The Isle of Skye is a great place to visit – and with a car you can do a great loop around the island taking in all the amazing scenery and learning about its celtic heritage.
Kyleakin, Isle of Skye
The tour starts in Kyleakin at the southeastern corner of the island, which is accessed by coming over the Bridge from the Kyle of Lochalsh and Eilean Donan Castle beyond. Once over the bridge, turn to the left. There is a ruined castle in Kyleakin (you can see it from the bridge), called Castle Moil, and you can walk out to it. Kyleakin in Gaelic is Caol Acain – the Straights of Haakon (Haakon Haakonarson was the Norweigian king defeated at the Battle of Largs in 1263 – he moored his ships here prior to the battle)
Continuing along the A87 north you will arrive into Broadford, perhaps the least interesting place on the island – although there are a number of accommodation options here; and on Sunday one of the few open petrol stations. There are also two detours you can make from the town:
A851 to Armadale and Ardvasar (for the Mallaig Ferry) – as you come into Armadale (just after passing the Sabhal Mor Ostaig college) turn left into Armadale Castle and Clan Donald Centre. The castle is a recent ruin, once seat to the Macdonalds of Sleat; and the Clan Donald museum is one of the best in Scotland. Only 15 minutes from Broadford
B8083 to Elgol (Ealaghol) You can admire the views on the way, especially to Blà Bheinn, and to the Black Cuillin. Personally, I’d join one of the boat trips (Misty Isle or Bella Jane) into Loch Scavaig, and have free time to walk out to see the stunning Loch Coruisk and the full ridge of the Black Cuillin. The detour from Broadford is about 40 minutes each way, plus boat trip; so you need the time – but, a hugely rewarding experience
Continuing north towards Portree will take you through small villages overlooking the islands of Scalpay and Raasay (with the notable peak of Dun Caan dominating), and will climb high through the Red Cuillin Hills (there are a couple of great viewpoints and laybys to let you stop). At Sligachan make a stop. The view over the Cuillin from the bridge is fantastic, as is the beer and whisky choice in the inn itself. Carrying on up the A87 you climb up the hill and it levels out you will see a large layby on the right; pull across the road and park. The view looking back is breathtaking – one of the best in Scotland.
Portree, Isle of Skye
Arrive into Portree, the Island capital (and meaning either the king’s bay or the bay on the slope. The latter may be older and the former is an evolved name). The Aros Centre on the way in makes for an interesting stop; and in the town it is worth going down to the harbour (walk don’t drive – turning is a nightmare), and there are some good options for having lunch in Somerled Square.
For most people driving up to Skye, Portree is the main overnight stop. There are plenty of Guest Houses, Hotels, Hostels and Campsites. There’s a number of good places to eat, ranging from pub grub to high-end local cuisine. In the morning you’ll be ready to carry on your adventure round the island
From Portree take the A855 for Staffin. This road has been upgraded and is a great drive up the Trotternish Peninsula. As the road levels out above the town, the landscape becomes dominated by the serrated dome of the Storr Hill, and the pinnacle: the Old Man of Storr. Eventually there is a point where the hill reflects back into a small loch – great photo stop. If you are feeling fit, you can climb up to the Old Man. The car park is next to a small patch of planted forestry. From the Storr, the highlights heading north are –
Kilt Rock – a fabulous rock formation in the cliffs and a waterfall into the sea. Also great views over to Wester Ross
Staffin Museum – real dinosaur footprints (a rarity inScotland)
The Quiraing (Bealach Cuithraing) – a staccato landscape above Staffin. Take the small road to the left signposted for the Quiraing and climb up the hill. There is a carpark at the top. Again, if you want a good walk, follow the path into the heart of the mountains (the prison, needle and table). Need good boots and clothes for all weathers. Return to Staffin
The Museum of Island Life and Flora MacDonald’s Grave at Duntulm. The museum tells the tale of life on the islands back in the day, and you can walk up to the graveyard at Kilmuir (or drive), it lies about a quarter a mile behind the open-air museum
Fairy Glen, Uig. As you come down into Uig and re-join the A87 south go past the general store and cross the small bridge. Take the next left into Glen Uig and drive for about two miles. The landscape then becomes rather surreal, like it’s all in miniature. There is a place to park next to a small lochan –you can wander around – get yourself up on top of one of the mounds and the views over Glen Uig are magic, especially if it’s been raining
Personally, I don’t bother with this longer loop up to Duntulm and the museum of island life; rather, after stopping at the Quiraing I carry on this single track road, which again brings you to Uig and the Fairy Glen is still an option
Take the A87 south to the junction with the A850 and turn right for Dunvegan. Not much to write home about as you cross some heather moorland and pass through a couple of small villages. At Dunvegan (Dùn Bheagain) there are several suggestions
Dunvegan Castle – not the best in Scotland, although the gardens are nice, and you would get to see the fairy flag. A wet weather option for me.
The Giant MacAskill Museum – hear the tale of the tallest man in British history, and considered by some the strongest man who ever lived
The Coral Beach. Take the road to Dunvegan Castle, but drive past the carpark and follow the road to its natural conclusion without heading up any farm tracks. There is a car park, and it’s about a 30 minute, fairly easy-going walk out to the beach. Well worth it on a nice day.
A mile or so south of the village turn right onto the A884 and head on to Lephin, where you turn left and head down to Neist. Again, there is a car park and a walk out to the lighthouse overlooking stunning cliffs – and the views across the Western Isles ain’t too shabby either. I’d research the route in advance beforehand as it involves small unclassified roads
From Dunvegan head south along the A863. This is a coastal road, so the scenery is fantastic. Just before you reach Struan you will see a sign for ‘Dun Beag Broch’. Park in the layby on the right, cross the road and follow the path up to the best preserved Iron Age fortress on Skye.
A few miles further on – take a right for Carbost (B8009). Again follow the road right down into the village and you’ll arrive at Talisker Distillery. You can’t book in advance and you may have a wait for a tour – especially if it’s wet day. Nearby options also include –
Talisker Bay – a quiet, untouched corner of the island. You’ll see the signpost as you near Carbost (turn-off to the left). Follow the road right down to the far and park before you actually head into the courtyard. Walk through the farm buildings and for about 20 minutes and you’ll reach the bay
Glen Brittle – another turn-off from the Carbost road. This takes you down through a deep glaciated valley at the foot of the Cuillin. The beach is surrounded by a wall of mountain and overlooks towards Rum and Eigg
Return to the A863 and continue back to Sligachan – the loop of Skye is complete. Although there are plenty of other little detours, walks and places to relax and enjoy the scenery. Don’t forget to enjoy a whisky or two, and keep an ear open for people still speaking the Gaelic language.
This itinerary was put together by David McNicoll from Vacation Scotland – a travel company specialising in tours of Skye. www.vacationscotland.biz