The Isle of Skye is without a doubt one of Scotland’s most popular destinations and even if you know nothing else about Scotland, you will have heard about Skye. But is it really worth the detour over the sea to Skye? This guide contains 30+ amazing things to do on the Isle of Skye including the most scenic points, hikes and other outdoor activities, insta-worthy photo spots, castles and museums, rainy day activities, whisky distilleries, road trip itineraries and a comprehensive accommodation guide!
Skye is incredibly popular. Many visitors have the island in the north-west of Scotland on their bucket list – alongside Edinburgh, Glencoe, Inverness and Loch Ness it is among the most-visited areas in Scotland. And that is with good reason. There are a lot of things to do on Skye and it’s easy on the eye too!
The Isle of Skye is Scotland’s largest island and as such, it is very diverse. There is something to fit every taste and with some preparation, the island can be visited on any budget too. On Skye, you will find natural monuments and beautiful scenery, plenty of history explained at museums and castles, outdoor activities for thrill-seekers as well as families and plenty of photo-worthy stops along the winding roads crisscrossing the island. In my opinion, there is no must see on the Isle of Skye, but regardless of your travel style and personal preferences, the island offers something for you.
This post contains…
- over 30 things to do in the Isle of Skye including scenic viewpoints and natural monuments, hikes from short to challenging to fit each level of experience, indoor activities and things to do when it rains, and ideas for other outdoor activities on Skye and where to book them.
- a full Skye accommodation guide with advice on where to stay and lots of concrete suggestions to fir different budgets.
- four road trip itineraries that cover different parts of Skye. They can each be done in 1/2 to 1 day and you can mix & match them for your personal Isle of Skye tour.
- lots of practical advice about the best time to visit, how long to stay, how to get around and driving tips, how to get to the isle and the best Skye tours, and where to find vegan food options.
Skye Road Trip Video
Isle of Skye FAQ
Its popularity and size mean that a trip to Skye must be carefully planned in order to be perfect. Unlike many other places in the Scottish Highlands, you cannot just rock up on Skye and expect to find accommodation. That’s why it is important to plan a few details first – when is the best time to visit Skye, how long should you plan to stay and where should you stay on Skye? How do you fit Skye into your entire Scotland road trip and what is the best way to get around the island? The following Skye FAQ contains all the answers.
When to go to Skye
If you wonder what the best time to visit Scotland really is, I have to disappoint you – there is not ONE best season to travel to Scotland. Every season, every time of the year has its own advantages and disadvantages. With Skye in particular, I find it a bit easier though – I certainly do think there is a best time to visit the Isle of Skye – and that is off season.
During the summer Skye is incredibly busy – some might say unbearably busy. Accommodation books out far in advance and is much pricier than other regions in Scotland. Roads can be congested, especially the single-track roads on the Trotternish Peninsula and towards Neist Point, or if there are lots of minibuses and campervans. Car parks fill up in the morning hours and it can be stressful to visit even just the most popular sights and viewpoints on the island. For some that might not matter, but personally, I prefer to travel more off the beaten track in the summer. There are many other places to see that attract fewer visitors even during the summer holidays.
That does not mean you should not include Skye in your summer road trip in Scotland at all costs, but if you have the choice to move your vacation to off season, you contribute to a more equal distribution of tourism on Skye throughout the year and get to enjoy the island more exclusively. And if you’re not set on Skye, you check out these beautiful alternative destinations.
In my opinion, the best months to visit Skye are between September/October and April. The days might be much shorter than during summer, but the light is super special during the colder months, roads are pretty much empty and you get many sights on Skye entirely to yourself. To be honest, the weather is pretty unpredictable all year-round. I have visited Skye three times – in May, October and November – and out of the three, I had the best weather in late November.
How many days to spend on Skye
How many days you should spend on Skye depends on your overall itinerary as well as the time of year you are visiting. If you follow my advice and visit in the off-season, you might want to add a day or two to make up for the shorter days. In the summer, when it’s light from early in the morning to late at night, you can probably see a lot more of Skye in a shorter period of time.
In general, I’d say you should spend at least two nights on Skye – any less and in my opinion, you’re spending too much time in the car getting there and around just to tick off a box. The scenery of the northern, central and western Highlands is breathtaking, so I don’t see the point to travel to Skye with so little time at your hand. Instead, relax your Scotland itinerary with a few extra stops on the mainland.
