Travel Guide: Isle of Skye

Oh, beautiful Skye. A truly inspiring and breathtaking island, in the Scottish Highlands, the Isle of Skye is somewhere everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. It has been recognised as one of the top islands in Europe by Conde Nast and National Geographic so who can argue with that? Here is my latest travel guide and voted staycation of the year (by me)! 

Getting to the Isle of Skye 

I’m going to be honest with you. The journey up to the Isle of Skye is not for the faint-hearted. It’s an epic journey along winding, country roads and the further north you go, the more remote you feel. BUT, if you enjoy driving and don’t mind being in the car for the day, then it is 100% worth it, the views are just spectacular! 

I loved the drive up. It was my first road trip in my MINI. There’s something so freeing about driving along country roads, roof down, sun shining and music ON. Pair this with the fantastic scenery, and the drive becomes a real treat. I wish I had a photographer on hand to capture the incredible landscape. There were plenty of WOWs, OMGs, and THIS IS AMAZING whilst I was driving along. 

I drove up from Oxfordshire, which is a trek; however, I am lucky to have family in Scotland so made a pit stop half-way to break up the journey. So technically it took me two days. There are, of course, quicker ways to get there; you could fly to the nearest airport (Inverness or Glasgow) and then hire a car. 

One thing is sure though; you need a car in Skye!

Where to stay? 

I chose to base myself in the main town of Portree. The location is pretty great in terms of being central enough to drive to all of the attractions easily, and there is quite a bit going on (even in COVID times)! 

I stayed at the gorgeous Marmalade Hotel, a recently renovated manor house. It sits on a hill just a short walk from the centre, and I was lucky enough to wake up to incredible views of the coastline every morning at sunrise. *Not an ad*, but I would highly recommend staying here if you are looking for a stylish, comfortable hotel. I received a warm welcome, excellent customer service during my stay and fantastic food! What more could you want? They also have a second hotel, The Bosville, right opposite the harbour with equally gorgeous views so immediately you have two great options! 

Of course, there are plenty of other places to stay. When I was searching for accommodation, I found so many Bed and Breakfast’s, and if camping is more your style then there are options for you too! I would book ahead as it was pretty busy given everyone is opting for a staycation for the foreseeable.

What to do in the Isle of Skye

There are so many things to do and see in Skye, and I only had a couple of days so couldn’t squeeze in everything but I did have a little help from a friend choosing what to prioritise which was great! Here are some of my highlights that I recommend for you too. 

Fairy Pools 

The fairy pools are up there as one of my favourite places in Skye, and potentially the world. I know that’s a big statement to make, but they were stunning. You turn off the main road onto a single track road (there are lots of these) until you arrive at a car park on a hill. It’s £5 to park all day (you can pay by card) and there were plenty of spaces when I turned up at around 11 am. I hear it gets jam-packed though, so it might be best to plan your day with this in mind. 

I met some family friends who happened to be in Skye at the same time, and we hiked to the fairy pools together, which was lovely! There is a bit of walking involved here. You go down from the car park, have to cross the water on these large stepping stones and then walk up the side of the waterfalls to get to the top. On the way up, there are so many photo opportunities – it was hard to put my camera down! The water changed colour from deep blues to magnificent greens and purples. There are several ‘pools’ as you make your way up and if you’re brave enough, you can even have a swim. I did wear my bikini, but it was SO cold that I decided not to – I’ll have to go back another time! 

The fairy pools were honestly one of my favourite places, so I 100% recommend visiting here. Who knows, maybe you’re braver than me and will go for a dip. If you do, I want to see the photos!

Old Man of Storr – Munro

I had a big breakfast this morning ready to fuel my day and my god I’m glad I did. It was an active day of hiking and exploring, and I needed all of the energy I could get! After breakfast, I headed up to Old Man of Storr, parked in the car park (this one was hourly rated but wasn’t expensive) and made my way to the beginning of the site. I was already out of breath before I’d even started and this was the first time I had climbed a steep mountain since my illness, so I took it slowly and was proud of myself to reach the top. The views were incredible, and it was much quieter first thing so I would recommend conquering this one early on.

Neist Point Lighthouse 

I was undecided at first whether I would visit the lighthouse, it certainly wasn’t top of my list. But a lovely Canadian girl at the hotel recommended it as her favourite place on the island, so I listened and jumped in the car to drive over (which took about 1.5hrs from Portree). I remember passing a single Jewellery shop in the middle of nowhere on a hill and thought – how do they make money out here? The lighthouse was in a remote area of the west side of the island with nothing around it for miles, so I would recommend taking supplies with you (water and maybe even a picnic)! 

