The stunning scenery, a composition of roving mountain ranges, striking rock formations, glistening lochs, gashing waterfalls and soaring sea-cliffs, is the main attraction on the Isle of Skye. It is a great destination for walkers and climbers. In addition, the Cuillin Range and the Trottenish Ridge offer some challenging climbs. The island is also a great destination for wildlife watching. Red deer, sea eagle, otter, seal, dolphin and whale are just some of the animals that can be observed. Furthermore, Skye is rich in fossils from the Middle Jurassic period. They can be found in several places around the coast where sedimentary beds are exposed. The most attractive places for visitors are those with dinosaur footprints. The Island also has a rich history; it is the ancestral seat of MacLeod and MacDonald clans.
All of this beauty should be captured, but be prepared to return without any photographs, as taking photos in pouring rain and stormy winds is an impossible challenge. Above all, be prepared for the challenges of rapidly changing weather; it is too often not very nice.
Portree and Scorrybreac Circuit Walk
The village of Portree is the capital of the island. It is a charming fishing village overlooking a sheltered bay.
The Scorrybreac Circuit Walk is a trail by the shores of Portree Bay. During this walk, there is a chance to see Sea Eagles that nest on the high cliffs.
Well defined paths throughout. Second half of walk has rough stones and a steep ascent.
Distance: 3 km
Ascent: 164 m
Duration: 1-2 hours
The Old Man of Storr Hike and Coastal Walks
The Old Man of Storr Hike is the most famous walk on the island. As part of the Trotternish ridge, the Storr was formed by a great series of ancient landslides.
The area in front of the cliffs of the Storr – with towering cliffs and pinnacles all around – is known as the Sanctuary. The most famous rock formation, the ‘Old Man’, is a large pinnacle that can be seen from miles around. Legend has it that the Old Man of Storr was a giant who lived on the Trotternish Ridge. When he was laid to rest upon his death, his thumb – the ‘Old Man’ – remained partially above the ground. Beyond the Old Man stands the Needle Rock – also known as the Cathedral -, which has a hole at the top.
Clear hill paths with steep and rocky sections higher up.
Distance: 4.5 km
Ascent: 288 m
Duration: 1.5-2 hours
Further north along the coast, Rigg Viewpoint offers panoramic views of the Storr and its famous pinnacle. According to some people, this is the best viewpoint in Scotland with views of the islands of Raasay, Rona and Holm, the Trotternish Ridge, the Cuillin Hills and the Scotish mainland.
There are also two spectacular waterfalls on the east coast of the Trottenish Peninsula: Lealt and Mealt. From the first viewpoint of Lealt Falls, you can gaze deep into the canyon and see the river finding its way down the rocks. Furthermore, the second viewpoint provides a broder view of the cliffs and the sea.
A few more kilometers north along the coast is the Kilt Rock and its waterfall the Mealt Falls. The Kilt Rock, made up of 90-meter-high vertical basalt columns, looks like a pleated kilt, hence the name. The waterfall, fed by the nearby Mealt Loch, plunges from the top of the cliffs over the columns to the sandstone coast below.
The Quiraing Hike
The Quiraing Hike passes through some of Scotland’s most spectacular landscapes featuring high cliffs, hidden plateaus, and pinnacle rock formations. As part of the Trotternish ridge, Quiraing was formed by a great series of ancient landslides, and this is the only part of the slip that continues to move.
Some of the rock formations along the trail acquired specific names. The first one on the trail is the Prison, a pyramidal rocky peak with three summits reminiscent of a medieval keep when viewed from a particular angle. Directly above the Prison on the left side, in the main area of the landslip, stands the Needle rock. It is the largest pinnacle in the group of very large rock columns. Above the Needle and out of sight stands the Table, a flat grassy plateau surrounded by cliff faces. According to local folklore, the Table was used by locals to hide their sheep and cattle from Viking raiders.
Initially good path. Later rough and rocky sections with one minor ascent. Return over hill is exposed and final descent is very boggy and eroded.
Distance: 6.5 km
Ascent: 374 m
Duration: 3-4 hours
Fairy Glenn Walk
The Fairy Glenn Walk passes through an enchanting landscape of grassy, cone-shaped hills dotted with ponds and ornamented with gashing waterfalls. Fairy Glen was formed by a series of landslides, though these were smaller than the massive landslides that created the Storr and the Quiraing. According to local folklore, this small area was created by fairies who still live within its many hidden crevices.
There is a suggested route, but there is plenty of room to wander. The best vantage point is from the top of Castle Ewan, a natural rock formation reminiscent of an ancient ruin.
Mostly dry and grassy walking.
Distance: 2 km
Ascent: 45 m
Duration: 1 hours
Info and map:
Dunvegan and Coral Beach Walk
The village of Dunvegan is famous for Dunvegan Castle, the ancestral seat of the Clan MacLeod. The castle occupies a rocky summit that was until recently surrounded by sea. The oldest part of the castle, the Keep, was built in the 13th century. Thereafter, the castle was enlarged piecemeal over the centuries. Lastly, in the 19th century, the whole structure was remodeled in a mock-medieval style.
The notable family heirlooms kept in the Castle include the Fairy Flag, the Dunvegan Cup and Sir Rory Mor’s Horn. The Fairy Flag is known for its many traditions of mysterious origins and magical properties. The Dunvegan Cup is a wooden ceremonial cup elaborately decorated with silver plates from 1493. Sir Rory Mor’s Horn is a drinking horn. According to the clan’s custom, each successive chieftain had to drink a full amount of wine from the horn to prove his worthiness. The most popular activity on the estate is a boat trip to see the seal colony of Loch Dunvegan.
The Coral Beach Walk is a trail to a beach of Loch Dunvegan that is made from the bleached skeletons of a Red Coralline seaweed known as maërl.
Distance: 4 km
Ascent: 90 m
Duration: 1-2 hours
Milovaig Coastal Hike with Neist Point Lighthouse Walk
The Milovaig Coastal Hike is a trail by the dramatic coastal cliffs of the Duirnish Peninsula. The walk also provides great views of the islands of the Outer Hebrides.
The way is pathless, on turf for long stretches with some very boggy sections. The return is by minor road.
Distance: 11 km
Ascent: 351 m
Duration: 3-5 hours
Info and map:
The Neist Point Lighthouse Walk is an obvious extension to the Milovaig Coastal Hike.
Concrete path with steps.
Distance: 3 km
Ascent: 142 m
Duration: 1-2 hours
Fairy Pools Hike
The Fairy Pools Hike leads into the typical scenery of the Cuillin Mountains without having to climb difficult ascents.
The first section, following a crystal clear stream full of lovely pools and waterfalls of various shapes and sizes, is the most popular part of the trail. The further parts of the trail are much less visited, though equally picturesque.
Winding path with boggy sections and river crossings on stepping-stones.
Distance: 8 km
Ascent: 360 m
Duration: 2.5-3.5 hours