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Isle of Skye itinerary: The best of the island in 3 days

Isle of Skye itinerary

Planning a trip to Scotland’s Isle of Skye? Discover the best of the island with this three-day Isle of Skye itinerary for a road trip packed with stunning landscapes.

Lying off the west coast of Scotland, the Isle of Skye is one of the most popular places to visit in Scotland, known for its wild scenery (and often equally wild weather). Many people head to the island on a day trip, but it’s worth staying for a few nights to see more of what Skye has to offer – not least because Scotland’s second-largest island is bigger than it looks.

Read more: 13 things to do in Fort William and Glencoe

The Quiraing on the Isle of Skye
Views of the Quiraing

The perfect Isle of Skye itinerary for you will depend on your interests – whether you’re a keen hiker or less mobile, interested in history and culture or prefer to soak up the island’s beautiful views. But this three-day Isle of Skye itinerary takes in the island’s highlights along with a few lesser-known spots, featuring a bit of everything which makes this island so special – dramatic rock formations, waterfalls, walks, castles and cosy pubs.

A road trip is the ideal way to explore Skye, and this itinerary contains three day-long road trips visiting different areas of the island, marked on the map below (click on the map to open it in Google Maps for directions). The map shows each day as starting and finishing in Portree, but you can easily adapt the route if you’re staying elsewhere.

Although this Isle of Skye itinerary is designed for three days, you’re in a hurry you could condense it down to two, or if you have longer to spare, there are suggestions at the end of the post for how you could spend an extra day or two exploring Skye.

Three Isle of Skye day itineraries for road trips around the island
Three Isle of Skye day itineraries

Day 1: The Trotternish Loop

Start your Isle of Skye itinerary with a drive around the Trotternish Loop in the north-east of the island. This 50-mile circular road trip takes in some of Skye’s most iconic spots. The Loop takes around two hours of driving to complete, but you’ll want to make plenty of stops along the way so it can easily fill a day, especially if you plan to do some hiking.

Roads are fairly narrow so traffic can slow things down, especially in summer when there are lots of motorhomes on the road. There aren’t a lot of facilities along the Loop either so it’s a good idea to fill up with a big breakfast and pack snacks or picnic supplies – there’s a large Coop supermarket just outside Portree and a smaller one in town.

Driving the Trotternish Loop scenic road trip on the Isle of Skye
Driving the Trotternish Loop

The Old Man of Storr

Start by heading to the Old Man of Storr, six miles north of Portree along the A855. This huge rock pinnacle is part of the Trotternish Ridge and was created by an ancient landslide. It stands out for miles around, with great views of it as you follow the road from the south.

For a closer look there’s a walking path to the base of the Old Man – get there early if you can though as the car park gets busy. It’s around a 40-minute walk to a viewpoint and another 15 minutes to the Old Man, where you get fantastic views out to the mainland and the islands of Raasay and Rona. Then retrace your steps, taking 30–40 minutes.

The Old Man of Storr rock formation on the Isle of Skye
The Old Man of Storr

Lealt Falls

After another five miles, stop off at the viewpoint above Lealt Falls. The River Lealt crashes down 90 metres into the gorge on its way to the sea, and it’s particularly impressive after it’s rained (which let’s be honest is fairly often on the Isle of Skye).

There are a couple of different viewpoints – the first a short walk from the car park where you can look down at the falls. Then follow the path up onto the headland and you’ll see the lower falls and ruined buildings originally used to store peat before it was picked up by boat. You can walk right down to them if you have time; it takes around 30 minutes.

Looking down on the Lealt Falls waterfall
Lealt Falls

Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls

Three miles further along, make a quick stop at Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls. The viewpoint is just a few metres from the car park, and from the edge you can see Kilt Rock, a tall, steep cliff overlooking the sea. Over time the basalt rocks have been weathered into thin columns which look like the pleats in a kilt, and the colours of the rock look a bit like tartan too.

As well as looking out to Kilt Rock you can also see Mealt Falls down below you (and feel the spray on a windy day) – a 100-foot waterfall which crashes down into the sea. And you’ll also often hear a bagpiper playing at the viewpoint in the summer.

Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls

The Quiraing

Travel another five miles and you’ll start to climb up to the Quiraing. This mountain range dominates the north of the Trotternish Peninsula and its dramatic landscapes look like something from another world. It’s one of most beautiful spots on the Isle of Skye and has been used as a filming location for Macbeth, Stardust, The BFG and more.

