Isle of Skye: Things to Do, Where to Stay, and the Perfect 5 Day Itinerary

isle of skye 5 day iterinary

Known for its dramatic green scenery, celebrated Gaelic heritage, and Highlander culture, the Isle of Skye is a Scottish destination not to be missed. This article will help you plan all the elements of your visit to the Isle of Skye: things to do, where to stay, and the perfect 5 day Skye itinerary.

Isle of Skye Itinerary

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History of the Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye has been inhabited for a VERY long time. There’s evidence of hunter-gatherers from 7000 BC. More commonly, you’d probably think of the long period of the clan system, or something reminiscent of the show, Outlander, where the Jacobite uprisings brought an end to the clan domination after 1745.

In the period from 1750 to 1860, something called the Highland Clearances replaced entire communities with large sheep farms. Many land owners forcibly evicted their tenants in favor of more lucrative agriculture practices with sheep. The evicted tenants lost their homes and their status as farmers and were relegated to small crofting communities closer to the coast to work in the kelp or other industries. In later phases of the Clearances, tenants were actually pushed out of Scotland and landlords “assisted” in their emigration to the United States and other locations.

road in Isle of Skye Scotland

Where is the Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye is a 640 square mile island connected to the mainland of Scotland by a free road bridge. Prior to the building of the bridge in 1992, a ferry was used for crossing. The bridge was originally very controversial due to private ownership charging approximately 14.50 Euros to cross! After years of protesting by locals, the bridge was purchased in 2004 by the Scottish government and tolls were removed.

How to Get to the Isle of Skye

The best way to get here is to drive! You’ll definitely want a car or camper van for exploring the Isle of Skye. You can either fly to Edinburgh and enjoy this incredible city as well, or fly into the smaller city of Inverness. We chose the latter, as we didn’t have enough time to visit Edinburgh and the drive would’ve been around 5 hours each way. The drive from Inverness is more like 2.5 hours each way.

roads in Isle of Skye

Flights to Inverness on Easy Jet were very reasonable from London, just check which airport you fly out of, because it’s probably not Heathrow.

Check flight prices on Skyscanner

Rent a car from the airport and the drive is super easy, especially once out of the city. Definitely download offline maps ahead of time so you can find your way without internet service. There are at least a couple different routes, and we ended up taking the northern route (which ended up being a single lane road some of the way) on the way there and the southern route on the main highway on the way back.

Rent Your Car Now

Prior to the building of the road bridge in 1992, a ferry was used for crossing. The bridge was originally very controversial due to private ownership charging approximately 14.50 Euros to cross! After years of protesting by locals, the bridge was purchased in 2004 by the Scottish government and tolls were removed.

How Long Should I Visit the Isle of Skye?

This is a common question and a tough one to answer. I think anywhere from 2 to 5 days in the Isle of Skye is reasonable, depending on how active you are and what pace you travel at. The Isle of Skye is one of the few places I felt like I had time to see everything I wanted to see and still have some leisure time – that never happens for me. We were there for 5 days (that includes 2 days of traveling from London and driving from Inverness.

How Long Does it Take to Drive Around Skye?

If you drove the main roads around the entire island, without stopping, it would take you around 5 hours, give or take an hour. It’s a decent size island at 639 square miles.

Isle of Skye scenery

We took one day to loop around the northeastern part of the island then another full day to do explore the western side of the island. The third day we reserved for waking up early and hiking at sunrise, visiting the town of Portree, and revisiting our favorite sunset location. The other two half days were travel days.

Where to Stay in Isle of Skye

I struggled with choosing where to stay in the Isle of Skye quite a bit. I wasn’t sure if we should stay in the town of Portree, a private crofters cottage somewhere, or a B&B. After canceling a few reservations and changing my mind multiple times, I finally settled on a private cottage called, Skye Cabins, with a wood fire hot tub, amazing views, and baby goats running around the yard. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again, it was wonderful (and not sponsored in any way). To see this property CLICK HERE.

Isle of Skye cottage to rentIsle of Skye cottage rental

I love the location of the Skye Cabins because it is very central to Skye. There are a few cabins, but at the time of writing this, there is only one like the one pictured. You have to drive to get anywhere in Skye, but at least these cabins are close to being in the middle. I think it’s a great place to be based.

The main town of Portree is also quite central so if you prefer staying close to town, that would make sense and be convenient here in Skye.

Portree waterfront view Isle of Skye

Suggested Places to Stay in the Isle of Skye

Air an Oir – wow, this place is 5 star and absolutely gorgeous.

Lorien Lodge – Quite the stunning home and views. A little farther from some of the sites, but if you stayed there, I imagine you’d say it’s worth it.

