This year we had decided to visit the wonderful island of Skye for our August break. We always try to get away for a few days somewhere in the Highlands or beyond to celebrate our Anniversary. We were married in Fort William and just love heading north to spend some of our downtime and holidays exploring different areas. My other half had never been to Skye, and while I have it was mostly for work purposes and visits. I never had the chance to explore some of the great places it has to offer.
We were only spending 3 nights on Skye so wanted to make the most of it and find other little wonders to explore on our next visit, which would hopefully be for 5-7 nights.
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A few weeks before heading off we grabbed a map of Skye and picked out some places we would like to visit during our trip. Yes, all the top and well-known places were on our list. Well known places like the Fairy Pools, Fairy Glen, Kilt Rock, the Quiraing, Coral Beach and a few others. We knew we were never going to cover everything we wanted to in just a few days. We used the Collins Pocket Map to help plan our trip as it lists and marks on map places of interest.
As Scotland is known for its ever-changing weather we were unsure of what we would get to see on this visit and hadn’t put ourselves under any pressure by planning an exact Itinerary to follow.
The Drive to Skye
The drive to Skye for us is 245 miles but with a time of 5 hours 25 minutes. Since this was going to take up the best part of our first day we wanted to try and include a few stops on the way. The two I had picked out was Eilean Donan Castle and the Fairy Houses at Ardelve. These two attractions sit almost right next to each other and are only 15 minutes before you cross the bridge to Skye.
The other stop that we always make on the way up the A82 is to The Green Welly. We always stop here for a rest break. I get to stretch my legs, have a toilet break and normally we have a bite to eat and a cuppa. Whether we are heading to Glencoe, Fort William or anywhere else on this road The Green Welly is a Must stop. With a garage for fuel, cafe, toilets and shops with local produce. It even has an outside 24/7 self-service laundry facility. If you like your whiskey (as I do) they have a fantastic collection of whiskeys from around the world that you can buy.
We stopped at Eilean Donan Castle, possibly the most photographed castle in Scotland. The car park was £3, for an hour. But, the machine would not work so we got to park for free. We had been caught in slow-moving traffic so didn’t have time to spend exploring the castle. If this is something you would like to do you can buy tickets. £10 per adult, £9 for concessions (over 60’s), £6 for children with under 6’s going free or a family ticket for £29. A family ticket includes 2 adults and up to 3 children. There is also a shop, toilet facilities and a cafe here.
The Fairytale Village
The next stop, two minutes along the road in Ardelve was The Fairy Distillery, Manuela’s Wee Bakery and Pizza Joe’s.(IV40 8TD) This is a must-stop destination. Whether you are into fairy tales, food, gin or to take in the carpentry skills used to build this beautiful place. We would highly recommend a stop here. This will appeal to people of all ages and is run by a German family who has added a little bit of their fairytale flare and wonders into a mini village in their garden.
As we only wanted to take the car and didn’t want to be finding and setting up camp each night we chose to simply book a campsite that we could use as a base for exploring this wonderful little island. Many were fully booked and we ended up booking onto the Camping and Caravanning Club site.
The site sits on the banks of Loch Greshornish in Flashader. This is about a 20-minute drive from the main town of Portree. The site, as you would expect from a club site was clean and tidy with welcoming staff. Our pitch, however, was not the greatest. We were sat on a slope and for me, this plays havoc with my balance, especially during the night if I have to get up for the loo.
Despite having booked a few months ago we were on a non-electric pitch which we don’t mind as we just organise ourselves with gas cooking facilities and power banks for charging phones. We took our old Sendero tent, big enough to be able to stand up and store things in, but not too big
The site is open to the elements as it sits on the coastline and this did result in an early departure when the weather turned a little wild.
Day One of Exploring Skye
On our first full day on the Skye, we woke to rain. Something we are familiar with being Scottish anyway. We took our time getting ready and having some breakfast. Really just hoping the rain would stop and let us get out and explore in more pleasing conditions. We hadn’t really made solid plans of what we were doing as we know how changeable the weather can get here.
