The Isle of Skye is somewhere I have wanted to visit my whole life, but have never had the chance. The Scottish Isles for me have a sort of mystique about them, the isolation and the tradition they have, but Skye has always been the one I've wanted to go to. I think a lot of it has to do with my favourite band, Runrig, being from there - their songs are often about the landscape they grew up in, and they even have a song called Skye.
Finally, at the end of September this year, I went to the island with my parents. Having been staying on the mainland for several days in rubbish weather, the first remotely decent day we had we jumped in the car and shot across the bridge, as they knew how excited I was to go to the island, and we didn't want to miss the best weather we were likely to have (best in this sense is mainly dry with showers, and clouds high enough that we could see some of the views).
Skye is known as the Misty Isle, for rather obvious reasons - we experienced that weather the whole week we were in the area. It is one of the strongest Gaelic-speaking areas of Scotland, and the Gaelic college, Sabhal Mor Ostaig, is located on the island. Skye itself is An t-Eilean Sgithaneach in Gaelic, so let's just use Skye as it's less of a mouthful...
Skye is located off the north west coast of Scotland , in the Atlantic Ocean . The nearest town on the mainland is Kyle of Lochalsh, to which trains run from Inverness , or it can be reached by road on the A87. These days Skye is accessed from the mainland over the Skye Bridgerather than ferry, which rather ruins the misty ideas of Over The Sea To Skye, but at least the toll has been removed and you can drive back and forth over the bridge to your hearts content.
From Kyle you can see the town of Kyleakin , which is where the ferry from the mainland used to dock. Kyleakin is a small village, and without the ferry it is now effectively bypassed, as you don't need to enter the village from the bridge if you are heading to the larger towns of Broadford and Portree, or to the mountains. Kyleakin has several shops and cafes, and it still has its small harbour (in which I saw a boat called Eilidh...not sure if that's a good thing or not that a boat has my name!). Beside the harbour is the Bright Water Visitor Centre, which is dedicated to raising awareness and funds for the famous otter population of the area, notably on the small island of Eilean Ban , which the author and otter lover Gavin Maxwell lived on for a time. We had a quick look around, but it's really more for young children, and it is quite educational.
We continued on to Broadford, further north. From the road we could see the famous Cuillen range of mountains, some of the more challenging Munroes, and we could see the Isle of Scalpay, which lies off Skye's east coast.
Broadford is a small town or large village, with a few shops and, bizarrely, the Skye Serpentarium. I say bizarrely because a snake house just isn't the kind of tourist attraction I would expect to find on Skye. Anyway, we stopped in Broadford and had a look at a few shops.
Skye Jewellery is well worth a look, although it is pricey. They have a lot of locally inspired ranges, all named after parts of the famous island and its mountains - Blaven, Marsco and Cuillen being examples. But be warned, it isn't cheap - I was drawn to plain silver pendants of the outline of Skye, and even they were £160. To my mum's annoyance, my dad had waited outside - so she picked up a brochure to leave lying around for him...
The other shops we went to were a bit odd. They were down by the old pier, and there were a lot of signposts to them. They were in old sheds - the only ones which were open were a knitwear shop and a second hand specialist rare book shop. I went into the knitwear shop with my mum, and promptly walked back out to follow my dad into the bookshop - it smelled off sheep poo from the wool they used. I'm sure the jumpers didn't smell, but the shop did. The bookshop however smelled of damp books, so we left there and went for a stroll down the pier to take some photos of the views.
The next part of the day was my favourite. On the road from Broadford to Portree we could see the Cuillens and the separate mountains Glamaig and Bla Bheinn. The best view is from Sligachan, which is basically just a pub and campsite at the end of the sea loch of Loch Sligachan, all sitting in the shadow of the incredible mountains. The closest to Sligachan is Sgurr Alasdair, but you can see much of the ridge, and you can see through to Bla Bheinn further south. The campsite at Sligachan looks amazing, to look out of your tent or caravan every morning at that view would be incredible. The campsite and the pub are very popular with climbers wanting to do the Cuillen, but they are for serious and experienced climbers only - my dad has been hillwalking for many years, and he has only done one of the twelve Munroes Skye has to offer.
After gawping at the view, we continued onto Portree, the "capital" of Skye. We stopped at the Aros Centre on the outskirts of the town, a kind of cultural centre with cinema, art gallery and exhibitions, along with a shop and café. The shop was a little twee, but had some nice gifty type things in it. We had lunch in the café, and it was very nice if a bit odd - there was a baked tattie section of the menu listing various fillings, one of which was macaroni cheese. I thought that was a rather interesting idea so I chose that. But I got macaroni cheese with a baked tattie - a large dish of macaroni, side salad and baked potato where you might expect chips. It was very nice, just not what was implied on the menu!
From Aros we went into Portree itself. Portree is not large, but it is large by the standard of the island and the nearby mainland - I think it is larger than Kyle. Skye is a popular tourist destination, although it hasn't been ruined by it, so Portree has plenty of tourist friendly shops. Pottery, jewellery, local foods, books, tourist tat and a brilliant little music shop which only sells Scottish music and instruments. My dad loves this shop, and always makes a point of buying a CD there. I had a good look through their Runrig CDs to see if there was anything on limited release they might have - none, unfortunately!
The harbour of Portree is worth a visit. It is below the main part of the town, down a steep little lane, but the building there are painted in a variety of bright colours. It isn't quite as striking as the seafront of Tobermory on Mull (better known as Balamory), but it is very pretty. There are a few hotels and shops here, but most of the shops are up in the main part of the town.
We headed north from Portree, so that I could see the famous Old Man Of Storr. This is a pillar of rock which stands out from the mountains, and is really quite striking. Unfortunately by this time the rain and mist had come back, but I still got a reasonable view of it. On the road my mum, who is now fairly immobile, was happily pointing out the ridges she had climbed with my dad back in 1980, which was odd as I didn't know her back in her hillwalking days - I knew she had as I inherited her boots, but it was odd to see her remembering the views!
We headed back through Portree and down to Broadford, where we turned off to go across the island to Elgol. The road was about 15 miles, but it took us 45 minutes each way - it is single track, with blind summits all over the place, although there were plenty of passing places. We took it quite slow and steady - my mum is a nervous passenger and my dad felt more comfortable taking it easy on a tricky road he didn't know.
Halfway to Elgol we stopped for a photo opportunity. We were right below Bla Bheinn, which has an impressive spiky ridged summit (some obscured by cloud). From this point photos of the mountain have a small white house in the foreground, recognisable to anyone who has ever looked at a book about the Munroes, as they almost all feature photos of Bla Bheinn with the wee white house in front! So we had to take our own photos with the wee white house...
Elgol itself is very small, but it has a couple of cafes, shops and some cute thatched holiday cottages. We went right to the end of the village, which is a viewpoint. From there we could see across the sea to the islands of Rum and Canna, which was an amazing view. Annoyingly Canna appeared to be bathed in sunlight, which was irritating as Skye was a bit dreich at this point. We could also see the end of the Cuillen range, and the small island of Soay , another of Gavin Maxwell's haunts.
From Elgol we headed back across the island to Broadford, with a brief stop for sheep rush hour, and then it was time to leave Skye. I loved my day on the island, the landscape really touched me - perhaps it was better I visited as an adult rather than a child as I probably appreciated it more. I really loved it, and I intend to go back one day - hopefully when it's sunny! I could quite happily have spent hours at Sligachan, just gazing at the view, so I'll have to go back to get my fill.
I have been going through Skye for what seems like decades on my way to the ferry terminal at the far end of the island at a delightful place called Uig, but have also stayed there and would like to give you an insight into the island and what it can offer to the tourist. Known as Eilean a' Cheò (The Misty Isle) this island certainly has plenty of rainy days, but I think the name Misty Isle conjures up images of mystery and intrigue, and certainly the island has many quite and hidden corners just waiting for you to explore.
By way of introduction please do not judge Skye on the main road which runs throughout the island spine from the bridge at the Kyle of Lochalsh to the town of Portree. It is fast and double track, and there are some good views from here, but the real Skye is to be found off this road which in the summer months is busy and fast.
The Isle of Skye is home to 9200 people but the important thing is that on an island 50 miles long with over 2000 living in Portree, it is not crowded and there are endless nooks to lose yourself in solitude.
So here is my journey through Skye for you to enjoy. There are a number of ways of reaching the island. The simplest of course is the road bridge which has been there now since 1995. Prior to this access was by ferry and until recent times the bridge was a toll. After years of arguments and pressure the toll has gone. It's now a free and easy way to get to Skye but not my first choice. No for me the best way has to be the little ferry which runs from April to October from Glenelg to Kylerhea. Access to this ferry means turning off the A87 at Shiel Bridge and following the 10 mile mountainous road to the ferry. This road climbs to the summit of Mam Ratagan before making a more gradual descent down to the valley and to the terminal. Keep your eyes peeled here for you could spot the all elusive otter as they are common in this area...