Personally, I love spending long weekends on Skye 2-4 nights, depending on the kind of activities I am interested in. That gives you enough time to not just race from one photo spot to the next, but rather to enjoy the scenery and include some light walking or outdoor activities in your itinerary.
Check out my complete Scotland packing list with tips for all seasons!
How to get to Skye
Skye is the only large island in Scotland that is connected to the Scottish mainland by a bridge. This makes it very easy to include in your road trip itinerary because you can plan your route completely independent of ferry times. From Glasgow and Edinburgh, it takes 5-6 hours to drive to Skye, making it an ambitious weekend getaway, but if you plan a week-long roundtrip (or more) you can fit Skye between visits to Inverness and Fort William.
Read on for several self-drive itineraries from popular cities in Scotland. They include distance, duration and a few potential stops along the way. They can all be done in one go, but the further you have to drive, the more I’d recommend to break up your drive in order to enjoy the Scottish scenery to its fullest. Distances and duration are calculated to Portree on Skye.
From Edinburgh to Isle of Skye via Perth
5+ hours, 235 miles / 380 km
From Edinburgh cross the Firth of Forth and take the M90, then the A9 north. You could stop in Dunfermline to see the Abbey and Robert the Bruce’s grave. Further up, stop in Pitlochry to take in the town and a whisky distillery or make a halt at nearby Blair Castle. After passing Dalwhinnie, take the A889 towards the A86 and Spean Bridge. From there go north towards Invergarry and finally pick up the A87 towards Eilean Donan Castle and the Isle of Skye.
From Edinburgh via Glasgow
6+ hours, 261 miles / 420 km (approx 5+ hours from Glasgow)
From Edinburgh take the M8 to Glasgow and follow the motorway through town until you exit for Erskine Bridge over the River Clyde. From there pick up the A82 north which will lead you past some of my favourite Highlands scenery – Loch Lomond, Rannoch Mor, Glencoe and finally Fort William. For stops along this route, check out this post. Personally, this is my preferred route to go to Skye and I recommend breaking up the drive with a stay in Fort William if time permits. In Invergarry take the A87 towards Eilean Donan Castle and the Isle of Skye.
From Inverness via Urquhart Castle
2.5h+, 110 miles / 180km
From Inverness, follow the A82 south towards Loch Ness and Drumnadrochit. You could stop by Urquhart Castle to visit the ruins or join a cruise on Loch Ness to hunt for Nessie. In Invermoriston take the A887 towards the A87 which will bring you all the way to Portree. Near Dornie, stop at Eilean Donan Castle.
From Inverness via Achnasheen
2.5h+, 110 miles / 180km
From Inverness take the A9 and then the A835 towards Gorstan. Next, take the A890 which will lead you through beautiful Highland scenery until you reach the A87 just before Kyle of Lochalsh. A brief detour to Dornie will allow for a stop at Eilean Donan Castle.
By Bridge or Ferry
You can reach the Isle of Skye via the Skye Bridge which connects Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland with Kyleakin on Skye. This is by far the easiest and most popular way to get to Skye. However, if you plan to include Skye in your wider Scotland road trip, consider taking the bridge one way, and a ferry the other way – that way, you won’t have to drive the same road twice!
There are two ferries connecting Skye with the mainland. The bigger one between Mallaig and Armadale is operated by Calmac and runs year-round. The road leading from Fort William to Mallaig is one of my favourite scenic drives in Scotland, so it’s worth to include it in your Scotland route. During the summer, this ferry gets very busy and I highly recommend to book your preferred crossing in advance to avoid disappointment. The other ferry is privately operated and runs between Khylerea on Skye and Glenelg on the mainland. It is also called the Glenelg Ferry. It runs only during the summer months and can fit around four cars. The upside is, that the crossing is much shorter and it will run back and forth all day in the summer. It is the last manually operated turntable ferry in Scotland – well worth the experience!
Getting to Skye by public transport
The Isle of Skye can also be reached by public transport, however, if you plan to travel there from Glasgow or Edinburgh in one day, you are in for a long ride!
From Edinburgh, take the train or bus to Glasgow and board a direct bus to Skye there.
From Glasgow take one of the Scottish Citylink services 915. 916 or 917. Booking your bus ticket in advance is highly recommended, especially if you travel during the summer or at weekends.
