You are currently viewing The Perfect 2-Day Isle of Skye Itinerary in Scotland

The Perfect 2-Day Isle of Skye Itinerary in Scotland

  • Post author:
  • Post category:Travel News

Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission. Read the full disclosure policy here.

The Isle of Skye has become a must-visit spot in Scotland for most travelers; it’s right up there these days with the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and Loch Ness in the Highlands in terms of places people want to see.

And I totally understand this! The Isle of Skye is absolutely stunning, with its dramatic hills and cliffs, cascading waterfalls, quaint villages, and rugged natural beauty that will have you believing that maybe things like fairies do exist.

I’ve visited the Isle of Skye four separate times in the last decade (what can I say? it’s one of my favorite parts of Scotland!), and can assure you that it’s very much worth adding to any Scotland itinerary.

BUT, with how popular Skye has become in recent years, it’s important to plan ahead for any visit so you’re not disappointed. That’s where this Isle of Skye itinerary will come in handy!

Magical Skye scenery
Amanda at a waterfall at the Fairy Pools
Me at the Fairy Pools (lots of fairies here…)

What and where is the Isle of Skye?

In case you’re not familiar with Skye, let me give you a brief introduction first.

As its name suggests, the Isle of Skye is one of the Scottish isles (islands). It’s part of the Inner Hebrides archipelago, and is located off the northwest coast of Scotland.

The contemporary name of “Skye” comes from the old Norse for “cloud island” or “misty isle,” reflecting Scotland’s Viking past (and Skye’s always-changeable weather), while its name in Scottish Gaelic is An t-Eilean Sgitheanach, or “the winged island” due to its wing shape.

Skye has (in my opinion) some of the best scenery in all of Scotland – and I’ve seen a lot of it. The Cuillin Hills rise up in the middle of the island, surrounded by heather-covered moors that lead down to sea cliffs and rocky beaches. 

Scenery on the Isle of Skye
The scenery really is stunning.

How to get to the Isle of Skye

Unlike some of the other famous Scottish isles that require a ferry ride to reach, you can actually drive to the Isle of Skye! The island is attached to mainland Scotland by the Skye Bridge, which carries the A87 over the sea to the village of Kyleakin on Skye.

(You can also take a ferry to Skye from Mallaig to Armadale, which is a lovely crossing that can accommodate cars. But you don’t HAVE to.)

To reach Skye by car, it takes roughly 2 hours from Inverness, 3 hours from Oban, 4 hours from Glasgow, and 4.5-5 hours from Edinburgh. You can also travel around Scotland by train and bus, however there are no train connections to Skye. If you want to go by bus, Citylink is a good option for getting TO Skye, and Stagecoach is the main bus company ON Skye.

(But having your own car is definitely the way to go on the Isle of Skye, as it means you can get everywhere you want to go, and change your plans on the fly due to weather if you need to.)

Old Man of Storr reflected in Loch Fada
With a rental car, you can stop for scenes like this!

PRO TIP: Need to find a rental car in Scotland? I use Auto Europe to compare prices and book rental cars in the UK and Europe.

How long do you need on the Isle of Skye?

Skye, being one of the bigger islands in Scotland, is not a destination I recommend trying to cram into just one day. You CAN see some of the highlights in just one day if that’s all you have (and there are even some day trips to help you do it), but I wouldn’t recommend it.

If you’re going to drive all the way there, I really think you need at least 3 nights and 2 full days to fully appreciate everything the Isle of Skye has to offer.

Hence why this is going to be a 2-day Isle of Skye itinerary!

2 days on Isle of Skye itinerary

Note: I’m planning this itinerary assuming you’ll be spending 3 nights on the Isle of Skye, giving you 2 full days to explore the island. That means you’ll need to arrive the evening before this itinerary starts.

If you are heading to Skye earlier in the day, I recommend a stp at Eilean Donan Castle on the mainland before crossing the Skye Bridge, and then stopping to see the Eas a’ Bhradain waterfall on your way to Portree.

Eas a' Bhradain waterfall on the Isle of Skye
Eas a’ Bhradain waterfall

In Portree this evening, take some time to explore. If the weather is nice, take a short walk up to The Lump for some excellent Portree views.

Now, onto the full Skye itinerary!

Day 1: Eastern Skye

Today you’re going to focus on the eastern side of the island. Highlights will include the Fairy Pools, Talisker Distillery, Dunvegan Castle, and Neist Point Lighthouse.

After grabbing breakfast at your hotel or in Portree (the Birch Cafe and Cafe Arriba are both good breakfast options), it’s time to hit the road for your first day of adventure! The earlier you can get started today, the better.

