National Geographic named the Isle of Skye the fourth-best island in the world and it’s not hard to see why. Skye’s mix of rugged coastline, cascading cliffs, formidable mountains, and folklore captivates visitors. On an Isle of Skye holiday, you’ll be met not only with the raw natural beauty of a harsh land, but also with the warmth of Highland hospitality and many tales of the fairies who seem so active on this small isle. The largest of the Hebrides, Skye perfectly encapsulates all the Highlands have to offer. Home to 12 Munros–the name given to mountains in Scotland over 914 m (3,000 ft)–and surrounded by Atlantic waters, Isle of Skye gives the feeling of stepping into a storybook.
Old Man of Storr
A fabled rock pinnacle in the Trotternish Ridge, Old Man of Storr represents one of the most photographed landscapes in the world. This single tall rock jutting upwards from the hill was created by a massive ancient landslide. While the famous stony peak can be seen from the road, the best way to enjoy the sight is to walk the path to the Storr. The trek covers 3.8 km (2.4 mi) and finishes with a bit of a scramble to reach the base of the Old Man. From here, the views stretch over the islands of Raasay and Rona and out to the mainland. Take in the peaks of the Cuillin Mountains, the peaceful Storr Lochs, and picturesque Portree.
Yet another otherworldly place to visit on the Isle of Skye is the Quiraing. While technically created by a landslide, when you see the steep cliffs, rocky columns, and hidden plateaus with your own eyes, it’s hard to believe the landscape is anything but supernatural. This attraction covers a large area, with several distinct features, each individually named. Follow the 7 km (4.3 mi) circuit through the mystical landscape and take in all the striking iterations of this natural phenomenon. As you make your way, you’ll approach The Prison first, a rocky outcrop that resembles the walls of a prison. Continue along and complete a somewhat challenging hike, and you’ll be treated to views of rocky pinnacles, the tallest of which is known as The Needle. To see The Table, you’ll need to reach the summit at 540 m (1,771.2 ft), where you’ll also be met with views of the village of Staffin below and the mountains of Torridon on the mainland.
Just off the road between Portree and Uig, Fairy Glen has an air of magic in its green and cone-shaped hills. Perhaps that’s partly due to the tale of the bagpiper who was supposedly invited into the fairies’ home here and disappeared. A small fairy-sized spiral made of stones is always present to allow visitors to leave gifts for the fairies. To do so, you must walk into the center of the spiral and then walk backwards to get out. Climb up to the highest point in the glen, squeezing through a tight spot to get unimpeded views of the entire valley and beyond.
If you’re looking for an adventurous Isle of Skye holiday, head for the nearly unattainable peaks of the Cuillin Mountains. Said to be the one mountain range in the UK that rates with the Alps or Rockies in terms of sheer ruggedness, the majestic range gives Skye an incredible skyline. The Cuillin contains twelve Munros, the tallest of which is known as the Black Cuillin, standing 992 m (3,255 ft) high. With exposed summits of bare rock and steep drops, the black peaks give even seasoned climbers an adrenaline rush. The mountains attract Munro-baggers (hikers aiming to climb all of Scotland’s 282 Munros) attempting to scale the Inaccessible Pinnacle, a tall needle of rock, which is the only Munro that requires rock climbing to reach.
Take the gentle walk down from the road past grazing sheep to reach the Fairy Pools and their cascades of crystal water. With the Cuillin Mountains as the backdrop, the pools have a definite air of magic to them, and for the adventurous, this is an ideal place to try wild swimming. Some of the pools are linked underwater but have rock barriers at the surface, forcing you to swim deep underneath. If you don’t want to brave the cold waters, simply enjoy a walk and take some great photos. Do note that, depending on the weather, you may have some tricky crossings over streams with large stones to hop across. After heavy rain, the streams can be completely flooded, making the trip impossible.
Aptly named, Kilt Rock is a tall cliff face with an uncanny resemblance to the traditional Scottish garment. You’ll need to walk away from the cliffs just a bit to see the rocky pleats dipping into the Atlantic. A small waterfall cascades into the sea with the gigantic kilt made of stone as its backdrop.
An Outdoor Oasis
A veritable playground for hikers, climbers, nature lovers, and landscape photographers, the Isle of Skye has it all. From sea to sky-scraping mountains, you could fill days on the magical island exploring the jagged coastline, the hill walks, and the homes of fairies. To learn more about of one of the world’s top islands, consider adding some historical and cultural tourist attractions to your Isle of Skye itinerary.