I lucked out with the weather as it was a beautiful, sunny day! It took me about 15 minutes to walk down the cliff to the lighthouse itself and then I chilled in the sun and took in my surroundings. A friend informed me that the sunsets here are amazing as well, so if you’re looking for a cute, romantic spot then this could be it! 

Talisker Beach 

If you know me, you’ll see that I love a beach so when I added Talisker beach to my itinerary I had it in my head that I HAD to go. I had planned to go after the fairy pools on the first day, but the rain started to pour, and the winds picked up, so I thought it was best to wait and decided to have a cosy evening exploring Portree, enjoying dinner and then chilled at the hotel instead. 

So, the next day was my epic adventure. Having visited Old Man of Storr first thing in the morning, and Neist Point Lighthouse in the afternoon, it was nearing 4 pm. I was getting a bit hangry, my phone battery was dying, and my SatNav wasn’t recognising Talisker at all. I knew it was ‘off the beaten track’ and the funny thing was I knew I was close. I was on a mission to find this beach! Luckily, my grandpa had given me an AA Map before I set off ‘just in case’ and I turned to said map with my last bit of hope and as if by magic the good old trusty map lead me straight to Talisker! (Here’s a recommendation – take a map in case technology fails)! 

If you follow the single track road, past The Oyster Shed, to the end, you finally reach a small group of houses (it might only be 2) where there is parking (mainly just on the side of the road #remote). You then have to walk for a couple of km past the houses, following the signs for the beach, and along another track (I questioned if I was going the right way) which opens out to a beautiful cove and beach with surrounding cliffs.

It honestly took my breath away. The water was so clear, the sand was a very dark grey, and it was riddled with rocks (not little pebbles, giant stones). Because it was so remote, it was peaceful with only a handful of families and couples enjoying the views, and making sandcastles. There were even a few brave soles swimming. I took off my shoes, and walked along the beach, sand between my toes, the icy waves skimming my feet. I was so lucky with the weather, so I sat down on one of the rocks, closed my eyes and just enjoyed the sound of the waves crashing, the sun slowly starting to set in my happy place. 

Tip: I had to get back for a dinner reservation however I’ve heard this is a pretty special place to watch the sunset as an alternative to Neist Point Lighthouse. 

Where to eat 

There are so many lovely restaurants on the Isle of Skye, but you do need to plan your stops so I would encourage you to make some reservations. There’s also not much in between the small towns for snacks, so it’s worth popping into the Co-Op in Portree to stock up! 

Restaurant wise, there are plenty of options in Portree. My favourite was the restaurant at The Bosville – the food was delicious, and it had a friendly atmosphere. I even got chatting to some of the locals which I love doing as nothing beats getting recommendations from those who live in the area – you always uncover things off the beaten track. I also enjoyed fish and chips by the harbour one delicious evening! 

For all you foodies out there, there are also several excellent, high-end restaurants to choose from including 1 Michelin Star restaurant! Unfortunately, I didn’t know about these ahead of time, and they require booking in advance, so I’m leaving them below for you to check out! 

My top tips for visiting the Isle of Skye 

I can’t finish my travel guide without sharing my top tips! 

  1. Depending on the time of year you visit, you need to be aware of the dreaded midges! Make sure you get some strong midges spray – I used Avon Skin So Soft
  2. There are limited places to buy food when you get on the road so if you are planning a long day of visiting some of the attractions I would take a packed lunch and plenty of water with you.
  3. A lot of the sites are in and amongst nature, and therefore there were limited toilets! There were toilets in the main towns, so when driving through, it might be best to stop off. 
  4. I wasn’t expecting a good phone signal given the remoteness of the island, but fortunately, because I am on EE, I managed to get 4G easily! So the good news is if you’re an EE user, you’ll be fine. 
  5. If at all you have a choice, I would recommend taking an automatic car over a manual. It’s not a dealbreaker but, as the roads are single track, there was a lot of pulling over to let cars pass meaning you are always going up and down the gears! 
  6. Take a physical map in the car just in case! 
  7. Most importantly, be careful of the sheep! You will find that they are sometimes at the edge of the road or on the tracks so drive carefully. 

Further Information 

Someone I know recommended some brilliant activities during my stay so if you’re thinking about heading to the Isle of Skye, check out his website: https://www.myskyetime.com/