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Isle of Skye

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Travel Guide Europe United Kingdom Scotland Scottish Islands Hebrides Inner Hebrides Isle of Skye

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Introduction

Isle Of Skye19

Isle Of Skye19

© All Rights Reserved livtako

The Isle of Skye lies off the western coast of Scotland in the Inner Hebrides, and is the second largest island in Scotland (after Lewis and Harris). Skye is a large island of dramatic contrasts, from the leafy fertile plain of Sleat to the dramatic Cuillin mountains. The landscape in the centre of the island is dominated by the rugged Cullin mountains, and from there numerous peninsulas head in different directions. It is a particularly popular destination for hiking and climbing. Raasay, Rona and Scalpay are islands (north to south) to the east of Skye.

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Geography

Skye is a large island but its coastline is disproportionately long for its size due to major indentations. The Black Cuillin are possibly the UK's most dramatic mountains, being gabbro of volcanic origin. Beyond Loch Snizort to the west of Trotternish is the Waternish peninsula, which ends in Ardmore Point's double rock arch. Duirinish is separated from Waternish by Loch Dunvegan, which contains the island of Isay. The loch is ringed by sea cliffs that reach 295 metres at Waterstein Head. Oolitic loam provides good arable land in the main valley. Lochs Bracadale and Harport and the island of Wiay lie between Duirinish and Minginish, which includes the narrower defiles of Talisker and Glen Brittle and whose beaches are formed from black basaltic sands. Strathaird is a relatively small peninsula close to the Cuillin hills with only a few crofting communities, the island of Soay lies offshore. The bedrock of Sleat in the south is Torridonian sandstone, which produces poor soils and boggy ground, although its lower elevations and relatively sheltered eastern shores enable a lush growth of hedgerows and crops. The islands of Raasay, Rona, Scalpay and Pabay all lie to the north and east between Skye and the mainland.

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Towns

The following are all on Skye:

  • Portree - the island capital.
  • Broadford - a transport hub for the island.
  • Dunvegan - to the west of the island - castle belonging to the clan MacLeod.
  • Armadale - the crossing point for te Mallaig ferry.
  • Uig - small north-western port - crossing point for Tarbert on Harris and Lochmaben on North Uist
  • Kyleakin - was the main ferry port of the island from Kyle of Lochalsh but now simply one end of the Skye Bridge
  • Kylerhea - near Kyleakin and the crossing point for the summer only ferry from Elgol.
  • Elgol - marvellously situated village south of the east end of the Black Cuillin with boat trips to the even more wonderful Loch Coruisk, surrounded by Cuillin peaks.
  • Torrin - between Broadford and Elgol at the foot of Blaven (see mountains)
  • Glenbrittle - small coastal village with a campsite near the south-west Cuillin.
  • Sligachan -even smaller but with an inn - a good approach for Sgurr nan Gillean and Bruach na Frith
  • Carbost - the home of the Talisker distillery - excellent beach.

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Sights and Activities

Mountains

  • Cuillin Ridge - Walkers Beware, the traverse of the Cuillin Ridge is not a walk. It demands scrambling and simple climbing skills. The length of the traverse and the height of the peaks give a false picture. Furthermore the weather can change very quickly and visibility is often very low indeed. Thirdly you have to carry any water you want to drink and as if that were not enough, something in the rock causes your compass to behave manically. For those who can do it this is probably the UK's best mountain outing and walkers need not despair completely. There are numerous points on the ridge that can be reached and the view along the ridge far more than justifies the effort. Bruach na Frith is not even difficult if taken from Sligachan.
  • Blaven - This is the only Black Cuilin mountain not on the ridge. it has two peaks and can be attacked from Torrin.
  • The Quiraing This is a mountain in the north of Skye with not very much height but some magical rock scenery.
  • The Storr is a peak on the Trotternish Ridge, best known for a large stack below the summit. This is the Old Man of Storr and should not be confused with the sea stack Old Man of Stoer off Hoy in the Orkneys.

Coast

  • The best stretch of coast is that around MacLeods Maidens. The beach at Carbost is very attractive.
  • Take a sea-fari and go whalespotting from Armadale.
  • AquaXplore offers boat trips which vary in length, and their boats go fast, really fast.

Loch Coruisk

Loch Coruisk is a magical loch. It is a true loch but its outflow leads very quickly to (Sea) Loch Scavaig, which is reached by boat (trips) from Elgol. Alternately there is a walk from Elgol via Camasunary but this involves a bad step when exposed above the sea. Lastly it can be reached by a fine walk from Sligachan - if the return seems too long, see if you can work out a way to go by boat and returrn to Sligachan or vice versa.

