The Isle of Skye is Scotland‘s most famous and largest island of the Inner Hebrides. It is 50 miles long and 25 miles wide. We spent three and a half days on the Isle of Skye and were happy with our length of stay. We stayed mostly on the north side of the Island, and while we didn’t stop to see everything, what we did see was awesome.
One thing to keep in mind when you travel to Scotland in May and June. The northern tip of Scotland is along the same latitude as the southern tip of Norway. So the whole country is pretty far north. And you can experience the long summer days from 4 am to well past 11 pm. You won’t find this to be the case in August and September, but it’s also very busy then.
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Welcome to the Isle of Skye
This island invites you to integrate yourself into the scenery. It’s not just something for visitors to see but something to experience with mind, body, and spirit. These Scottish landscapes are known for their rugged beauty as well as being magical like the Fairy Glen and Fairy Pools.
You arrive on Skye from the Mainland via a ferry or the Skye Bridge. The Skye Bridge is not far from Eilean Donan Castle making it an easy stop when you are leaving or entering.
Our Impression of the Isle of Skye
Our itinerary on Skye included lots of hiking and exploring. We also camped on Skye which was an adventure all on its own. Because we drove in a campervan from Rooftop Campers, we explored whatever we wanted to and weren’t tied to a tour group agenda.
Having the small campervan was ideal, too, because I knew what the roads would be like and I knew that our drivers would not want drive an RV.
The biggest town on Skye is Portree, and it’s a quaint touristy harbor town. We wore ourselves out hiking all over. We enjoyed waterfalls. We unexpectantly hiked 6.2 km. We trudged through sheep and cow pastures on our way to beautiful views. We climbed through fences and over fences. We meandered in the mist, ran in the downpouring thunderstorm, and had one adventure after another.
What we Loved on Isle of Skye
I could easily say we loved everything about the Isle of Skye. But that would be untrue because we didn’t make it to many places like Neist Point LIghthouse, Armadale Castle, or Talisker Distillery. We didn’t get out at Old Man of Storr. We peered at it from the road which was good enough for us. We drove past it at least three times and it was easily visible from the road.
What I think we loved the most was Dunvegan Castle and Rha Waterfall. If you can only choose a couple of things on Skye, these would be my top choices.
Dunvegan Castle is owned by the MacLeod Clan and they are most famous for the Fairy Flag which is displayed in the castle. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of the Fairy Flag. You will learn about it’s legend and history as well as Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite Rebellion–if you want to.
Dunvegan Castle is a basic castle located on Loch Dunvegan. It’s not extremely ornate on the outside, but it’s majestic and big! I loved it. While inside, kids search for keys throughout the entire castle counting as they go. At the end of your tour, kids report how many keys they found to the docent. I love how they keep the kids engaged.
And if you can manage it, I highly recommend you pay the extra to see the Dunvegan Gardens. They are breathtaking. Nothing extremely exotic, but so much to see.
Rha Waterfalls are somewhat hidden, not far off the road near Uig. I don’t want to tell you where it is exactly because part of its charm is its novelty and secrecy. But if you can find it on the northwest side of the island on the River Rha, you won’t be disappointed.
Challenges We Experienced
During our pick up of the campervan, we were warned of the biggest pest while camping in Scotland.
Combine biting Black flies, gnats, and mosquitoes and you have midges.
I couldn’t stand them crawling in my hair and behind my ears. Thankfully, they were annoying mostly in the evening. And the midge spray we were given worked fairly well if applied liberally.
Our friend Todd did all of the driving and it was quite exhausting for him–and to be honest, for us as well. Not only did he have to drive on the right side of the car and on the left side of the road, but also he had to navigate single track and substandard roads. As well as a little mountain driving and city driving (mostly in Inverness in the Highlands before we made it to Skye)
We drove alongside the Quiraing Peaks when we drove north from Portree, but we never quite made it into the Quiraing. We championed this decision because it would not have been enjoyable for our driver to experience.
What to Know Before You Go
It’s important to pack for all kinds of weather.
We packed zip off pants and jeans. We packed rain jackets and sweatshirts. We packed t-shirts and winter hats and gloves. And most importantly we packed waterproof footwear. And we were glad we did!
Trip Details and Recommendations
Since we camped, we were able to make some of our own food mostly breakfasts and a few dinners or lunches. We picked up groceries before we went on the island because mainland food costs are more reasonable
Portree does have a couple of grocery stores, but they cost significantly more. We also ate many meals in restaurants around the island,
Where We Stayed
Glenbrittle Campsite and Cafe is a first-come-first-serve campground and you need to arrive before 7 pm. Travel on a 10-mile, single-track, substandard road. You will drive past the extremely popular Fairy Pools and a farm. After the farm, you will see the turn very shortly on your right. The Cuillin Mountains and Loch Brittle surround this beautiful campsite that we called the hippy campsite. In the morning we had coffee and pastries from their cafe and highly recommend the fresh baked goods.