At the ferry you are rewarded with wonderful views and the sight of Skye ahead of you. The ferry is the last turntable ferry in operation in Scotland and driving onto it is like going back in history. It takes 6 cars and the atmosphere is one of excitement and anticipation. There were genuine concerns about the survival of the ferry, but in 2007 a community buyout was confirmed, and so it should continue to flourish and to provide the best way to arrive on Skye in my opinion. It is hard to believe that in days gone by cattle being taken to market in the south would swim across the few hundred metres of this channel in small groups tied together behind a rowing boat. For more details visit:
At Kylerhea you can visit the Otter Haven which is an excellent opportunity to see otters if you are patient.
The other side of the ferry the road is single track and snakes round the hills in a web of turns and twists. You hope you don't meet a caravan but some hardy souls do take their campers on this road which makes reversing difficult. The scenery is picturesque and gives you an idea of the beauty and peace of Skye. Sheep graze peacefully in the heather which in the autumn casts a lilac shadow over the moors. The lavender hue is breathtaking and the sense of peace and tranquility is just magic.
You can also access Skye from Mallaig where the ferry takes you to Armadale on the Sleat peninsula. I have done this route as well but prefer the smaller ferry because it is such an experience. This area of Skye is however very pretty and is wooded, and in the spring there are carpets of bluebells and summer brings rhododendrons and wild flowers in abundance. I have a dear friend who lives there and the area has some wonderful cottages nestled on the hill sides with stunning views.
Facilities at Broadford
So the road eventually joins the main route to Broadford and you are on the spine road.
The village of Broadford is important as there are some very helpful tourist things here. Park at the garage and here there is a Co-op and the garage is also well stocked with foods and gifts. Incidentally the shop also stocks a wide range of whole foods. This petrol is the cheapest on the island and is open 24 hours. Across the road from here are toilets and in the car park is a tourist information centre. Please note this area is very busy so take care crossing the road as traffic is heavy in the summer with cars turning. There are also many foreign drivers so beware of them as some may be new to UK roads. When my children were small getting across this road safely was quite difficult.
So from here I would recommend a light lunch at the Skye Serpentarium. Just outside Broadford this is a lovely place to visit if you don't mind snakes. The owners have a good selection and you can handle them if you wish. The snakes are rescued and they are recovering from a serious fire which destroyed many of their reptiles in 2006. They have a lovely café where you can enjoy delicious baking and the walls are covered in great information about snakes, in particular adders, which are common in parts of Scotland. It is quite a surreal experience having lunch with snakes so close but it is fun and the children always enjoyed it!
The Road To Elgol
If you only have time to leave the main road once take the road to Elgol from Broadford. The scenery is really beautiful and the road ends in the small village where you take a boat trip to Loch Coruisk which is at the interior of the Cuillin Mountain range and is only accessible from Elgol by boat, or on foot from Sligachan a place on the main Bradford to Skye road which I will mention later. The walk however is not for the faint hearted as it has what is known as the "notorious bad step" which is a section of the path where agility and nerves of steel are required. This loch is only a few hundred yards wide but is two miles long and takes you into the heart of the Black Cuillins which are often shrouded in mist. The Cuillins of Skye are majestic "don't mess with me" daunting ranges of mountains which challenge any experienced climbers. The views from Elgol are magnificent across Loch Scavaig to the islands of Soay, Rum and Canna. I think it is my favourite spot on Skye and one I go to in my mind when I am seeking peace and tranquility on maybe a day which is less than calm.
Broadford to Sligachan and the Possibility of Raasay
Driving back to the main road you enter again the world of civilization which has lost you for some time. Behind you the memories of whitewashed stone cottages, peaks as high as you can see, and a sense of peace and tranquility, - in front of you the next section of the spine road. There is the option on the section of the road to take the ferry to Raasay. This is a small island off Skye reached by ferry from the village of Sconser. This island with a population of 194 is calling me to visit soon if only to see the end of the main road which was built single handedly by one man between 1964-1974.This gentlemen by the name of Calum MacLeod used nothing but a shovel, a pick, and a wheelbarrow to create this road.
Driving on you soon arrive at the tiny settlement of Sligachan.
Sligachan is a great place to camp and there is also a hotel here.
The path to Elgol via Loch Corruisk begins here and is a favourite amongst walkers.
Sligachan to Dunvegan is also a possible drive if you wish to divert from the main road to Portree. This area is best known for its castle. I have never been on this road as far as Dunvegan but like the Raasay trip it is calling me soon. The castle has an excellent reputation and you can read about it www.dunvegancastle.com. This is the ancient stronghold of the McLeod Clan and has been for the last 800 years; today this is still their family home. Taking this fork does however offer you the change to visit the Tallisker distillery in Carbost which is a must for whisky lovers! My husband took me here recently as it is one of his favourite drinks only surpassed by the whiskies of Islay.
If like me you wish to carry on to Portree this is where you don't fork left to Dunvegan but carry on the main road to Portree itself.
This is a bustling Scottish town with everything you could wish for including a wonderful bakery in the square-truly wonderful forget diets and indulge in one of their cream filled pancakes-out of this world. Look out for the markets where local growers get together usually on Saturday to sell their produce. The salad crops are fabulous and are dug or picked that day. The watercress is grown hydroponically and is tender and sweet and delicious. Cafes there serve salads with edible flowers and the town is a lovely place to walk around for an hour or two. Don't forget the little whole foods shop in Portree which is piled high from floor to ceiling with whole foods of every kind. It is the best health food shop I have ever been to in my life, and we always stop there for supplies.
Portree to Uig
This drive is pretty but not spectacular but leads to a place I love because it is the ferry terminal to The Outer Hebrides. Here you can travel to Harris or to North Uist by car ferry and this is when I am at my happiest knowing I am going to be going home-I call it that but it isn't quite yet but soon will be!
The north of Skye is also known as the Trotternish peninsula and here there is some excellent scenery including "The Old Man of Storr" which has spectacular rock pinnacles.
Skye and The Culture
The Island of Skye is multi cultural now and many of the inhabitants have moved there from the South of England to start new lives. Despite this it is still home to 10% of the world's Gaelic speakers and there is a community spirit there which is rich and alive. I have several good friends who have moved there seeking solace and peace and have found exactly what they have been looking for.
The area is prone to midges in the summer and the problem gets severe in the summer months and can make being outside very unpleasant. Midge hoods are one treatment if you fancy walking around like a beekeeper, but otherwise try Avon Skin So Soft- Soft and Fresh (formerly woodland fresh) as this is effective as a deterrent and is used by the British Army.
If you love walking breathtaking scenery, climbing and wildlife this is a place I recommend. The weather is unpredictable and the seasons are not always what you expect, but you are rewarded with a place where you can recharge your batteries and your emotional wellbeing.
Also posted on Ciao under the user name Violet1278.
There is something about the Isle of Skye that is magical and I have very fond memories of spending holidays there as a child. I therefore make no apologies for the length of this review which, I hope will be a guide for anyone visiting, or thinking about visiting this beautiful island.
It is affectingly known in Gaelic as Eilean a' Cheò, which literally translates into English as the Island of the mist and today Skye, the largest of the Inner Hebridean Islands is often referred to as "The Misty Isle".
Geographical Location & Getting There
The Isle of Skye lies less than a mile off the north-west coast of Scotland and is the best known and largest of the Inner Hebridean Islands. The island has a population of just under 9,000 residents and is 50 miles long by 25 miles wide at its widest point, decreasing to just 7 miles wide at its narrowest point creating 350 miles of spectacular and stunning coastline.
It is accessed via the Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland, which can be reached in many ways by road or rail. These days a road bridge from the Kyle of Lochalsh connects the island but when I was a child it could only be reached by a short ferry crossing from the Kyle of Lochalsh to Kylesku.
Approaching Skye by road takes you through some of the most breathtaking scenery in the whole of the British Isles and I would definitely recommend the approach from Fort William or Inverness. The approach from Fort William will take you along the shores of Lochalsh and past the famous Eilean Donan Castle which no calendar depicting the beauty of Scotland would be complete without, if you take this route you will enter Lochalsh at Cluanie, and drive through the magnificent scenery of Glenshiel with its lush green valleys and forbidding rugged peaks . Alternatively, if you approach from Inverness you can take a different northern route and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of Lochcarron and the surrounding countryside.
The Isle of Skye can also be reached by sea during the summer months from Mallaig via the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry, which will take you to Armadale on Skye. Caledonian Macbrayne Ferries also operate all year round sailings to Skye from the Outer Hebridean Islands of North Uist and Harris. During the summer months there is a privately run ferry which operates between Glenelgand to Kylerhea on Skye.
The Kyle of Lochash can be reached by train via two of the world's most amazing and memorable train journeys. These trains operate between Inverness and the Kyle of Lochalsh, and Fort William and Mallaig. There are also daily coaches that run from Fort William and Inverness to the Kyle of Lochalsh.
The Cost Of Getting There
The original ferry to Skye from Kylesku was free for most of its life so the opening of a new toll bridge caused a great deal of controversy and at a toll of £5.70 a time it soon became referred to as the most expensive toll bridge in Britain. Following 10 years of active protesting from local residents the tolls were finally removed on the 22nd December 2004, in what was a milestone victory for the dedicated activists who had protested for a decade that the extortionate toll bridge charges were destroying their already fragile economy. Once again it is free to visit to beautiful island again.
The Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Mallaig - Armadale operates between the 15th May and 11th September and takes around 30 minutes. The cost of a car for a single journey is currently £18.40 per vehicle plus £3.40 per person, but there are many saver fares available including a six journey ticket for £68. For current ferry prices and time times visit http://www.calmac.co.uk/summer-skye-timetable.html.
The private ferry from Grenelg - Kylerhea takes about 10 minutes and operates between Easter and October. The cost of a single journey for a car and up to four passengers currently costs £8.50 or £15 for a return crossing. For current prices and more information visit the following website http://www.skyeferry.co.uk/index.htm.
For information regarding visiting Skye by train or coach there is an excellent website called Fodor's travel which has details on fares and timetables from all UK destinations. For further information visit http://www.fodors.com/
Things to See & Do
The Bridge to Skye - This is the gateway to the island and a truly impressive sight as you stand on the pebbly shore at the Kyle of Lochalsh. I remember seeing this being built as a child as the project took many years to complete and each summer I would marvel at the progress.
The bridge was opened by the Queen in 1995 and there is a plaque on the north side of the bridge commemorating this opening.
This suspension bridge is only 276 metres long and crosses a stretch of water just 130 metres wide but it is a fantastic example of engineering at its finest and is regarded as one of the most impressive bridges of its type in Britain.
At the end of the bridge lies the village of Kylesku where I can definitely recommend the food at the local hotel, which serves freshly caught sea-fish and overlooks the bay where seals can usually be seen.
Kylerhea Otter Haven - This is well worth a visit before you head off to explore the rest of the island and is situated in the south-west area of the island. It is approached via a rough single track road which takes you through the mountains and down a steep decent to the coast. Here you will find a wooden observation hide located where you can watch Otters in their natural habitat. I have been here twice and have seen up to a dozen Otters on both occasions but if you are not so lucky and they are being secretive it may well be worth a trip to the nearby Kyleakin Nature Reserve where they are usually plentiful.
The Cuillin Peaks - Situated in the middle of the island this has to be one of the most impressive mountain ranges in Scotland and it is certainly one of the most formidable. I have very fond memories of this area from the summer of 1976. Way back then I was a six-year-old child and I hiked into the middle of this mountain range with my parents and elder brother. After a point the route became too dangerous for a child of my age to go any further, and so I stayed behind with my mother on a plateau just beneath the summit. We sunbathed on this plateau and baked in the sun and I played in a little stream whilst my father and brother, determined not to beaten, continued a further mile or so on to the mountain peak. This was one of the hottest days ever recorded on Skye, yet when my brother and father returned a short while later they amazed us by telling us how they had walked through a blizzard of snow. This was the also the day that I came face to face with my first Adder which wriggled through the grass and wrapped itself around my father's feet.
The Cuillin range of Mountains are best accessed from the village of Broadford, which is Skye's second largest settlement, and lies in a beautiful setting overlooking the Peaks and the islands of Eigg and Muck.
Portree - No visitor to the Isle of Skye leaves without visiting Portree, which is the largest settlement on the island and lies in the North. The village takes its name from the Gaelic words Port-Righ, literally referring to a Royal (Righ) Port. It has a good range of shops including a well stocked co-op supermarket.
The houses on the Harbour front are very pretty and are painted bright vivid colours, alternating from red, white, yellow and blue. Whilst the harbour itself is a typical working harbour with fishing boats returning their daily catch and locals repairing their nets on the pebbly shore.
Portree has a library, which is worth a visit if you want to learn about the local history, culture and folklore, many of the books here are however written primarily in the Gaelic language but most have English translations or summaries. There is also a small indoor swimming pool , which is perfect for cooling down on the odd day that the sun shines, and the Tourist Information Centre is a good place to enquire about what is happening in the area and on the island in general.
The Aros Heritage centre is situated just outside Portree and has lots of information about the local crafting way of life and examples of typical life on the island both past and present day.
The Trotternish Peninsula - Before you leave the North of the Island, I would strongly recommend that you visit an area known as the Trotternish Peninsula which has some of the most dramatic coastal scenery on the island. This includes an area known as "The old man of Stor" which overlooks sea stacks with cliff faces so sheer that you can only stand in awe and wonder about the forces of nature which have carved these needles which protrude from the sea,. These cliffs are home to thousands of seabirds, which circle and scream overhead. Close by you will find the village of Staffin, which has the only sandy beach on the Island.
Dunvegan Castle - In the northwest corner of the island is Dunvegan castle, this is the ancient stronghold of the McLeod Clan and has been for the last 800 years, today this is still their family home. Admission to the castle is around £7 for an adult and half price for a child. For more information including opening times visit www.dunvegancastle.com.
People & Culture
The people of Skye speak the Gaelic language as their mother tongue but all but a handful of elderly residents are also bilingual with English. All public signs including road signs and place names are displayed in both languages but many local shop names are often displayed only in Gaelic e.g. Oifis a' Phuist (Post Office), Banca Rioghal na h-Alba (Royal Bank of Scotland) etc.
Scots Gaelic is a Celtic language related to, but different from Manx and Irish Gaelic which form the Northern Celtic languages or Welsh, Cornish and Breton which make up the Southern Celtic languages. Today there are fewer than 80,000 native Scots Gaelic speakers in the world and almost 10% of these can be found on Skye.
The language of the people is paramount to the culture of Skye and tales of folklore abound. The whole island is steeped in history with tales of rival Clans who came and tried the overthrow the resident McLeod Clan. The people here are predominantly Presbyterian in religion and most are devoutly religious. As you travel around Skye you will see many churches, some so tiny they will hold only a dozen or so people, and you will also see also many ruins of Castles and Fortresses.
Accommodation & Eating Out
There are plenty of places to stay including large hotels in Broadford and Portree. I have stayed in both rented croft houses, and static caravans, but my parents had a camper van for many years so most of the time that was our bed for the night. There are several small campsites dotted around the island and many locals have took to offering Bed & Breakfast to boost their incomes or even buying a static caravan or two.
Eating out is generally in hotels, almost all of which are open to non residents for food and drink. There are no pubs on Skye so if you want an alcoholic drink you will find almost all hotels will have a public bar. In recent years a couple of small cafes have appeared on the island but there is no fish and chip shop or fast food establishments.
The weather on Skye is very unpredictable and can change within minutes, and venturing into the remote areas of the island is not recommended for the inexperienced or unprepared. The roads are mainly single track with passing places so travelling by car is slow, it can take a whole day to cross from one side of the island to the other.
The one and only downside of the island are the midges, the scourge of the Scottish Highlands so no visitor should be without repellent of some form, these are particularly severe in late July - early September which unfortunately coincides with the peak tourist season so be warned.
In my opinion the Isle of Skye is amongst the most beautiful places I have visited in the world and all to often it seems that so many of us are eager to jump on a plane to exotic locations without knowing what beauty lies on their own doorstop.
I look forward to returning to Skye again soon.
"'The Misty Isle' as the Isle of Skye is affectionately known (the Gaelic name is Eilean a' Cheo pronounced Ellen a Kee-ow) is the largest of the Inner Hebridean Islands. The island lies about a mile off the north-west of Scotland.
Grab yourself a map, and if you live in the south of England, move your finger up the map following the coastline, up through the North of England, through the Scottish borders, up, up, up . Wait! Stop! See, just to the left at the very edge of the coastline in the Highlands of Scotland you will see a tiny place called Kyle of Lochalsh. This is where, up until 1995, you would catch the ferry to the Isle of Skye. Then they built a bridge and tourism dropped dramatically because the tolls were very, very expensive at £5.70 each way. In 2005, the tolls were finally abolished and since then the island has enjoyed a return of the traveller seeking peace and tranquillity. Walkers, hikers, climbers, artists, sailers, musicians, photographers, writers . the list is endless of the type of person this beautiful place beckons.
If you'd like to visit:
You can travel by road or rail. You can even fly, landing at Inverness Airport but then you'd still have to hop on a train or hire a car to get you to either the Kyle of Lochalsh where the train stops or, if you want to go the very scenic a long way round, you could go via Fort William-Mallaig-Skye.
Once you arrive on the island, be aware that there is very little public transport. The main town, Portree, can be accessed once a day by bus. The school bus in term time, and then a bus slightly later at other times. The journey takes about 1 hour.. Therefore, should you find yourself in the South of the island (Kyleakin), you will be 33 miles away from Portree. That may not sound like a long way under normal circumstances, but these are 33 'Skye Miles'. They are very different as they encompass a journey up and down mountainous regions and round bends so curvaceous you'd think you were going round in a circle. The bus driver must circumnavigate sheep, cyclists and deer.
Take a tip from me. If you want to see the Isle of Skye, be prepared to stay a fortnight, try and take your own car or at least hire one when you get there. If you are young and fit, you could hire a bike but the weather can change seasons many times in one day, so if you insist on pumping your little legs up steep hills for hours on end, at least take waterproofs and suntan lotion.
