Travel Update


old man of storr isle of skye scotland   martin bennie unsplash

Isle of Skye: 9 Top Things to See & Do

By: Catherine
Last Updated: 10/04/2024

On the Isle of Skye, dramatic coastline rubs shoulders with jagged mountains making this one of the most popular places to go in Scotland. But it’s not all about the stunning landscapes.

You can also experience Gaelic culture, tour whisky distilleries and uncover clan heritage when you visit the Isle of Skye.

In this guide, you'll discover what you could get up to on this island famous for its natural beauty. Read on for a round-up of the Isle of Skye’s top 8 things to do and see. 

  • Explore this iconic Scottish island on an Isle of Skye tour designed by local experts

Neist Point Lighthouse, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Neist Point Lighthouse, the most westerly point on the island

1. Explore the spectacular Trotternish peninsula

North of the fishing town of Portree, the Trotternish peninsula is one of the most scenic regions on Skye. Here you’ll find rocky spires, crumbling mountains, and chiselled cliffs that drop into the sea.

The highlight of this jaw-dropping area is the Old Man of Storr. This towering pinnacle of rock overlooks the mainland and is set against the rugged buttresses of the Trotternish Ridge.

Make the short, but at times steep, hike up to the Old Man of Storr and on a clear day your reward will be epic sea views. Keep your camera handy for capturing this striking scene.

Venture north from the Old Man and you’ll reach the Quiraing. Formed by an ancient landslide, the landscape is dotted with otherworldly rock formations. If the weather’s good, go for a hike to get up close to the unusual terrain.

Don’t miss the Fairy Glen either, a scenic valley shrouded in local folklore on the peninsula’s west coast.

People hiking along a path at the Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Hikers walking between rock formations at the Quiraing

2. Visit picture-perfect Portree

On the island’s east coast, sits the bustling town of Portree. With its seaside location and colourful harbourfront, the island’s capital is well worth a visit.

For a view over Portree, head to a small hill known as “The Lump”. Or stroll along the Scorrybreac path, a coastal circuit with gorgeous panoramas over the nearby Isle of Raasay.

While the beautiful surroundings are sure to draw your eye, the town itself has plenty to offer.

There are great places to eat, which showcase the island’s local larder. Plus, a few of Skye’s artisan makers are based around here, so you’ll also be spoiled for choice when it comes to souvenirs. 

For a slice of island culture, drop into a traditional pub for a live music session. Or, check if the theatre is hosting any events during your stay.

Portree town on the Isle of Skye, Scotland
Portree's colourful harbourfront

3. Try local whisky at Talisker Distillery

With over 140 grain and malt distilleries, Scotland has the world’s highest concentration of whisky producers. While other Scottish regions do have more distilleries, Skye has one of the most characterful.

That’s Talisker Distillery, the oldest on the island, which you’ll find on the shore of Loch Harport. Its picturesque location aside, the distillery is known for making a whisky that’s powerful and spicy, with flavours of the sea.

Take a tour of the distillery to see how this single malt is made. After you’ve been shown the impressive copper stills and smelled the aged oak casks you’ll get to try this famous tipple for yourself. This is an especially good thing to do if the weather’s not at its best.

You might also want to check out a couple of the other distilleries nearby. These include Torabhaig Distillery and the Isle of Rasaay Distillery.

Talisker Distillery, Isle of Skye, Scotland ©John Paul – Talisker Distillery
Talisker Distillery ©John Paul – Talisker Distillery

4. Delve into clan history at Dunvegan Castle

Top of your list in western Skye should be Dunvegan Castle. Home to the chiefs of clan MacLeod for centuries, it offers captivating insights into Skye’s history. Don’t miss the castle gardens, a secluded park once kept by the clan chieftains.

If you have time, head to Coral Beach at the northern end of Loch Dunvegan. The short walk from Claigain is worth every step, and when the visibility is good, you’ll be rewarded with views of the Outer Hebrides.

Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Dunvegan Castle

Or, take the road to Neist Point Lighthouse, which towers over dramatic cliffs at Skye’s most westerly point.