From Edinburgh you could also travel to Inverness by train or bus first, stop there for a couple of days and then continue from Inverness to Skye.
From Inverness take the Scottish Citylink services 915, 916 or 917 which go all the way to Portree. You could also take a scenic train ride to Kyle of Lochalsh and get on the same buses from there.
How to get around Skye
The easiest way to get around on the Isle of Skye is by driving yourself. However, I appreciate that not everyone drives and it is possible to explore Skye without a car as well.
Buses on Skye
There are local buses which are all operated by Stagecoach. Here you can find a route map for Skye buses. Note that these buses are mostly there to connect villages and sometimes it can be 1.5 to 2 hours or more between buses. Places of interest on Skye that can be easily reached by bus include Dunvegan Castle, Portree, Elgol, Talisker Distillery, the Skye Museum of Island Life and Armadale Castle. The driver might also let you off at Kilt Rock and the Old Man of Storr. Many places, particularly those that are interesting for their stunning scenery, like the Dunscaith Castle, the Quiraing or Neist Point are not serviced by bus routes.
Driving on Skye
Driving on Skye can be stressful if you are not used to driving on the left or on small countryside roads, which often turn into single-track roads. I recommend hiring a small car, as opposed to a large vehicle, as it will be much easier to navigate the narrow roads on the island. If you have arrived on Skye by public transport, there are several car hire services in Kyle of Lochalsh, Portree and Armadale. Some might let you do a one-way rental to pick up and return the car in different places on or near Skye – it’s best to contact them directly and read the small print regarding insurance and road-side assistance carefully. If you rented your car in one of the main hubs on the mainland, you are already set.
Even though Skye is a popular road trip destination and there are now many more large roads than there used to be, there are still many single-track roads on Skye. I doubt that you can avoid them altogether if you want to see Skye’s main attractions, so it is best to prepare mentally for it and learn how to drive them efficiently. Here are some tips:
- All single-track roads have passing places which allow you to pass oncoming traffic safely. Don’t try to pass another car unless there is a passing place – you or the other driver thus might have to reverse to the next suitable passing place.
- Use the passing places on the left side of the road – if the passing place is on the right-hand side, stop on the road and let the oncoming traffic use the passing place to pass you.
- If you are a slow driver, let traffic behind you pass by a passing place.
- Don’t park and leave your car behind in a passing place.
- On a slope, give way to cars that are driving up the hill.
Guided Scotland tours including Skye
If you don’t drive yourself, you could visit Skye on a guided tour from one of the main towns in Scotland. Scottish companies like Rabbie’s, Timberbush Tours of Haggis Adventures offer multiple-day itineraries to the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh and Glasgow, such as this 3-day tour from Glasgow with Timberbush Tours or this 5-day trip from Edinburgh with Haggis Adventures. If you base yourself in Inverness, you can also do a day tour to Skye with Rabbie’s.
Guided Skye tours on the island
Finally, if you’d rather explore Scotland by yourself, but don’t want to drive on Skye, why not join a local day trip? There are many tour companies (many operating out of Portree) that offer day trips to scenic places around Skye! If you travel in a group, you could even rent a private driver for the day, to get the route that fits you best!
Additionally, Go Skye offers shuttle bus services to some of the most popular places on Skye including the Fairy Glen, the Fairy Pools and the Old Man of Storr.
Vegan Food on Skye
It is certainly becoming easier to travel Scotland as a vegan, but on the Isle of Skye, don’t expect to be blown away by culinary delights. I recommend booking self-catering accommodation to make sure you are well-fed. There are several restaurants and cafes all over Skye that can cater for a vegan diet, but the choices might be boring – hummus sandwiches, cheese-free risotto or a bowl of chips don’t sound too exciting if you ask me.
Additionally, if you follow my advice to visit during the off-season, cafes and restaurants outside of Portree might be closed for the season. There are two supermarkets in Portree though, where you can pick up all essentials for picnics, snacks and preparing your own meals.
Here are some restaurants on Skye that have vegan options:
- The Isles Inn in Portree offers traditional pub grub and has some vegan options including desserts on the menu.
- Cafe Arriba in Portree is a quirky place for lunch that has several vegan options on the menu – just speak to the staff to make sure they’re all good to eat. They also have alternative milks for your latte cravings.
- Skye Pie Cafe on the Trotternish Peninsula, halfway between Portree and Staffin, serves delicious pies all day during the summer and always has a vegan pie on the menu too.