Fifty miles long by 25 miles wide at its widest point, decreasing to just 7 miles wide at its narrowest point creating 350 miles of spectacular and stunning coastline, this is the place to come if you are a keen walker, photographer or artist. The light on the island is other-worldly and marvellous for taking pictures. If it isn't raining. How often does it rain? The clue is in that 'affectionate' handle 'The Misty' isle. If you want to get the best from the area, do plan on staying at least a week. That way, even if the weather is bad, you may just get a couple of days where the sun shines and you get to appreciate the famous views.
However you decide to travel, you will find a wealth of information on the internet advising you on the best routes and what you will see along the way. The Highlands of Scotland are breathtakingly beautiful and careful planning will make your trip all the more worthwhile.
Things to see:
There are so many things to see on the island, it would be a very long list indeed if I listed them all. But the island, of course, is a magnet for climbers and so, at the very least, The Cuillins (the Cuillin Peaks) have to get a mention.
But for the more sedate tourist, there are many arts and craft outlets for you to see. For unusual and beautiful designs in clothing, jewellery and pottery, try Ragamaffin on Armadale Pier (if you happen to go to Skye via Mallaig, the ferry will deposit you at Armadale Pier and you will find Ragamuffin on your left). Stay awhile in Armadale, for there is much else to see.
Having spent some pennies in Ragamuffin, walk a little further on and for the plant boffins amongst you, there's the Rhubha Phoil Permaculture Centre for forest gardens and woodland walks.
Before you leave the area of the Pier, you should also try and grab a bite to eat at the tiniest café in the world! Known as The Pasta Shed, this little place has only four tables! They also do take-a-ways. The food is delicious (awards galore adorn the walls) and the staff friendly and helpful.
There are other little outlets around the Pier, so do try and see them all. You can pick up some beautiful, local, hand crafted goods.
A gentle 10 minute stroll will take you to the famous Clan Donald Centre with its beautiful gardens and Visitors Centre.
Dunvegan Castle - In the northwest corner of the island is Dunvegan castle, this is the ancient stronghold of the McLeod Clan and has been for the last 800 years, today this is still their family home.
The Isle of Skye Toy Museum in Glendale. Only recently re-opened after being gutted by fire 3 years ago, this museum is highly recommended for a visit. It's a hands-on museum, where the owners Pat and Terry Wilding positively encourage children (and adults!) to play with those toys and dolls which are not actually in glass cases. There are very few items in glass cases. Take a visit to their website: www.toy-museum.co.uk and take a virtual tour.
Portree, the island's pretty little harbour-side town, has many delightful little shops and is probably one of the few places left in the UK that has not been spoiled by the gobbling mouth of Tesco supermarket (although I hear rumours we might be getting an Aldi or Lidl). In Portree, you can visit the An Tuireann Arts Centre, who run exciting exhibitions of contemporary visual art, most particularly promoting local talent. There is a craft gallery which stocks a wide range of unique gifts and art and poetry books and cards. They also have a licensed café serving excellent lunches and the best coffee and home baking on Skye.
There are houses on the Harbour front prettily painted in shades of pink, white, blue or cream blue. Most of these houses, though, are bed and breakfast establishments, and there's also a dental surgery and a couple of restaurant-come-pubs. On the harbour, you can watch the fishing boats landing their daily catch.
Portree also has a library, which is worth a visit if you want to learn a little of the local history and culture. However, the library is not open every day but a timetable can be found on the door.
The Aros Heritage centre is situated just outside Portree and here you can browse the rather elegant shop for gifts and books and enjoy a cup of tea and home baking in the large café. There is also a bar. When there last, we sat for so long chatting and admiring the view that we didn't notice that the café was closing (it was after 5pm on a Sunday) but the proprietors didn't try and chivvy us up at all. Friendly and courteous is putting it mildly!
Kylerhea Otter Haven Situated in the south-west of the island, and approached down a scary, hairy one-track road. I'd advise you to keep your eyes closed, but in a car that wouldn't be sensible and by bicycle it would be positively suicidal. Once you get to the end of that steep decent you will find a wooden observation hide located where you can watch otters in their natural habitat. Keep very, very quiet and you might get lucky. If you don't, you could also try:
Eilean Ban (White Island), Kyleakin: Situated between Kyleakin and Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland. This is a six-acre nature haven nestling below the Skye road bridge which spans the island. There is a lighthouse on Eilean Ban which was originally home just to the lighthouse keepers and their families, and later it later became the residence of the author and naturalist, Gavin Maxwell. Eilean Ban has nature trails (suitable for wheelchair users), which wind around the island leading to different points of interest, including a viewing platform and sensory garden. You can also take a guided visit which includes the Maxwell museum, complete with original artefacts.
Since the advent of the Skye Bridge, the village of Kyleakin (pronounced Kyle Ah Kin), has become very quiet, since bridge traffic now tends to head straight up the island, bypassing Kyleakin altogether. But take the time to visit this little village and see the 10th century ruins of the fortress Castle Moil. There are some nice pubs, a coffee bar, and hotels and places of backpackers to rest their weary heads. There is a Youth Hostel but that, I believe, is to finally close its doors in November. For curry lovers, the recently opened Taste of India (previously the Crofters Kitchen) is getting some excellent reviews.
An important note on the Skye Bridge: the view from the bridge is fantastic - particularly at sunset. But please be aware that there is a continuous white line on both sides of the bridge's road which means that traffic must not stop there. It is infuriating for us locals when using the bridge to come across cars parked half on and half off the pavement causing a back-log of traffic which can't get past and if you're unfortunate enough to be a pedestrian (and many do walk the bridge, daily) then we have to step into the road of oncoming traffic. There is a large, free car park in Kyleakin which can be used. Park the car there then walk back to the bridge for your sightseeing.
Skye is a mostly English-speaking island these days, but there are a lot of Gaelic speakers, some native speakers and others having decided to learn the language. All road signs are displayed in both Gaelic and English.
Eating and sleeping:
There are plenty of places to stay. Only in the summer months is it advisable to book in advance if you are particular about your accommodation. The prices range from a modest £15 per person per night including a full cooked breakfast, to a more princely sum of anything up to over £100 if you decide to treat yourself and stay in one of the more exotic hotels.
Depending on the time of year you visit, there is little difficulty in finding somewhere to eat. Though when I say that, I am assuming that you wouldn't expect there to be an over abundance of eateries in the middle of nowhere. Some places can be a little expensive so do your homework first. Over the years, there has been an upsurge of fish and chip shops (one in every village almost) and even one or two curry take-a-ways. Also be aware that most places stop serving at 9pm, so if you've arrived late in the evening, there are few places where you can get a decent meal after this time. However, progress has marched on and the local Co-op supermarkets in Portree, Broadford and Kyle of Lochalsh, are now open until 10pm Monday-Saturday and 6pm on Sundays (5pm in winter) so you'll at least have somewhere you can buy something to make a sandwich if you're desperate.
If there is one thing which spoils the Isle of Skye (and the Highlands in general), it's the midgies. The dreaded midge which, if legend is true (and I can believe it), has forced all potential invaders back since the beginning of time. The little black insect, no bigger than a tea leaf, doesn't fly alone. It flies in packs of millions, hunting for fresh blood. People have invented midgie machines to repel them (and to a certain extent I understand this has been quite successful), but generally, go armed with lots of insect repellent citronella-based being the most effective and if you are particularly prone to being bitten, beware of still evenings, most especially after it's been raining and it's warm .. because believe me, those little blighters are waiting in the heather to get you.
Other than that, the island is a magical, marvellous place you must visit at least once in your life."
And http://www.isleofskye.net/ (which is an excellent site for more detailed information on accommodation available, things to do and transport etc.
© Louise Saunders
It's 240 miles to Skye from my house, but it's 240 miles of some of the most wonderful scenery you are liable to encounter. our route took us through Stirling, Callandar, Fort William, and Kyle of Lochalsh. We were in no desperate hurry when we set off for Skye so I set myself a task of not going over 60 MPH. Now for me that's one hell of a task. As it turns out though it wasn't nearly a difficult as I first imagined. The weather as we started out was fair with a decent cover of cloud, visibility was not great but sufficed since we had seen the scenery of the first 100 miles many tines before.
Once we had passed Stirling we were into territory we had encountered only a few times so that was quite refreshing. As we journeyed on the weather was improving slightly with the cloud cover becoming a bit sparser. We had passed Callandar and were now heading for Fort William which was going to be our half way point for refreshments and eats.
Fort William is a lovely town with some fantastic views. We spent just over 1 ½ hours there having a look at the shops and as I said getting some eats. By this time the sun had won it's battle over the clouds and the sky was almost completely blue. The temperature had risen considerably so for the next part of our journey it was sunroof open and windows down.
We passed through many quaint villages on our way to our next destination, and also Glencoe. We had been to Glencoe before but on that occasion the weather was poor, this time we hit the jackpot and I mean jackpot. Apart from the slight delay due to road works at Glencoe we made good time. At Glencoe we slowed our speed down at bit allowing other drivers to pass. The views here are exceptional with a capital E. it's no wonder Sir Jimmy Saville has decided to move here and stay, it's just unbelievable.