If all that’s worked up an appetite, treat yourself to a memorable meal at The Three Chimneys restaurant. As one of the best places to eat in the Highlands, making a reservation is essential.

If you're planning to explore northwest Skye, Dunvegan village on the shores of Loch Dunvegan is an excellent place to base yourself.

Coral Beach, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Coral Beach near Dunvegan

5. See dinosaur footprints at An Corran Beach

As well as mystical mountains, the Trotternish peninsula also has a striking coastline. The east coast in particular is home to some of the island’s must-see natural attractions.

For instance, you won’t want to miss Staffin and An Corran Beach. Just north of Staffin village are the black sands of An Corran Beach. It's here you’ll find dinosaur footprints from the Jurassic period, nearly 200 million years ago.

Visit the nearby Staffin Dinosaur Museum, if you want to learn more about the footprints and see other fossils.

Top tip: Head south from Staffin to admire the geometric basalt cliffs at Kilt Rock. The cliff’s hexagonal columns resemble kilt pleats, which is why they’re named after the country’s most iconic item of clothing.

Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Mealt Falls flowing over Kilt Rock

6. Marvel at the Cuillin mountains

From mainland Scotland, the Cuillin mountains are Skye’s most distinctive feature. Formed by ancient volcanic eruptions, these jagged peaks dominate the island’s skyline. On a clear day, you’ll get amazing views from picturesque Eilean Donan castle on the mainland.

While they’re an awesome sight from a distance, they’re even more inspiring up close. One of the best places to see them is the Fairy Pools, a crystal-clear river with a series of tumbling waterfalls.

For a different perspective, take to the water on a boat tour of Loch Coruisk in the heart of the Cuillin. You’ll depart from the tiny village of Elgol, which overlooks these stunning mountains.

The region’s landscape is so dramatic it inspired writers and artists such as J. M. W. Turner and Sir Walter Scott.

The Cuillin ridge from the Fairy Pools, Glen Brittle
The Cuillin ridge from the Fairy Pools, Glen Brittle

7. Check out the beautiful Sleat peninsula

Known as the "garden of Skye", the gently rolling hills of this southern region sit in stark contrast to the rugged drama of the Cuillin and Trotternish.

Easily accessible from the mainland, Sleat is one of the first places you'll come to when you cross the Skye Bridge. And there’s plenty for you to see and do here.

Why not start by checking out the ivy-draped ruins of Armadale Castle? Here, you’ll uncover the history of the MacDonalds, the other major clan on Skye. Then, head to nearby Torabhaig Distillery to try another local whisky.

For more beautiful views and hiking opportunities, venture to the Point of Sleat, Skye’s southernmost tip. From here, you can see the Small Isles, Ardnamurchan and the wild mountains of Knoydart.

Armadale Castle, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Armadale Castle on the Sleat peninsula

8. Take a wildlife boat tour

Scotland is known for its wildlife, including seals, dolphins, sharks, whales and otters. With its miles of coastline and deep sea lochs, Skye is one of the best places in the country to take a sea life tour.

Portree is a popular departure point for tours. But trips from Dunvegan, Edinbane, Elgol and Uig will also give you the chance to witness Skye’s wildlife.

A boat trip isn’t just a great opportunity to see wildlife. You’ll also get a different perspective on this breathtaking part of the world.

Dolphin leaping out of the water, Scotland
Bottlenose dolphin leaping out of the water

9. Bring home your own piece of Skye 

The principle of “take only photographs, leave only footprints” might apply when you’re exploring Skye’s natural landscapes. But this doesn’t mean you can’t bring home a souvenir to remember your trip.

The island has a thriving community of artists and craftspeople. Many either exhibit in galleries across the island or have their own shops. Picking up a locally-made souvenir is a great way to remember your Skye getaway.

Some of our favourite local makers include Edinbane Pottery, Skye Weavers and the Isle of Skye Candle Company.

Sheep outside a red phone box, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Red phone box on the Isle of Skye

When is the best time to visit the Isle of Skye?

The Isle of Skye is beautiful year-round, so there’s no bad time to visit. When to travel depends on the kind of experience you’d like to have and the activities you want to try.

