One of the (not very many) good things to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic is the realisation of just how beautiful the UK is and how much world-class travel and adventure is right on our very doorstep. The past two summers I have explored more of Wales and the UK than ever before and this year we decided our summer holiday would be in bonny Scotland.
We took a week off work, booked flights, a hire car and a host of B&B’s, and set off on a Scottish Highlands Road Trip like no other. It was a jam-packed but epic week, exploring the beautiful sites of Scotland and ticking off a major destination on my travel bucket list. Starting in Inverness, we drove down passing Loch Ness, to the Isle of Skye and on to Fort William and Edinburgh, which is definitely my favourite city EVER (not including Cardiff, ofc).
Skye though, really captured my heart, as I’d hoped it would. I had heard so many things about this magical island, known for its epic mountain vistas, and couldn’t wait to go. It is 50 miles long and the largest island in the Inner Hebrides. We stayed at the Medina B&B in Portree, the island’s capital, which I would highly recommend. Portree has a variety of eateries, shops and restaurants and is well positioned to explore the rest of the island.
We had only two nights in Skye, which definitely wasn’t enough to fit everything in, but it’s a good excuse to go back! Having only one full day there, we headed out early and squeezed in as much as possible. Here are my recommendations for how to spend a full day on the Isle of Skye.
Hike up the Old Man of Storr
This hike takes you through one of the most photographed landscapes in the world, and it is truly breathtaking. The Old Man of Storr sits on the Totternish Ridge, an ancient rock formation caused by a colossal landslide. Legend has it that a giant (“The Old Man”) used to reside on the Ridge and when he died his thumb, the rock pinnacle, remained above ground. Situated about 6 miles north of Portree, it is easy to find and this relatively short hike provides otherworldy views across the Sound of Rassay.
The hike is around 5km in total, and the path is relatively easy to follow. It starts off quite steep but there is plenty of opportunity to take photographs on route as you approach the Storr which looms above. Because of its beauty, it is one of the more popular hikes and can get busy with crowds, so I would recommend avoiding the peak hours and heading out earlier or a little later.
The carpark is situated on the roadside and is a pay and display. Parking postcode: IV51 9HX
Wild swim at the Fairy Pools
Another absolute must-do when visiting Skye, Fairy Pools has a really magical feel. This walk follows a series of waterfalls that trickle down from the foot of the Black Cuillins, the most challenging mountain range in all of the UK. The water is crystal clear and there are pools that make for ideal wild swimming spots.
It’s another short walk, taking less than 40 minutes to reach the furthest pool if you’re taking your time and stopping on route, and there is a large carpark at IV47 8TA. The parking charge is £5 for the day. You head back to the car following the same route. Again, this is a super busy walk, but we headed out after 5pm and had some of the pools almost to ourselves as the crowds headed home.
Be mesmerised by Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls
I’m not sure why, but this really was one of my favourite places we visited while on Skye. There was something really mesmerising about the Mealt Falls that crashed into the sea below, and when we were there the waves were so calm and peaceful. The only movement was a sea bird who was diving beneath the surface in search of food.
There is a viewing platform overlooking the falls, which flow down over the 90m high Kilt Rock, which is said to be named after how the rock formation looks like a Scottish kilt. Well worth a visit and there’s little walking too, so good for a quick stop-by.
Carparking is free at the viewing point and is situated North of Portree, a little further up along the main road from Portree, passing the Old Man of Storr.
Grab a bite to eat in Portree
As mentioned, Portree is well worth a visit and I would recommend it as a base for your trip on Skye. The village is the island’s capital, but is only about 200 years old. It has everything you could need from a village, with restaurants, banks, supermarkets and even a cinema. It also has amazing seafood, being a fishing village, and the smell wafting from the chip shops are mouthwatering. Brightly painted buildings line Portree Harbour, and from here you can get boat trips and wildlife watching tours.
Spot a highland cow
Sad but true, when we first spotted highland cows while driving through Skye, Shane actually screamed! It still cracks me up now. But you will have plenty of opportunity to spot these beautiful creatures while driving around the island.
Chill out on one of the beaches
As well as the gorgeous mountains and lochs, Skye has some pretty beautiful beaches. We stumbled upon Staffin beach by accident when we accidentally missed our turning while on route to somewhere else. It was so pretty that we decided to stop and take some snapshots before resuming our journey. A lovely Scottish couple we met at Fairy Pools also recommended Elgol, but sadly we didn’t have time to visit on this trip.
Being the “Misty Isle” as it gets battered by the elements, you will need to pack waterproof clothing and decent waterproof shoes too. But the rain, cloud and mist just elevates the whole magic of the island. It is a really special place and should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.