We continued on to our next destination, which was Kyle of Lochalsh. This is the last point on the Scottish mainland and appropriately the location of the Skye Bridge. For about 5-10 miles before reaching Kyle of Lochalsh you travel along the side of Lochalsh looking across to some wonderful mountains which were reflecting in the blue waters of the Loch. About a mile or so from Kyle of Lochalsh you get your first glimpse of the Skye Bridge. It's only recently that the tolls have been scrapped for crossing the bridge so there are road works in operation here to remove the old tollbooths. The bridge is only about ½ a mile long and has a small arch. At the apex of the arch you can look either side for what can only be described as more amazing views.
We had arrived. This is Skye. We had planned to stay the night at a B&B, but knowing that it was peak season we had taken my son's tent just in case. After the first few miles on Skye it became apparent that the tent was probably going to be our home for the night. Every hotel and B&B had the now familiar NO VACANCIES sign up. The prices for B&B ranged from £15 to £22.50 which I thought was very reasonable. I would therefor advise should you decide to visit Skye ( and I think you should if just for the views alone ) that it would be a good move to book in advance or like us take a tent. There are many campsites with facilities, We chose the first we came too. It was located at Sligachan. 100 yards away there was a PUB serving the local brew and hot food. The cost for camping is £4 per adult and £3 per child, this includes showers and toilet facilities.
So tent up we proceeded to start to inflate the air mattress with a portable pump. By this time we were both a bit peckish so decided to halt the inflation and go for something to eat. On leaving the tent we stopped to admire the view over the Cuillin Hills. It was getting a little cloudy again but the view was superb. You could feel the freshness of the air.
The Pub was nicely decorated with a small portion at the back set up as a games room with some video games and pool table. There were a few people in, and Scottish music played quietly in the background.
We had fish and chips the fish being caught locally. It was quite expensive for what was basically just a fish supper ( £8 ), but it was very good. I chose to sample the local brew also and it was the perfect accompaniment to the fish. I'm not a great beer drinker so I'm not going to go into its taste or that suffice to say it was most enjoyable.
After spending some time at the pub we returned to the campsite to continue setting up. **$£"^& the pump batteries had run down and the little air that was in the air-bed had escaped cos stupid had not put the plug back in once removing the pump. I know I should have just left the pump running and all would have been fine. So it was a hard surface bed for the night. Anyway we finished off setting up by which time the weather had taken a bad turn. It was now quite cloudy and windy and decidedly colder than it had been before. We went across to the pub again and had coffee. Since we had planned for B&B so we hadn't brought a stove or anything, except a lantern.
Well that was some night, I don't think neither my wife not I slept any longer than 20 mins at a time. The cold was coming up through the thin air-bed and my bum was almost numb. We were both freezing and although we were laughing about our predicament we were almost crying LOL.
At about 5.45AM the sun showed it's face directly onto mine and that was me up bright and early. God I could murder a coffee. Pub not open till 8.00AM, no stove. About ten mins later Anne arrived outside the tent, we looked at each other laughed and without a word proceeded to take down the tent. By 6.15Am we were heading off in search off coffee.
The first port of call was Dunvegan, no shop no café NO COFFEE. We were now on the Eastern side of the Island and were having to make frequent stops to avoid hitting the sheep who would give one look as if to say the road was theirs not ours. A few miles further on and we were to get our first glimpse of the Herbrides. The sun was shinning on the water and once again the views took our breaths away. Uig is the second largest town on the island not that there are that many which would qualify as towns, more very small villages. There were many crofts and houses scattered across the hillsides and mountains. And we wondered where everyone worked surely they weren't all crofters or farmers. At Uig you can catch the ferry to Harris which is on the Herbrides, but more importantly you can get a cup of COFFEE. Ahh my did we need that caffeine fix and the bacon roll was a superb bonus.
It was still only 8.00AM and there were lots of people waiting on the Ferry to Harris, most of them seemed to be school children. I thought they were perhaps on a fact finding trip since this seems to be all the rage just now. So from Uig we headed north west and across the island. it was here that we first encountered the single track roads. They have passing places every 100yds or so but you can't drive very fast. Apart from the fact they are very windy they are also very hilly. We passed more mountains some with very unusual shapes to them.
Most of the signposts and information plates here are in both English and Gaelic. The names of the mountains are very thought provoking since you are forced to try and imagine how the name was derived. The Old man of Storr for example took a little time to figure out. I won't explain don't want to spoil it just in case you do visit.
16 miles from Uig is another town called Staffin, once you have reached here you are on the north-western side of the island with more scenery to take your breath away. You can see the Hebrides to your east and mainland Scotland to your west.
We were now heading for Portree which we had visited briefly the night before in an unsuccessful effort to get some batteries.. during our tour of the island we were looking for Killmuir where you can find the burial ground of Flora McDonald, which my wife wanted to see. We found 2 Killmuir's but no grave. According to our guide book there are many places of historical interest, but none are easy to find since they are not signposted.
Portree is once again a lovely town. it is here that you can do any souvenir shopping, since there are as I said very few shops on the island. Another coffee and sticky bun here set us up for a casual stroll around the town. For such a small place it is bustling with activity there are a lot of pubs and restaurants so getting something to eat here is no problem. By this time the sun had really got into her swing and it was getting very warm. We purchased a few goodies to scoff on our tour and continued down the western side of the island. 9 miles further on we reached our campsite at Sligachan, but we didn't stop instead we proceeded to Broadford which is one of the first places you reach on arriving on Skye. here there is a café, Post Office and small supermarket. After a refill and more supplies we headed once again for Skye Bridge.
We took a slightly different route home going through Fort Augustus where we saw the Caledonian canal in operation as about 10 boats headed toward Loch Ness, before returning to Fort William.
Skye has without doubt some of the most impressive scenery I've ever seen and although it is unlikely that I shall return it is equally as unlikely that I shall ever forget some of the views I have seen here. It's quiet tranquil and the perfect place to relax. There are plenty of Hotels and B&B's but as I said it's probably advisable to book in advance. There isn't a great deal to do here except check out historic sights ( if you can find them ) and sight see. There are only a few petrol stations on the island and petrol here is much more expensive than on the mainland so fill up before arriving. Midge's are also a bit of a problem so get some insect repellent in too. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip, and shall remember it for a long long time.
In February we were lucky enough to spend 3 weeks on the isle of Skye (should have been 2 ½ weeks but we got snowed in)! This review is by no means a comprehensive account of all there is to see and do on the beautiful Isle of Skye, but I have tried to give a taste of what the island is like and have included some of what I think are the highlights. I hope it is helpful to anyone planning a trip to Skye. Some basic information ********************* The Isle of Skye is situated off the north west coast of Scotland and can be reached by either a short ferry crossing from Mallaig (summer time only) or by crossing over the bridge at the Kyle of Lochalsh.We crossed via the toll bridge. The toll is £5.70 per car in the summer (each way) and £4.70 in the winter. Registered disabled drivers who are exempt from paying road tax can cross free of charge. If like us you plan to drive, then once you get beyond Glasgow you are in for a treat! The scenery is really stunning. Skye is the largest of the islands, which make up the Inner Hebrides; it has 350 miles of coastline and is 50 miles long and from 7-25 miles across. Skye has a population of 8,847, which means its residents have plenty of space! Skye is a rugged island and if I tell you the name Skye comes from the Norse meaning cloud you will get a clue as to what the weather may do! Although Skye can often be wet and windy, when we were there in February we experienced warm sunshine followed within hours by blizzard conditions. Heavy snow is unusual for Skye as it is at the tail end of the Gulf Stream and rain is more usual. The thing to note is that the weather on Skye is changeable, one minute the sun can be shining and the next the mist can close in, so always be prepared when out walking! What?s on offer here? ****************** Tourism is an important source of income for Skye and in season it is well set up for its visitors with plenty of good quality accommodation an
d places to eat. However there are no high tech attractions on Skye and its museums are small and intimate. We enjoy walking, climbing and being out doors generally and Skye has numerous walks of varying difficulty and some of the best climbing in Europe. I have listed some of the things we enjoyed and I hope you will too if you go! There is a tourist information centre in Broadford that can be contacted on 01478-612137 should you want any particular information. 1. Portree is the largest settlement on Skye and has a good range of shops including a well-stocked and friendly co-op. The harbour is very pretty with brightly painted houses and fishing boats to watch, something my children loved. Fresh fish can be bought from a hut here too although it is not cheap. Portree has a small indoor swimming pool which when we were there was not what you would call warm! There is a small and really friendly library where you can rent videos in addition to local interest books both in Gaelic and English. On the outskirts of Portree is the Aros Heritage centre, where you can experience some of Skye?s history. There is also a camera fixed on a sea eagles nest and when these birds are not nesting, a good display about these beautiful birds. The Aros centre also has a basic restaurant and houses a small cinema. I would not recommend the history tour, as it was poorly done and expensive. Goods on sale here such as local beers (made from porridge oats)! Can be purchased much more cheaply from the co-op! There is a walk through the trees behind the centre where you can get a good view of the harbour. Portree is, in my opinion, far more attractive than Broadford, Skye?s other main centre. 2. Kylerhea otter haven in the south of the island is reached by a single-track road, over a mountain. A short rough track (suitable for a buggy) leads to a well-equipped hide. We were lucky enough to see 4 otters playing and feeding even with our noisy 2 year old! In February we had
the hide to ourselves, but I suspect it gets busy in the summer. If you are not as lucky as we were then you may want to check out the Bright water visitor centre in Kyleakin a nature reserve where you are very likely to see otters. However it is only open from April until October so was closed when we were there. Also in the south of the Island is Arndale castle open from April until October as we did not visit I can?t comment on this one. 3. North of the Island, an area known as the Trotternish peninsula has some amazing dramatic coastal scenery. The old man of Stor is a famous landmark and there is a good walk to the pinnacle. The village of Staffin has the only partly sandy beach on the Island and is a good place to take children. At the top of the peninsula is Duntulm castle, a ruin deserted in 1739 reputedly because it was haunted. This is a really atmospheric place with a drop straight down the cliff to the sea. There is no charge to enter the ruins. 4. If you feel like venturing to the outer Hebrides, then the ferry leaves from Uig also in the north of the island. We had planned to go to north Uist but ferry times meant an overnight stay would have been needed and we were unable to find any accommodation on Uist despite phoning numerous places. If you want to go I suggest you book ahead! 5. If like us you enjoy a challenging walk then the area known as the Quiraing is for you! Situated to the north of Staffin The Quiraing consists peaks of basalt rock which has been formed into many weird shapes over thousands of years. The views from the top are unbelievable and well worth the climb, even with a heavy child on your back! 6. The Waternish peninsula to the north west of the island is very quite even in the summer. We drove here to visit Trumpan church. Legend has it that in 1578 the MacDonald?s of Uist came across in boats and set fire to the church whilst a large number of their enemy, the McLeod?s were worshipping inside.
