Over time, Skye has had different historic influences. It was first occupied by Gaelic speakers from Ireland during the prehistoric era. Then it was ruled by Norsemen from 9-12th centuries. Once it was controlled by Scotland, the MacLeod clan occupied Dunvegan Castle as their primary seat on Skye.
Culture on Skye primarily comes from fishing and crofting communities who suffered during the infamous Scottish Highland clearances. More recently, Skye has had a vibrant tourism industry, as people flock to the island to see its wonderful scenery over the summer months.
It’s got a population now of around 10,000 people and stretches up to 50 miles. Coastal influences affect every part of your life on Skye, as you are never over 5 miles from the sea.
A former seat of the MacDonald clan, this ruined castle sits at the southern point of Skye, near to the ferry to Mallaig. It’s been abandoned since 1925, and has fallen into a ruinous state, but it’s still worth a visit.
Originally built in 1815 on the site of a former mansion house, they primarily constructed the castle for show rather than a defensive base.
There are lush, green gardens overlooking the sound between mainland Scotland and Skye, and a museum onsite that is deemed the Museum of the Isles. The gardens are maintained and offer tourists some beautiful walks. It’s an excellent historic attraction to visit.
Talisker Distillery sits right on the shores of Loch Harport, overlooking the water and offering incredible views of the Cuillin mountains. The whisky distillery creates a full-bodied single malt whisky that is best enjoyed on the island. Prior to covid, they did tours of the distillery but people can still stop by and visit the distillery and taste some of their whisky.
It’s right by a beautiful coastal town on the west coast of Skye, and definitely a place to stop on your tour of the island.
Ancient Rock Formations
No article about Skye would be complete without mentioning some of the dramatic landscape you can see on these islands.
The Old Man of Storr is an iconic vertical rock formation at the centre of Scottish folklore in the northeastern part of Skye. It’s a 160-foot tall pinnacle rock, named because it looks like an old man. Legend tells tales of this being an ancient giant grave site, the old man being the remains of his thumb jutting out of the land. Hiking up offers views over the coastline at the Sound of Raasey and it’s been featured in plenty of movies.
Source: Youtube “Experience Skye”
Skye’s Fairy Glen is an undulating grassland that is positively entrancing. There are waterfalls, ponds, dramatic landscape all in such a short distance you’ll feel you’ve left reality and escaped to a magical realm. It’s breath-taking, and an absolute must if you’re visiting the island.
Another spot full of Celtic myths is the fairy pools, a series of waterfalls and pools that are a popular choice for swimming with tourists. The water is so fresh you can drink it (I know, I’ve done it!) and it’s clear enough to see the moss-covered stones at the bottom. Panoramic views are offered to the Cuillin mountains, and after a storm it’s wonderful to see the thundering cascade of waterfalls.
Finally, at the Trotternish Peninsula, you can spot two trademark Skye views. Kilt Rock is a 90 metre rock bears similarity to a pleated kilt thanks to its geology. It’s formed a sandstone base and basalt columns jutting up into the sky.
Nearby, Mealt waterfall falls from the top of the cliffs and onto the rocky coastline below, giving a hauntingly beautiful sight of the waterfall spilling over the rocks. On a windy day, it carries, giving an epic aural spectral view.
Nature and Wildlife
Like other Scottish islands, Skye offers some unique wildlife and flora for tourists to enjoy. There are white-tailed eagles, the largest bird of prey in Britain, which make their home here. Skye is the best place to see these birds in Scotland.
People can also see red deer, otters, dolphins, whales, seals, gannets, golden eagles, and puffins as they tour around Skye. You’re best to take a pair of binoculars and keep a keen eye in the sky, or in the water, or woodland, to tick everything off on the list.
How To Get There
Even though Skye is an island, it’s helpfully connected to the Scottish mainland via a bridge, making it easy to access if you have a car.
The nearest airport is Glasgow International Airport, if you’re coming to Scotland by air. From there, it’s a 216 mile drive from Glasgow to Portree on Skye, but you can stop off in Fort William overnight to break up the journey, or just for a couple of hours. The average car journey should take around 5-6 hours from Glasgow.
If you’re using public transport, you can get the train from Glasgow to Mallaig and then get the ferry to Skye. There are also buses that go from Glasgow, directly to Skye.
The ferry goes from Mallaig to Armadale on Skye, but you’ll need to arrange public transport from there, or get a private taxi service to get to the rest of the island.
The scenery of Skye will leave you speechless. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, and an absolute must on any trip to Scotland. If you want to experience Scottish wildlife and scenery, while dipping yourself into the rich cultural history, then Skye is your best bet.
Thanks to its land bridge, it’s one of the easiest places to access. It’s also an excellent point for heading out to the Hebrides that are further west.
However, it’s worth mentioned that Skye has strong religious influences. So it’s harder to do things on a Sunday, and worth researching before you go so you don’t accidentally offend the locals. Or arrive at the wrong time and everything’s shut! Always plan your trip in advance.
If you’ve seen any show or film about Scotland, then you’ve already seen the epic scenery Skye offers. It’s regularly featured in blockbusters like Outlander. Skye will not disappoint.