Crofters Cottage – We almost stayed at this one. I had it booked, but ended up choosing the other based on the hot tub. But I love how traditional this one feels.

Stay on the Bay – Another stunning view and gorgeously designed cottage.

Flora’s Cliff View – Beautiful outdoor patio and views.

Harlosh Hideaways – If you’re looking for something a little more simple and affordable, these pods are adorable. And these are not the only pod hotels in Skye, there are others as well.

Greshornish House Hotel – For more of a traditional hotel/B&B, this place is beautiful.

Ok, I have to stop there. There are literally hundreds of listings for the Isle of Skye with review scores above 9. Airbnb is another awesome site to find great places to stay and it’s quite popular in Skye. I use it regularly. If you’re new to Airbnb, get up to $55 off your first booking using my link HERE.

Don’t wait until the last minute to book your accommodations in Skye, as they book up in advance especially during the high season of summer.

When to Visit the Isle of Skye

Temperatures in the Isle of Skye will never really be warm. The average summer high is in the upper 50’s Fahrenheit. You’d be lucky to see 60 degrees. The good news is, it’s not much different in December and January with an average high around 45 degrees. The major downside to winter is the rainfall.

In my opinion, the best month to visit the Isle of Skye is May. May has the lowest rainfall, it’s shoulder season so the crowds are smaller, and it’s lovely and green. We went in May and it only rained one day and we had stunning sunsets every day. It was still chilly, especially with the wind, but we got very lucky. Much of the time there were only a couple other people at some of the most popular sites.

Quiraing Isle of Skye in May

Things to do in Isle of Skye

There are quite a lot of sites to see and things to do in the Isle of Skye, however many of them can be done as quick stops along a route. I’ve created this map of sites on Google maps for you.

Old Man of Storr

This is by far the most iconic landmark of the Isle of Skye. You cannot miss it. The large pinnacle can be seen from quite a ways, but nothing compares to being up next to it.

drone view of Old Man of Storr Isle of Skye

The trail begins right off the main road from a carpark about 15 minutes drive north of Portree. The walk is 3.8 kilometers roundtrip, which doesn’t sound that difficult, but the way up is constantly uphill. There are little footpaths that go past the pinnacle (for the view in the previous photo taken with a drone) and paths that weave closer to the pinnacle.

Old Man of Storr Pinnacle Isle of Skye

Give yourself at least 2-3 hours total to explore. The walk up will take 45 minutes to an hour depending on breaks and pace, and go quicker on the way down. HERE is a great description of the trail.

Personally, I think getting up very early and hiking this at sunrise is completely worth it and one of the highlights of Skye. The sun rises over the water behind the pinnacle and makes for a magical sky and view (if you get good weather, that is). We never hiked it at sunset, but I think that would be a great option as well if you don’t mind hiking down in the dark.

Old Man of Storr Drone view Isle of Skye

Fairy Glenn

My second favorite spot in the Isle of Skye – Fairy Glenn – is pretty magical. The green landscape is impressive and the manmade rock patterns add to the “fairy” element.

Fairy Glen Isle of Skye

The Fairy Glen is pretty easy to get to, and Google Maps will lead you there. You have to park along a dirt road (you’ll likely see others parked there too) and just follow a trail for about 5 minutes. The absolute best time of day to visit Fairy Glen is sunset. We went to Fairy Glen twice just because I insisted on seeing it at sunset, and boy, were we not disappointed.

Fairy Glen Isle of Skye at sunset

Neist Point Lighthouse

On the far western tip of the island, Neist Point Lighthouse is the most popular spot for sunset on the island. It was one of the few places we encountered a crowd, but totally worth it. There is a very large parking lot for a ton of cars, you walk out onto the big grassy hillside overlooking the lighthouse and watch from here. Or you can walk the long road all the way out to the lighthouse too.

Dress warm and bring a blanket or something to sit on to watch the show. There were tons of photographers with tripods set up, but rest assured, there’s a ton of space to spread out and get your shots.

Neist Point lighthouse Isle of Skye sunsetNeist Point lighthouse Isle of Skye drone shot

Dunvegan Castle

While you’re out in the direction of Neist Point on the west side of the island, this would be a good time to visit Dunvegan Castle. It is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland. Chiefs of clan Macleod have lived there for over 800 years! Quite a beautiful castle and grounds with a garden, visiting is only open April 1-October 15th. A ticket to the castle and gardens cost 14 €, with the option to add on a 25 minute boat trip to see seals for an additional 10 €.

