The Isle of Skye is absolutely stunning, boasting landscapes that wouldn’t look out of place in New Zealand, Iceland or Norway. Think majestic cliffs, breathtaking waterfalls, lonely lighthouses, dramatic skies and mindboggling lookout points. And as it’s just off the coast of Scotland, connected by The Skye Bridge, it’s a great place to visit for UK natives and visitors alike.
The Isle of Skye is not a typical travel destination – in fact, probably the opposite. It is the sort of place where you’ll need to wrap up warm – really warm in winter – and brave the elements to be rewarded by them in return.
The views are incredible. When I was there, in January, they were particularly so, with the skies just moody enough to show off the Scottish Highlands as they should be seen. I fell totally in love with this place. I feel like it should be obligatory for any Brit to see how life is lived up there, to really appreciate our isles, but of course, that would ruin the coarse serenity that only those in the know have witnessed with all their senses.
On the way there…
1. Harry Potter Bridge in Glenfinnan
You know that bit at the start of the Harry Potter films where they go off to Hogwarts on a train via an awesome bridge? Well, the Glenfinnan Viaduct Bridge on the Isle of Skye is the one they used. You can see the viaduct for the legendary Jacobite train journey in all its glory from the lookout point in Glenfinnan.
2. Whisky tasting
If you fancy yourself as a whisky aficionado, like me, or you just like a wee dram now and again, also like me, then the Isle of Skye is the place for you. The Isle of Skye is home to the Tallisker Whisky Distillery, which offers tour, and there are many more on the way from Edinburgh in.
I only managed one on my journey, sadly, the Dalwhinnie Distillery. For £10 I could try four whiskies, matched with specialist chocolate, in a tasting held by a chief whisky expert.
Just to note, I’d be daunted at the thought of driving in the Isle of Skye, let alone after even a dram of whisky – rogue sheep, tight roads, no streetlights and the other newbie visitors would have me quivering in my seat. I’d recommend joining a Isle of Skye tour so you can just concentrate on the scenery, rather than staying alive. It also means you can really go for it at the distilleries.
3. James Bond in Glencoe
You’re in James Bond country now, well at least where the character was born as imagined by author Ian Fleming. His family have let Fleming’s money and fame go to their head and apparently get annoyed with all the tour buses and tourists on their land, which is actually public, but kind of theirs, so I say go and take photos there for as long as you can stand the howling gales. Show them who’s boss.
Glencoe, on the way to the Isle of Skye is also where some of Skyfall was filmed, and you’ll recognise some of the views from the film. Remember the bit where he goes back to that creepy house in Scotland? Yeah, that was here.
4. Eilean Donan Castle
Unfortunately this 13th Century Castle was closed when we arrived at the start of January, but they’d left the grounds open for us to explore as we wished. Located out on a small tidal island, the castle is often used on films and TV. Definitely worth a stop and a photo, and let me know how you get on if you manage to get inside.
5. Hairy Coos
I’d honestly never heard of these cows before and it sounded like something pretty rude when someone first suggested we go and see the ‘hairy coos’.
They’re awesome though and dotted along the roadside on the journey to the Isle of Skye. Make sure to pull over to go and make some mooing sounds at them, before you try one in a burger at a restaurant.
6. Neist Point Lighthouse
As tempting as it may be to stay in the car with the winds howling outside, that won’t give you the full Isle of Skye experience. Prepare and brace yourself for the cold and get out there. I felt so happy and alive walking down to the Neist Point Lighthouse – with the vicious wind threatening to blow me off the edge. I could barely hold my camera for a photograph for the fear the winds would sweep it away. I went further in than some of my tour group would even dare.
The lighthouse is no longer used but makes for a pretty spot on the landscape.
7. Faerie Glen
Ooo, secret spot at the end of the trip for us! If you go in a big tour group on the bus you won’t get to see places like this, or if you drive yourself. Stick to a small Isle of Skye tour company to see as much as possible.
Urban legend has it that the exact location of Faerie Glen is a closely guarded secret among the locals, keen to keep it for themselves. Even if you ask for directions, there’s a silent agreement to keep it quiet and just answer with a shake of the head before scuttling off.
8. Portree / Port Righ
We stayed in Portree, the ‘capital’ of Skye. And by that it’s definitely the biggest place, with the most people, but you might find it smaller than the capital cities you’re used to.
There are around six pubs, a few restaurants and a few shops. It’s cute. The colourful houses on the harbour were particularly lovely at sunrise and sunset, and the food at Antlers Bar and Grill, delicious.
Bridges, lakes, viaducts, mountains, hills, tunnels, and the rest of the Scottish Highlands in the distance, there’s so much to see in the Isle of Skye, I can’t believe it’s such a short distance from England and I didn’t know a single person who’d been. Apparently Skye is awesome in the summer too, perfect for scuba diving, boat tours and 4WDing.
It’s definitely one of those places you can feel like you discovered, kind of. Go! Just not all of you…