Are you planning your first trip to the stunning Isle of Skye in Scotland? In Old Norse, it was called “cloud island” or “misty isle,” referencing the often overcast appearance around the Cuillin Hills. Nowadays, thanks to its spectacular landscapes and centuries of history, this Scottish island has become a favorite destination for travelers from all over the world.
As the largest island in the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Skye offers a variety of experiences. For example, you can expect incredible wildlife-watching opportunities (like red deer!), medieval castles, Pictish round towers, and some of the most beautiful hikes in the country. Skye also acts as a gateway to the remote islands of Harris and Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
With this in mind, we’ll provide you with 15 top-rated tourist attractions that shouldn’t be missed when visiting the Isle of Skye. We’ll also review the best places to stay on the island and some of the best tours of the region. Moreover, to make the most of this Isle of Skye guide, we’ve included a detailed map at the end of this post.
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Table of Contents
The best things to do on the Isle of Skye
Old Man of Storr
The Old Man of Storr is one of the best things to do on Skye, thanks to its awe-inspiring rock formations. Plus, it’s conveniently located a short 15-minute drive from Portree (7 mi/11.1 km). When planning your visit, remember that the Old Man of Storr typically is most crowded from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
With this in mind, you may want to consider visiting early in the morning–especially during the high season (summertime). This way, you can easily find a spot in the designated car park, which costs £5. You’ll walk uphill from the lot to begin the ascent to the top.
Luckily, the hike to the summit follows a well-marked path, stretching for 2.4 miles (3.8 km). Factoring in stops, this trail should take most hikers approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. Although the steep climb is moderately difficult, the views from the top are extremely rewarding, especially on sunny and clear days.
While this hike is suitable for most adventurers, it may not be recommended for seniors due to its challenging sections. We also highly recommend wearing a sturdy pair of hiking boots! You never know if you’ll encounter rain or mud in Scotland, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls
If you’re wondering what to see on the Isle of Skye, Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls offer a taste of some of the most beautiful scenery on the island. Just 15 miles (24 km) north of Portree, it makes for a perfect quick stop with no hiking necessary to see the view.
Kilt Rock stands tall at an impressive 295 feet (90 m), showcasing vertical basalt columns that resemble the pleats of a traditional Scottish kilt. Adjacent to this rock formation, you’ll find a second natural wonder: Mealt Falls. This beautiful waterfall cascades down a breathtaking 180-foot (55 m) drop, creating an ideal photo spot.
The Quiraing stands as one of the most remarkable natural landscapes in Scotland. This otherworldly landslip is 100% worth a visit, especially on a clear day when photographers and nature enthusiasts can fully appreciate the views.
For a more in-depth experience, visitors can choose to embark on the Quiraing Walk. This moderately challenging 4.2-mile (6.8 km) circuit takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete! On your hike, keep an eye out for some of the Quiraing’s distinctive geological formations, like “the Prison,” “the Table,” and “the Needle.”
For those who are nervous about driving routes in Scotland, take the drive to the Quiraing parking lot slowly. The road from Uig or Staffin (depending on where you start) is a single-track minor road with passing places. In particular, the last part of the drive has lots of twists and turns, which may be difficult for tourists unaccustomed to one-lane roads.
You’ll find a large car park at the top, where you’ll need to pay £3 for parking. Remember: if you don’t feel like hiking, you can always check out the views from here. Or, you can walk along the entrance to the trail for a bit and turn back.
Dunvegan Castle & Gardens
Steeped in history and tradition, this iconic castle has been occupied by the Clan MacLeod for an impressive 800 years. As you step through the gates, you’ll be transported back in time, exploring the fascinating heritage of Dunvegan Castle and its connections to Bonnie Prince Charlie.
The castle’s interior houses remarkable family heirlooms, including the Fairy Flag, Dunvegan Cup, and Sir Rory Mor’s Horn, which date back to at least the 15th century. Aside from its historical significance, the stunning gardens surrounding Dunvegan Castle are also a sight to behold.
The Water Garden, Rose Garden, Walled Garden, and Round Garden offer a delightful array of colors and scents, providing a tranquil escape for visitors. You can also take a leisurely stroll through the Woodland Walk, immersing yourself in the beauty of nature and enjoying the serene atmosphere.
