie and Mackenzie Sculpture Group aims to commemorate the pioneering climbing achievements of John Mackenzie and Norman Collie with a 1.5 life size bronze sculpture of both men at Sligachan (the Gateway to the Cuillin). The group has already completed a stone seat, information panels and a bronze relief of the Cuillin.
Once a busy port, it is now busy with tourists. The capital of the island
is full of guest houses and hotels plus craft shops, eating places,
banks, a filling station, arts centre, swimming pool, hairdressers,
chemist, post office, tourist information centre and supermarkets. If you need anything, you'll probably find it
Portree photo Copyright The Internet Guide to Scotland
The Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre is in the Elgin hostel near the school on Dunvegan Road. Advance booking recommended. Tel: 01478 614078.
There is a laundrette to the rear of the Portree Independent Hostel which is located near the main square.
Island Cycles (tel: 01478 613 121) is nearby if you want to hire a bike or get yours repaired.
Gift shops include Tippecanoe on Wentworth Street and The Tartan Company and Skye Batiks which are both on The Green.
MacLeod's Pharmacy on Wentworth Street is well worth a look for gifts and photographic services. Opposite is a good book shop/newsagent.
For a list of shops & restaurants in the main shopping streets of Portree, visit www.high.st
Various boat trips operate from Portree harbour in the summer - look around the pier for details. Some will take you to see the white tailed sea eagles.
MV Stardust - contact Dan on 07798 743858.
Spindrift - contact Kevin on 07769 701911.
THE AROS EXPERIENCE (near Portree)
The visitors centre includes a film about Skye and live webcams of birds nests. Regular concerts and arts events take place here. Restaurant, large gift shop, outdoor clothing, cinema, toilets, car park. Open daily all year from 9am to 5.30pm (later in the summer season). Children's play areas. Forest trails around Glen Varragill. More details...... Situated on Viewfield Road less than a mile outside Portree town centre.
TROTTERNISH AND NORTH-EAST SKYE
This peninsula can be toured in a day from Portree. Go up one side of it and come down the other for a full circuit - I don't know if one way is better than the other. The places listed below are given in an anti-clockwise order from leaving Portree which probably gives you a better view of the Storr.
Stop by the roadside for photos of the Old Man of Storr overlooking these lochs which supply hydro-electric power. You can fish for brown trout here if you have a permit from Jansport in Portree. At the northern end of the lochs, take the little road which leads to a new path. The walk isn't easy but it will take you to Bearreraig Bay which is one of the island's most important geological sites.
Loch Fada & The Storr photo © Brian Jacksono | Fotolia.com
THE OLD MAN OF STORR (8 miles north of Portree)
There is a car park at the foot of the hill next to the forest. Signs
indicate the path through the forest (over a stile) up to the
Old Man of Storr.
You will have a good view of the rocky pinnacles above you and a great view of the hills on the mainland
across the sea. Assuming you have a good head for heights you can walk
up to the Old Man and also access The Sanctuary.
LEALT (14 miles north of Portree)
The other walk is up the Lealt River, along the disused railway line, past the remains of the Diatomite factory dating back to World War 1. After about 5 hours you reach the wreckage of a B-17 Flying Fortress which crashed into Beinn Edra in the winter of 1944 when it was heading for the USA. You can find lots of bits scattered about when you get there including wheels, propellors, wing sections, etc. Also look out for golden eagles along the way.
MEALT WATERFALL AND KILT ROCK (17 miles north of Portree)
Mealt waterfall photo © pwollinga | Fotolia.com
STAFFIN (19 miles north of Portree)
Local community centre: shop and restaurant. Take the road to the right over the Kilmartin River and you will find a sheltered sandy beach. Here at An Corran is evidence of the earliest inhabitants of Skye dating back 8,500 years.
Check out Columba 1400 - the community centre with restaurant, conferencing & Internet facilities (closed Sundays). Tel: 01478 611400. Staffin Stores has tourist info and a cash machine, as well as groceries, etc.
