How to get from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye
I’ve always wanted to go to the Isle of Skye and when my partner (who lives in Edinburgh) suggested it I jumped at the chance. Driving to the Isle of Skye is normally your best option. (But there is also the option to get a ferry from Mallaig.) I flew up to Edinburgh airport, from Bristol and we drove from there. The journey should take around five and a half hours with no stops. However, this normally mounts up to between six and seven hours when you factor in toilet breaks and stops to admire the view.
I’ve mapped out the best driving route on the map below. It passes through the incredible Cairngorms National Park, where you may be lucky to see a golden eagle, along the shores of Loch Lochy (famous for the folklore legend of ‘a supernatural being’ called the River Horse) and passed the most beautiful castle in Scotland—Eilean Donan. This 13th Century castle became a stronghold during the Jacobite rebellions and also provided the setting for the 1986 Highlander movie.
Isle of Skye Map of Attractions
Isle of Skye Itinerary
Set off from Edinburgh at about 9 am. This will leave you plenty of time to get to the Isle of Skye (six to seven-hour drive with stop offs.) During the journey, we diverted to Fort William to top up on petrol and get some food for the week from Morrisons. There aren’t many petrol stops along the way, so plan wisely. In the Isle of Skye there is a medium sized Coop in Portree, however, there was more choice at Morrisons and it meant we could drive straight to our accommodation once on the island.
We booked accommodation at Edinbane, a remote settlement not far from Portree and near the major attractions in the north of the island. If you’re in time, head to one of the traditional music sessions at the local Edinbane pub. (Tuesday and Friday at 9 pm or Sunday at 3 pm.)
On day two, we headed into Portree and went on the Stardust sea eagle boat tour. These run four times daily and take you around Loch Portree. There’s a resident pair of sea eagles that were nesting along the cliffs when we went in early July. Luckily we were able to see them, which was incredible! The captain of the boat also gave us some binoculars which came in handy. On the trip, we also saw some seals, lots of seabirds and a quick glimpse of a harbour porpoise.
After a bite to eat at Cafe Arriba, which caters for vegans, we headed off to Quiraing. We decided to skip the Man of Storr because of the huge tourist queues. If you would like to go here, I’d recommend going before 9 am or after 7 pm. But personally, I think the views at Quiraing are just as good as the Man of Storr. I’ve mapped the route to Quiraing on the map above and we parked our car in the small car park and walked along the designated path. The path leads to two peaks laden with scree. You can choose to climb the scree or go around the peaks to find a stile on the other side. This leads to a path at the back of the peaks. You then ascend the ridge from behind. It’s a circular walk which takes around two and a half hours. The views are well worth it.
If you have time, I’d recommend stopping off at Staffin on the way home. You can see some remarkable dinosaur footprints on the An Corran beach. They were left by a family of dinosaurs that walked across the sand here some 165 million years ago!
On day three we got up early and headed straight to the Fairy Glen. Arrive here around 9 am if you want to beat the crowds. It’s a truly remarkable landscape. Although the rock circle does appear magical, don’t be tempted to contribute to it. Tour guides encourage people to place rocks down, but the locals are actually trying to remove them and return the glen to its natural state. So just admire the beauty of the area. To get to the Glen you can walk from the neighbouring town of Uig. This takes around 30 minutes. As we arrived early we were able to park at the side of the single track road next to the Glen. There are only about four spaces available. During the summer months, the local bus company Go Skye also provide a shuttle bus service from Portree to the Glen.
After about 45 minutes, we got back in our car and headed to Rubha Hunish—the northernmost point of the island. There is a small car park along the A855 near Kilmaluag, which marks the starting point for the walk. (I’ve marked it on the map.) The walk takes you along the coast, where you’ll see the ruins of the abandoned village of Erisco and the ruins of Duntulm castle prominently placed on its crag by the sea.
After about 45 minutes you’ll come to a bothie located above the rocky outcrop below. This bothie was built by the local people and there’s a place to sleep and prepare food inside. It makes a great lookout point for whales and dolphins which are regularly seen in the area. After getting to the bothie we had lunch on a nearby bench and then headed back the way we came to the car park. The walk in total took around two hours.
After getting back to our car we headed on to Kilt Rock and then Brother’s Point. This place is usually not marked on the tourist trail so it was nice to find somewhere more remote. You can park in a small layby near the start of the walk. The layby is located just before the sign for the Skye Pie Cafe in Culnacnoc. The walk starts on the opposite sign of the road almost directly opposite the sign. (I’ve marked it on the map.)
The short 20-minute walk leads you down to the coast and it’s a really tranquil place to relax and explore the rocky shore.
On day four we headed towards Dunvegan Castle. It was a bit of a murky day so we couldn’t see the castle in its full glory, but it was still pretty impressive. You can go into the grounds and castle for a fee.
Afterwards, we headed towards Coral Beach. On a sunny day, this beach looks practically tropical with its greeny blue waters and bright bay made of white coral. The short walk from the car park takes about 20 minutes.
The final leg of the day’s excursions led us to the regularly photographed Neist Point Lighthouse—located on the most westerly headland on Skye. The lighthouse was first lit on 1 November 1909, and you can still see the old aerial cableway which used to take supplies to the lighthouse and surrounding cottages. It’s now operated remotely from the Northern Lighthouse Board headquarters in Edinburgh, and the light from the tower can be seen from up to 24 miles away. We parked along the road at the top of the path. The walk down is quite steep and there and back takes around one to one and a half hours, but it’s well worth it.
If you have time, and the skies are in your favour I’d highly recommend going to one of the Dark Sky Reserves on the island. (I’ve pinpointed them on the map.) Skye is well known for its stargazing because of the lack of light pollution. Dependant on the time of year, you may also glimpse the Northern Lights.
For our final full day on the island, we headed down to the remote village of Elgol. We’d booked a four-hour rib boat tour which was absolutely incredible. We headed out towards the island of Canna and saw thousands of seabirds flying from the cliffs overhead including puffins, gannets, guillemots and razorbills. We then stopped off to explore the island for an hour and then got back on and headed towards the island of Rum where we saw a sea eagle, red deer and also the descendants of the Spanish goats that were stranded here when a boat crashed during the Spanish Armada.
After an amazing boat tour, we spent the evening at the Fairy Pools. We arrived after 7 pm when most people were leaving which was perfect. We didn’t have a problem with midges at all during the trip, apart from here. But after applying some midge repellent it was fine. (Incognito midge repellent is really good!)
We even got in for an evening swim! It was really cold, but I’m mean when else will you get the chance to swim in one of the most magical, wild places in the world?
After an awesome couple of days on the Isle of Skye, we made our way back to Edinburgh. While there will always be more to see and do on the island, I was really pleased that we got to see most of the main highlights and some of the hidden gems as well. If I had extra time I would have tried to fit in an early morning walk to the Man of Storr, climbed the highest peak Sgùrr Alasdair and also spent a lot more time exploring the Cullin range.
If you’ve got any other suggestions, let me know in the comments below.
Where to eat vegan on the Isle of Skye
I’ve also written a vegan food guide, exploring the best places to eat on the Isle of Skye. Take a look.