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12 Things To Do On The Isle of Skye

12 Things To Do On The Isle of Skye


The Isle of Skye is easily one of Scotland’s most intriguing islands, from enchanting fairy folklore and Highland clan rivalries to otherworldly rock formations and scrumptious fresh seafood. If you’re planning a trip to the misty isle, there are plenty of activities and attractions to keep you busy. Read on for the most popular things to do on the Isle of Skye.

I’m commonly asked about the most popular attractions on the Isle of Skye. The majority of the most popular attractions are located in the north- particularly on the Trotternish Peninsula, while the south is a bit quieter and doesn’t experience quite as much tourism.

While I am a believer that all of the Scottish Islands are amazing in their own way, there is something that continues to draw visitors to the Isle of Skye. This year (2024) Skye is expected to welcome over 1 million visitors- crazy numbers for a Scottish island!

Linked to the Scottish mainland by a bridge, Skye is one of the most accessible Scottish islands to visit. This may explain its popularity! You can also visit by ferry, which is a popular option for those who want to include driving the Road to the Isles in your itinerary.

This guide on the things to do on the Isle of Skye has two purposes:

  • to reveal the most popular things to do on the Isle of Skye
  • to let you know what the busy attractions are if you’re visiting between May-September and want to avoid the crowds

I’ve also included some advice on how much time you should allow for visiting each attraction, and I’ve included a map with all of the attractions mentioned at the end of this guide.

Hidden Gems on the Isle of Skye

I’m currently working on another guide about the hidden gems on the Isle of Skye. Sign up to my mailing list to be the first to know when it’s published!

A friendly word of warning

Before we get into the most popular things to do on the Isle of Skye, I thought I would share a kind word of caution.

Visiting the Isle of Skye during the summer might seem like a dream come true for many travelers, but it’s important to consider one major downside to visiting during this time. One of the main reasons to avoid the island during this season is the issue of overtourism.

Skye has become incredibly popular in recent years, attracting hordes of tourists from around the world. As a result, the island can get extremely crowded, making it difficult to fully enjoy the natural beauty and tranquillity that initially drew people to Skye.

During the summer months, the popular attractions on the Isle of Skye become overrun with visitors. From the iconic Old Man of Storr to the enchanting Fairy Pools, these places are undoubtedly beautiful, but they can lose some of their charm when you find yourself jostling for space with hundreds of other tourists. The serenity and peacefulness that you might expect from such stunning landscapes can be shattered by the noise and congestion caused by the sheer number of people.

Moreover, the surge in tourism has put a strain on the island’s infrastructure. Traffic congestion is a common issue, especially on the narrow and winding roads that lead to Skye’s most popular destinations. Finding parking can be a challenge, and restaurants can be fully booked months in advance. Accommodation is hard to find last-minute and prices tend to skyrocket during this peak season.

To truly appreciate the natural beauty of the Isle of Skye and avoid the frustrations of overtourism, it might be worth considering visiting from October to April (the quieter shoulder season). This way, you can enjoy Skye’s beauty without feeling overwhelmed by the crowds. So, while the Isle of Skye is undeniably a stunning destination, it’s wise to carefully plan your visit and avoid the peak summer season to fully enjoy its wonders.

Things to do on the Isle of Skye

1) Old Man of Storr (Bodach an Stòr)

The Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye

The Old Man of Storr

If you’ve done your research on the Isle of Skye, chances are you’ve seen pictures of the famed landmark known as the Old Man of Storr. This iconic rock formation, Bodach an Stòr in Gaelic, stands 55 metres high and is all that remains of a 2,800-million-year-old volcanic plug.

The view from the Trotternish Ridge is best described as otherworldly; if fairies existed, I’m sure they would choose this as their home.

If you plan to hike up to the Old Man of Storr, please ensure that you’re wearing proper hiking boots with good grip. While the hike up to the Old Man is rated as moderate, as with most hiking paths in Scotland, expect mud, loose rocks, and terrain that, when wet, can become slippery and dangerous. Don’t let this put you off- just wear proper footwear and you’ll be fine.

This hike is also one of the busiest on the island, so plan to do it first thing in the morning, or later in the afternoon.

How much time to spend here: You can catch a glimpse of the Old Man of Storr from the roadside, or if you plan on hiking, allow 2 hours. I suggest this route.

2) The Quiraing

Exploring the Quiraing with Alex

The Quiraing is undoubtedly one of Skye’s most breathtaking destinations- it also happens to be my favourite hike on the island. Located within the Trotternish ridge, this Quiraing was shaped by a massive landslip, resulting in towering cliffs, secluded plateaus, and rocky pinnacles. 

