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The Isle of Skye is one of the places in Scotland that visitors to the country cannot get enough of. Whether they had ancestors from the island, have seen its landscape in one of the many films it appear in, or simply know the name and want to experience the place themselves, people keep coming. Fortunately, there is a lot to do on this island, the largest of the Inner Hebrides.
The oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and the seat of the Clan MacLeod, occupied by the clan since the early 1200s. The gardens are beautiful and there are also boat trips to a nearby seal colony.
Dunvegan Castle and Gardens, Dunvegan, Skye, Scotland, +44 1470 521206
The Fairy Glen
A magical landscape of strange features lies above Uig, where time has sculpted weird geological formations so odd as to acquire the ‘fairy’ name! There are no supernatural legends based here, but this does not really matter, and the weirdness and strange beauty needs to be seen to be truly appreciated. Some people have started moving rocks to create spirals, but these are removed by locals who, rightfully, believe the landscape to be beautiful and odd in its own natural state.
This is one of those places you will recognise from different movies. The landscape here is stunning, formed by an ancient landslip that at the Quiraing is actually still moving. With features named The Needle, The Table, and The Prison, it is evocative, no matter the weather!
No visit to Skye is complete without seeing the Old Man of Storr. This is a part of the Trotternish landscape, further to the south than The Quiraing, and one of those places you are likely to have seen on film. The Old Man himself is a giant column of rock, standing straight up from the ridge like a finger. You can’t miss it! The views from up here, over to Raasay and the mainland of Scotland are breathtaking.
Skye is full of fascinating long walks, with epic views, incredible landscapes and reminders of history everywhere. Sometimes, though, the walks are short but still full of wonder, such as this one! This cliff has this name because of the vertical and horizontal stripes on its face, making it look like tartan, especially in certain lights. There is also a tall and stunning waterfall here, Mealt falls, cascading spectacularly from the top of the cliff to the sea below.
Skye Museum of Island Life
Originally opened in 1965, this museum helps demonstrate what life was like for islanders in the last years of the 19th century. This is achieved by preserving a wee township of traditional buildings and collecting items that would have been used then. The results are fascinating and a must-see, especially if you have ancestors from Skye.
Skye Museum of Island Life, Kilmuir, Skye, Scotland, +44 1470 552206
Dinosaur footprints/Staffin Museum
The tiny museum at Staffin is deceptive and actually holds a huge collection of fossils and dinosaur related information. It is worth visiting this first to talk to the knowledgeable staff, before then moving down to the beach and looking for the internationally important preserved dinosaur footprints. Just make sure you check tide times before you plan your visit, or you may be disappointed!
Staffin Museum, 6 Ellishadder, Culnacnoc, Portree, Scotland, +44 1470 562321
Go dolphin and whale watching
Skye is surrounded by some of the best water in the UK to see marine life, from seals to dolphins, porpoises to mighty whales. The second largest fish in the world, the basking shark, is regularly found here during the summer months. Perhaps the best way to get close to these magnificent creatures is on a boat tour, with experienced guides who know and understand the waters.
Neist Point Lighthouse
If you want to stand a good chance of seeing marine life, like minke whales, but don’t fancy going to sea, this is the place to visit. It is also a lovely walk with stunning clifftop scenery and perhaps the best place on Skye to watch the sunset, being the most westerly point of the island.
Bright Water Visitor Centre
This small visitor centre is a must for those who want to know more about the tiny island of Eilean Bàn and, especially, its association with the writer Gavin Maxwell. Maxwell is best remembered for his book, The Ring of Bright Water, and the otters he famously lived with. This is also the place to book tours of the island if you want to visit and learn more of its history.
Bright Water Visitor Centre, The Pier, Kyleakin, Skye, Scotland, +44 1599 530040
The Fairy Pools
One of the best places for wild swimming the UK, this is a series of beautiful and crystal clear pools, cascading through a picturesque glen. The walk is lovely, as is just sitting besides the water, but it is the thrill of the cold water that makes these pools a must-see, even if it’s just for a tentative paddle or dipping of the toes!
Talisker Whisky Distillery
Skye’s oldest working distillery, Talisker is a fascinating place to visit, even if you don’t like whisky! So tied as it is with Scottish culture, learning how whisky is made, its history, and current situation will help you understand the land in surprising ways. Talisker also sits on a beautiful bay, which is a great place to view wildlife.
Talisker Distillery, Carbost, Skye, Scotland, +44 1478 614308
The spiritual home of that clan and offers a museum, beautiful gardens and, of course, the castle itself to explore.
Armadale Castle, Sleat, Skye, Scotland, +44 1471 844305
Sitting on a beach watching the wildlife
There are several places on Skye where this is not only possible, but likely. The best thing to do is just make yourself comfortable, perhaps with binoculars to scan the water and beach, then wait and watch. If you do not make much noise, or move too suddenly, it is likely you will see playful seals and even otters, as well as birds and maybe even whales. Pretty much any beach will do, but the Coral Beach is a good start, as is Talisker Bay.
Skye is home to both white-tailed sea eagles (often referred to as ‘flying barn doors’, due to their immense size) and the iconic golden eagle. If you spend any time at all outside you have a good chance of seeing an eagle, even if only from afar, although your chances of seeing the sea eagle are greatly increased if you go on one of the boat tours on offer.
Walk the Cuillin Ridge
This is not for the faint-hearted, or those who are remotely scared of heights. Unless you know exactly what you are doing, then hiring a guide is wise, and it is essential you follow basic safety protocols. The walk is worth the extra precautions though, offering unparalleled views and the feeling of freedom that being in the high places brings.
Dunvegan Castle & Gardens
Open 1 Apr - 15 Oct 10am to 5.30pm with last entry at 5pm
Dunvegan Castle is one mile north of the village and has been the seat of the Clan MacLeod for 800 years.
As well as the castle it is well worth talking a walk around the five acres of formal round garden. The gardens are a hidden oasis featuring an electric mix of plants, woodland glades and waterfalls. Another must is to take the 25minute boat trip to see the Dunvegan seal colonty and observe these playful mammals at close quarters. You may also see Herons nesting as well as many other species of birds including the Artic Tern and the Sea Eagle.