The Isle of Skye: Still My Favorite Part of Scotland

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Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

I could feel it rising in my chest that feeling you get when embarking upon a new adventure, or returning to a place that has buried itself deep in your heart. For me, it was a little of both. It was my first time back on the Isle of Skye in three years, and it was almost like I was seeing it again for the first time.

As we pulled around a bend in the narrow road and the Old Man of Storr sat like a sentinel on the horizon with a background of wispy cloud and blue sky, my heart gave a flutter.

I was back in Scotland. I was back to Skye.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

The song lyrics above came to be tied to my second visit to this Scottish isle. I caught myself humming it in the shower; as we climbed to a waterfall; as I sat on a ferry and bid the island farewell.

You may recognize the song from the opening credits of “Outlander” (and, if like me you binge-watched the entire first season in one weekend, you can probably sing it, too). The song actually has more to do with the Jacobite uprisings in Scotland than the Isle of Skye itself, but the ethereal, lullaby-like tune will forever conjure for me images of wind-swept coastline and the incredible landscapes that make up my favorite part of Scotland.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Portree, Isle of Skye

Looking towards the Scottish mainland from Skye

I remember the moment I fell in love with the Isle of Skye.

It was a rainy August morning. Chilly enough that I was wishing I had packed another layer for Scotland in the summer. My feet were getting wet as I walked through the grass in my Teva sandals (again, inappropriate for Scotland in summer), but the wet and the cold weren't really bothering me.

Because out in front of me was the most magnificent view.

Isle of Skye

I was standing atop the Quiraing and looking out over the Trotternish Peninsula. It was a million different shades of green beneath a typically gray sky (there's a reason that Skye is also often referred to as “the Misty Isle”). And, to me, it was perfect.

I had fallen hard for Scotland already, but in that moment I fell the hardest for the Isle of Skye. Even in the cold and the rain, there was just something magical about it. Maybe the fairies really DO hold sway here…

Isle of Skye

My second visit to Skye, therefore, had a lot to live up to. I was excited to share my favorite part of Scotland with my mom, and yet a tiny part of me worried that it couldn't possibly live up to my romanticizing of it over the previous three years.

But I needn't have worried. The sun decided to shine for three whole days in Scotland and the fairies were once again working their magic.

(And even on my *third* trip to Skye, the weather and the magic cooperated for yet another incredible trip.)

Cuillin Hills on the Isle of Skye

My Favorite Part of Scotland

The Isle of Skye, like the rest of Scotland, has a long a varied history. Its name, “Skye,” comes from the old Norse for “cloud island,” reflecting Scotland's Viking past. It was also home to some large Highland clans for centuries, until post-Jacobite rising laws disbanded the clans and relocated many Highlanders to other parts of Scotland, the UK, and beyond.

The island's website really describes Skye best: “A place where time means nothing, and beneath every footstep lies 500 million years of history.”

Skye also has (in my opinion) some of the best scenery in all of Scotland. The Cuillin Hills rise up in the middle of the island, surrounded by heather-covered moors that lead down to sea cliffs and rugged beaches. Skye is a wild kind of beautiful that I hope is never tamed.

Isle of Skye

Things to see and do on the Isle of Skye

If you find yourself with a couple of days on Skye (and, really, you should plan to spend at least 2 or 3 nights), here are some of my top things to see and do:

Sligachan Bridge

Sligachan Bridge on the Isle of Skye

If you're driving to Skye from the Scottish mainland, your route north through the island will take you past a beautiful old stone bridge the Sligachan Bridge, close to the Black Cuillin mountains. There's a legend that goes along with this bridge that says the mountain-fed waters that run beneath it are enchanted. It's said that if you hold your face in the water for a full seven seconds, you'll be granted eternal beauty.

Worth a try, right?