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Weather

The influence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream create a mild oceanic climate. Temperatures are generally cool, averaging 6.5 °C in January and 15.4 °C in July at Duntulm in Trotternish. Snow seldom lies at sea level and frosts are less frequent than on the mainland. Winds are a limiting factor for vegetation. South-westerlies are the most common and speeds of 128 km/h have been recorded. High winds are especially likely on the exposed coasts of Trotternish and Waternish. In common with most islands of the west coast of Scotland, rainfall is generally high at 1,500-2,000 mm per annum and the elevated Cuillin are wetter still. Variations can be considerable, with the north tending to be drier than the south. Broadford, for example, averages more than 2,870 mm of rain per annum. Trotternish typically has 200 hours of bright sunshine in May, the sunniest month. On 28 December 2015, the temperature reached 15 °C, beating the previous December record of 12.9 °C, set in 2013. On 9 May 2016, a temperature of 26.7 °C was recorded at Lusa in the southeast of the island.

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Getting There

By Train

There is a wonderfully scenic line from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh where you can get a bus over the bridge and on into Skye. Another line comes from Oban and Fort William and stops in Mallaig, where you can take the ferry to the island. If the scenery seems familiar that's because footage of the steamtrain that services this route is used in the Harry Potter movies. This steam locomotive only runs in summer.

By Car

The Skye bridge connects the mainland of Scotland with Kylerhea. The bridge is part of the A87 motorway, and is the ony bridge connecting Scotland and the Isle of Skye. The bridge used to be a toll bridge, but after a big controversy over the costs of the tolls, the tolls were finally abolished in 2004.

By Bus

CityLink is the equivalent in Scotland to National Express in England. Citylink connects Glasgow with the Isle of Skye making stops in Uig and Portree. Direct buses run from Inverness as well as other destinations in Scotland.

By Boat

There are two ferries to Skye. The Mallaig to Armadale ferry service is run by Calmac. and the Glenelg to Kylerhea connection (Easter until October) is run by Skye Ferry.

There is a summer ferry to Raasay from Sconser on Skye also run by Calmac.

Rona and Scalpay are harder to reach unless you are renting one of the few cottages on either. Both are privately owned and it may be possible to arrange something for a day with the owners, who are shown in the sleep section.

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Getting Around

By Car

The car is probably the easiest way to get around the Island. There is a nice one way road taking you around the island, which can be good if you don't have a lot of time to spend.

By Bus

Public transport is a bit limited on the island, especially on in the weekends. Citylink takes care of the mainroutes on the Isle and Rapsons (Highland Country Buses) operate many of the other local routes including Armadale-Kyleakin and Portree-Dunvegan. More information can be found on the website of the tourist information.

By Boat

The trip from Elgol to Loch Coruisk can be done with Misty Isle Boat trips.

By Bicycle

Many of the roads in Skye are well cyclable, although traffic can be a problem in late summer. If you're cycling, make sure you have good raingear; Skye is wet even by the drizzly standards of Scotland. The ferry from Mallaig accepts bicycles, and the ride from Armadale north to the bridge is pleasant.

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Drink

  • Sligachan Inn - often referred to by climbers and walkers as 'The Slig'.
  • Cuillin Brewery, Sligachan. Micro-brewery that also offers tours. Officially started brewing in 2004.
  • Isle of Skye Brewing Company, Uig. Brewery tours and a shopThe breweries most popular bottled beers Black Cuillin (a dark porter), Red Cuillin (an amber) and Hebridean Gold (a golden ale) are available in most pubs throughout the island.
  • Talisker Distillery, Carbost. Skye's only distillery. Producing a hefty, aromatic and distinctly peaty whisky that is similar to those from Islay. Tours of the distillery are offered at intervals throughout the day by friendly and informative guides.

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Sleep

Skye's busiest tourist season is from Easter until the end of September, when accommodation usually requires reservations and when some prices rise. Some places close during the winter.

Camping is very popular with visitors to Skye, and there are numerous camp sites dotted around the island, some in extremely picturesque settings.

Self-catering cottages are available at various locations over the island.

Scottish Youth Hostels Association have three hostels on Skye. They are a cheap alternative to expensive hotels or B&B's. They are very busy during the summer and some can be closed or only available to groups during the winter. Call ahead or check online for details. They are in Broadford, Glenbrittle and Portree.

View our map of accommodation in Isle of Skye

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 57.375574
  • Longitude: -6.217743

Accommodation in Isle of Skye

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