There is a circuit walk you can do around the Quiraing, but my suggestion is that if you’re short on time, walk to the Needle and the Prison, and then return the way you came. The circuit takes 3 to 4 hours, but the walk to the Needle and the Prison and back takes around 1.5 hours. Thye views are mostly the same for both options.

Do not attempt to hike the Quiraing when it is windy or stormy; there are sheer drops in some sections, and of course wear suitable hiking boots.

There is a large car park near the attraction and you will need to pay to park there.

How much time to spend here: I suggest spending 1.5 hours here to do the hike. If you don’t want to do the hike, you can take photos from near the car park, and I suggest allowing 30 minutes to explore this area.

Scotland Travel Tip

My recommendation is to hike the Quiraing for sunrise; it’s a captivating scene watching the light of the rising sun illuminating and bringing the vibrant colours of the valley to life. This is a scene that will be forever etched in my mind.

3) The Fairy Glen (Bail nan cnoc)

the fairy glen isle of skye

The Fairy Glen

The Fairy Glen is another popular attraction on Skye, captivating visitors with its rugged beauty. The rocky outcrop of Castle Ewen combined with the manmade spiral of stones gives the glen an otherworldly feel.

It’s a 10-minute walk to reach the Fairy Glen and it can be muddy in some areas. There is a small pay and display car park which can get very busy.

As you approach the Fairy Glen you will see unusual cone-shaped hills. The glen was also formed by landslides, but to a lesser degree than The Quiraing and Old Man of Storr. The roundedness of the landscape was caused by glaciation.

You will know you have reached the Fairy Glen when you see the manmade spiral of rocks to your left, and Castle Ewen, which actually isn’t a castle at all, but a rock formation!

There is path that takes you right up to Castle Ewen, but a scramble is required.

Please don’t move any of the stones, and leave the landscape as it is. Damage has been caused to the area due to tourists stacking stones.

How much time to spend here: Allow 1 hour to walk to the glen, take some photos and explore. I recommend following this guide.

Scotland Travel Tip

If you’re planning a trip to Scotland I highly recommend my Planning A Trip to Scotland Course. It includes 70+ short videos that walk you through planning your itinerary step-by-step. It will help you save time, money, and plan the best possible trip for you!

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4) Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan Castle and Gardens, once the stronghold of Clan MacLeod, is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland.

The castle is steeped in enchanting fairy folklore. Among its treasures is the Am Bratach Sith, also known as The Fairy Flag of Dunvegan. According to legend, faeries bestowed this flag upon the clan in the 4th century.

It is said to possess extraordinary powers, believed to bring victory to the clan when carried into battle.

After exploring the castle and gardens, book a 25-minute boat trip to see the Loch Dunvegan seal colony! They also offer loch cruises and fishing trips.

Dunvegan Castle and Gardens is open daily from 10 am- 5.30 pm (last entry 5pm). The castle and gardens are closed during the winter months from October to March, but you can view the castle outside from across the tranquil Loch Dunvegan.

They also have a cafe and holiday cottages.

How much time to spend here: You could easily spend half a day here, and I recommend allowing 2-3 hours to explore the castle, gardens and to take a boat trip to see the seals.

5) Neist Point Lighthouse

neist point lighthouse isle of skye

Neist Point Lighthouse

After surviving the narrow and winding single-track road to reach Neist Point, you’ll be glad to be on foot exploring one of Scotland’s most iconic lighthouses.

Situated on the north-western tip of Skye, Neist Point Lighthouse was built in 1900 by the famous Stevenson family of lighthouse builders.

There is a small car park located at the end of the road, and you need to follow a path on foot to reach the lighthouse. The path can be moderately challenging due to its steep inclines in certain sections. It takes around 45 minutes return on foot.

Sheep graze openly around the lighthouse so keep all dogs on a leash. If you go off the path take care because many of the cliff edges do not have fences, and there are many steep drops! The weather here can get particularly wild so make sure you check the forecast before your visit.

During the summer months look out for whales and basking sharks in the waters below. It’s one of the best places on Skye to spot them!

How much time to spend here: Allow 1.5 hours to explore.

6) The colourful houses of Portree

portree village isle of skye

The colourful houses in Portree

One of the prettiest sites in Skye’s main town of Portree is the line of colourful houses.

I also recommend walking to The Lump (Meall na h-Acairseid), a grassy hill that offers picturesque views of Loch Portree and the surrounding area. For an even more breathtaking vantage point, make your way up the Apothecary’s Tower, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic vistas stretching from the town all the way to the Old Man of Storr on a clear day!