SkyeLight Candles - based in the Old Mission House, Staffin.
Staffin Bay Cruises have a 30 ft motor cruiser to take you on a boat trip. Visit the Seal Colony and basalt columns on Flodigarry Island or see the Kilt Rock waterfall. Contact Rob Main. Tel: 01470 562 723 / Mobile: 07855560406
For more local info, visit the Staffin Community Trust web site.
THE QUIRAING (20 miles north of Portree)
Photo © SanGero | Fotolia.com
The Quiraing photo © Jarek Janosek | Fotolia.com
FLODIGARRY (22 miles north of Portree)
Flora MacDonald once lived in a cottage here and had five of her seven children there before she moved to Kingsburgh in 1758. Recently, the remains of a Pictish broch have been found near the hotel.
DUNTULM CASTLE (26 miles north of Portree)
Abandoned around 1730 by the MacDonalds, it now lies in ruins close to the sea. It is hoped that a community trust will be able to take over ownership of the castle and make it safer for visitors by consolidating the decaying walls. The project would cost up to half a million pounds and would also improve car parking facilities and the footpath. The site attracts some 40,000 visitors a year and local people are keen to maintain it as a tourist attraction which will be safer to visit than it is in its present condition. It is said to be the home of piping and a memorial cairn commemorates this fact. Duntulm apparently means the fort on the green grassy headland. Hotel nearby.
SKYE MUSEUM OF ISLAND LIFE
From the old village, a track leads up to the cemetery containing the grave of Flora MacDonald who is said to have been buried in a sheet slept in by Bonnie Prince Charlie. This spot is not far from where she first landed with the Young Pretender disguised as her maid as he tried to flee to France. In the 19th century, a huge Celtic cross was erected here and inscribed with a tribute from Dr. Johnson who met her when he was on his famous tour of Scotland.
Skye Museum photo © JAC | Fotolia.com
Halfway between Kilmuir and Uig you will see by the roadside the Whitewave outdoor activities centre at number 19 Linicro (telephone: 01470 542 414). Here you can hire bikes or take part in various activities such as sea kayaking, canoe trips, windsurfing, guided walks, archery. Self catering accommodation is available. Also Gaelic language and culture courses.
UIG (15 miles north-west of Portree) -
Ferry terminal for Harris and North Uist. Youth Hostel on the hill south of the village. There's a newsagent/bakery/general store in the village. At the pier there's The Isle of Skye Brewery, Uig pottery, bistro, restaurant and pub, filling station, gift shop and cafe. The tower overlooking the bay is Captain Fraser's Folly.
FAIRY GLEN (2 or 3 miles east of Uig)
By Captain Fraser's Folly (the tower on the hill) take the road signposted Sheader for a couple of miles and you will find yourself in the Fairy Glen. These conical mounds and hillocks divided by steep-sided narrow valleys were formed by a process of landslips. It is a very strange place and you could quite imagine that fairies once lived here (or still do). I wandered around here for quite some a while and lost all track of time. The steep crag overlooking the Fairy Glen is called Castle Ewan and is made of basalt.
KINGSBURGH (7 miles north-west of Portree)
Bonnie Prince Charlie spent a night here in 1746. Flora MacDonald later lived in the same house and met Dr. Johnson there in 1772.
On the lochside are some prehistoric stones whose origin is a mystery. Legend says that there were once 3 stones which were used to support cauldrons of venison stew for the Fiennes (mystical giants who threw stones).
WATERNISH AND NORTH-WEST SKYE
Edinbane Pottery is open daily from Easter to October, and weekdays only for the rest of the year. Situated in wooded grounds at the head of Loch Greshornish just off the A850 road between Portree (14 miles) and Dunvegan (8 miles). Tel: 01470 582 234.
Skyeskyns is an original Scottish business selling hand-combed fleeces. Easily reached from the main Portree-Dunvegan road, just cross the Fairy bridge and follow the road for 3 miles to the T-junction. Turn right and the shop/exhibtion is 100 metres on the right. Well-signposted.