Portree, Isle of Skye

Portree is the “capital” of the Isle of Skye. It's one of the larger cities on the island and makes a good base for exploring the Trotternish Peninsula (the most popular part of Skye). It also has a gorgeous harbor with colorful buildings and some fantastic seafood restaurants. (Even the takeaway fish and chips shop is amazing.) For the best views, walk up towards the hospital and take a trail through the woods to an old watchtower. On a clear day, you can see the Old Man of Storr and the Cuillin Hills from the top of the tower.

Portree, Isle of Skye

Portree Harbor, Isle of Skye

Old Man of Storr

Speaking of the Old Man of Storr, the Storr is a big slab of rock on the Trotternish Peninsula. At one end of the slab, there's a lone, tall pillar of stone. This is the “Old Man.”

Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye

There are a bunch of different legends about this pillar of stone. One suggests it's the thumb of a giant buried beneath the Storr. My favorite, though, is that of a little old man who used to walk up to the Storr frequently with his wife to look out at the ocean. After his wife died, the old man walked up to the Storr one last time and found himself wishing he could stay there forever because it was the only place he could remember his wife and be happy. The mischievous fairy king heard the old man's wish and granted it, turning him to stone.

Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye

Whichever legend you like best, there's no denying that this part of Scotland feels magical.

Bride's Veil Waterfall

Within sight of the Old Man of Storr, Bride's Veil Waterfall is a popular photo stop along road A855. If you climb through the boggy grass alongside the waterfall, you'll have a fantastic view of the Storr. It's also supposed to be lucky if you drink from the falls.

Bride's Veil Falls, Isle of Skye

Lealt Falls

You can't see this waterfall from the road. You have to park in a small lot, go through a wooden gate, and walk along a worn trail in order to see Lealt Falls, which faces the sea. On my first trip to Skye, I hiked down to the waterfall with my tour group. On this second and third visits, I just sat at the top of the cliff and enjoyed the view.

Lealt Falls on the Isle of Skye

Amanda in Scotland

Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls

If there's one fashion statement that Scotland is known for, it's the kilt. And this rock formation on the coast of the Isle of Skye looks ridiculously similar to a pleated kilt. It's of course just rock, but looks pretty cool, especially when you get nearby Mealt Falls in your shot, too.

Kilt Rock on the Isle of Skye

Mealt Falls on the Isle of Skye


When you near the top of the Trotternish Peninsula, there's a narrow, nearly one-lane road that cuts across the peninsula. It's called the Quiraing Road, and cuts through some of the best landscapes on the Isle of Skye. The deep valleys and craggy cliffs here were formed thanks to great landslips, and there are rock formations with names like The Needle and The Table and The Prison. The Quiraing can be incredibly windy and wet, but it was here that I originally fell in love with Skye.

Trotternish Peninsula, Isle of Skye

The Fairy Pools

The Fairy Pools really do deserve their magical name. This site consists of shallow pools and small waterfalls formed as the River Brittle flows down from the Black Cuillin mountains.

Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye

I didn't get to see this spot for myself until my third trip to the Isle of Skye and let me tell you that two hours here isn't nearly enough! First, you need to hike from the parking lot to the beginning of the pools (a little over 2 kilometers), and then you need to follow the river up toward the mountains to see all the pools and waterfalls.

Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye

The Fairy Pools can be crowded during high season, but I still really think they're worth visiting.

Dunvegan Castle

Located on the northwestern side of Skye, Dunvegan Castle is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland. It was the seat of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod for more than 800 years, and today is open to visitors. On display inside the castle are beautifully furnished rooms, artwork, and clan treasures. One of these treasures is the Fairy Flag a tattered banner that is said to have been given to the MacLeods by the fairies and that, when raised in battle, would always ensure the clan's victory.

Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye

The castle also has acres of formal gardens, which both my mom and I really enjoyed wandering through.

Dunvegan Castle gardens


In stark contrast to the seat of Clan MacLeod, Armadale Castle in the southwestern corner of the Isle of Skye is nothing but a former shell of the grand mansion it once was. Armadale is the former home of Clan MacDonald. A great mansion was built here in the 1790s, but was damaged by fire in 1855 and eventually abandoned in the 1920s.