Since it was raining but did look like it would eventually clear we chose to go and explore the Trotternish area of the island. This area includes Faerie Glen, some pottery and art galleries, Quiraing and the needle, Staffin Museum, Kilt Rock/Mealt Falls and The Storr.
We knew we were never going to cover everything as there is just too much to see and do in this area and we already wasted a few hours waiting for the rain to break. So we chose to make Faerie Glen and Quiraing our priorities for the day, with the hope of Walking up and seeing The Storr.
We drove from the campsite to Faerie Glen in the rain and used the car park. This was £2 for 2 hours. The car park was pretty full even though it was raining. We put on our waterproofs and headed off to explore the area. It did not disappoint as the conical-shaped hills flowed from one to the other. These miniature hills and little ponds (lochans) are much like a downscaled Scotland landscape.
You could easily spend hours walking about this area on a good day just taking it all in. I have even done a little scramble up what is known as Castle Ewan. This is not a real castle but a basalt formation on top of a hill that resembles a castle.
After here we stopped off in Uig for some lunch and to use the public toilets before heading up and over to the Quiraing.
As we drove up towards the northernmost part of the Trotternish ridge we enjoyed reading about how this area was created by a giant landslip. Well, Carol read and I listened, I can assure you I was paying attention when driving. You really need to be careful on these single track roads with passing places.
Again we used the car park which was £3 for 3 hours. This leaving enough time to walk the Quiraing and stop and take some pictures. This is a somewhat circular walk and is mapped out at the start of the walk. Carol came out and enjoyed some of the views with me before I headed off on the walk myself.
This is a spectacular walk and I really wish the weather had been a little better for it. There are a few places where you are more scrambling than walking and I would suggest only doing the full walk if you are of reasonable fitness. You are walking on paths with pretty big drops to the side of you so if you have a fear of heights this may be a little tricky. Also if you are with young children, please be very cautious and keep them close.
This being said I would urge anyone to give it a go. Even if you can’t complete it all and only do some of the pathways there and back. The views are ever-changing and breathtaking. Even on a showery, damp day, we could see for miles.
Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls
Then it was back in the car to start heading down and following the coastline to the next destination or stop-off point. This time we were visiting the viewpoint for Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls. Again we used the designated car park which was almost full, but we got a space as someone else left.
The viewpoint was busy so we struggled to find a space at first so spent some time just looking out across the water hoping to see something breach the surface. This is also a great place for some whale and dolphin watching. I had my binoculars in the car just in case we spotting anything, but it was not to be.
When space became available we stepped up to the railing for a better look. Kilt Rock is an impressive sight, with its vertical basalt columns. These columns look like the pleats on a kilt, hence the name “kilt rock”
Next, we headed to the Old Man of Storr or “The Storr” as it is also known. We got in the car and started driving around towards the parking area. The road was quiet so we took our time so we could enjoy the views while I drove. Once at the car park (IV51 9HX) It quickly became apparent that we might not be as lucky here. The car park was full! The people who were in the car park were just heading out to start the walk rather than finishing and leaving.
We waited about for 5 minutes before deciding to drive down the road a little further to see if there was other parking available. Again all the parking spaces were full and most of these people were just heading up to “The Storr). We did debate whether we should wait for a space and just drive back and forth between parking areas or leave it until our next visit. The latter was decided.
A little dismayed we headed on down to Portree, the main town in Skye. Since it was after 6 pm we decided to have a walk around and find somewhere to eat. We ended up down at the harbour and grabbed some fish and chips for dinner.
Then it was back to the campsite for showers, a cuppa and some friendly chat with some other campers before settling for the night.
Day Two Goes Tits Up
On wakening, on full-day number 2, we were disappointed to hear rain bouncing off the tent. I hoped it was just a shower and it would pass soon enough and started making coffee. The rain was steady and the wind started to get up a little. No real shock as we were on the coastline. I grabbed my phone and decided to check the weather for the day. It did not look great! The rain was to continue for a few hours and then intermittent showers for the remainder of the day.