- Cafe Sia in Broadford is well-known for its wood-fired pizza but also offers vegan breakfast.
- The Three Chimneys, Colbost, offers a vegetarian tasting menu and should be able to accommodate vegans if you book ahead. It is a renowned Scottish restaurant and the price of £85 for the veggie menu reflects that. I would definitely call ahead to discuss the menu to make sure the vegan options are worth the price!
Isle of Skye Accommodation Guide
When looking for accommodation on Skye, there are several areas you might want to consider. Portree is the largest town on Skye and boasts a plethora of accommodation to fit all budgets. In the town, you will also find shops and restaurants, and many local tour companies start their tours and day trips from here.
Further up the coast, on the western side of the Trotternish Peninsula lies Uig. This small harbour town is much quieter than Portree, but it is also the perfect base if you plan to continue your island hopping adventure in the Outer Hebrides. Uig is connected by ferry with Tarbert on the Isle of Harris.
Broadford is another popular town on the Isle of Skye. Its location in the centre of the island and along the main road means that staying here gives you great access to all parts of Skye.
Carbost in the west of Skye is a quaint little town (or rather a collection of small hamlets and villages) with plenty of B&B accommodation dotted in the green scenery. I stayed here once and enjoyed being so far off the beaten track, but it also meant additional driving time to explore the rest of Skye.
Finally, if you are looking for accommodation near the ferry back to the mainland, I recommend staying in or nearby Armadale in the south of Skye.
In terms of types of accommodation, Skye offers anything you can think of. There are luxury and mid-range hotels, traditional inns and B&Bs, hostels with bunk beds and cheap private accommodation, self-catering cottages and serviced apartments, campsites and glamping sites, bothies and plenty of private rentals via AirBnB. You will find them in towns and villages, with restaurants, shops and facilities in walking distance, or out in the countryside, where you get to enjoy the beautiful views of Skye in solitude.
Budget accommodation Skye
Portree Youth Hostel, Portree: bunk beds from £17.50, private rooms from £70
The Cowshed Boutique Bunkhouse, Uig: bunk beds from £16, private rooms from £80, pods from £60
Skyewalker Hostel, Carbost: bunk beds from £17, private rooms from £50
Glenbrittle Youth Hostel, Glenbrittle: bunk beds from £19, private rooms from £90
Broadford Youth Hostel, Broadford: bunk beds from £21.50, private rooms from £60
Mid-range accommodation: Hotels & B&Bs
Creagory Skye B&B, Portree: from £70 incl. breakfast
Taigh Rob B&B, Portree: from £150 incl. breakfast
Harbour View, Portree: self-catering apartment, from £110
Breakish Escape B&B, Broadford: from £95 incl. breakfast
Greshornish House Hotel, near Dunvegan: from £90 incl. breakfast
Hotel Eilean Iarmain, Isleornsay near Armadale: from £80
Unique stays & luxury accommodation Skye
Canowindra B&B, Portree: from £185 incl. breakfast
Skeabost House Hotel****, near Portree: from £99 incl. breakfast
Storr Apartments, near Portree: serviced self-catering apartment, from £300
Toravaig House Hotel, Armadale: from £240
Raasay House, Isle of Raasay: from £155
Skye Eco Bells, near Dunvegan: luxury glamping tents via AirBnB, from £80
30+ things to do on Skye
The best scenery & hikes on Skye
Skye is most famous for its stunning scenery and breathtaking landscapes, so going outdoors is a no-brainer. Many of the most scenic points on Skye are near roads, so you don’t have to go for long hikes. However, Skye is also a fantastic hiking destination in Scotland. It pays off to pack the hiking boots and hit the trails – I use an amazing pair of Zamberlan boots for all my hikes.
The following things to do sum up scenic viewpoints, interesting natural monuments, picturesque towns and great hiking trails on Skye.
Portree might be a small town, but it is nevertheless the bustling heart of the Isle of Skye. Spend at least 1-2 hours in Portree to take in the colourful waterfront of the harbour, climb the Apothecary Tower for scenic views to the Old Man of Storr and browse the shops in the town centre for unique souvenirs. For a deeper insight, you can book a tour with Experience Portree.