Skyeberries pick your own fruit from mid July to the end of September. Blueberries, blackcurrants, red & white currants, gooseberries and raspberries. Park in the Edinbane Inn car park and follow the signs.
Other crafty places to visit in the Waternish peninsula include the Shilasdair Shop featuring designer knitwear (tel: 01470 592 297) and Dandelion Designs craftshop and gallery (01470 592218).
Further up the road is Halistra Pottery (open daily Easter until October, tel: 01470 592347).
Sara Paget organises Yoga Holidays in the settlement of Stein. Self-catering accommodation is available for up to 4 people. Tel: 01470 592 367.
DUNVEGAN CASTLE (22 miles west of Portree)
Photo copyright The Internet Guide to Scotland
There are a couple of grocery stores, bakery/cafe/takeaway, wholefood shop and a restaurant in the village. The filling station also has a garden centre, shop and cafe. The Croft Studio is a family business full of paintings, prints and cards.
The Old School Restaurant opens for evening meals from 6pm.
Macleod's Tables are two flat-topped hills over 1,500 feet which you can see from many parts of Skye. Legend has it that eighth Chief of the Clan MacLeod, Alasdair Crotach, held a great banquet on one of the summits to impress to a visiting Lowland nobleman.
Dun Studio (at Roskhill, just south of Dunvegan) has paintings by artist John Bathgate. Normally open daily 10am - 6pm (but phone to check 01470 521883)
A few miles south of Dunvegan on the B884 loop road you can visit the Orbost Gallery (April - October daily).
Includes a grocery, cafe and post office, plus the famous Three Chimneys Restaurant.
For lots of local info, visit Andy Stables' Glendale web site which also includes details of wildlife sightings in the area.
- Colbost Croft Museum - this restored 'black house' shows how people lived in the 19th century. Exhibits include a replica of an old illegal whisky still. Open daily from April to October. Tel: 01470 521296.
- Skye Silver in the Old School at Colbost (7 miles from Dunvegan on the road to Glendale). Gifts of silver and gold. Open 7 days a week 10am - 6pm from March to October.
- Raven Press Gallery in Colbost showcases wood engravings by Kathleen Lindsley. Limited edition books & prints. Open Monday to Friday 10am to 5.30pm (other times by appointment). Tel: 01470 511748.
- Toy Museum - a popular little museum with toys, games and dolls at Holmisdale House. Owned by Terry Wilding (tel: 01470 511 240). Talisker Quality Award winner in 1994. Open Monday to Saturday 10am to 6pm.
- Borreraig Park Museum - on the Glendale Visitor Route is an excellent museum with a croft shop. Lots of crofting artefacts, piping history, crafts, etc. Open all year. Small admission charge. Telephone: 01470 511311.
Borreraig was the site of the famous MacCrimmon piping school from about 1500 to 1800. They were the pipers to the chiefs of Clan MacLeod and are commemorated by a special cairn.
- Glendale Watermill - an old watermill. Admission free. You may need a torch to see inside!
Travelling on the A863 south of Dunvegan on the west coast, you'll go through Bracadale and then the village of Struan where you'll find Mor Books (secondhand book shop) and the Windrush Cafe Studio offering coffee, tea, soft drinks, Isle of Skye ice cream, cakes and light lunches. There are some tables outside with views across Loch Bracadale to the Cuillin. Both places are open Monday-Saturday 10am - 6pm. Tel: 01470 572782.
MINGINISH (CENTRAL SKYE)
When driving between Sligachan and Bracadale on the A863, you can turn off near Drynoch onto the B8009.
In the village of Carbost is the Talisker whisky distillery and visitor centre. Admission charge. Open Monday to Saturday from Easter to October with frequent guided tours and tasting sessions. During the winter there are only 4 tours a day, so advance booking is recommended. Tel: 01478 614308.
