“Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul she sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye”
– The Skye Boat Song, theme to Outlander
Maybe you recognize it as a beautiful backdrop in Stardust, maybe you too watch Outlander and love the theme song (which set Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem to the music of the Highland tune about Bonnie Prince Charlie), either way, chances are if you’ve heard of beautiful places, you’ve heard of the Isle of Skye.
We’re here to say it: It surpasses the hype, and is definitely worth a visit, even if you only have a day.
My dear friend over at Becca in Transit first introduced me to the idea of visiting on our April Scotland trip with a firm “The Isle of Skye changed my life.” So when it came time to plan our trip with Colin’s wonderful aunt and uncle, it was the only thing I insisted we do. We were in Skye for two nights in April of 2016, and it was absolutely incredible. We will be back – there’s so much more to see and do, but we made the most of the time we had. We loved having more than one day to wander, but what if that’s not the case? What if you have just a day?
Well, here it is, our perfect one-day itinerary for enjoying the Isle of Skye.
(Note: This post assumes you spent the night in Skye. If not, make sure you get there bright and early! It’ll be a very full day!)
Itinerary at a glance: Exploring the northern Trotternish peninsula, taking one of the most picturesque hikes you’ll take, chasing sheep, and sipping whisky. In short, magic.
When to go: Scotland is rainy – everyone knows that. We caught remarkable weather in April, but we recommend going late in spring through early autumn for the best weather, green hills, and maybe blooming heather. Then again, we didn’t encounter any midges, so that was nice.
Getting there: You can either drive to Skye or take a car ferry from Mallaig. Either way, we recommend having a car to get around once you’re there.
Sleeping: Check out the tiny town of Portree. Lots of cute B&Bs and delicious restaurants, including ones right on the water. We stayed at the Pink Guest House.
What to bring: Good hiking boots, a rain coat, layers, a guide book for more background information, and definitely your camera, fully charged. Also, your sense of adventure (naturally).
Before you set out: Pack up a lunch for the day! We brought sandwiches, cookies, chips, apples, and lemonade. It’s worth it to eat with a view and to save time trying to find food on your busy day.
(Times are approximate, make sure you adjust if something looks really cool or if the weather is disagreeable)
8:00 – Eat a hearty breakfast, you’ll need it! Haggis isn’t all weird, but if you like something more conventional, go for the full Scottish Breakfast. Just don’t eat too much that you feel sick!
8:30 – Grab any necessities for your lunch or snacks. Portree has some cute grocery stores.
9:00 – Hit the road! Watch out for wandering sheep and one-lane roads (which are basically most of the way – be polite and cautious!). We suggest listening to the Brave soundtrack to make the journey more epic.
9:15 – Arrive at the Old Man of Storr, a remarkable rock formation. This hike can take around 1.5 hours, though the path is rough and occasionally steep. Even if you don’t hike (we didn’t – it was still raining), take a short walk up the trail for some better views of the formation.
10:00 – Arrive at Lealt Falls, a gorgeous set of waterfalls overlooking the sea. Another place where you can take a short and steep hike down to see the remains of a diatomite railway. We just admired the view from above. If you’re brave, and perhaps a little silly, like me, you might try to pet some sheep. It takes… doing. Turns out they don’t really want to be pet.
10:20 – Arrive at Kilt Rock. You can’t get very close, but enjoy the dramatic cliff sides and consider taking a few panoramas.
10:35 – If necessary, stop in Staffin to use the rest room.
10:45 – Arrive at the Quiraing, what is sure to be the highlight of your day. Take time to stretch and enjoy yourself as you look around, then start hiking, heading off towards the rock that’s jutting out. This path is a 6.8 km loop, and the guide books say it takes 2 hours without stopping. Ignore this and stop as much as you want! You won’t get any prettier or more dramatic views. We only walked maybe a quarter of the loop, but we chatted the whole way, gaped, and took pictures every third step or so. Be aware that you might not want to do this in bad weather – you will pass some streams and climb some steep hills. But it is gorgeous. Climb to your heart’s content, bleating along with the sheep. Be Bilbo on an adventure (you’ll certainly feel like you’re in the Lord of the Rings). When you’re at the end of the loop (or your stomach demands food, now), stop and take some final pictures. Drink it in.
1:00 – Go back to Staffin if necessary for a pit stop. Head to the top of the peninsula, passing through the town of Flodiggary, hometown of Jacobite Flora McDonald.
1:30 – Arrive at Duntulm Castle. Wander around the ruins of the castle and read its sad legend. Maybe try to pet more sheep. Maybe not. Once you’ve looked around, grab your lunch and settle on a bench with a gorgeous view of the ocean and chow down. You earned it.
2:15 – Arrive at the Skye Museum of Island Life and learn all about the life of crofters. It’s a small, cute museum, jam-packed with information. You could spend hours here, if you want, but today, you’re on a schedule. Marvel at the size of families they fit in these tiny rooms and listen to some Gaelic in the gift shop.
3:20 – Arrive at the Fairy Glen. This spot takes some finding – you’ll drive through what seem to be people’s farms. But when you reach it, you’ll know. The bizarre landscape is peppered with fairy circles and other testaments to the magic of the place. Run around. Play. Climb. Enjoy yourself and this incredible place.
4:50 – Arrive at Talisker Distillery (optional). This one is a bit of a drive from our last stop, so make sure you really want that whisky. If not, spend some more time at the Fairy Glen. If I were the only one planning our trip, I would have said “whisky be damned, I’m a fairy now,” but alas, I had other people to think of. That said, this distillery is good. Odds are, you missed the last tour, but you can still wander the informative exhibit sipping some of their free tastes. You might need it after dodging sheep, climbing, and driving one-track roads. Relax, you made it.
6-8 – Take your siesta! Colin and I love the siesta – a time to relax before dinner at our hotel. Drink some of that whisky you bought at Talisker and start looking over your pictures from the day.
8:00 – Gobble some amazing fresh sea food. We suggest Sea Breezes in Portree. A bit of a splurge for us, but worth it for a cool cider, tasty food, and lots of laughter with family while cracking open langostino and crab claws. If you’re lucky, you might even see a fisherman pull up to the dock and deliver the day’s catch.
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