The rain we can handle, we had our waterproofs after all. What concerned me was that the wind speeds were to get up to around 45 mph. Not the best on such an open site. It was also to rain all throughout the night and all the following day…I hate packing up wet!
So we had to decide if we were going to re-pitch the tent with its back to the wind and keep our fingers crossed or pack up a day early. We chose to pack up early while there was a fairly dry spell then go explore before heading home. Today was our day for visiting Claigan Coral Beach, Neist Point, Janes Cakes and The Fairy Pools. We knew we wouldn’t get to them all especially after packing up as we headed out much later than planned. Plus we also had a long drive home at the end of the day.
Claigan Coral Beach
We decided to skip Neist Point since it was as windy and headed straight to Claigan Coral Beach. Once at Dunvegan you take a little single track road to the parking area. The parking area was small and already at near capacity when we arrived but we found a bay and parked up. The parking area had some huge potholes so care was needed, especially for us with a fully-loaded car.
From the car park, there is a path that takes you along to the beach. It is well worn and you pass through 2 kissing gates and a hole in a wall to reach your destination. This walk takes about 15 minutes but is worth it once you reach the shoreline. On a hot day or even if you are brave enough on a cold one it is worth getting your shower and socks off and getting in for a paddle.
The beach is not actually home to corals but to sun-bleached, crushed skeletons of Red coralline seaweed. This can be seen in its red form as you walk around the coastline where it adorns many of the rocks at the water’s edge.
We only spent about 10 minutes here as we decided to leave before the next rain shower arrived. I’m glad we did as we just made it back to the car in time.
We then took the single track road back to Dunvegan to start heading southwest along the coastline. Just about a minute after being back on the coastal road you will pass some shops and this is where Jann’s Cakes sits. A small takeaway shop selling cakes, sandwiches and other hot and cold foods.
Now we didn’t find this place by accident, it is actually marked on the map as a must-visit place, so we did just that and paid a visit. We were lucky and didn’t have to wait long but they say that the queue for this place can sometimes be right down the street.
Carol got a sandwich and tea and well I got cake and coffee. I really fancied the goat curry but it was sold out so I chose cake. A slice of (or wedge I would say) of banoffee cake. Boy, it was a meal in itself anyway, I was stuffed afterwards. But oh was it worth it. Everything we got was absolutely delicious.
Like everyone this was the place I desperately wanted to visit. The internet seems to have been alive with pictures of these pools on social media.
The Fairy Pools are a great place for wild swimming or even for just dipping your toes in. The waters are crystal clear with tones of blue and green. There are many pools that have formed from waterfalls at the foot of the famous Cuillin Hills along the Glenbrittle river.
Again, the heavens opened and we decided today would probably not be the best day for visiting here. You can park at the car park in Glenbrittle (IV47 8TA) and then it is around a 20-minute walk to the first pool. This will be the first place I aim to visit when we return next year.
We continued to drive back towards Skye Bridge only stopping briefly to get a picture of the Old Sligachan Bridge pictured below. I could have sat here for ages, even in the bad weather as I just found this sight mesmerizing. The gloomy clouds creating such a dramatic atmosphere over the Cuillins. But, now, it was time to say goodbye on our brief visit to this wonderful place and make a promise to come back here sooner rather than later.
Did We Regret Cutting It Short?
No, not at all. It is a shame that we couldn’t see all that we wanted and explore Skye further. But, we already knew that we were going to come back for another, longer visit in the future.
When camping I feel it is always better to be safe than sorry. I think if we hadn’t packed up and just left to go exploring we would have deeply regretted it. Not only would the tent have probably ended up ruined but it would have been a long drive home with a car full of wet gear.
We didn’t want the biggest memory of our short stay here to be one of upset at ruined tents, wet gear and a during the night drive home. As most people are holidaying at home this year again, I knew that finding somewhere to stay for the night would be almost impossible.
We still got to see some marvellous places, and have listed many more for our next visit which we are going to start planning soon. I love the fact we stay in such a beautiful country and Skye is certainly one of its gems.