My oldest child was fascinated by Skye?s turbulent history and this place certainly brought it alive! There are several great walks in this part of the island with views across to Harris, Lewis and the Uists. 7. Also in the northwest is Dunvegan castle, ancient stronghold of the McLeod clan. We arrived here during a fierce blizzard and were the only visitors. The woman on the door was so shocked to see a family on such a day that she let us in with no charge! You will probably not be so lucky and will be charged £5.50 per adult and £3.00 for a child. The castle was great fun for our 6 year old. He really liked the dungeon complete with groaning sound effects! Admission price includes a quiz for children with a prize at the end of the month for the lucky winner. My son was thrilled to get a parcel through the post with goodies recently. The castle has lovely gardens which go down to the sea and in the summer boat trips run around the island. 8. A short trip from Dunvegan castle is one of my favourite places on Skye. At the small hamlet of Claigan a track leads for a few miles to what are known as the coral beaches. As you round the headland the black basalt beach gives way to what appears to be a white sandy beach. The sea appears turquoise here and the whole area looks tropical, shame about the cold wind! There are wonderful views of the Outer Hebrides from the beach. We sat and watched seals playing only feet from were we were. Our children loved it here and played for hours climbing over the rocks and watching the birds. 9. Another highlight is Elgol 14 miles from Broadford.We came here to walk right in the heart of the Cuillin Peaks. The village itself is very beautiful with great views of the peaks and the islands of Eigg and Muck. We set off from Elgol to walk to the beach at Camusunary.The walk is listed as fairly difficult, which is a real understatement! The path is very dangerous and takes you close to the edge of the cliff. If
you have children, I would advise you not to attempt this walk. Instead park a few miles before you get to Elgol and hike over the peaks on a safe (if hard work) path that leads to Camusunary and on into the mountains if you are feeling energetic! There are no sheer drops on this route so it is safe for children. The beach is lovely and again was deserted when we were there. There is a very basic mountain Bothy here, where you can stay free of charge, if you really want to. If you do attempt this walk take plenty of food and water and rain gear as the weather can change quickly. 10. The isle of Raasay can be reached via a 15-minute ferry crossing from Sconser. The day we spent on Raasay was another highlight. The island only has one road and felt really remote. We walked to see the ruins of a crofting settlement, deserted during the clearances. I love to teach my children history in this way! 11. Wildlife spotting is easy on Skye. We saw numerous golden eagles and even saw a rare sea eagle near Portree once! Whales and Dolphins are often seen especially off the coast at Neist point in the northwest. There are many species of birds not seen elsewhere in Britain too. During the summer you will have to share the Islands with thousands of midges, take plenty of repellent! Accommodation and eating out There are plenty of good places to stay on Skye. We stayed in Portree in a self-catering croft. There are plenty of similar places to rent, try looking on the Internet. The lonely Planet guide to Scotland?s Highlands and islands also lists many hotels, bed and breakfasts. We choose to stay in Portree as it is well served and is a good base to tour other parts of the Island. We choose not to eat out, but if you want to there are some really good restaurants on Skye including the world famous Three Chimneys at Colbost.I can however recommend the granary bakery in Portree for filled rolls and cakes to take for a picnic! In summer there are numerous boat trips available and Skye offers some of the best scuba diving in Europe, the tourist information centre will be happy to advise you on courses. There is a whisky distillery at Talisker where tours are available and good walks in this area too. Skye is not somewhere to go if you are looking for sandy beaches or sea swimming. The tides are treacherous and as I have said there are no real sandy beaches. We love the Isle of Skye for its unique beauty, wonderful sunsets and friendly people.
Last year we went to Jersey for holiday - and it rained every day. After returning we decided to have a few days in Skye and - You've guessed it! - It rained every day as well - the only difference is that the rain is definately warmer in Jersey. Using the internet we decided to check a number of different sites for accomodation, and after checking a number of these we narrowed our choice down to several in Broadford, (Broadford is about 7 miles from the Skye Bridge) with BENVIEW being the winner. It even has its own website at http://www.isleofskye.net/benview/ Which Ben? you may ask - well - there's a choice of six from the panoramic window in the lounge. Accommodation- 1 double room and 1 twin (both with en-suite), the double (where we stayed) has a king size bed, tea makeing facilities, shower., and television. The twin room looked slightly smaller, but still roomy enough. The Resident's Lounge has a comfortable couch and several arm-chairs. the view out of the window is fantastic and to enhance this binoculars are available if required. The widescreen television gets most Sky Channels (including Sky Movies). Also available are a video recorder and Hi-Fi including CD player. The Dining room has a table with room for 4 guests. Food is excellent I had the full Scottish Breakfast which started with fruit juice (choice of several) and/or cereal, followed by sausage, bacon, eggs, black pudding (and all came in pairs). Tea and coffee was available and also toast. Marmalade, jam and honey were provided for the toast. Other choices were also available for those who didn't want any of that. These included kippers or scrambled eggs. I'm sure that if none of that was suitable then something else would have been provided. The boarding house is under the personal direction of the owners Ian and Audrey Mackinnon, and they are really friendly. It was built in 2002, about 2 months befor we w
ent. Prices £18-23 per person depending on the season. Journey - Take care on the journey as the scenery is so magnificent (even in the rain) you could just forget to turn on a bend. There are plenty of stopping places available to view the scenery.
Skye, the most scenic and spectacular of all the Scottish islands, is sometimes called the Misty Isle. That may give you a clue as to the predominant weather pattern here. It rains a lot.
When the mists lift a little, the views are astounding and this explains why tourism is such a large part of the economy of the island.
In the summer the main roads can become choked with caravans and coach tours but there is always enough space on the island to escape the crowds.
The most popular destination is the Cuillins, the largest concentration of mountain peaks in Britain. There are over 20 Munros - peaks over 3000ft - in this range, and they are serious mountains.
Dunvegan Castle is the ancient seat of the Clan Macleod and is also a major tourist attraction.
This is a Gaelic speaking area but everyone speaks English - in fact they speak perfect English with only a slight Scots accent so it is very easy to understand what people say.
Getting there and getting around
The quickest and easiest route is to cross the new bridge from Kyle of Localsh to Kyleakin. There are bus services from Glasgow and Inverness but a car has to be the best way to tour the island as public transport isn't all that good.
There are a great deal of attractions and activities but I can only list a few of the more popular ones here.
Oh - and by the way - if you have ever heard of the Scottish Midgies, it is not an exaggeration. Those tiny little guys will eat you alive and the Skye midge is the worst of the lot!
Dunvegan Castle has been the ancestrial stronghold of the Chiefs of the Clan MacLeod for nearly 800 years and it remains their home. It is unique
in Scotland as the only house of such antiquity to have retained its family AND its roof throughout the centuries, surviving famines, wars and social and economical upheaval.
Most of the present building dates from the 15th and 16th century and among the many relics on display is Rory Mor's horn, a huge drinking vessel which the chief's heir must drain without 'putting down or falling down', when filled with claret - about one and a half bottles.
The castle is surrounded by lovely gardens which you can stroll through prior to taking a seal-spotting cruise.