June, July and August are the peak season for visitors to Skye. During these summer months, the temperatures are at their warmest. What's more, the sun doesn’t set until around 9 PM in June, so you'll have plenty of time for taking in the scenery.

That said, you’ll find some of the top natural attractions and their car parks can be busy at this time of year. To get more of these places to yourself head there in the evening or first thing in the morning.

While still popular, spring and autumn tend to be a little quieter. Come in April, May or September and you can explore when the days are still relatively long and the temperatures are mild. Plus, attractions usually have the same opening hours as in the summer months.

To catch the last of the longer days before the clocks go back for winter, time your trip to Skye for October. And though temperatures will be chillier than earlier in autumn, there will be fewer visitors around.

If you want to have more of the island to yourself, head to Skye between November and March. During winter, you could even see the Cuillin mountains dusted in snow. Spend your days making the most of the weather before retreating to a cosy pub for a hearty dinner.

Elgol and the Cuillin hills, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Elgol with the Cuillin in the background

How do you get to the Isle of Skye?

Although Skye is an island, it’s well connected to the mainland. In fact, you can even drive there. This makes Skye the perfect addition to a Scottish road trip, which includes other top sights like Loch Ness and Glen Coe.

From the mainland village of Kyle of Lochalsh, cross the Skye Bridge to arrive on southeast Skye near the village of Kyleakin.

Alternatively, there are a couple of ferry routes to choose from. One of these is the sailing from the mainland town of Mallaig to Armadale on southern Skye.

The other is from Tarbert on the Isle of Harris to Uig on Skye’s Trotternish peninsula. This is ideal if you want to make your trip to Skye part of a Scottish island hopping tour.

Skye Bridge connecting the island with the mainland, Scotland
The Skye Bridge connecting the island with mainland Scotland

Where to stay on the Isle of Skye?

Towns and villages such as Dunvegan, Portree, Broadford and Armadale, are all great places to stay on Skye. And while it’s not on the island, Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland side of the Skye Bridge is another good choice. From there you can easily visit Skye on day trips. 

Wherever you choose, we recommend booking in advance, especially in spring, summer and autumn when there are more visitors on the island. Or, explore Skye with Nordic Visitor, and you’ll stay in handpicked accommodation booked for you by a dedicated travel consultant.

How many days should you spend on the Isle of Skye?

With its natural beauty, fascinating history, and diverse activities, Skye is a fantastic place to travel slowly and deeply.

A full day is enough to get a brief flavour of the island, but a 1-day tour could feel rushed. 

Instead, we recommend spending at least 2 or 3 days here as part of a longer trip to Scotland. This way, you can enjoy the best of the Isle of Skye’s things to see and do at a leisurely pace.

Stay for more than 3 days and you’ll have even more time for off-the-beaten-path adventures.

A rainbow over the sea, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Also known as the "misty isle", you'll likely spot a few rainbows during your visit to Skye

Discover the best of Skye with Nordic Visitor

Now you know where to go and what to see on the Isle of Skye, it’s time to start planning your escape. Jaw-dropping scenery, captivating clan history, and renowned Scottish whisky await.

Book with Nordic Visitor and we’ll take the hassle out of arranging your trip. We’ll organise your accommodation, local transport, and optional activities. 

If you want the freedom to go at your own pace, opt for a self-drive tour of Scotland. Or pick a private trip to travel with your very own guide. You could also explore with like-minded travellers on a guided small group tour.

Whatever you prefer, our Edinburgh-based travel experts will ensure you have the trip of your dreams. Contact us to start planning your Scottish getaway.

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Post by: Catherine

Born and raised in Scotland, Catherine has a background in trip organisation and design. When not travelling, or writing about travels, you can find her rock climbing and exploring remote corners of Scotland. Her top travel experiences include cycling along India’s Brahmaputra River, wandering the souks of Marrakech, and mountaineering in the Alps.

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Getting there

We'd love to give you the same amazing travel experiences as you read about in our blog! To visit the destinations and attractions mentioned in this post - and to discover a few new highlights along the way - check out these recommended Nordic Visitor tours.