Top Itinerary Suggestions for a weekend in Skye
Above all of our other islands, Skye has an allure and an overwhelmingly Scottish feel to it. For many it epitomises the dramatic and inhospitable Highland landscapes, the moody climate and the haunting mystique of a land packed with history. It’s the image of Scotland that has filled many a mind’s eye. Here’s my run through of some of the very best bits to consider for your weekend in Skye.
First off, cramming all of Skye into a couple of days is a bit of stretch to say the least. It’s mad, in fact. Unless you intend to charge around at a rate of knots with that possessed tourist-on-a-mission look about you, don’t try and take the whole island on in anything less than four days. If a weekend’s all you have though, target an area or a theme and be sure to come back for a return visit.
The Isle of Skye is all about the outdoors. One of the best spots for hiking in the world and abundant in fascinating Scottish wildlife, pretty much everyone goes to Skye praying for good weather. Few get it, granted, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get in about it anyway. With endlessly rewarding walks including the spectacular Cuillins, the Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing, you could easily be tempted just to turn feral and have done with it. Although many of the routes are prohibitive to most walking enthusiasts – you have to really know what you’re doing or that could be the end of you – there are still plenty of low level trails for beginners.
A couple of options in this category include the bizarre and idyllic Fairy Glen. Tucked away a little inland from Uig in Skye’s north west, the clue is very much in the name. A place that would be a suitable home to fairies, elves or Teletubbies alike, it has an incredible aura about it. Basically just a collection of conical mounds, it is one of the few places on Skye where you can escape the tourist droves (if you come early). Explore the area for long enough and you’ll come across a stone circle that’ll have many Outlander fans queuing up in the hope of being teleported into the arms of Sam Heughan. You can read more about Scotland’s incredible standing stones from my look at the many Orkney highlights including the astonishing Ring of Brodgar.
Other leisurely walks include the likes of Talisker Bay (great for sunsets) or the famous Fairy Pools near Glenbrittle, both found further south. For the latter in particular, prepare to see a powerfully beautiful side to Skye. Ludicrously clear water flows in a series of pools under the watchful eye of the Cuillins and has made for some of Scotland’s most iconic photographic masterpieces in the right light. Glenbrittle is a gloriously remote location anyway – peak time visits to the Pools make a mockery of this image mind you – so the area deserves some further investigation. In particular head towards the beach at the end of the road and, a little before you get there, on the left, there’s a path up to one of Scotland’s most impressive (and, for some delightful reason, lesser-known) waterfalls. Controversially named Eas Mor (Big Waterfall) it dominates the landscape for miles and makes for a wonderful and dramatic spot to appreciate the natural power of the island.
But back to the big walks. I think the Old Man of Storr is an obvious contender for just about anybody. With those cragged shards of dagger-like rocks jutting up to the heavens, it’s no wonder that it has become a cinematic stereotype for moody Highland Scotland. Very much in the same mould is the magnificent Quiraing, which offers up one of the best Scottish landscape panoramas of them all. While both the Old Man and the Quiraing can be hiked to your heart’s content (think around 5 hours for each), the latter in particular can be gratefully appreciated from the road as well. Take the Staffin to Uig route across the Trotternish peninsula and stop by the roadside when your instincts tell you too. It’s a scene that you are unlikely to forget in a hurry.
As if the mind-blowing images throughout Trotternish were not enough, how about the stupendous vista to Neist Point and its picture-perfect lighthouse? Skye’s most westerly point (and at the end of a road to nowhere, in which Skye is a specialist), Neist Point offers a dramatically exposed opportunity to appreciate not only the immediate landscape before you but also the views over to the Outer Hebrides on a clear day. If you don’t have time for a Skye wildlife boat tour it is also one of the best locations for spotting the plethora of superb animals to be found on Scotland’s west coast – from puffins to dolphins.
Did you think I was going to get through an article without mentioning our national drink? Come on now, you must be new here. Skye is home to Talisker, one of our most popular and consumed beverages in the world of whisky. The only single malt distillery on the island, it has that fabulous combo of island saltiness, peatiness and sharpness balanced with a spiced and even sweet dose of mainland confusion prevalent in there too. I’ve long seen Talisker as a great starting point for new, curious whisky drinkers – so if you’ve just read that last sentence and thought what the hell is this headcase even going on about, give Talisker a try. It’s an all-rounder that I often default too when I can’t make up my mind what geographical mood I’m in. The distillery itself is worth a visit and provides a 45 minute tour that’ll have you willing to test that credit limit in the shop afterwards.
And then there was food. I’m actually going to state that many of the restaurants on Skye are a disappointment. Overpriced and unimaginative in their approach, it’s a major let-down for visitors when their action-packed day is not concluded with a meal to match. Fortunately, The Three Chimneys didn’t get that memo and is simply world class. With Michelin Stars in the trophy cabinet, it is everything that any lover of quality Scottish produce could ever hope for. Not a budget stop, no denying that, but for a special occasion or just for a meal that you’ll forever look back on fondly, it’s well worth making your way out towards Dunvegan for this place. With class seeping from the walls, food to astound and a wine list that’ll have you wishing you’d brought a push-bike, The Three Chimneys has earned its reputation as one of Scotland’s best restaurants on merit.
Trying to pack all of the above into a weekend is not advised, I stress again. If that’s all the time you have, I’d base yourself at either the ‘capital’ Portree or somewhere like Broadford and take on either the north or south of the island. Portree is the default hub and, with its gorgeous waterfront in the same mould as Mull’s Tobermory, makes for a logical base with the best access to services and supplies. In terms of getting around, your opportunities multiply with your own wheels although there is always the option to sign up to one of the many tour buses zipping around. But rest assured, wherever and however you choose to experience Skye, it’s one part of Scotland that’s not likely to let you down.
For more of my prattling on about Skye and its wonderfulness, listen to my monthly piece with Radio Scotland below and have a look at my video summarising the Isle on YouTube.
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