Old Man of Storr
The Old Man of Storr is a bizarre pinnacle at the foot of the Storr summit – many would say that this is a must do on Skye. You can see it from afar as you drive north from Portree. There is a small car park at the foot of the hill (come early in summer!) and from there you can walk up to the Old Man and nearby viewpoints in about 1.5 hours. The views are incredible and it is no surprise that this is one of Skye’s most iconic photo spots.
Brother’s Point is a scenic headland in the east of the Trotternish peninsula. Most people will drive straight past it on their way from the Old Man of Storr to Kilt Rock, but if you fancy a little off-the-beaten-track walk along the coast (1-2 hours, full description here), Brother’s Point offers some stunning views!
Mealt Falls & Kilt Rock
Kilt Rock is a cliff formation lined with columns of basalt rock that make it look a bit like a kilt (similar to the caves of Staffa) – hence the name. The viewpoint lies a bit north of the Old Man of Storr and includes views of Mealt Falls, a waterfall that drops off the cliffs into the ocean.
Lealt Falls is a picturesque waterfall on the Trotternish Peninsula. In the summer it is framed by lush greenery, making it look quite tropical.
The Quiraing is a low mountain range at the northern tip of the Trotternish Peninsula. Like the Old Man of Storr it is filled with bizarre rock formations bearing names like the Needle or the Prison. Photographers will find ultimate bliss here at sunrise, which is worth getting up early. The best place to park is at the top of the steep ascent into the Quiraing (along the road towards Uig). From here you can follow the Quiraing circuit trail, either just for a few steps or further along if you want to get away from the crowds.
The Fairy Glen near Uig is most famous for the aerial views of a stone spiral on the ground, which has been built by visiting tour groups. However, locals like to return the glen to its natural state – and that’s the way it should be. Luckily the glen is also stunning without the stone spiral. The best views can be enjoyed from Castle Ewan, which isn’t a real castle, but rather a basalt rock topping on one of the hills in the glen.
Parking is incredibly limited at the glen, so it’s best to either park in Uig and walk 30 minutes to the glen, or make use of the shuttle bus which runs between the glen and Portree during the summer.
Neist Point Lighthouse
Neist Point lighthouse lies on the far western corner of Skye, about a 2-hour drive from Portree. It is one of the most famous lighthouses in Scotland and if the small car park is full, there is ample opportunity to park along the road by the cafe. From the car park, it takes about 30 minutes to reach the lighthouse and some of the best views wait along this walk. Mind, that you have to walk up and down some very steep steps, so if it is raining or stormy, it’s hardly worth the risk.
Claigan Coral Beach
Claigan Coral Beach is a scenic beach near Dunvegan. With its white sand and clear blue water, it looks more tropical than Scottish. It is the perfect spot for a seaside picnic, but the sea might be a bit chilly for a swim.
Oronsay Island by Ullinish
Oronsay Island is a small tidal island off the west coast of Skye. That means, that it can only be reached (and left again) during low tide, so you have to check tidal times to avoid getting stuck out there. The scenic walk along the island offers stunning views and an adventure far off the beaten track.
Hike in the Red Hills
The Red Hills, or Red Cuillin, is a series of reddish granite hills southwest of Sligachan. The hills have been rounded by the weather and don’t require a huge amount of technical skills to climb. The highest point is Glamaig at 775m. Experienced hillwalkers can enjoy a scenic hike up Glamaig and the northern Red Hills (full description here).
Hike in the Black Cuillin
The Black Cuillin lies southeast of the Red Hills and is much higher, with several Munros (mountains over 3,000 feet). Its dark and rocky peaks require technical skills and many can only be summitted by scrambling or even rock climbing.
If you want to hike in the Black Cuillin, consider following the ascent to Sgurr Dearg viewpoint which leads you to the food of the In Pinn – the Inaccessible Pinnacle – or hiking Garbh Bheinn, one of the lower outliers of the Cuillin. Sgurr Dearg is an easy Grade 5 hike, which requires navigation skills, while Garbh Bhainn is a Grade 4 and includes light scrambling. Another popular hike with magnificent views is Bla Bheinn. Which is also a Grade 4. If you are not experienced enough to do these hikes by yourself, you can hire a guide.
Check out these books:
Walking the Isle of Skye by Cicerone
Short Walks on Skye by Joanna Young
The Skye Trail (long-distance hike) by Cicerone
Another supposed must do on the Isle of Skye is to visit the Fairy Pools. Just like the Fairy Glen, there are actually no stories or legends of fairies in this area. The unusual location is simply enough to give the site its mythical name.