From Carbost, follow the signs on the unmarked roads westwards to Talisker, park your car where the road reaches Talisker House, and walk along the path to the sea. On reaching grey Talisker Bay you will see a waterfall falling into the sea.
Make a stop at Jean Thomas's Little Gallery which has a variety of her prints and watercolours depicting local scenes including the Cuillin. Cheap accommodation is available at the Portnalong Croft Bunkhouse & Bothies.
ISLE OF RAASAY (off the east coast of Skye)
A small vehicle ferry operates on the 15-minute crossing between Sconser (11 miles south of Portree) and Raasay numerous times a day during the summer (not Sundays) and less frequently out of season. It is the ideal place for a day excursion or a longer stay. There is only one road on the island and no filling station, so if you take your car over, make sure you have a full tank of petrol.
From Skye you will see Dun Caan - the distinctive flat-topped 1456 foot high mountain (an extinct volcano) that makes Raasay look like a shark whose fin has been cut at the top. As well as being home to golden eagles, buzzards, kestrels and red deer, the island is also the place to see rhododendrons and orchids.
It is 14 miles long and 4 miles wide. Today Raasay has a population of about 160. It was long owned by the Macleods of Lewis until 1843 when the last chief became bankrupt and went to Tasmania. Within the next century, Raasay passed through many hands including those of a West Indian sugar planter, an unscrupulous speculator, a London romantic, a sporting industrialist and a firm of ironmasters. In 1979 it was finally acquired by the Highlands and Islands Development Board.
There are many historical places of interest including Dun Borodale (Iron Age), 9th-century symbol stones located at the foot of Temptation Hill and small pier in front of Raasay House, St. Moluag's Chapel (13th century, now in ruins) and Brochel Castle built by the MacLeods of Lewis in the 15th century with excellent views over to Applecross. A souterrain dating back some 2000 years is located at Clachan near the old pier. Called "uamh na rumh" or "cave of the oars", its original purpose is unknown. In recent times, smugglers used it as a store.
From the ferry pier it only takes half an hour to walk to the main village - Inverarish - where there is a post office and shop. Inverarish dates back to World War I when it was was built as a prisoner of war camp for German and Italian soldiers who were made to work at the iron ore mine contrary to the Geneva Convention. One German prisoner was killed in an accident and is buried on Raasay. Located on the eastern edge of Raasay Forest, the mine is about 30 minutes walk from the ferry pier.
Several walks start at the information point near the southern edge of the forest. Details can be found in free leaflets available from the Tourist Offices on Skye.
The Miners Trail (1 hour, stout footwear advisable) goes east towards the disused iron ore mine on the edge of the forest. It follows the route of an old incline railway line through the forest and heads towards Suisnish jetty where the furnaces and hopper were located. The remains of the viaduct which carried the line over a tributary of the Inverarish Burn are testify to the skills of the engineers that built it.
The Burma Road gets its name is from the fact that prisoners of war were used in its construction. One walk involves a circular route of approximately 4 km (1 hour, stout footwear advisable). You can also walk from the Burma Road to Dun Caan in about 2 hours if you have proper boots.
The walk to Temptation Hill (1.5 to 2 hours, stout footwear advisable) goes past the old church, makes a detour to visit Dun Borodale, then reaches Home Loch and ends up at the viewpoint on the hill. You can return the same way or rejoin the road back to the old pier.
The old pier in front of Raasay House is the location for the "Battery" which was designed as a defence against Napoleon's forces. This structure houses a canon with a cannonball stuck inside. The rock of the Battery is believed to be one of Raasay's symbol stones. You can also see statues of huge mermaids here.
Raasay House offers holidaymakers a full range of accommodation, watersports and alsorts of outdoor activities. Tel: 01478 660 300. Once the clan seat of the MacLeods of Raasay, it can be hired for weddings and corporate events.
There are walks up the east coast of Raasay and across its middle. In the north, you can visit two little islands by crossing their causeways. Eilean Fladday and Eilean Tigh can only be reached during low tide. They have great views of the Storr and Quiraing on Skye and you might see porpoises and seals.