Dunvegan Castle Isle of Skye

If you don’t want to pay to visit the castle, you can drive along the road past it and look back at it from the water. This photo was from a drone though, which are prohibited at or above the castle.

The Quiraing

Past the Old Man of Storr, the Quiraing is a lovely vast area of green views. There is a 6.8 km loop trail with incredible scenery. We did not do this loop (kicking myself now), so for more information visit HERE.

The Quiraing Isle of Skye

If you wanted to camp somewhere epic, hiking up to the top of a peak would yield incredible views (and maybe some significant wind).

Quiraing Isle of Skye in MayQuiraing Isle of Skye drone view

Fairy Pools

Seeing the Fairy Pools in a photo years ago was what originally made me put the Isle of Skye on my bucket list. If caught in the right conditions, this area is magical. Being in the southwestern part of Skye near Carbost, with no concept of what direction the hike would face, I had no idea what the best time of day would be to visit. We opted to try and avoid crowds and go early in the morning. It was the wrong time for photos, but the right time for crowds.

Fairy Pools Isle of Skye morning light

The sun rises from behind the Cuillin Mountains you’re hiking towards and makes for some pretty bad photo lighting. If photos are your main interest, I’d come in the mid to late afternoon. If crowds are your concern, then come early in the morning.

There is also now a 5 £ (approximately $6.50) parking charge at the car park for the Fairy Pools which is going towards future infrastructure at the site. We got there early enough that there was no one there to charge us yet, just before 8 am. Maybe we just got lucky.

The walk to the Fairy Pools is rather easy, with a little downhill in the beginning (resulting in an uphill at the end of the walk back), but otherwise quite flat. Wear comfortable shoes that you can get wet or muddy.

Although the trail looks to go on forever, the distance to the first main pool and waterfall is less than a mile. But if you’re like me, you will want to keep exploring farther and farther up the trail looking for more pools and waterfalls. Admittedly, I was never blown away and this site has mixed reviews from visitors. But if you’ve come all the way to the Isle of Skye, I think it’s worth a visit to one of the most famous sites.

Fairy Pools morning Isle of Skye

We did see some people tent camping at the base of the mountains which looks like a fantastic idea. They had it all to themselves and probably got the perk of sunset by the fairy pools. If it was summer, I’d for sure go for a swim in the beautiful blue pools as well.

Eileen Donan Castle

This awesome 13th century castle is not technically on the Isle of Skye. But you can easily visit along your driving route on the way to or from Skye. Eileen Donan Castle is a popular location for shooting films and other media.

Eileen Donan Castle

At the time of writing this, drone photography is allowed at Eileen Donan Castle outside of opening hours. How cool! There is also a great drive up the hill that gives a great vantage point of the castle below. Follow signs for “Viewpoint” to find this spot!

Eileen Donan Castle Viewpoint

Sligachan Bridge

On the way to the Fairy Pools, it’s easy to spot this bridge along the road. The bridge with the river and mountains makes for a popular photograph. I don’t think it’s worth making a special trip for, but you might as well stop if you’re going by.

Sligachan Bridge Isle of Skye

Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls

Kilt rock refers to the basalt rock wall of walk that drops sheerly to the ocean below and Mealt Falls is the waterfall that cascades 60 meters down over that rock wall. It’s a quick and easy stop along the highway as you head 30 minutes north of Portree. It was kind of a trickle when we were there and we had to use the drone to get this shot.

Kilt Rock and Lealt Falls Isle of Skye

Visit Portree

Portree is the main town and capital of the Isle of Skye with a population of around 4,500 people (the total population of Skye is only around 10,000). It is a quaint little town worthy of an afternoon of walking around and checking out the shops and waterfront.

Portee Isle of Skye

Go in Search of the Famous Scottish Highlander Cow

Maybe this isn’t on everyone’s list, but it was on mine. I seriously spent the first four days of our trip trying to find these shaggy beasts to say hello to and photograph. We saw a few different ones in people’s yards, but it wasn’t until the last day when we were leaving that we spotted a group of them grazing in a big open field, with a perfect spot to pull off and say hello to them over the fence.

Scottish Highlander Cow Isle of skyeScottish Highlander cows Isle of Skye

Where I found these guys was along Highway A87 just past the ferry dock that connects to the Isle of Raasay. And I’m not even kidding when I say it’s listed on Google Maps as “Scottish Highlands Coo View Point.” I just discovered this at this exact second. You’re welcome.