There are shops and restaurants on site.
The Castle is open all year round and seven days a week:
Mid March to end October 10.00 am - 5.30 pm
November to mid March 11.00 am - 4.00 pm
£5 to tour the castle and gardens,
£8 for the seal-spotting cruise.
The distillery isn't at Talisker, but at Carbost and is the only distillery on Skye.
It is open to visitors all year round Mon-Fri from 9.00-16.30 and has an exhibition and shop.(£3)
Tours last around 30 minutes and begin with a complimentary dram
Talisker is a highly distinctive whisky with a strong, smoky, peaty flavour because both the malt and the water used to make it are heavily peated. It is usually 45.8% vol. in strength and is usually bottled at 10 years old. The whisky is somewhere between the lightness of the Highland malt whiskies on the mainland to the east, and the heaviness of the Islay malts to the south.
The Isle of Skye Brewery
This is situated at Uig, the ferry terminal for the Outer Hebrides. They have a shop and tours can be arranged. A wide range of ales are brewed here - far too many to list - but their most famous is the award winning Red Cuillen, a sm
ooth malty ale which is delicious.
The ales are served in many of the pubs on the island.
Just outside Uig is the mystical Fairy Glen where there are strange, conical hills that don't quite look like natural features. This area is almost always misty and lends an unreal, spooky quality to the scene.
This is Skye's main town and capital. It is very colourful with brightly painted buildings along the shore of this fishing port with the rest of the town rising steeply up to the commercial heart.
There's a wide range of shops, from everyday to frivolous; lots of places to eat, upmarket hotels to hostels and B&Bs etc. to be found here.
This is the wildest and least populated part of the island and this is where you will find the Cuillins.
They are officially named the Cuillen 'Hills', but don't let that fool you, these are wild and untamed mountains.
The amazing scenery and the huge range of walks and climbs have attracted people for centuries but have also claimed many lives.
The eastern range is smoother and known as the Red Cuillins and these contrast sharply with the dark, jagged Black Cuillins to the west.
*These should only be tackled by experienced climbers.*
Not too worry though, if the mist lifts, they can be seen from anywhere on the island and they are impressive.
There is plenty of safe hill-walking on Skye of course, after all that is why most people come here.
Thanks for reading.
(Okay, here goes with a potentially dangerous technique - telling a few unpleasant truths about Scotland's most beautiful island!) What can you really say about a place so utterly unique? When the sun shines on Skye, it's like nowhere else on the planet - it's a cliche to say it, but it's almost spiritually beautiful. There's always trouble in paradise, though - and it's the very factors that make Skye (and the Highlands and Islands in general) so wonderfully, addictively unique that cause the frustration. Because of its location and geography, Skye has more than its fair share of bad weather. You can get staggeringly beautiful, clear dry days at any time of year, but the flipside is that you're just as likely to get days on end of low cloud, pouring rain and howling winds in the middle of spring or summer as you are in the depths of winter. The trick is to stay for at least a week. All other considerations aside, Skye is *much* bigger than you think and takes much longer to get around - consider that it takes round about 45 minutes to drive from the Skye Bridge to Portree, the island's capital, and that's when it's not raining! A week gives you an outside chance of experiencing at least one cloudless day - or, at the very least, a day during which the Cuillin and other incomparable geographical miracles are not completely obscured beneath a grey blanket. Make no mistake, Skye is far from flat, but when the cloud is low you'd be forgiven for assuming it's nothing more than one massive moor. The difference between cloud-stricken Skye and cloudless Skye is, almost literally, the difference between being blind and fully-sighted. Something else you need to know about Skye is that it's not actually very Scottish any more - or, to put it another way, isn't as Gaelic as you might expect. Yes, Gaelic is spoken on Skye (but not as widely as in the Outer Hebrides), b
ut there are far more "foreigners" than true Gaels living on the island. The reason is that many people from England (and other countries) have sold up and moved to Skye to grab their slice of the rural idyll by running B&B's, hotels and craft shops. Selling a small flat in London earns you enough money to buy you something almost mansion-sized on Skye, and consequently the true Skye locals are being priced out of the market. Don't get me wrong, Skye is absolutely dependent on tourism and so anyone running a B&B, hotel or craft shop is making a genuinely vital contribution to the local economy, but it's something of a shame that in too many parts of the island you're more likely to hear southern English accents than you are native West Highland. These days, if you want to experience true Western Isles life with the minimum of tourist-led commercialisation, you need to make the effort to get out to Harris, Lewis, the Uists and Barra - where, if the sun's out, you'll find beaches that you'd swear had been stolen from the Caribbean, with azure-blue waters lapping coral-white sand, and more people speaking Gaelic than English. I repeat : don't get me wrong. I adore Skye with a passion that passeth all understanding, and indeed got married there on the 1st September 2001. Maybe I'm trying to put people off, so that I'll have the island all to myself when I'm next there... or maybe I'm just telling it like it is so that you can visit (and you *must* visit) in the right frame of mind. And that's the essence of it, really. Skye is a state of mind. If you understand it, you'll appreciate the dreadful days as much as the dry, clear ones. Just don't forget your waterproofs.
I have been to Sky in the second day of my Scotland Trip which made in June, 2000. It was the best journey of my life and Scotland especially Edinburgh ans Isle Sky was the most interesting places I have ever been to. Isle of Sky is One of the largest Scottish islands. It is also very well known by travelers. What makes Skye famous is its mountain scenery which I was amazed by. As far as I know, so many people go the the isle to climb or walk in the Cuillin and the Quiraing. There are very many many craft shops and cottage museums in the isle. Skye is on the west coast of Scotland. You can only get to Skye via 3 different routes: 1- By Ferry from Mallaig : We went to Skye by ferry from Mallaig. It took short but it was nice. I can not tell you there are much to do in Mallaig but it is nice small town, where you can take the ferry. You can drive or taking a train to Fort William and go to Mallaig to take the Ferry to Skye. This journey will be a fantastic scenic journey in the West Highlands. 2- By ferry from Glenelg 3- By bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh : We went back to the mainland through this bridgeThis bridge. ALthough bridge is not special one. There is a very nice scene when sun sets. Also, the hostel I stayed in the second night in Ske was very close to the bridge. I stared at the scene all evening. It was very fascinating. The toll is 5.70 pounds for a car and 2.90 for a motorbike You can go to Skye via Kyle of Lochalsh or Glenelg. If you do so, you will see the one of most fantastic castle (you can see its photo in my profile) of Scotland, Eilean Donan Castle. It is an absolutely fantastic castle. It is one of the most beatiful places I saw in Scotland. KYLEAKIN: As I was told, this is the town where the ferry used to land from Kyle of Lochalsh,Today it is connected to the mainland by the new toll bridge. I liked to see the r
uins of 14th century Castle Maol near Bridge and the hostel I stayed in. There is also a restaurant, bar, youth hostel(where I stay) PORTREE Portree is the capital of Skye. In the island there are hotels with souvenir shops, eating places, banks, a filling station, arts centre, swimming pool and so on. There is nothing you can not find when needed. In Skye, I stayed in two different hostels. I already mentioned one in KYLEAKIN. I also stayed in another one by the ocean with unbelievable ocean sciene and I just paid £ 10 each for the hostels. They were both very clean and satisfactory. Especially I can not forget the perfect night I spent in the hostel by the ocean. It was midnight and ske was so bright and sun was rising. Anyway, I liked most the mountain scienes in Sky. It is very interesting place to see. I am gonna wtite on and add more to this opinion of mine. I hope I could give you an idea about Skye. I can also read to answer any question from you.
The Isle of Skye is part of the Western Isles which lie in the northwest of Scotland. Skye which is only 600 square miles in total, can be reached by ferry from the Kyle of Lochalsh, Mallaig or Glenelg. In the southwest of the island stand the dark, steep, Cuillin Mountains (pronounced: 'Coolin'), which tower over the landscape with their summits wreathed in swirling mist. The road from Broadford to Elgol gives the best view of these. From Elgol you can go on a boat trip which takes you right into Loch Coruisk which is surrounded by the mountains. I have seen all the Lakes in English Lake District and most of the Scottish lochs. Coruisk is indeed among the most spectacular. The Black House Museums at Colbost has a display of living conditions on the island 100 years ago. You can explore old, peat warmed crofts and experience the way life was. At Kilmuir on the northern part of the island is The Skye Museum of Island Life. Near here is the grave of Flora MacDonald. The Royal Hotel at Portree is where Flora said farewell to Bonnie Prince Charlie for the last time. It is from this part of Skye that 'The Skye Boat Song' comes. In the west is Dunvegan Castle which has been the home of the MacLeod chiefs for more than 800 years. It houses a very dark and dank dungeon and contains the Macleod 'fairy flag'. This is said to have been given to the 4th chief by his wife. She was supposed to have been one of the 'wee fairy folk' herself and as such had magical powers. These same powers were passed on in the 'fairy flag'. The piping Centre at Borreraig (north of Colbost) tells the tale of the MacGrimmons who were the hereditary pipers to the Clan Macleod. It also explores the history of piping. In the south is the famous Talisker Distillery where you can take a tour and sample the fare. It's worth buying a bottle or two to take home from here as well. At the end
of July Skye Folk Festival is usually held. There are concerts, ceilidhs and performances by local and national folk musicians. If you visit Skye during the beginning of August you can see Portree Highland Games which involves piping competitions, Highland dancing, tug-o-war, athletics and field events like caber tossing and hammer and wellie throwing. Gala days, craft fairs, various festivals of Gaelic music and culture, and street fairs are held throughout the summer months. You will also find archery, piping and sea fishing competitions, sheep dog trials and even watersports days. There is lots to do on this little island if you like the outdoor life. However, if you are looking for clubs and evening entertainment, other than a little folk music and a dram or two, then it's not for you. If you want more information or dates for the Highland Games, festivals etc then contact the Tourist Information Office at Portree. Telephone: 01478-2137.
