When Brittany’s sister and our good friend started to talk about visiting us in London, they knew from the start that they wanted to spend a weekend outside the city. It quickly became clear that Scotland—more specifically the Isle of Skye—would be the perfect destination. We had been to Edinburgh before, but we hadn’t yet had the chance to explore Scotland’s stunning countryside. We grabbed an early EasyJet flight from Luton to Inverness, picked up our car and set our sights on the picturesque seaside town (and Skye’s largest town) of Portree.
A few hours’ drive stood between us and Skye, so we stopped at Tesco to load up on snacks (and admittedly far too much candy) and aimed to break our drive up with a stop at a castle. We cruised along Loch Ness (no sightings…) on the A82 before splitting off on the A887 to get to the A87 which is the main (read: only) road to the island. The countryside along the way was absolutely beautiful as were the many animals that we encountered along the road. Eilean Donan Castle is a worthwhile stop fifteen minutes before Skye Bridge that was recommended to us by a friend and served as our location for lunch and a place a stretch our legs. It offered so much more though—the 13th century castle sits majestically on a piece of land jutting out into Loch Duich and was an absolute pleasure to visit. It was a great introduction to what was to come during our long weekend.
We based ourselves in Portree for two nights which is a small town with a pretty harbor and playfully-colored houses ideally located for trips to the island’s main sights. Throughout the weekend we made sure to spend time walking around and popping our heads into the many shops dotting the town. We gave Cafe Arriba quite a bit of business between breakfast (breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, waffles) and lunch (club sandwich, falafel, delicious homemade bread) but also tried The Granary for dinner one night which was excellent (Britt got the breaded chicken and potatoes while Rico got the burger and we both shared the lemon tart for dessert). We found quite a few souvenirs in some of the shops, including a print of one of the island’s distinctive rock formations, a ceramic house in the local style, a wooden row of houses in a similar style and a warm wool sweater.
Our first full day started with an easy 15-minute drive to the trailhead for the Old Man of Storr, one of Skye’s most recognizable attractions. The rocks of the formation seem to defy gravity, sticking high up in the sky at the top of a high hill, watching over the whole eastern side of the island. It took us about an hour-and-a-half to get to the top, stopping many times along the way to admire the view, and was a very rewarding hike. Once back at sea level, we hopped in the car and drove another 10 minutes to Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock. The waterfall can be viewed from a platform right by the car park, so it’s a no-brainer stop if you’re in the area. Further north lays the Quiraing, a curious land formation that looks not of this world. We walked along one of the paths for a half hour or so before looping back toward the car park. Skye offers a collection of long-distance walking paths for those that want to do longer-term trekking; while we didn’t do this, it was nice to be able to hop on and off these paths at our will so that we could get up close and personal with the countryside and get a taste for the island’s natural beauty.
After going back to Portree for lunch we set off in the car once again, this time westward to the other side of the island. We planned on visiting Dunvegan Castle, but it was closed, so we had to settle for a view of it from a distant stopping point on the road. We heard very mixed reviews about the castle, so we weren’t too disappointed—even from the little we saw of it, it was clear that Eilean Donan was much prettier and more interesting. North of Dunvegan Castle lies a sight you would not necessarily expect to see in Scotland: a stunning white sand beach! Coral Beach is an easy hike from the car park in Claigan and quite the sight. If it weren’t cloudy and chilly we may have thought we wandered down into the Mediterranean! We closed the day with a stunning sunset at Neist Point. After appreciating from afar the skinny peninsula upon which the lighthouse sits, we walked down (and then back up) to a rocky hill from which to watch the sunset. As if the travel gods were watching down on us, the clouds that had dominated most of the afternoon cleared and we enjoyed the serene, postcard-perfect scene until the sun finally dipped below the horizon at 9:30pm.
Our flight back to London on our last day wasn’t until late in the evening, so we had plenty of time to explore more of Skye. We had a boat tour to catch on the south of the island at noon, so we made our way in that direction with a stop at the Fairy Pools. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we didn’t make it to the end of the hike, but we were able to walk along the small pools earlier in the hike and appreciate the natural beauty that this relatively small island has so much to offer. Our boat tour, operated by Bella Jane Boat Trips, left from Elgol and we would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a different perspective from which to see Skye. We opted for the three-hour excursion which brought us into the otherwise difficult to access Loch Coruisk and left our free to wander the area for a couple of hours before pick-up back to Elgol. It was absolutely tranquil—all we could hear was the water of the loch lapping up on the shore and the sounds of our shoes crunching the rough terrain. To top it all off, we all got free hot chocolate on the boat ride back to warm up and fill our bellies.
The Isle of Skye was even more beautiful than we expected and we were so glad to have been able to experience it with family and friends. While it’s easy for us to set our sights on the continent for trips outside of London, our time on Skye reminded us yet again that there’s plenty of incredible things to see right in our own adopted country.