Dunvegan Castle & Gardens is open to the public each year from April 1 to October 15. The ticket price for access to both the castle and gardens is £16. For an additional adventure, you can book a boat trip to see the Loch Dunvegan seal colony from April 1 to September 30.
Tucked away along the Trotternish Loop near the village of Uig, the Fairy Glen is often missed by visitors. However, it’s one of our favorite things to see in Skye, so we don’t want you to miss out! After arriving at the Fairy Glen car park, you’ll need to pay a small fee of £2.
Then, you’ll walk along a short trail for about 10 minutes to reach the actual Fairy Glen. While no specific legends are associated with this hillside landscape, it certainly looks like something out of a fairytale. Visitors can explore the area, discovering the charming Castle Ewen, a basalt rock formation that offers spectacular views over the surrounding landscape.
With its beautiful scenery and accessibility, the Fairy Glen is also a fantastic activity to enjoy with kids. From climbing the small hills to playing hide-and-seek among the rock formations, children can create their own magical adventures in this captivating setting.
When visiting, it’s important to note that the stone circle is not historical to the area. In fact, apparently, this tradition first started as recently as 2013. So, please help maintain the glen’s natural state on your visit by not adding anything to the stone circle.
The Fairy Pools, nestled amidst the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Black Cuillin mountain range in Glenbrittle, are undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Skye. This natural wonder draws visitors from far and wide, enticing hikers, walkers, and those who enjoy wild swimming.
To reach the Fairy Pools, you’ll need to drive carefully along a single-track road with some potholes. Remember that you’ll need to watch for lay-bys on your left-hand side to let those moving in the opposite direction pass through. Or, if the passing place is to your right, you’ll need to wait for the other vehicle to stop there and wait for you to drive by.
Then, once you arrive at the car park, you’ll need to pay a £6 parking fee. You can also find a public bathroom in this lot if needed! From there, visitors follow a gravel path leading to a series of crystal-clear natural waterfalls and pools.
The hike to the Fairy Pools and back spans approximately 1.5 miles (2.4 km). While the return journey to the parking lot can take around 20 minutes, it’s common for visitors to spend about 45 minutes reaching the pools. After all, you’ll likely want to stop for photos and marvel at the stunning landscape along the way.
Talisker Distillery stands proudly as the oldest working distillery on the island and offers an exceptional experience for whisky enthusiasts and visitors alike. Located in the village of Carbost, it invites visitors to try its famous single-malt Scotch whisky. If you’re in a rush, you can drop by for a perfectly crafted “wee dram” instead of a full tasting.
Or, if you have extra time, you can sign up for one of the informative distillery tours. Due to their popularity, booking distillery tours in advance is advisable to secure your spot. During the tour, visitors can witness the intricate whisky-making process firsthand.
From the malting of barley to the copper stills and aging barrels, knowledgeable guides explain every step of the journey in detail. Then, after the tour, a tasting session awaits, allowing guests to savor the distinct flavors and character of Talisker’s single malt whiskies. The experience is both educational and delightful, offering a deeper appreciation for the art of whisky production.
No visit to Talisker Distillery would be complete without a visit to the gift shop, where you can pick up the perfect souvenir. If you’re wondering what to do on the Isle of Skye on a rainy day, this distillery is your best option!
Portree is the largest town on the island and, therefore, an ideal base for exploring all of its attractions. You can find an abundance of cozy B&B accommodations here, offering a convenient stay in the heart of Skye. For example, Portree is only 15 minutes from the Old Man of Storr, 30 minutes from the Fairy Glen, and 45 minutes from the Fairy Pools.
The village’s picturesque harbor, lined with colorful buildings, is also worth a visit. In fact, it boasts a selection of popular restaurants, including Dulse and Brose, The Rosedale, and Scorrybreac Restaurant. Additionally, this area is dotted with cute shops and charming cafés, perfect for leisurely strolls and finding one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
Moreover, Portree serves as a vibrant hub for cultural activities and events. For example, it hosts the Skye Highland Games each August, where visitors can witness traditional Scottish sports, music, and dancing. Fun fact: many people on Skye can speak Scottish Gaelic!
On your drive either into or out of Portree, we highly recommend stopping at Eilean Donan Castle, not far from Skye Bridge. This 13th-century castle in the Scottish Highlands is 100% worth a visit! After all, it’s supposedly the most photographed castle in all of Scotland.