I originally wrote a brief opinion on the Isle of Skye when I first started writing for Dooyoo. I have now matured as a writer and developed what I hope is a much better style of writing so I thought that I would update my opinion of one of God's most beautiful islands.
The island is one of contrasts, from the brooding Cullin Mountains to the lush greenery around Armadale. It forms part of the island group known as the Inner Hebrides and is set off the north east coast of Scotland.
The easiest way to reach Syke is via the bridge over the Kyle of Lochalsh. This is an expensive toll bridge, which most of the islanders did not want to see built, and I have to say I agree with them. I think that Skye should have been left as it was with links only via ferries. Talking of which, the other ways to Skye are via ferries. A Caledonian MacBrayne car ferry runs from Mallaig to Armadale, and a small private car ferry takes six cars at a time across the Sound of Sleat from Kylerhea to Glenelg.
Portree is the capital of the island, but I won't go into details here as I there is an opinion of mine on Portree and it's facilities elsewhere on Dooyoo. Suffice it to say that Portree has a lovely harbour, some nice shops, easy parking and a wealth of varied accommodation.
There are many things to do on Skye, not least of which is to admire the breathtaking scenery. There are lochs and waterfalls around every corner, and various museums dedicated to the life of the crofters.
To give you a feel for the place I'll tell you about my favourite places on the island.
At the far north of the island are the ruins of Duntulm Castle. The MacDonalds built this in 17th century on the site of Celtic fort. It is perched on the edge of the cliff giving dramatic views of the bay and there are walks down to the shore and along the headland. Often there is a piper playing the bagpipes here at the castle. It is free to go and
visit this site and I really enjoyed clambering about on the castle and then walking down the steep path to the bay below.
The rock formation at the north of the island is called the Quiraing and is unlike anything I have ever seen anywhere else. The name is Gaelic and means 'pillared stronghold' and the area is a mass of pillars and pinnacles created by glaciers. There are many walks in the area but stout walking shoes are recommended as the terrain is not for the faint hearted. I had a go at one of the walks but freaked out when I saw that I was supposed to jump across a narrow gulley! What a wuss!
To the west of the Quiraing is Kilt Rock Waterfall, flowing from Loch Mealt over the edge of the cliff in a stunning sheer drop. This is only visible by parking on the headland car park and walking to the edge of the cliff to look back towards the land. There is a sturdy fence at the edge of the cliff I might add! I got a superb photograph of this by using my APS camera on the widest setting and turning it sideways!
Farther south along the same road (A855) is the Old Man of Storr. This is a black basalt column 160 feet high and 40 feet in diameter. It is a stiff climb, which turns into a scramble over steep scree at the top, to reach the base of the column. Even if, like us, you don't get quite as far as the Old Man the views from the higher part of the track are certainly outstanding. I found that the scree at the top was too slippy and steep to go any further - I was terrified! Told you I was a wuss!
To the east of the Quiraing is the port of Uig from were you can catch the car ferry to North Uist or Harris in the Outer Hebrides. There are one or two shops at Uist, notably the shop selling the beer and wine produced on the island. Funny how we found that one...
On the far west of the island is Dunvegan Castle, which has been the home of the MacLeods since 1200. It is open to the public and houses books
, pictures and many relics of 20 generations of MacLeods. We weren't so interested in this one as we prefer ruins to explore, but it was good place to be out of the rain that was falling that day!
A short drive from Dunvegan Castle is the Skye Toy Museum. This is in what looks like an ordinary house and I have to say I didn't expect much from it at all, but how wrong I was! The whole museum only consisted of two rooms but we spent a couple of very happy hours there. The gentleman who runs the museum obviously loves his job and is on hand to talk about the toys and games and, where possible show how they work. He also has quite a few schoolboy tricks to show involving spiders, snakes and the like. There are some really old toys but most of them range from the quite recent back to about 50 years old. This meant it was a real voyage of nostalgia for us to see the toys and games we used to play with as children. It was a most entertaining visit and definitely recommended to young and old alike! When we go back to Skye I would like to revisit this place.
Farther south on the same side of the island is the Talisker Distillery. We paid a visit here and were asked if we would like to join a guided tour for a modest fee. Not being a whisky drinker I wasn't too keen but my partner was interested so off we went. We started with a good-sized shot of the whisky to try and I have to admit that even I liked it. The tour was really interesting with plenty of information about how the whisky is made and why it tastes the way it does.
Towards the south of the island is the mountain range known as the Cullin Hills. These are split into the Red Cullins and the Black Cullins, with the Black Cullins being the higher and tougher to climb. You get an excellent view of the Cullins from the rocky shore at Elgol, where we had a barbecue on the shore. It was lovely to admire the scenery as we watched the sun set. There was hardly anyone else about and
all we could hear was the sea, oooh I want to go back!
There is a boat trip available from Elgol, which will take you across the bay, via the basking seals, to the foot of the Cullins. When you disembark a short walk over some rocky, but not too rough, terrain will take you to Loch Coruisk. This is a pretty and peaceful loch, which can only be reached by sea, as described, or by climbing up and over the Cullins when coming from the opposite direction. We would like to have a go at this next time we visit Skye, but I don't know how far we'll get!
I'll close this guide to Skye with a few words about Broadford, which is the first town you reach as you drive on to the island whichever route you take to get there. It has a good selection of shops including The Syke Jewellery Shop, which is well worth a visit if you have the urge to treat yourself. Broadford Bay is pretty, with plenty of boat trips out to the smaller islands to see seals, otters and sometimes even whales. The first year we went to Syke there were two whales actually resident in Broadford Bay!
Syke remains our favourite holiday destination and no doubt we'll be back there soon.
Scotland could perhaps be seen as a bit of a cheapo option for a honeymoon, but if you’re after tranquillity and romance, the Isle of Skye is the perfect destination. We started off in Edinburgh and then hired a car, but Inverness is the nearest airport to the island. You definitely need a car while you’re there – Skye sounds like a small place but it takes at least an hour to get from one end to the other. There are three ferries as well as the new bridge – if you want to go ‘over the sea to Skye’ by the same route as Bonnie Prince Charlie, go by the Glenelg-Kylerhea ferry, which takes about five minutes. If you want dramatic, wild and romantic scenery, Skye is the place to be. The mountains are spectacular, particularly the famous Cuillins in the south, and everywhere you look there is a beautiful scene of craggy moorland or glistening lochs. Walking, cycling and pony trekking are the ideal ways of exploring and, for the latter, there are plenty of reputable centres around the island. There are loads of B & Bs but I can seriously recommend the Greshornish House Hotel which is situated in a very secluded lochside position in the north of the island. Along with the Flodigarry Hotel (former home of Flora McDonald), it is one of the more upmarket of the many places to stay but remains informal and very friendly. Dinner there is completely superb, especially the home grown mussels – this is lucky as there is nowhere else to eat within miles. Greshornish House has a website which will give you current prices, but we found them reasonable for the high standard of accomodation and food provided. Whilst I think Skye is wonderful, it has to be said that it is not for anyone who wants to go clubbing every night, and there are not many big tourist attractions (which could be a good or bad thing depending what you want). Dunvegan Castle is worth visiting and the Talisker Distillery is interesting for whisky fans. The re
mainder of Skye’s attractions are various craft shops and folk museums – be warned that some of these are indescribably poky. One so-called gallery contained about three pictures and was otherwise selling bobble hats. Many a sign for a craft shop takes you up some stony track to a deserted hovel with a couple of knitted dolls in the window. Skye Silver, however, is one that is certainly worth going out of your way for. The weather is always a big consideration in Scotland, and Skye well deserves is nickname ‘The Misty Isle’. The best time of year to go is probably May or June - when we went in May, the sun shone constantly, but it’s wise to go prepared for the worst. Personally though, I think if it had been pouring down I would have been quite happy sitting in the lounge at Greshornish supping malt whisky. While Skye is not necessarily ideal for those with young families to occupy, it does provide a wonderful retreat for couples, honeymooners and anyone wanting to get away from it all on their own. Don’t go if you’re looking for guaranteed sun, nightclubs or mega theme parks, but if you want beautiful scenery, seclusion, relaxation and romance, Skye is the place to find it.