Ruins of Armadale Castle

The gardens at Armadale are maintained by the Clan Donald Skye Centre, however, which also operates the Museum of the Isles. If you're waiting to catch the ferry from Armadale to Mallaig, spending an hour or so in the museum might be a good use of your time. The museum traces the history of Skye and the Highlands from the Vikings through the Jacobite risings to the present day. There's a lot to read here, but it's a comprehensive look at the history of this part of Scotland.

Ruins of Armadale Castle

Where to stay on the Isle of Skye

You really need a few days on the Isle of Skye in order to see everything. I recommend making Portree your base and exploring from there. It makes a good base both for its location, and because it has everything you need including restaurants and a grocery store.

My picks for where to stay in Portree include:

Portree Independent Hostel On a budget? Then this friendly, centrally-located hostel is your best bet.

Portree Hotel A good mid-range option located right on the main square in the center of town.

Cuillin Hills Hotel If it's luxury you're looking for, this hotel with its great harbor views should be at the top of your list.

Or, you can see the best hotels in Portree here.

Have you ever been to the Isle of Skye?

Isle of Skye, Scotland


*Note: I visited Skye for the first and third times as a guest of Haggis Adventures, and for the second time with Highland Explorer Tours. (Read my review of that experience here.) There are also a few affiliate links in this post.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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79 Comments on “The Isle of Skye: Still My Favorite Part of Scotland

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  1. Great pics of an amazing place you have. I guess you knew that the Quiraing features in a couple of scenes in the film “Stardust”? Epic location indeed! 🙂

      Yes! I had to watch Stardust after going there! I don’t think I could ever truly tire of Skye – it’s just so beautiful.

    Great bit of info Amanda, thank you. My wife and I are going in Sept and spending most of our two weeks on The Isle of Skye. We have not ever been to Scotland, but it was the one place that stood out when we started planning. Would love some ideas for lodging around the Island.

    Thank you again for a well written synopsis of the Misty Isle

      Ah, Skye is so great! I’m not sure about spending a whole two weeks there (it’s quite small), but it certainly is beautiful! The only lodging I’ve used on the island was in Portree and in Kyleakin. Both have some basic hotels and B&Bs. I stayed at the Rosedale Hotel in Portree and really liked the location.

    I miss Scotland and Skye SO MUCH!! ♥

    Your picture are beautiful. xx

      Thank you! I miss Skye a little bit every time I leave! It’s such a special place.

    As a native of skye it really annoys me that people keep quoting these adapted lyrics rather than the actual lyrics from the original skye boat song i find it pretty offensive that the song is made about a girl instead of the telling of the brutal slaughter of brave scotsmen and the hope of another bonnie prince charlie to lead us to revolution again!

      I heard quite a few different versions of the song when I was on Skye. I can understand not liking the adapted version, but unfortunately that’s just how artistic license works! They actually adapted an adapted version, anyway (the Outlander song was adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, which was adapted from the original Skye Boat Song).

      The original song definitely tells the Jacobite story better, though, I will agree! But I also think the popularity of Outlander is doing a lot to educate the average person about what happened in the Highlands in the 17400s.

    This looks so beautiful! I’ve been to Scotland, but not the Isle of Skye — will have to go one day!

      Definitely have to go!! As soon as I leave, I start dreaming about going back.


    Doing some later in life trip planning this year and hope to visit Scotland next year if my health issues don’t force a change in expectations.

    I love the images and your writing as they both reinforce my desire to visit the “land of my grandma Hannah”.

    I have reviewed a number of tours but have slowly begun to concentrate on making this a railway centric journey. I have plotted out a basic circle beginning and ending in Glasgow where grandma was born and raised (actually Auchenheath).