Sligachan Old Bridge
Sligachan Old Bridge provides a stunning viewpoint of the Black Cuillin Mountains, making it one of the best things to do on Isle of Skye. Beyond its scenic allure, this mythical bridge also holds a captivating story. According to folklore, it’s believed to be a gateway between the faerie world and ours.
In fact, the most famous legend says that if you dip your face into the water here for 7 seconds, you’ll be granted eternal beauty. Although we don’t recommend doing this, we do think it’s worth stopping to take a few photos. Additionally, don’t miss the Collie and MacKenzie Statue, a tribute to two famous mountaineers on Skye.
Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum
Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum is a must-visit destination, offering a blend of history, natural beauty, and family-friendly activities. In particular, the Museum of the Isles (run by the Clan Donald Centre) is worth a visit, which explores the history of Scotland’s largest and most powerful clan, the MacDonalds.
From the Lordship of the Isles to the Jacobite risings, the museum takes visitors on a journey through 1500 years on the island. You can find an array of exhibits and artifacts here that bring this rich period of history to life, including bagpipes, portraits, and tartans.
Young visitors will delight in exploring the specially designed children’s trails and the activity area with books, toys, and costumes. Additionally, you don’t want to miss Armadale Castle, a fascinating ruin that was once the seat of the Macdonalds of Sleat. The castle itself is currently fenced off for safety. However, visitors can still appreciate the view and take photos from the outside.
The Armadale property is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last entry at 4:30). You can purchase tickets at the Gatehouse for a cost of £13 per adult, £11 for seniors, or £7 per child aged 5-15. Children under the age of 5 can visit for free. While in the area, you may also want to check out the beautiful Camas Daraich Beach near the Point of Sleat.
An Corran Beach Dino Footprints
An Corran Beach provides the remarkable opportunity to step back in time and witness the ancient world of dinosaurs. Located near Staffin, this beach reveals a mesmerizing sight at low tide—dinosaur footprints imprinted on the rocks. These fossilized footprints, preserved on large boulders, are a testament to the island’s rich geological history.
Remember to plan your visit according to the tide schedule to ensure optimal viewing conditions. It’s a truly awe-inspiring experience to walk among the rocks and imagine the dinosaurs that once roamed these lands! In fact, we’d say it’s one of the best things to do in the Isle of Skye with kids.
There is a convenient car park located just above the beach. So, to find the footprints, you’ll need to park here and make your way down through the rocks onto the beach. Please keep in mind that the stones and mossy area can be very slippery! Therefore, we wouldn’t recommend this activity for seniors.
If you have difficulty locating the footprints on the beach, you can also visit the nearby Staffin Dinosaur Museum. This small museum showcases a fascinating collection of fossils and exhibits that are great for dinosaur-loving kids!
Skye Museum of Island Life
The Skye Museum of Island Life, located in Kilmuir, transports visitors back to the 19th century. As you explore the historic thatched cottages, you’ll encounter a wealth of artifacts and tools used by crofters, providing a fascinating insight into their daily routines.
Additionally, the museum tells the captivating story of Flora MacDonald, a prominent figure in Scottish history known for her involvement in the escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Information boards throughout the museum offer detailed explanations, enriching your understanding of the exhibits.
The Skye Museum of Island Life usually is open from mid-April to October 1st each year. Tickets cost £6.00 for adults, while children under 15 enter for free. After exploring the museum, make sure to browse the on-site gift shop, where you can find a range of unique souvenirs and mementos to commemorate your visit.
The Oyster Shed
The Oyster Shed, located in Carbost, is a culinary gem that seafood lovers shouldn’t miss. Situated near the renowned Talisker Distillery, this charming establishment offers a no-frills dining experience emphasizing fresh, high-quality seafood.
From lobsters to smoked salmon, delicious scallops to exquisite oysters, the Oyster Shed is a paradise for seafood enthusiasts. You can choose to dine in the patio area or opt for takeaway. Just be aware that there is no public bathroom here!
In addition to its exceptional seafood offerings, the Oyster Shed is also home to a farm shop. You can find a treasure trove of unique souvenirs here, from local chutneys, sauces, and pickles to other artisanal goods.
