A Winter Weekend in the Isle of Skye:
Although we’ve only ever been to the Isle of Skye during the winter months, we get the feeling that it’s quite a different experience to visiting the Island during the rest of the year. The great thing about planning your trip to Skye during winter is that there are very few tourists around, meaning Skye’s most famous sites that are usually packed with people, the single-track roads typically rammed with tour buses, are all yours. Personally, we think this is a great blessing. The beautiful landscapes, coastlines, hills and mountains, and iconic natural attractions can be enjoyed in peace and quiet (this is also great if, like us, you like to take a picture or two!) The downside is that a lot of the Island’s indoor attractions such as galleries, shops, museums and castles, are shut. Driving around you will still find a few galleries/pottery studios open, but a lot of them do close. Another thing to consider about going in winter is obviously the weather, which can be very unpredictable (this is Scotland!) The first time we went we experienced beautiful blue skies and winter sun. The second time the weather was more mixed, with bouts of rain, sun, and a fair amount of snow. Although freezing, it was pretty amazing seeing the Island covered in snow.
Having enjoyed a couple of winter mini-breaks on Skye, we’ve decided to put together a list of highlights and must-do thing when on the Island, happy reading!
Where we stayed:
Firstly, a note on where we stayed. A lot of people ask us for recommendations on where to stay on the Isle of Skye. The first time we went it was just the two of us, and we stayed in a charming little bothy at the foot of the Quiraing. This was a great location, fairly close to Portree (the Island’s largest town) which was handy for food shopping, as well as being close to a lot of Skye’s attractions. We found Ellen’s Bothy on Airbnb for a great price and thoroughly enjoyed our stay.
During our second trip we were with a much larger group, but managed to bag an amazing house called Tigh Bata through Airbnb on the seafront of the Waternish Peninsula, inclusive of amazing sea views, two large balconies, and an impressive living space. Another great location, a little more remote than last time, but still within an hour’s drive of Skye’s main attractions. Out of season accommodation prices are very reasonable too, win win!
Skye’s a great place for those looking to get outdoors and explore. We would recommend getting up early and getting going as a lot of the attractions on Skye are dotted around the Island so you’ll need to do a fair amount of driving to get around and take full advantage of your time on the Island. Driving around the Island gives you beautiful views round every turn- this definitely isn’t monotonous motorway driving.
On our first day we headed to the small ferry port village of Uig. Here, we popped into a local potter’s studio overlooking the sea and picked up some beers at the Isle of Skye Brewery. From Uig, Fairy Glen is about a 5 minute drive away. Fairy Glen is a magical and fascinating patch of landscape consisting of peculiar grassy mounds and cones. We spent around 45 minutes here walking round, climbing the mounds and of course, taking pictures. We’ve heard that in the warmer months this placed can be extremely busy, and as there’s only 1 small single-track road leading to it, we were glad to have the road and the area to ourselves. This is a magical place and a definite must-see.
From Fairy Glen, we headed back into Uig and followed signposts to Staffin, from which it took us around half an hour to reach the magnificent Quiraing. The Quiraing, part of the Trotternish Ridge, is a truly amazing stretch of landscape which got its distinct shapes, rock pinnacles, and high cliffs from a landslip, and is quite unlike anything else. Here, we stopped off to get out the car, stretch our legs, ogle at the views, and get some pictures. You can also do the Quiraing Walk, a loop covering 6.8km (we didn’t but that’s definetley one for next time!)
Definitely refreshed from the winds, we headed down the windy road towards Staffin until we reached the Kilt Rock viewpoint. Kilt Rock is a distinctive sea cliff which is said to resemble a Kilt. We’ve got to admit we could see the resemblance, sort of. This is a good little stop off and photo spot on the way to Portree.
Portree is the Island’s largest town, so naturally a good place to stop and refuel with some food, browse some of the town’s local shops, and stock up on food/fuel. There are lots of independent shops here to enjoy and give you a sense of Skye’s community. We had lunch at Cafe Arriba which we would recommend for good, hearty food. Make sure you catch the bay where you’ll see a row of cute pastel-coloured houses. You can easily spend half a day here, but with only a couple of hours of sunlight left, we decided to go and catch the sunset from somewhere up high.
Old Man of Storr:
No trip to Skye is complete without visiting the Old Man of Storr. The Old Man is a large, distinctive pinnacle that can be seen from miles away, formed from an ancient landscape, which has produced something truly fascinating and unique. A steep walk up the hill towards the Storr takes around half an hour, and once at the top you’ll be rewarded with stunning views over the Island, and a close-up view of the Old Man himself. The Storr is arguably one of Skye’s most famous attractions and a world-class landmark, so we were glad that we were one of only a couple of walkers there, meaning we had the stunning views to ourselves, and great photograph opportunities.
You’ll find the Coral Beach near Dunvagen. On route to the beach you’ll drive past Dunvagen Castle which is closed to the public between October-April. The gates up to the Castle may be shut, but as you drive along the road that brings you closer to the beach you’ll be able to spot the Castle on the sea front from along the bay. We stopped here for a quick glance and photo. Castle spotted, we kept going until we reached the Coral Beach carpark. From here, a glorious half an hour walk along the coast will get you to the Beach. Expect white sands and blue seas. The perfect place for a walk in the winter sunshine. Again, this place is only accessible via a single-track road, so the lack of people/cars/traffic sure made it easier to get to! If you’re lucky you might catch a glance at a seal or two- we had no such luck.
The famous Fairy Pools are one of the top highlights for any visit to Skye. The drive towards the Pools will bring you closer to the distinctive Black Cuillin Mountains which dominate the landscape and make the drive a very enjoyable experience in itself. Once parked up, walk up towards the mountains to find the Pools running along the River Brittle. The Fairy Pools are beautiful and magical crystal-clear pools of water set perfectly against the backdrop of the mighty Cuillin mountain range. The brave are known for wild swimming in the waters, we think we’ll stick to taking photographs of it instead. Unfortunately during our last trip we didn’t get the chance to visit the Pools due to snow and ice causing the road leading to them to be closed- that’s definitely something to bear in mind if you’re visiting during the winter! Last year we made it however, and look how beautiful it was!
Neist Point Lighthouse:
To end our second day we decided to head to Neist Point Lighthouse, the Island’s most westerly point and the perfect place to catch the sunset. On our most recent trip it was very misty and cloudy so it was very atmospheric, whereas during our trip last year we were able to see a stunningly clear sunset. It’s probably a good idea to plan ahead weather-wise. We walked down to the Lighthouse itself (which takes about half an hour one way.) It’s fascinating to explore the once-used Lighthouse and walk around the Island’s most westerly ridge! The walk down to the Lighthouse is a breeze, but coming back up all those stairs is a little tiring. It’s worth it though as back at the top we had an amazing view over the ridge and the lighthouse. We placed our camera on the tripod and enjoyed watching the sun go down.
To see more of our photos from the Isle of Skye head over to our Portfolio.