North of Brochel is a 3km stretch of road known as Calum's Road because it was constructed by Calum MacLeod who got so fed up of waiting for the council to come and build a proper route to Arnish that he did it himself. It took him 10 years to complete, by which time everyone but he and his wife had left the village.
If you have questions about the island, contact the Raasay Heritage Trust which manages a museum on the island and offers a free genealogical research facilty. Or contact the Raasay Community Association.
ISLE OF RONA
This tiny island sits off the northern tip of Raasay. Accommodation on the island is limited to 3 self catering cottages.
Visit isleofrona.com for full details. Contact tel: 07831 293963.
Take a boat trip for the day from Portree onboard the Spindrift (contact Kevin on 07769 701911).
Torridon Sea Tours offer boat trips to the island from Shieldaig (Wester Ross).
ISLE OF SCALPAY
The privately owned, 200-acre island of Scalpay is situated just off the coast of Skye near Broadford, south of the island of Raasay. Boat trips can be arranged with the local boatman. The island is a great place for a retreat or relaxing holiday with self catering available at the Isle of Scalpay Cottages. Ideal for fishing, walking, watching birds & wildlife, painting, photography, etc.
DAY-TRIPS FROM SKYE
Go To St Kilda offers day trips to the island archipelago of St Kilda with about 4 hours ashore to explore Hirta. All cruises are weather dependent, and operate from April to September. Meet at Uig Pier at 7.30am, return around 9pm. Journey time is 4 hours each way. The boat can carry 12 passengers. Booking essential (online booking available). Contact Derek J Gordon - mobile: 077899 14144
On Saturdays from 17 May to 6 September 2014, a coach tour of Lewis operates from Tarbert on Harris to coincide with the arrival of ferry from Skye. The bus takes you on a circular tour of Lewis (including Callanish, Gearrannan black house village and Stornoway) and brings you back to Tarbert in time for the evening ferry back to Uig on Skye (arriving approx. 9.40pm). If you want to do this as a day trip from Skye, book your tickets at the ferry office in Uig (tel: 01470 542219). View Calmac brochure.
Non-landing cruises from Uig to North Uist and/or the Isle of Harris are available on certain days from April to October. Book your tickets at the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry office in Uig (tel: 01470 542219). View Calmac cruises brochure.
Where to eat
Although there are restaurants and cafes all over the island, the largest number of eating places can be in the capital Portree.
The town has an Indian Tandoori restaurant, Chinese take-away, several cafes and fish & chip shops. There are numerous hotels where you can get meals.
On Bosville Terrace overlooking the harbour, there's a vegetarian bistro called Ben Tianavaig, and the Harbour View Seafood Restaurant which is popular with locals and tourists alike.
Cafe Arriba is a bistro, deli and takeaway at the top of Quae Brae in Portree. Homemade food. Vegetarians welcome.
The Aros Heritage Centre on the southern approach road to Portree serves good food too.
In Broadford, the seafood bistro and take-away Creelers is commended for providing memorable meals and good service in pleasant surroundings.
Red Skye Restaurant is located in The Old Schoolhouse at Breakish near Broadford and has an excellent reputation (tel: 01471 822180). Open Monday - Saturday from 12 noon - 9pm (last orders).
Skye's famous cookery writer Claire Macdonald owns Kinloch Lodge (Sleat). Accommodation and cookery courses. Tel: 01471 833214.
There are several eating places in Dunvegan, including the Old School Restaurant and Dunvegan Castle MacLeod's Tables Cafe (which is located near the castle entrance gates and is open 7 days a week from March to October). There's also a bakery/coffee shop/take-away in the village.
Located in an old crofter's cottage, The Three Chimneys Restaurant is at Colbost 4 miles west of Dunvegan (follow the B884 road to Glendale). Run by Eddie and Shirley Spear, it has won many awards. Booking is essential for dinner. Telephone 01470 511 258. 5 star accommodation also available.