    As of now this is what I have dreamt up:
    1. Glasgow to Oban
    2. Oban to Fort William by train IF no ferry or water tour available
    3. Fort William to Mallaig by train
    4. IF Isle of Skye is toured then Kyle of Lochalsh can be accessed directly from the Isle of Skye and points 5 through 8 can be skipped
    5. Mallaig back to Glasgow by train IF no ferry, water tour or visit to Isle Of Skye not possible
    6. Glasgow to Perth by train
    7. Perth to Inverness by train
    8. Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh by train
    9. Kyle of Lochalsh to Dingwall, Thurso by train
    10. Thurso to Wick by train
    11. Wick to Inverness by train
    12. Inverness to Aberdeen by train
    13. Aberdeen to Edinburgh by train IF Edinburgh is included in itinerary
    14. Edinburgh to Glasgow by train IF Edinburgh is included in itinerary
    15. Aberdeen through Dundee to Glasgow IF Edinburgh is not included in itinerary
    16. End of rail tour

    I visited Edinburgh fresh out of college in 1970 as part of a 45 day circle through Europe that included a run up to that city so I am balancing a return stop there with investing a little more time elsewhere.

    Having great fun researching, expanding my knowledge and my Scottish delight quotient.

    Great to stumble upon your writings and I just knew there were other great minds in Ohio to pick up the slack now that I have relocated to Lexington, KY or as I say, “South of the big river”.

    Thanks again for the hard work invested in doing something you love!!


      Sounds like it’s going to be a great trip! I definitely recommend getting to the Isle of Skye if you can! It’s such a special place. No trains there, unfortunately!

    I’ve GOT to get to Scotland one of these days! Your pictures are magnificent!

      Thank you! Scotland made it pretty easy this time around, though – the weather was so great!

    Oh my word! Love love love! This makes me miss Scotland like you wouldn’t believe! I just got back a few weeks ago with my boyfriend and we loved it! As I was reading through your post I was answering yes and nodding along to all the places you listed, especially the Clan Donald Skye Centre, Old Man of Storr, and Bride’s Veil Waterfall – my favourites from the Isle of Skye!

      Glad to hear that you share my love for this little island!!

    Skye looks absolutely stunning! I’ve never been to Scotland, but I’m just itching to visit. You have a beautiful writing style, by the way. Loved this!

      Thanks so much, Claire! 🙂

    I love your take on the Isle of Skye. I’m from Northern England and I like the fact that you have a love for Scotland. I do too. It’s one of my favourite parts of the UK as I go to Scotland quite a lot. I like the wind and cold you see!
    I have been to the Isle of Skye and I recommend it highly. In fact, as many islands as possible around the British Isles should be visited as they have that distinct something, and still live in fairly rural isolation.

      I definitely need to visit more of the British Isles! Though there’s just something about Skye that keeps pulling me back…

    This post was so much fun to read! Your passion and excitement for this island is so apparent through your writing, and it made ME want to be passionate and excited about it, too. I’ve never traveled anywhere in the UK, and I think I would just love it so much.

    I love the rolling green landscapes in your photos, and even the gray skies. For some reason, I actually sometimes really enjoy cloudy places. It was super cloudy and misty when I visited Machu Picchu, and while most people were bummed about it, I thought it felt so much more magical and mystical (just as another example). Thanks for sharing this!

      Scotland is definitely one of those places where it still feels absolutely magical in the mist and clouds. In fact, it was weird going there this time and mostly encountering sun!

    Not gonna lie I had no desire to visit Scotland.. hand never even seen a picture of Scotland..until I came across your blog. So thank you for introducing me to Scotland and the Island of Skye Its now at the top of my list of places I want to visit, hopefully one day soon. Also not gonna lie all the photos on your blog are beautiful….your Greece island photos Inspired me to plan a trip to Greece…and thats where im going on vacation 1 month!

      That’s so awesome that my photos have influenced your travels, Adilah! I’m flattered! I don’t think you’ll regret visiting Greece OR Scotland!

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