There’s a 4.3-mile circular Quiraing Trail walk which takes around three hours, cutting across the hillside past rock formations. The path itself isn’t too difficult but does run along some steep slopes so watch out if you’re scared of heights. And if you don’t have time for the full walk it’s still worth walking partway to check out the views of the Torridon Hills.

Walking the Quiraing Trail on the Isle of Skye
The Quiraing Trail

Uig

Next you can travel on to Uig via the shorter road across the peninsula (9 miles) or follow the coast road all the way around (15 miles). If you take the coast road you can stop off at Duntulm Castle. This crumbling cliffside ruin was the home of Clan MacDonald and is said to be haunted by the ghost of Hugh MacDonald who starved to death in its dungeons.

The village of Uig is where ferries run to Uist and the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides. It’s also the base of the Isle of Skye Brewing Company and you can buy their beers from their shop near the harbour. And if you’ve got time to spare you can also make a stop off at the Rha Waterfall, just outside the village, or the 19th-century Uig Tower.

Boats in the harbour in Uig on the Isle of Skye
Uig harbour

The Fairy Glen

The day’s last stop is just over a mile inland from Uig. The Fairy Glen is a series of lush green rolling hills dotted with pools and clumps of wildflowers. Despite its magical appearance, the glen’s cone-shaped hills were formed naturally. And although there are no specific fairy legends, it looks like somewhere you could definitely imagine them living.

Gentile walking paths run through the glen, or you can climb up to the top of Castle Ewen, a rock outcrop that looks like the ruins of an ancient fortress where you can look out over the Fairy Glen from above. Then to finish off the Trotternish Loop, backtrack to Uig and drive south to Borve (12 miles) where you can pick up the road back to Portree.

The Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye
The Fairy Glen

Day 2: Central Skye

Day two of this Isle of Skye itinerary takes you to the heart of the island for whisky and waterfalls. This part of Skye has some of the most imposing mountain scenery, with a backdrop of the Cuillin mountain ridge. Today’s itinerary has a more relaxed pace, so you’ll have time to stop for lunch – try the Old Inn or Oyster Shed in Talisker.

Sligachan

Start with a quick stop at Sligachan (9.5 miles from Portree). This small settlement is where you’ll find one of Skye’s classic views. In the foreground is a picturesque stone bridge over the River Sligachan, and beyond are the peaks of the Red and Black Cuillin Mountains – often shrouded in mist or clouds – with Glen Sligachan lying between them.

There’s also a bronze statue to mountaineers Collie and Mackenzie, two friends who mapped the Black Cuillin Mountains 130 years ago. They tackled some of the most difficult climbing in Britain, including 11 Munros (mountains over 3000 feet). And all before modern climbing equipment, making their ascents in tweed clothes and hobnail boots.

Views of the Cuillin Mountains from Sligachan, Isle of Skye
Views from Sligachan

The Fairy Pools

Next travel 11 miles east to Glenbrittle and the Fairy Pools, one of Skye’s most most-visited scenic spots. This series of waterfalls tumbles down the hillside, carrying the crystal-clear waters of the River Brittle down from the Cuillin Mountains.

There’s a pay car park at the start of the walk to the Fairy Pools, and then it’s around 20 minutes along a gravel path surrounded by heather to reach the first waterfall. Keep following the path uphill as it passes a series of waterfalls and turquoise blue pools – where you can take a dip on a hot day (if you’re feeling brave, it never gets very warm!).

The Fairy Pools waterfalls in the Isle of Skye, Scotland
The Fairy Pools

Talisker Distillery

From the Fairy Pools, backtrack to the main road and turn left to reach Talisker Distillery (five miles). It’s the oldest working whisky distillery on the island and runs tours and tastings. Their introductory ‘Flavours of Talisker Experience’ takes 45 minutes with the chance to try three of their whiskies at the end (book in advance, especially in summer).

Seafood fans don’t miss a stop at The Oyster Shed next to the distillery, where you can try local oysters, lobster, mussels and scallops. And if you have time to spare you can also add on a visit to Talisker Bay Beach, on the west coast a five-mile drive away. This rugged sandy beach is known for its surfing, and is a 20-minute walk from the car park.