The Fairy Pools lie below the jagged Black Cuillin mountains. The River Brittle flows from those peaks towards the village of Glenbrittle and forms a series of waterfalls and pools, some big enough to swim and well deep enough to jump in. Only the brave will manage though since the water is icy cold. You can find a good description of the walk here.
The car park at the Fairy Pools gets super busy during the summer and many tourists have been caught parking along the narrow single-track road to Glenbrittle, which blocks the way for locals and emergency services – please don’t be one of them!
Overall, I find the Fairy Pools overrated – they might be beautiful in the sunshine, but many photographs you will see online are digitally enhanced or photoshopped, and I find it’s not worth the hassle during the busy summer months. There are many other beautiful spots on Skye!
Loch Coruisk is a remote loch in the south-west of Skye that can only be reached on foot or by boat. Boat trips, for example with the Bella Jane, leave from Elgol. There are several boats a day, so depending on when you want to be picked up again, your tour can last a half-day, a full day or multiple days, depending on the experience you are looking for. When you go on land at Loch Coruisk, there are several trails to choose from and I recommend walking at least a little bit in order to get away from your group and experience this isolated area in its full glory.
The Loch Coruisk Circuit (full description here) is perfect for a day trip. Wild camping is allowed in Scotland as long as you adhere to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, so you could bring your camping equipment on the boat!
Bothying at Camasunary Bay
A bothy is a basic mountain hut that provides free shelter for hikers and adventurers. Bothies are managed by the Mountain Bothies Association and are usually located in remote corners of the Scottish Highlands and islands.
Accommodation at bothies is very basic – they are first and foremost emergency shelters, and thus they provide usually not more than a roof over your head and a space to spread out your sleeping mat and bag. You have to be up for an adventure to make use of them! Find out more about using bothies and how to take care of them here.
The bothy at Camansunary Bay is fairly easy to reach and is located along the circuit trail around the Elgol Peninsula. The views of the Cuillin and the islands are wonderful! The bothy has two rooms and offers space for 16 people on a bunk-bed platform. It takes between 1 and 2.5 hours to reach, depending on your starting point (Kilmarie car park or Elgol).
There are two other bothies on Skye, Ollisdal in the north-west and the Lookout on the Trotternish Peninsula. If you want to pick up bothying in the Scottish Highlands, I recommend The Scottish Bothy Bible for lots if inspiration, grid references, route descriptions and details about facilities.
Point of Sleat walk
Point of Sleat is the southernmost point of the Isle of Skye and is located on the Sleat Peninsula, not far from the ferry terminal in Armadale. The walk takes about 3-4 hours and if you are lucky, you can spot some marine wildlife, like seals or otters along the way. The views across the sea to the Small Isles, Rum and Eigg, are stunning and there is a lovely sandy beach at Camas Daraich. You can read the full description of the walk here.
Day trip to Raasay
The Isle of Raasay lies between Skye and the mainland and makes for a great day trip from Skye. The ferry from Sconser to Raasay takes only about 25 minutes and once on the island, there is plenty to do. Check out this list of possible hikes, go sea-kayaking, canoeing, coasteering or gorge walking or bring across your mountain bike. There is also a distillery that offers tours for £10 (1 hour).
Walk the Skye Trail
The Skye Trail is a challenging long-distance hike for experienced hillwalkers. It follows the Trotternish Ridge and passes underneath the Black Cuillin and Red Hills before it ends in Broadford. This unofficial trail is not waymarked and often there is no path, which means the Skye Trail requires navigation skills. The Skye Trail is 128 km long and can be done in 7-10 days.
The Skye Trail book by Cicerone includes all the information you need to prepare this trail and plan your route!
Activities for rainy days: Castles, Museums & Distilleries
Even though, many visit Skye primarily for the scenery and landscapes, the island also offers many things to do with history and culture. And if you wonder what to do on Skye when it rains, just think of these museums, castles and distilleries. Here are some of the things to do on Skye that allow you to spend time indoors and learn about the island’s people, history and culture.
Dunvegan Castle & Gardens
Dunvegan Castle is possibly the most popular castle on the Isle of Skye. It lies roughly halfway between Portree and Neist Point and thus makes for a logical stop. Of course, you can visit the inside of the castle, but the real highlight is the beautiful garden, which dates back to the 18th century. In the summer, it is filled with colourful flowers, bushes and trees.