1. Sligachan Old Bridge

Drive time from Portree: 15 minutes

Sligachan Old Bridge
Sligachan Old Bridge

Make your first stop at the Sligachan Old Bridge, just off the A87. This bridge used to be the main way to cross the River Sligachan, and makes for a great photo stop with the Black Cuillin Mountains in the background.

This bridge is part of a local legend that says the mountain-fed waters that run beneath it are enchanted by fairies (this will become a trend you’ll notice as you travel around Skye!). According to the legend, if you hold your face in the water for a full seven seconds, you’ll be granted eternal beauty.

You can also see the Collie and MacKenzie Statue nearby, and find a hiking trail that heads toward the mountains – though your next stop will include a hike, so I recommend just stopping here for photos.

2. Fairy Pools hike

Drive time from Sligachan Bridge: 25 minutes

Fairy Pools hike
Fairy Pools hike

The reason I suggest getting an early start and just making a quick photo stop at the Sligachan Bridge is so you can get to the Fairy Pools early enough in the morning to beat the crowds. The Fairy Pools are a series of small waterfalls and shallow pools formed as the River Brittle flows down from the Black Cuillin mountains, and hiking to them is one of the most popular things to do on the Isle of Skye.

There’s a dedicated parking area at the Fairy Pools that does cost £6 to park at (be prepared for this all over Skye!), and then it’s roughly a 1 mile walk from the parking area to the “best” sections of waterfalls. You can walk up the river as far as you want, but most people will hike about 2.5 miles round-trip.

The walk out to the Fairy Pools is very slightly uphill on a gravel trail along the River Brittle, and then it’s downhill on the way back – except the very last portion of the trail back to the parking lot, which is very steeply uphill.

You’ve perhaps seen photos of people swimming in shallow turquoise pools here, but I’d tell you to temper your expectations a bit; the pools are only turquoise-looking on the sunniest, blue-sky days. BUT, the site is still incredibly beautiful and certainly magical feeling, regardless of the weather.

Blue pool at Fairy Pools on a sunny day
Yes, the water can look very blue on sunny days…
Waterfall at the Fairy Pools
But it won’t on cloudy days! (Still gorgeous, though.)

(Speaking of the weather, on Skye it can change very abruptly. So even if it’s sunny when you start this hike, I would recommend still packing a raincoat, just in case. Similarly, even if it’s raining when you start the hike, there’s a chance the weather will change.)

3. Talisker Distillery tour

Drive time from the Fairy Pools: 15 minutes

After your visit to the Fairy Pools, take a break from the outdoors at the oldest whisky distillery on the Isle of Skye. Talisker Distillery dates back to 1830, when it was started by Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill on the shore of Loch Harport.

If you haven’t visited a Scottish distillery before, then taking a tour at Talisker to learn about the whisky-making process is worth doing. The 1-hour distillery tour here includes 3 dram tastings of Talisker single malts.

Or, if you’re already a whisky connoisseur (maybe you’ve already visited Islay or traveled the Malt Whisky Trail), Talisker also offers two different guided tasting experiences, including one where you draw whisky straight from aging casks.

Whichever tour you’re interested in, booking ahead is advised.

PRO TIP: Scotland has really strict drink driving laws; basically one dram of whisky is too much. If you’re driving, let them know before your distillery tour, and chances are they’ll be able to give you your tastings in take-away “driver’s drams” you can take with you to enjoy later.

4. Lunch

It’s lunchtime next, and I recommend heading north on the A863 and eating somewhere near Dunvegan. Good options open for lunch are at The Misty, Waterside Cafe & Bistro, or MacLeod Tables Cafe (at Dunvegan Castle).

5. Dunvegan Castle & Gardens

Drive time from Talisker: 35 minutes

Study inside Dunvegan Castle
Inside Dunvegan Castle

Located on the northwestern side of Skye, Dunvegan Castle is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland. It was the seat of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod for more than 800 years, and today is open to visitors.

You can explore the inside of the castle on a self-guided tour, which includes the chance to see beautifully furnished rooms, artwork, and clan treasures. One of these treasures is the Fairy Flag – a tattered banner that is said to have been given to the MacLeods by the fairies and that, when raised in battle, would always ensure the clan’s victory. You’ll also find clothing items worn by Flora MacDonald, and a lock of hair said to have belonged to Bonnie Prince Charlie.

A ticket for Dunvegan Castle also gets you access to the acres of formal castle gardens, which are also incredibly beautiful. The Walled Garden is my personal favorite, but they’re all lovely!