We enjoyed this campsite. We were impressed with the clean bathrooms and showers and kitchen washing station. However, it wasn’t in a good location for us. So after enjoying low tide on the shore of Loch Brittle, we packed up and moved on.
Kinloch Campsites is located on Loch Dunvegan just outside the village of Dunvegan. This was our favorite campsite–probably because we spent the most time here. It too had incredibly clean bathrooms and showers and kitchen washing station. And it happened to be in the perfect location for us. So we booked 3 nights here. We enjoyed a different pitch each night but no matter where we were, our viewpoint of the loch was incredible.
Where We Ate
The Misty is located in Dunvegan and by the time we arrived for dinner, it was serving only take away. We could take away fish and chips or stone-fired pizza. We chose the pizza and enjoyed it thoroughly in our campervan.
Antlers Bar and Grill fed us after an extraordinarily long day of hiking, and we couldn’t have picked a better place to land. I don’t remember what anyone else had, but I had their roasted vegetable risotto. It was the most comforting, delicious meal I could have asked for. I’m not even vegetarian, but it was a perfect dish of nourishment for my sensitive tummy.
Mackenzie’s Bakery and Granary served us my favorite coffee of our trip. I highly recommend their mochas and their enormous raised donuts which we had for lunch.
Recommended Sites and Activities
Along with Dunvegan Castle and Rha Waterfalls, we had the most incredible adventures on Skye. All these sites and experiences are delightful to enjoy with kids.
Coral Beach occupies a small section of the shoreline in the community of Claigan. As in many place in Scotland, you need to walk your way through a pasture. I think it was a sheep pasture for a bit until you come up and over and see the coral beach itself.
A Boat Tour of the Jurassic Coast of Skye was our day to see the wildlife of Trotternish Ridge and Peninsula. We saw a sea eagle, puffins, oyster catchers (birds with long skinny beaks), gray seals, common seals, and one or two minke whales. We did not see dolphins or sharks. One of my favorite things to see was the basalt columns of Kilt Rock. Unfortunately, the Kilt Rock waterfall had dried up due to Scotland‘s dry conditions the previous two months. It would have been incredible.
The hiking trails into the Cuillins were located at our Glenbrittle campsite. Well, at least one of them. Apparently the Black Cuillin is the UK’s most challenging mountain range to climb. And We just trotted straight into it, completely unaware of what we were getting into. With that said, you don’t have to climb to the very top –we sure didn’t– to make it a nice not-as-challenging hike.
Lealt Falls are breathtaking. Even from the top of the cliff, but the lower falls are magnificent. If you have kids who are adventurous and listen well, you can take them on the vertical 100-meter descent. These falls are outside Portree. If you are nervous about the height, you can absolutely skip that. It’s a small hike from the upper falls to the lower falls. Your kids wouldn’t even need to know the lower falls existed.
Sites to Skip
First site to skip is Lealt Falls at the bottom of the cliff: see above.
Rubha Hunish Hike is rated a difficult hike according to the Isle of Skye Website. We went on a sunny day with a slightly stiff breeze. So the conditions were fairly ideal. It’s a 6.2 km hike (almost 4 miles) that takes you through lots of cattle and sheep pastures. Halfway through the hike, we came to a cliff that led us out to the Rubha Hunish Peninsula.
We were told it was a bit of a scramble to get down, and we deduced it would be another bigger scramble to get up. So we didn’t go down. That was one of our only disappointments to miss.
We loved the adventure we had on the Rubha Hunish. However, I do not recommend it for kids. Mostly because of the long, boring parts on either side trudging through the pastures.
Eilean Donan Castle isn’t on the Isle of Skye, but it’s just off the island. Of the four castles we toured on this trip, this was our least favorite. The best part of it is seeing it across the bridge. The outside is gorgeous, but I didn’t think it was worth the tour.
The Fairy Pools on Skye used to be a fun secret to discover. However, they are no longer a “secret” and are packed with tourists all the time. We didn’t actually visit the fairy pools because the locals told us there were other water falls to enjoy.
What We Wished We Could Have Done
Visiting the Isle of Skye was as incredible as we were hoping. We loved almost every single minute (minus the Midges). And we know you will find it beautiful and delightful, too.