My favourite thing about Dunvegan Castle is that they offer boat trips to a nearby seal colony (additional cost of £9.50) where you can get up close with sunbathing seals on their lunch break!
Dunvegan Castle is open from April to mid-October and admission is £14 for the castle and garden, or £12 for the garden only.
The ruins of Armadale Castle on the Sleat Peninsula are a great contrast to Dunvegan Castle. It was once the seat of the Macdonalds of Sleat and its location overlooking the Sound of Sleat provides dramatic views across the water to the mainland. The ruins date back to the 19th century and the adjacent mansion house dates to the late 18th century. The widespread gardens offer plenty of walks and opportunities to watch the local wildlife.
Armadale Castle is open year-round and the ticket costs £8.50.
I found out about Dunscaith Castle thanks to a great blog post on Adventures Around Scotland – read it here. The ruined castle off the coast of the Sleat Peninsula is connected to the mainland by an old stone bridge, however, since the bridge has collapsed, it requires quite some skill to climb across to the castle – I recommend doing this during low tide, to minimise risks. From the ruin, but also the surrounding shoreline, the views of the Black Cuillin are breathtaking! When I visited last November, I even spotted a wild otter playing in the shallow sea at low tide.
Admittedly, this is a castle that is best visited on a sunny day! No entrance is required, but parking is extremely limited.
Skye Museum of Island Life
The Skye Museum of Island Life is a museum in Kilmuir near Uig. The museum offers a step back in time to get a real insight into what life on Skye would have been like one-hundred years ago. There are multiple cottages exemplifying different aspects of Scottish island life, such as traditional croft cottages, the workplaces of smiths and weavers and of course the traditional village hall for social gatherings.
The museum is open from Easter until late September and the ticket costs £3.
Colbost Croft Museum
The Colbost Croft Museum near Dunvegan features a replica of a traditional blackhouse, which was the typical home of many Scots well into the 19th century. Traditionally, these houses have two rooms under the same room – one for the family, the other for the livestock – and only one entrance. There was a firepit at the centre of the main room and only a small opening in the ceiling to allow the smoke to escape. However, most of the smoke remained in the house and coloured the walls and its inhabitants’ lungs black – hence the name.
The museum is open from Easter until late October and the ticket costs £1.50.
Staffin Dinosaur Museum
Did you know that Skye is the home of many dinosaur fossils? The Staffin Dinosaur Museum tells the history of dinosaurs in Scotland and features some fossils that were found nearby. The museum also offers guided walks to a nearby dinosaur footprint along the coast!
The museum is open year-round and admission costs £2.
Traditional music session at Edinbane Inn
There is nothing quite like a Scottish island ceilidh – a traditional Scottish dance with lots of fiddle music and mind-bending choreographies. The Edinbane Inn offers a weekly traditional music session every Sunday (and sometimes also Tuesdays and Fridays), where you can listen to the kind of music you could hear at a ceilidh dance.
Whisky distilleries are great rainy day activities because they are fascinating, regardless of the weather outside. In fact, the warming taste of whisky at the back of your throat is even better when it’s stormy outside. Talisker Distillery lies off the beaten track in Carbost, but it can be busy during the summer or on a bad weather day. It is open year-round and you can choose three different tours differing in length and numbers of malts you get to taste.
The classic distillery tour with one tasting costs £10 and lasts for about 45 minutes. It includes the tasting of one Talisker single malt whisky. The longer tours last 1.5 and 2 hour and include 3-5 whiskies.
The second whisky distillery on the Isle of Skye – Torabhaig Distillery on the Sleat Peninsula. The distillery was first licensed over 200 years ago, but had to be significantly renovated – it reopened in 2017 and can be visited year-round.
Tours last 45 minutes and cost £10.
Fingal Centre indoor pool
Even though whisky distillery tours are increasingly family-friendly, you might be more interested in another way to keep the kids occupied on a rainy day. The Fingal Centre in Portree has a large indoor swimming pool that might do the trick!
Other outdoor activities on Skye
There are several outdoor companies, such as Skye Highland Adventure or White Wave Outdoor Centre that offer kayaking or canoeing trips on the coast of the Isle of Skye. They put together routes that suit all abilities and levels of experience.