Glass of whisky on a barrel at a whisky tasting in Scotland
Whisky tasting

Portree

From Talisker, head back to Drynoch and then take the A863/B885 for a different route back to Portree (20 miles), following the edge of Loch Harport then cutting across the island. Finish off the day with a look around Portree. The Isle of Skye’s compact capital has plenty of small-town charm and is worth a stop-off even if you’re not staying there.

Check out the views of the colourful harbour from the hillside opposite and browse shops selling local crafts and produce – from the Skye Soap Co and Misty Isle gin to handmade pottery, batik fabrics and island-inspired art and photography.

Portree harbour on the Isle of Skye
Pastel coloured houses in Portree harbour

Day 3: The north-west

The last day of this Isle of Skye itinerary takes you a bit more off-the-beaten track up to the north and north-west of the island. This part of Skye has a mix of historic sites, viewpoints and a beach which could come straight out of the Caribbean. It also has some fantastic places to eat – see the section at the end of the post for our recommendations.

Trumpan Church

Start the day in the far north of the island at the Waternish Pensinsula and the ruins of Trumpan Church – if you’re coming from Portree it’s around 26 miles via Edinbane. In 1578 the church was the site of a famous massacre after the MacDonald clan from Uist set the church full of their rivals the MacLeod on fire as retribution for an earlier attack. The church was left an atmospheric ruin, with medieval gravestones looking out to sea.

On the way back south call in at Skyeskins four miles away, who make sheepskin rugs and clothing using Highland hand-combed fleece. Take a free tour of the downstairs workshop to see how they make their skins the traditional way, and there’s a shop upstairs where you can buy them (mine sits in front of the fire and is my cat’s favourite place)

Cross gravestone at Trumpan churchyard on the Isle of Skye
Gravestones in Trumpan churchyard

Dunvegan Castle

Then carry on eight miles south to Dunvegan Castle and Gardens. The castle sits on a rock overlooking Loch Dunvegan and has been the home of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod for over 800 years. The oldest part of the castle was built in the 13th century but its been added to and remodelled right up until the 19th century. Inside you can explore the public rooms with treasures including the historic Fairy Flag, flown in battle by the MacLeods.

You can also take a walk around the castle’s 18th-century formal gardens or take a 25-minute boat trip to a nearby seal colony. Then if you’re feeling hungry, Jann’s Cakes in Dunvegan is a great place to stop off before driving the three miles north to your next stop. They serve homemade organic cakes, desserts and takeaway lunches.

Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye, Scotland
Dunvegan Castle

Claigan Coral Beach

If the sun is shining, don’t miss Claigan Coral Beach, recently featured in the Netflix series Outlaw King about Robert the Bruce. With its white sand and clear turquoise waters this beach looks positively tropical – even if the water temperatures are decidedly more Scottish.

Despite the name, the ‘sand’ is actually made up of flakes of a fossilised seaweed called maerl. When it’s alive it’s a purpley pink colour but it gets bleached white as the sun dries it out. To reach the beach, just follow the path from the car park for around a mile.

The white sands of Claigan Coral Beach in the north of the Isle of Skye
Claigan Coral Beach

Neist Point

Finally end the day at Neist Point, a 15-mile drive to the edge of the island at the most westerly point of Skye. It’s a bit of a diversion but it is one of the best spots in Skye to watch the sun set. At the end of the point is a lighthouse, which was built in 1900.

The walk along the trail to the lighthouse takes around 45 minutes, with some steep sections along the way. There are panoramic views out to sea, where you might spot whales or dolphins if you’re lucky. Then if you’re returning to Portree, it’s around 30 miles or an hour’s drive back either via the A863/B885 or retracing your steps via Dunvegan and Edinbane.

Neist Point at sunset

More time?

If you have more time on the island, you can stretch the three-day Isle of Skye itinerary over a few more days. This gives you more time to do the hikes around the island – or hide out from any rain showers in a cosy pub. Or you can learn more about the island at the Skye Museum of Island Life, Colbost Croft Museum or Armadale Castle, Gardens and Museum.

You can also take a boat trip from Elgol to Loch Coruisk, a freshwater loch surrounded by the Cuillin Mountains. There are whale- and dolphin-watching tours off the island, or you can catch the ferry to the neighbouring island of Raasay for a day trip.