Brother’s Point, also known as Rubha nam Brathairean, is one of the island’s best-kept secrets (along with Loch Coruisk!). Situated along the scenic Trotternish Loop, this breathtaking coastal walk showcases the rugged beauty of Skye’s cliffs and coastline. As you traverse the trail, you’ll be greeted by picturesque views, grazing sheep, and even waterfalls.
Sturdy footwear is essential, as much of the trail can be muddy. Plus, the terrain can be challenging in certain places due to steep inclines. The entire route spans just over two miles, and completing the hike typically takes around two hours.
We highly suggest choosing a dry and clear day for your hike. After all, the panoramic vistas are even more awe-inspiring when the weather cooperates. What sets Brother’s Point apart is its sense of seclusion compared to busier sites, like the Old Man of Storr or the Quiraing. You’ll often find far fewer crowds here!
Neist Point, located on the West Coast near Glendale, is undeniably one of the best places to visit in Isle of Skye. It’s home to the iconic Neist Point Lighthouse, perched dramatically along the sea cliffs. The breathtaking views offered here, especially during sunset, make it a haven for landscape photographers.
The hike to the lighthouse takes approximately an hour, covering a distance of around two miles. The path can be steep in certain sections, so it’s essential to use caution and sturdy footwear. Along the way, you’ll be accompanied by the calls of seabirds and the rugged beauty of the coastline.
The parking lot at Neist Point is around 11 miles (17.7 km) from Dunvegan. However, please be aware that the journey involves navigating a single-track road with passing places and occasional potholes. So, the drive will likely take quite a bit longer than the Google Maps estimate!
Where to stay on the Isle of Skye
Remember that the Isle of Skye is relatively small and has recently been experiencing overtourism. With this in mind, you’ll want to reserve your accommodations as soon as you know your travel dates. We recommend booking at least three months in advance, especially if you’ll visit during summer.
However, if you want a more comprehensive range of choices, you may want to book as early as six to eight months before your trip. Here are our top suggestions for where to stay:
Cuillin Hills Hotel
Located just 0.5 miles from Portree harbor, Cuillin Hills Hotel is a convenient base for exploring the Isle of Skye. Additionally, the property offers stunning views of Portree Bay and the Cuillin Mountain range.
The well-appointed rooms feature amenities like fresh fruit, mineral water, tea/coffee facilities, smart TVs, and super-king premium beds. Guests can also enjoy the award-winning View Restaurant, showcasing locally sourced produce, and explore the impressive selection of whiskeys at the Malt Embassy.
Skeabost View Pods Skye
This family-run business offers stunning and unique pods nestled in the peaceful countryside, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. Located just a short 10-minute drive from Portree, it’s the perfect place to unwind after exploring the island’s wonders.
Each pod at Skeabost View features heating, tea/coffee-making facilities, a microwave, a seating area, a flat-screen TV, and free WiFi. The well-appointed kitchenettes, private bathrooms, and river/mountain-view patios ensure a comfortable and convenient stay.
An-Airidh Bed & Breakfast
This family-run establishment in Portree offers self-contained rooms with independent front doors, providing a safe and comfortable stay. Enjoy stunning views of Loch Portree, explore the extensive gardens by the seashore, and keep an eye out for seals and otters.
Each room at An-Airidh B&B has modern amenities, including free WiFi, a flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom. Start your day with a delicious breakfast and take advantage of the free on-site parking.
Trotternish B&B is a charming retreat for walkers, climbers, and nature lovers. This B&B offers tastefully decorated rooms featuring large comfortable beds, Nespresso machines, and a tea tray. Enjoy a delicious full Scottish or continental breakfast included in the room rate.
Located in Glenhinnisdal, a peaceful rural area, Trotternish B&B provides ample off-road parking and serves as an ideal base for exploring the beautiful surroundings. It’s just a short distance from Uig and Portree, making it a perfect getaway on Skye.
The best Isle of Skye tours
Tours from Portree
Isle of Skye tours from Inverness
- Inverness: Isle of Skye, Eilean Donan Castle, & Loch Ness Day Tour
- From Inverness: Full-Day Isle of Skye Trip
- From Inverness: Isle of Skye and Fairy Pools Group Tour
Isle of Skye tours from Edinburgh
- From Edinburgh: 3-Day Isle of Skye, Highlands & Loch Ness
- Isle of Skye 3-Day Tour with Accommodation From Edinburgh
- From Edinburgh: Isle of Skye & Highlands 3-Day Guided Tour