Speedboat trip to St Kilda
Go to St Kilda offers full-day boat trips to St Kilda, a natural and cultural World Heritage Site 50 miles west of the Outer Hebrides. For bird-watchers and those who love off the beaten track adventures, St Kilda is a paradise. I visited last year (from Harris) and loved the whole experience! To read more about my impressions and experiences on St Kilda, read this post.
Wildlife Watching boat trips
There are several companies who offer wildlife watching boat trips, whether they take you whale and dolphin spotting, or are on the lookout for Scotland’s majestic sea eagles or the clownish puffins. Generally, these trips are most successful during the summer months!
If you prefer a more hands-on approach to the Scottish coastline, consider trying your hand at coasteering – a mix between climbing, swimming and jumping off sea cliffs. Skye Adventure offers coasteering trips during the summer, which are an exhilarating experience.
Four self-drive itineraries on Skye
The following includes four suggestions for self-drive itineraries around Skye’s far-flung corners. They can each be driven easily within a day, but it is worth exploring each of these areas in more detail as well.
To see what is possible on a winter weekend on Skye, check out this 2-day itinerary, which Yvette from Wayfaring Kiwi and I did in November 2018.
Trotternish Peninsula (½ to 1 day+)
The Trotternish Peninsula is by far the most popular road trip on the Isle of Skye. Many visit Skye only to see the Old Man of Storr, take a walk in the Quiraing or get a glimpse of the Fairy Glen. Beginning and ending in Portree, the circuit around the peninsula is just over 40 miles (65 km) long and driven in one go, takes barely 1.5 hours. Stopping here and there for photos or a quick walk, you can easily drive around the peninsula in half a day. However, there is enough to see to fill an entire day – or more, if you want to include a couple of hikes to viewpoints as well.
Potential stops to include: Old Man of Storr + walk, Lealt Falls, Brother’s Point + walk, Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls, Staffin Dinosaur Museum, Quiraing + walking, Fairy Glen, Uig and a potential detour to the Skye Museum of Island Life.
Distance: 40 miles (65 km)
North-West Skye (½ to 1 day+)
A road trip around the north-west of Skye, towards Dunvegan and Neist Point and down towards Ullinish, is a varied day trip that offers a little bit of everything – a castle, beaches and bays, a lighthouse and stunning mountain vistas. Including detours to Claigan Coral Beach and Neist Point Lighthouse, the circular drive beginning and ending in Portree is about 70 miles (115 km) long.
If you are in a rush, you can easily combine a day trip around the North-West and Trotternish in one day, but you will have to cut corners when it comes to the stops you can manage.
Potential stops to include: Dunvegan Castle & Gardens + seal boat trip, Claigan Coral Beach, Colbost Croft Museum, Neist Point Lighthouse, Oronsay Island
Distance: 70 miles (115km)
Central Skye (1 day+)
A road trip around Central Skye includes a drive towards Carbost and Talisker as asll we scenic drives, hikes or boat excursions around the Cuillin ridges and Elgol.
Potential stops to include. Staring and ending in Portree, this road trip itinerary takes in Carbost and Talisker Distillery, the Fairy Pools in Glenbrittle, the mountain views of the Black and Red Cuilling and the Elgol Peninsula.
Potential stops to include: Talisker Distillery, Fairy Pools, Elgol Peninsula, Loch Coruisk boat trip.
Distance: 100 miles (160 km)
Sleat Peninsula (1 day+)
Possibly the least popular, but nevertheless stunning part of Skye is the Sleat Peninsula. While many visitors arrive in Armadale by ferry from Mallaig, most leave the south of Skye immediately and make their way up north. That leaves the roads and attractions of the Sleat Peninsula much quieter, even in the summertime. Starting and ending in Broadford, the circular road trip around the peninsula is about 50 miles (80 km) long.
Potential stops to include: Dunscaith Castle, Armadale Castle, Torabhaig Distillery and Point of Sleat.
Distance: 50 miles (80 km)
You might also like my 7-day itinerary for the best of Scotland
Skye is Scotland’s most popular island destination – and for a good reason. There are so many things to do on the Isle of Skye, it would be easy to fill several weeks with adventures, hikes, culture and history. This detailed travel guide to the Isle of Skye will hopefully inspire your trip to Skye in the future!
Planning a trip to Scotland?
Pin me for later:
All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.