Castle ruins on the Isle of Raasay

The details

How to get to the Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye is located on Scotland’s west coast. It’s connected to the mainland via the Skye Bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh or the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Mallaig to Armadale, which normally runs several times a day, takes around 30 minutes and carries cars/ motorhomes (it’s a good idea to book in advance, especially during peak season).

If you’re flying to Scotland, the nearest airport to the Isle of Skye is in Inverness (120 miles), then there’s a choice of routes. The southern route via Drumnadrochit follows the banks of Loch Ness and you can stop off at Urquhart Castle along the way. Or the northern route via Achnasheen is wilder and more remote and passes Loch Luichart and the pretty village of Plockton. Eilean Donan Castle also makes an easy stop off for either route.

Eilean Donan Castle under grey stormy skies
Eilean Donan Castle

If you’re travelling from Fort William you can head west past the Glenfinnan Viaduct – as featured in the Harry Potter films – to catch the ferry from Mallaig (90 miles) or travel north via Invergarry and the Skye Bridge (108 miles). Or if you’re coming from Glasgow or Edinburgh it takes around five hours to drive to the Isle of Skye.

Travelling via public transport, there are a couple of scenic train rides to choose from – the West Highland Line from Fort William to Mallaig (1.5 hours) or the Kyle Line from Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness (2.5 hours). There are also Citylink buses to Portree from Glasgow, Fort William and Inverness. Local buses connect the main sites on Skye but are fairly infrequent so it’s easier to hire a car or take a tour if you want to see a lot in a short time.

The Jacobite steam train crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct
The Glenfinnan Viaduct

Where to stay on the Isle of Skye

Many visitors on short trips to Skye base themselves in or around Portree as it’s the most central point. But if you have a car then there are plenty of more scenic spots to stay in where you’re surrounded by Skye’s wild and wonderful landscapes. We stayed at the gorgeous Near Byre, a short walk to the sea close to Stein in the north of the island.

This stylishly converted 18th-century cow byre sleeps two and is perfect to cosy up under a sheepskin rug by the wood-burner while you watch the sun set from its floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s beautifully designed with a kitchen area and luxurious bathroom.

Owners John and Vicki are welcoming and full of info about Skye (as well as making fantastic homemade cakes), and you can help out feeding the sheep or the very friendly pigs.

Near Byre self-catering accommodation on the Isle of Skye
Near Byre

Where to eat on the Isle of Skye

Staying in the north of the island also has the advantage of having some of Skye’s best restaurants in easy reach – a couple of which are within walking distance of Near Byre. The Michelin-starred Lochbay Restaurant is run by chef Michael Smith and serves local produce with a French twist, including an amazing seafood tasting menu.

Also nearby are the Old School Restaurant in Dunvegan in a converted schoolhouse and the Dunvegan deli-café and restaurant. The Edinbane Inn is a cosy bar and bistro on the road to Portree which often has live music, and the waterfront Stein Inn is the oldest inn on Skye, the ideal spot to warm up with a whisky by the fire on a cold day.

There are also some good places to eat in Portree, including the elegant French-inspired Scorrybreac above the harbour and the waterside Sea Breezes seafood restaurant.

Seafood chowder at the Michelin-starred Lochbay Restaurant in Stein on the Isle of Skye
Dinner at the Lochbay Restaurant

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Planning a trip to Scotland's Isle of Skye? Discover the best of the island with this three-day Isle of Skye itinerary for a road trip packed with stunning landscapes and fascinating culture and history | Isle of Skye itinerary | Things to do on the Isle of Skye | Isle of Skye travel guide | Isle of Skye Scotland | Places to visit in ScotlandA three-day Isle of Skye itinerary taking in the island’s highlights along with a few lesser-known spots, featuring a bit of everything which makes this island so special – dramatic rock formations, waterfalls, walks, castles and cosy pubs | Isle of Skye itinerary | Things to do on the Isle of Skye | Isle of Skye travel guide | Isle of Skye Scotland | Places to visit in Scotland

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Bama
    May 11, 2021 at 11:43 am

    There’s something beautiful about the Isle of Skye’s natural color tone: a combination of light grey clouds, dark grey boulders, white water, and rust-colored grass. I’ve only vaguely heard about this part of Scotland before, but to learn that it has not only majestic landscape, but also old castles, gravestones, and pretty houses makes me think when, or if, I can see this place for myself. Thank you for introducing this island to this reader of yours living halfway across the globe.

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