Walled Garden at Dunvegan Castle
Walled Garden at Dunvegan Castle

NOTE: Dunvegan Castle and Gardens are only open from Easter through mid-October each year.

Bonus: Take a seal tour

If you have some extra time after your tour of Dunvegan Castle, the castle also offers boat tours out onto Loch Dunvegan to visit a local seal colony. These seal boat trips are short (only 25 minutes long), but are a great way to see some unique wildlife.

These tours run April 1-September 30, and are operated on a first come, first served basis, so you can see how you’re doing on time before committing to going on one.

6. Neist Point

Drive time from Dunvegan Castle: 35 minutes

Neist Point and lighthouse on the Isle of Skye
Neist Point

The last stop I recommend for today is at Neist Point. All the way at the far western tip of the Isle of Skye, Neist Point is one of the most dramatic locations you can visit on the island.

To get the iconic photos of the Neist Point Lighthouse on the peninsula, park your car and then walk along the cliffs to the right of the peninsula (at the beginning of the trail, turn right *before* the steps that go down towards the lighthouse).

You can also walk all the way out to the lighthouse, but keep in mind that there are a bunch of steps to walk down (and of course back up!) in order to do it. If you have time, though, it’s a nice walk.

NOTE: I won’t lie: the roads you have to drive to get out to Neist Point (the B884, and then two un-numbered roads) can be nerve-wracking to drive. They are paved, but they’re only wide enough for 1 car in most parts, and are filled with blind hills and curves. Take your time, take note of lay-bys where you can let other cars pass, and don’t be afraid of tooting your horn at hills and curves.

7. Evening in Portree

Drive time from Neist Point: 1 hour

View of Portree from The Lump
View of Portree from The Lump

Head back to Portree for the evening. Depending on how much time you spent at all the stops today, you may either be getting back fairly late, or you may have some time to explore. If you have time, go for a walk around Portree before dinner.

For dinner, you could either grab take-away at a spot like The Chippy or Pizzaway, or make a reservation in advance at a spot like Cuchullin, Dulse and Brose, or Scorrybreac.

Day 2: Trotternish Peninsula

Today is going to focus mostly on the Trotternish Peninsula and all the things to see/do as you drive around it, including the Old Man of Storr, Quiraing, Fairy Glen, and more. There’s less driving today!

Grab breakfast this morning either at your hotel, or at a cafe or bakery in Portree.

MacKenzie's Bakery in Portree
MacKenzie’s Bakery (yes, there is sometimes a line!)

It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to pick up a picnic lunch for yourself today, as there aren’t many restaurant options on the peninsula. Both MacKenzie’s Bakery and Relish Portree are good spots to grab things to go (and MacKenzie’s makes some of the best shortbread in Scotland!).

1. Old Man of Storr

Drive time from Portree: 15 minutes

Driving counter-clockwise around the Trotternish Peninsula, the first stop I recommend making is at the Old Man of Storr. The Storr is a big slab of rock with a lone, tall pillar of stone at one end. This pillar is the “Old Man.”

Old Man of Storr
Old Man of Storr

There are a bunch of different legends about “The Old Man of Storr.” One suggests it’s the thumb of a giant buried beneath the cliff. Another says it’s actually an old man whose “wish” to stay on the hill overlooking the ocean to remember his wife was granted by a mischievous fairy king. Whatever you believe, it’s a very iconic spot on Skye.

IF you get lucky enough to even see the Old Man (he can often be shrouded in clouds/fog), there are several places to park along the road in order to get a good view.

There’s also a hike here that will take you all the way up to the rock formation. This hike starts at a parking area just off the A855 and is a little over 3 miles round trip. Just keep in mind that the hike does have some steep uphill portions, and can get muddy at the top. (You can also hike just part of the way and still get some cool views, though.)

GOOD TO KNOW: Nearly every major site on the Isle of Skye charges for parking in its own parking lot these days, usually £3-£6 per site (payable by card!). And no, paying for parking at one site doesn’t carry over to another, even if you don’t use all the time you paid for. (How do I know? Some friends and I learned this lesson the hard way, and had a parking ticket to show for it. Oops!)

2. Lealt Falls

Drive time from Storr: 10 minutes

Lealt Falls from the viewing platform
Lealt Falls from the viewing platform

Continuing on around the Trotternish Peninsula, the next stop I’d make is at Lealt Falls. There’s a dedicated parking area here and a new-ish viewing platform that offers up glimpses of the upper and lower sections of a waterfall called Lealt Falls.