The Loch Bay Seafood Restaurant at Waternish (north of Dunvegan) is recommended in the Scotland the Best guide book. Tel: 01470 592235
The Stein Inn at Waternish is also worth visiting. Open for lunch and dinner from Easter to October. Also, often open for dinner out of season, but it's best to check. Tel: 01470 592362.
The Toravaig House Hotel (Knock Bay, Sleat) has been awarded 2 AA Rosettes for its excellent cuisine, and its sister establishment the Duisdale House Hotel (Isle Ornsay, Sleat) has 1 AA rosette so far. Both open to non-residents for lunch and dinner. Morning coffees and afternoon teas also available.
Useful Books & Maps
If you intend to go hiking, particularly in the hills, you will need the scale of maps provided by the Landranger series. Skye and Raasay are covered by several slightly overlapping maps in this series, all produced by the Ordnance Survey which is the official map agency of the UK. These can be purchased via Amazon in the UK: South Skye & Cuillin Hills - North Skye, Dunvegan & Portree - Raasay & Applecross, Loch Torridon & Plockton.
A Long Walk on the Isle of Skye
David Patterson takes you on a 75-mile hiking trek across Skye. Superb photos of the island. 144 pages.
In the same series as his book covering The Cape Wrath Trail.
Available from Amazon.co.uk
The Isle of Skye
Written by Norman Newton. Lovely colour guide with over 100 pages of photos devoted to this magical island. Covers local heritage and culture, nature, the landscape, places to visit, etc. Even if you don't get chance to buy it before you go, you will certainly want a copy for a souvenir when you have visited!
Available from Amazon.co.uk
The Mediaeval Castles of Skye and Lochalsh
New edition of Roger Miket's excellent historical work, with illustrations by the late David L. Roberts. Published by Birlinn in 2007.
Includes detailed history of Eilean Donan Castle, plus Duntulm, Dunvegan, Caisteal Maol, Caisteal Camus, Caisteal Uisdean, Dun Sgathaich, Brochel Castle (Raasay).
Available from Amazon.co.uk
Old Skye Tales: Traditions, Reflections and Memories
Read about local legends, superstitions, sayings, second sight, etc. in this edited compilation of two works published in 1930 and 1934 by William MacKenzie. Published by Birlinn in 2002.
Available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
25 Walks: Skye and Kintail
From the well-known and picturesque Old Man of Storr to the wildlife and prehistoric remains at Rubh' an Dýnain. From the legends surrounding the Five Sisters to the lochs and crags above Plockton, this book guides the walker to areas of outstanding beauty and solitude.
Order your copy online here
Well known classic book by Ralph Storer.
Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk
The Archaeology of Skye and the Western Isles
The study of the archaeology of Skye and the Western Isles has been transformed in recent years through the results of new excavations, surveys and reassessment of earlier work.
Setting the Hebrides alongside better-known regions of Britain, this book by Ian Armit brings out the key features of Hebridean archaeology, from the impressive Callanish stones and the great ritual monuments of the Neolithic, the broch towers and wheelhouses of the Iron Age, to the arrival of the Norse, and the Lords of the Isles.
The book also explores the history of human settlement and society in these islands, from the first hunter-gatherers to the Clearances.
Invaluable for those seriously interested in the subject. Paperback. 270 pages.
Order your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Wordcatcher Publications produce greetings cards from Lewis and books including Poetic Tales from the Isle of Skye.
Trotternish pages: Walking - Scenery - Plants
Skye Flora (wild plants and ferns)
A Taste of Skye & Lochalsh - food and drink
Skye Tiles - hand painted art tiles of wildlife, castles and scenery
Photos of Skye & the Hebrides by Colin Palmer
Eye of Skye - Brian Smith's photos of Skye to buy online
PanoramicEarth - 360 degree photos of Skye
Counted Cross Stitch kits designed and produced on the Isle of Skye (inc. castles & wildlife)