Best Sunset and Sunrise Locations in the Isle of Skye

If the weather works in your favor, sunset in the Isle of Skye is a magical event. I would say you cannot miss sunset at both Neist Point and Fairy Glenn. Both were amazing. For sunrise, visit Old Man of Storr or the Quiraing. We didn’t visit these for sunset but I imagine they would be spectacular too, but the sun would set behind the you. Honestly, the view out our AirBnB was spectacular at sunset and sunrise too.

Isle of Skye airbnb skeabost

What to Eat in the Isle of Skye

As an aspiring vegetarian/vegan, I found it very difficult to eat in the Isle of Skye and rural Britain in general. Blood sausage and black pudding just don’t do it for me. So we went to the grocery store in Portree and occasionally grabbed snacks like fruit, veggies, and bread. When we went to eat out for breakfast, we often couldn’t find anywhere open as early as we would’ve liked. There are tons of restaurants all over Skye, but these were the standouts for us.

Seafood Shop – This tiny drive up fish and chip restaurant is perfect if you want friendly service and authentic, amazing fish and chips. Immediately after you cross the Skye bridge, Seafood Shop is on the left after the roundabout. I was desperately starving after driving and flying all day and we swung in here. As I said, I’m an “aspiring” vegetarian but it doesn’t always work out, especially while traveling. I was impressed by their wooden silverware, but I only wish they didn’t use styrofoam take-out containers.

Seafood Shop Isle of Skye

Edinbane Lodge Restaurant AND Edinbane Inn Restaurant – The Lodge restaurant is the fancy, expensive version and the Inn is the more casual but absolutely delicious restaurant (try the scallops!). They are just 0.1 mile apart along the same little road. We ate at the Edinbane Inn twice because we enjoyed it so much and it was close to our rental.

Red Roof – I wish I’d known about this place, or maybe I did and just didn’t make it here. But they have heavenly looking soups, salads, cakes, breads, and teas.

YURTea&Coffee – More than just a good coffee shop, this unique yurt is at the Skyeskyns sheepskin tannery. At Skyeskyns, which is the last remaining of its kind in Scotland, you can also take a free tour of the workshop and visit the sales shop. As much as I have a hard time with the ethics of this industry, it seems after asking many questions, this business was bore out of a desire to not let the skins go to waste as they had in previous years and make use of the full animal.

YURTea and Coffee Isle of Skye

Caora Dhubh Coffee Company – By far our favorite coffee in the Isle of Skye, we were extremely impressed by this coffee. They even have oat milk which made us so happy, we drove out of the way multiple days just to go get it.

Caora Dhubh Coffee Company

Oyster Shed – I don’t like oysters but if you do, this place by Caora Dhubh Coffee Company is the place to go. They are designed as a takeaway place but do have limited seats. They have fish and chips and stuff too, if you don’t like oysters like me. Also, many people enjoy visiting the nearby Talisker Distillery.

Oyster Shed Isle of Skye

What to Pack for the Isle of Skye

Packable Down Jacket

A stuffable down jacket is absolutely necessary for the Scottish Highlands. The weather is chilly and unpredictable. A stuffable down jacket is perfect for packing on a trip.

Light Windbreaker

Another great thing to pack for the Isle of Skye is a windbreaker. Layer this on top of your puffy down and you’ll be prepared for the Scottish outdoors.

Hat and Gloves

I’m an idiot and didn’t bring these. I don’t know what I was thinking, except that it was May and I figured it would be warmer. My boyfriend let me use his the whole time and I was so grateful (but I felt terrible for him!).

 

Fleece Leggings

I believe in fleece leggings more than anything. You can put them under any pants, skirts, dresses, etc. And they even make them for men!

Hiking Shoes

I’m not saying you need rugged hiking boots for the Isle of Skye. You don’t. I’m an avid backcountry backpacker and did just fine with tennis shoes in Skye. There are longer hikes that may be more difficult, but for hikes like the Old Man of Storr, you don’t need hiking boot. Comfortable, versatile hiking shoes or tennis shoes are fine.
   

Umbrella

You never know when rain will strike in Scotland. A small packable umbrella is handy for travel anywhere, but especially somewhere like the highlands.

Daypack

Don’t forget a backpack for shedding layers, a water bottle, your umbrella, and your camera.

Reusable Waterbottle

The tap water in the Isle of Skye is great, so you might as well drink it. In face, you should try to bring a bottle with you for all travels. I’m obsessed with this one I ordered recently.

I hope this Isle of Skye 5 day itinerary has been helpful!

Our 5 days in the Isle of Skye were absolutely magical and unforgettable. We felt like we had many places to ourselves in the Isle of Skye. Locals were friendly and the sheep were too adorable for words. There is an undeniable remoteness and authenticity to this place. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment!

Isle of Skye Itinerary

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