The tower was built by a well-liked doctor that lived on Skye in the 1830’s to improve the town.

How much time to spend here: If you just want to see the colourful houses, allow 15 minutes to admire them and take a photo. Allow 1-2 hours to wander around the streets of Portree and explore The Lump and Apothecary’s Tower.

7) Talisker Whisky Distillery

Talisker Whisky

While Talisker isn’t my favourite whisky (it’s a bit strong for this Kiwi!) the distillery and tours are amazing!

Learn the story of whisky in one of the most scenic distilleries in Scotland. Located on the shores of Loch Harport looking out over the rugged and romantic Cuillin Hills, Talisker Distillery is a must for the scenery alone.

Island whisky is known for its smokiness and is distinctly different from Highland and Lowland whisky.

A variety of tours are available all-year round. I recommend booking in advance to avoid missing out.

How much time to spend here: Tours range from 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Read more: A 5-Day Itinerary for Islay (the Whisky Island)

8) The Fairy Pools or Coire na Creiche

The iconic Fairy Pools

The walk to The Fairy Pools is one of the most popular things to do on the Isle of Skye, and unfortunately is a victim of over-tourism. For this reason, I recommend visiting between October and April.

These natural rock pools are filled with crystal clear spring water flowing down from the Cuillin Mountains in beautiful waterfalls.

The real name of the pools is Coire na Creiche which translates to ‘corrie of the spoils’. It was given the nickname of ‘Fairy Pools’ by a 1930s tour guide!

There is a pay and display car park which has been extended in recent years but can still get busy. There is a public toilet located in the car park.

Many visitors are adventurous enough to take a dip in the freezing Scottish water and enjoy some wild swimming!

How much time to spend here: Allow 3.5 hours to complete this walking route by WalkHighlands, or you can follow the 2.4km (1.5 miles) gravel path from the car park which takes between 40 minutes to 1.5 hours.

9) See the Dinosaur Footprints at An Corran Beach

Dinosaur footprint at An Corran Beach

This is a great activity if you’re visiting the Isle of Skye with kids!

Located near the village of Staffin lies An Corran Beach, one of the best places to hunt for dinosaur footprints. Dinosaurs roamed this very beach 168 million years ago, and left behind giant claw-shaped clues for us to marvel at today!

Park your vehicle at the beach and take a brief stroll down the slipway to reach the area where you’ll find these prehistoric footprints. Upon reaching the bottom of the slipway, turn right and explore the flat rock shelf that extends southwestward to discover the footprints.

I recommend timing your visit at low tide to give you the best chance of finding the footprints.

You can also visit the Dinosaur Museum in Staffin, where you can learn more about the prehistoric residents!

How much time to spend here: Allow at least an hour to go footprint hunting and to take in the views of Raasay, the overhanging basalt columns along the coast. Keep your eyes peeled for seals and dolphins that frequent the area!

10) Kilt Rock (Creag an Fheilidh)

Kilt Rock

You’ll hear this mesmerising waterfall before you see it; you’ll need to stand close to the railing and look to your left to catch a glimpse of Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls.

Standing at 90 metres high, the wall of hexagonal rock is a mighty sight. The basalt columns are said to resemble a pleated kilt, hence the name. The Mealt Falls tumble over the rock with force to form a natural sporran that spills into the sea.

There is pay-and-display parking right next to the attraction, but you may need to fight your way to the front of the railing to get a decent look if there’s a crowd!

How much time to spend here: Depending on crowd size, allow 15 minutes to stop and take a look.

11) Sligachan Bridge

Sligachan Bridge

Sligachan Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in Scotland (nudged out by the Glenfinnan Viaduct by a hair) with the beautiful backdrop of the Cuillin Hills.

If you see tourists dipping their heads into the icy waters of River Sligachan, don’t be alarmed. Doing so will give you eternal beauty, as the river has apparently been enchanted by fairies!

Margot Robbie must have visited here as a girl…

How much time to spend here: Allow at least 30 minutes to take in the stunning scenery.

12) The Oyster Shed Takeaway

You can’t visit a Scottish island without indulging in fresh seafood!

One of the most popular places to feast on Skye’s delightful seafood is The Oyster Shed, which has a variety of fresh-caught scran including crab, battered fish, scallops, salmon, langoustine and oysters.

The Oyster Shed is walk-in only, so they do not take bookings.

Isle of Skye Attractions Map

I’ve marked the below map with all the attractions mentioned in this article, as well as some restaurant recommendations!

Are you planning a trip to the Isle of Skye?

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