We had three full days in Skye. We came in with high expectations and left barely knowing what hit us.
We stayed in an Airbnb a few miles north of Struan. For £59/night this place was a steal. A welcoming bungalow all to ourselves, with a big living room, kitchen, and bedroom. It’s located on the west side of the island, but the “big city” of Portree (population 4,150) is only 25 minutes away, on a one-lane road packed with sheep from beginning to end – so leave some time for navigating these sheep-strewn roads.
We prepared for lots of rain, but Skye greeted us with unexpectedly great weather. We saw actual sun and just the occasional mostly-light rain, which made for stunning sunny views and almost daily rainbows! In our three days we managed to do five hikes in addition to sightseeing from the car: The Quiraing, Fairy Glen, Old Man of Storr, Fairy Pools, and Neist Point.
Views From the Road
We did the entire 4.5 mile route described on Walkhighlands plus a small detour. This 4 mile, 1,227 vertical foot hike was OUTSTANDING. One of my all-time favourites. The views are spectacular and the uphill climb is relatively easy. I know a lot of people just walk a little bit at the beginning, but I really recommend doing the whole thing for the complete experience. It’s an amazing feeling being almost alone up there in the mountains. Well, except for the sheep. They are apparently better hikers than humans and will stop at nothing to colonize the entire island.
Small complaint: the route on Walkhighlands is a loop. We did it counterclockwise. You walk up on a trail, then at the halfway point you cross a fence and start heading back. The second half starts with more uphill followed by downhill, but it’s all on path-less boggy grass. The views are no better (much worse, in my opinion) than the views on the way up. If I could do it again I would turn around at the halfway point and return the way we came.
Next stop was Fairy Glen, which we dragged ourselves to right after the Quiraing. Fortunately this is a really beautiful little area with a very easy and short ‘hike.’ And it really looks like fairies live in the hills, including some ruling fairy living in that peak which looks like a castle. It’s well worth the minimal effort and time to explore (an hour at most).
Old Man of Storr
The first half of this 3-mile, 945 vertical foot hike is a somewhat steep but easy path. Lots of people walking in jeans and insufficient clothing, but they would all be turning back early. The second half was crazy. It was extremely windy and it felt like we were on Everest. Fortunately, we were rewarded with incredible panoramic views – the best panoramic views I’ve ever seen. We walked counterclockwise around the Old Man of Storr (the “thumb”), through the rockslide area behind and onto some amazing little peaks to the left. Our thin gloves were insufficient for the wind, so we almost froze our fingers taking pictures. The views were well worth it (though at the time we regretted everything).
The Fairy Pools consists of a short, relatively flat walk of around a mile each way to some pools and waterfalls. A nice easy walk for our last day – or so we thought. The biggest difficulty is right at the beginning, where you have to cross one or two streams. When we were there the water level was pretty high. Some people had galoshes on which made it extremely easy as you could just walk through the water. We had to find one of the few spots with some rocks traversing the stream. It required a couple of tricky steps on rocks completely submerged in an inch of water. Fortunately we had waterproof shoes which made it easier than it looked. If the water is high like it was this day, waterproof shoes are an absolute must – most people turned back right at the beginning.
When we arrived at the parking lot we were greeted with the biggest and shiniest rainbow of my life. We spent five minutes just staring at the rainbow before we started our walk. The walk is about a mile each way, and it’s actually somewhat steep going down and back up again, but it’s all on a paved path with a handrail so it’s very easy. The trail takes you right to the lighthouse, but the highlight is looking at the ocean cliffs to your left, especially if there are rainbows. Try to time it so that you finish the walk a little before sunset. Thirty minutes before sunset, walk up the hill above the parking lot for some excellent sunset pictures featuring the lighthouse (wide angle lenses recommended!).