Over the Sea to the Isle of Skye in Scotland for Castles and Fairies
By Rachel Glaves
Standing proud as the most northerly island of the Inner Hebrides is the Isle of Skye. It’s a blustery place with a dynamic landscape and a constant need for a good waterproof raincoat!
The Isle of Skye was my first Scottish island and a marvelous place to explore; from the hillocks of Fairly Glen to the coral beach with its sea fishing and whale watching opportunities.
This wonderful Island will always stay with me and made me want to keep exploring Scotland.
Of course, it isn’t without its complications, especially when it comes to animals. We had a very psychotic sheep, which we resorted to calling Silvia, who spent every night attempting to break into our cottage.
At the time it was actually quite terrifying, but looking back, it’s an amusing story!
Getting to Skye
The world was passing by outside my window. Behind us was the mainland and below us a vast stretch of water known as Loch Alsh. It was enchanting and exciting. This is my earliest memory of Scotland. We were traveling on the Skye Bridge which is the most convenient way to get to Skye by car and has been free to cross since 2004. The Skye Guide: Getting to Skye
I think traveling over the bridge is the best way to see the diverse landscape of the Hebrides.
If you would rather travel via public transport, there are bus routes that also cross the bridge from Fort William and Glasgow. There is even a train from Inverness to the Kyle of Lochalsh (although you’ll need to hop on a bus to cross to Skye!).
Perhaps feeling the sea breeze through your hair is your cup of tea. Caledonian MacBrayne is the most used ferry operator in the Hebrides, providing numerous routes and tickets to snake your way through the Islands.
Reservations for cars and groups of cyclists are required on all crossings. Foot passengers can reserve for some crossings and turn up on the day for others. For this it’s best to check the ‘CalMac’ website above. The ferry may be more expensive than the bridge, but it is an adventure!
The Hillocks of Fairy Glen
In amongst the craggy landscape of Skye are the hillocks of Fairy Glen. This mysterious place captured my imagination when I first saw it at seven years old.
It is my fondest memory of the Isle of Skye and will forever remain a magical place to me. It is a wonderful place for an adventure, with towering hillocks to climb and little nooks and crannies to discover.
Fairy Glen was formed through a landslide that created the round grassy hills and ponds we can see today. One of these hills stands out with its basalt top which has been dubbed ‘Castle Ewan’.
I remember clambering to the top of the castle on all fours and being dragged down by my parents claiming I was too young. I just wanted to explore and Castle Ewan’s peak with its stunning views of Skye is the pinnacle of exploration at Fairy Glen.
To add to the mysterious atmosphere tourists have created a stone spiral by removing stones from elsewhere in the site. This isn’t well-received by locals who attempt to retain Glen’s integrity by putting the stones back. Perhaps refrain from doing this on your excursion here!
This magical, curious landscape is located just outside of the town Uig. Parking is limited, but why not enjoy a half-hour walk through the Scottish countryside and park in Uig? Alternatively, you could join a bus tour or grab a shuttle from Portree with Go Skye (although only in the summer months).
Standing proud in the North-West of Skye, just over a mile away from the town of Dunvegan, is the ancestral home of the MacLeod clan chiefs. The castle was originally built in the 9th century and is the longest-occupied house in Scotland.
A visit to Dunvegan Castle makes the perfect day out as you can explore both the castle and its grounds.
Inside the castle is a fairy flag, which would be unfurled in battle, and objects which relate to Bonnie Prince Charlie – Scotland’s claimant for the English throne in the 18th century! There’s so much history to uncover at this castle.
Visit the Garden, Too
Fortunately for those not interested in history, the garden can be visited separately (although its only £2 more for both attractions). There is much to be seen in the gardens. Waterfalls to explore, streams to wander along, bridges to cross, and a walled garden to discover with a huge variety of plants.
All this can be discovered from the Victorian holiday cottages available to rent not too far from the castle. Dunvegan castle is such an ideal location to spark anyone’s imagination.
Walks on Skye
Skye is a walker’s paradise. One of the most popular walks is to the Old Man of Storr in the north of the island. The stones are a statement in the landscape and can be seen for miles around! Once at the top of the stones you can see out to Raasay and Rona, the Storr lochs, Portree and the Cuillin Hills.
In total, the walk is around 3.8km and takes approximately 1 hour 15 minutes. Getting to the Old Man of Storr couldn’t be easier as there is parking (albeit limited) around 6.8 miles from Portree.
As this is Scotland, rain should be expected – fortunately, this is a walk for all weather conditions!
Divided by Glen Sligachen are the Red and Black Cuillin mountain ranges. The Black Cuillin mountains have been dubbed the most challenging range of mountains in the UK, reaching 11 km long and over 3000 feet high (Sgurr Alasdair).
The Red Cuillin mountains are a much more popular range with hill walkers with its highest peak, Glamaig, reaching 2543 feet.
Before visiting the Cuillin mountains you ought to consider the weather which is usually windier, wetter and colder than the rest of Skye.
There are also areas of steep, rocky terrain in both ranges, so careful planning is a necessity. Use a reliable map, be aware of the sunset and research the best routes and equipment.
A Long Way from Anywhere
The Isle of Skye is a long way from anywhere, but it is definitely worth the visit. I would recommend spending more than just a week there. There’s too much to see and do! Besides, there are so many more islands in the Hebrides to explore via a Cal Mac ferry.
‘Next time we don’t go all that way for one week’ protested my dad.
Next time… next time we will definitely be there longer.
Read another couple’s guide to Skye