If you’re feeling up to it, you can also hike down to the lower section of the waterfall. The hike (which is about .7 miles roundtrip) will take you on a gravel path down the side of a grassy cliff with stunning coastal views. At the bottom, you can walk right up to the waterfall. Just note that even though this hike is short, it’s tough and steep in parts on the way back up.

3. Kilt Rock

Drive time from Lealt Falls: 6 minutes

Kilt Rock on the Isle of Skye
Kilt Rock

This next stop is a 2-for-1 deal, as you can see both Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls from the same viewing area.

Kilt Rock is actually an entire cliff of basalt columns that rises 90 meters (295 feet) out of the sea, and looks a bit like the pleated kilt of a giant. Right near the rock is a waterfall called Mealt Falls that plunges into the sea.

4. Quiraing viewpoint/hike

Drive time from Kilt Rock: 15 minutes

Quiraing view
Quiraing view

When you near the top of the Trotternish Peninsula, there’s a narrow, nearly one-lane road that cuts across the peninsula. It’s called the Quiraing Road, and it traverses through some of the best landscapes on the Isle of Skye.

The deep valleys and craggy cliffs in this part of Skye were formed thanks to huge landslips, and there are rock formations with names like The Needle and The Table and The Prison. The Quiraing can be incredibly windy and wet, but it was here that I originally fell in love with Skye – and you might, too!

Make for the Quiraing Car Park (a large paid parking lot), and from there you can either just enjoy the views out over the Quiraing area, or you can go for a walk along a dedicated hiking trail. The entire loop hike is about 4.3 miles long and challenging in parts if you do the whole thing, but you can get excellent views even just from the start of it.

Quiraing hike in the rain
Quiraing hike

5. Lunch

I recommended bringing lunch along with you today, but if you’d rather go out somewhere, your best options are either The Hungry Gull (before the Quiraing) or The Galley Cafe & Takeaway (before going to the Fairy Glen).

6. Fairy Glen

Drive time from the Quiraing: 25 minutes

Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye
In the Fairy Glen

I’m saving my personal favorite for last: the Fairy Glen. The whole area was formed by a landslip, and further shaped by years of livestock traversing the little hills and valleys. The Fairy Glen is known for its bumpy hills and otherworldly feel, including a rock formation known as “Castle Ewan” for its resemblance to castle ruins.

To reach it, you’ll park in a small (paid) parking area (marked as Fairy Glen Parking) not far from the town of Uig, and then follow a short trail into the “fairy glen” itself.

The glen is incredibly green during the spring and summer months, and the jaunty hills definitely feel like they could be home to fairies. (The stone “fairy circle” below Castle Ewan, however, is NOT a natural part of the landscape here, and is frequently removed by locals; please don’t stack or arrange rocks or leave coins or gifts for the Fae here.)

Plants along the Fairy Glen hike
Walking toward the Fairy Glen

The walk up to the Fairy Glen can be steep and muddy in sections, but it’s a short (less than 20 minutes) walk, and definitely worth seeing. (This is the only “hike” on Skye that I do truly think is worth doing, even if you’re not much of a hiker.)

7. Evening in Portree

Drive time from the Fairy Glen: 30 minutes

If you don’t do any hiking today and simply drive around to see all the sites on the Trotternish Peninsula, then you might have half a day to explore Portree a bit more. You could walk down to the harbor, go shopping at the huge Isle of Skye Candle Co. Visitor Centre, or just enjoy your hotel.

Colorful buildings at the Portree harbor
The pretty Portree harbor

For dinner tonight, I recommend making reservations at a spot like The View (at the Cuillin Hills Hotel), Scorrybreac, or Dulse and Brose.

Leaving Skye

You’ll leave the Isle of Skye the next day. And while you could drive back the way you came, there’s a second option!

You can drive to Armadale near the southern tip of the island (about an hour from Portree), where there’s a car ferry that crosses over to Mallaig on the mainland. The ferry is operated by CalMac, costs less than £20 for a car, and takes 30-45 minutes. It’s a really pretty crossing! (But you do want to book in advance!)

Ferry to Isle of Skye
A ferry crossing over the sea to Skye

Where to stay on the Isle of Skye

Obviously you’re basing yourself in Portree while on Skye, as it’s super central and just has the most options.

My picks for where to stay in Portree include:

  • Cuillin Hills Hotel – If it’s luxury you’re looking for, this hotel with its great harbor views should be at the top of your list. (It’s also the top-rated hotel in Portree.)
  • The Caledonian Hotel – This charming hotel right in downtown Portree includes a free Scottish breakfast with every stay, and even has its own parking.
  • Marmalade Hotel – This contemporary boutique hotel in a garden-like setting offers up nice views of Portree and the Cuillins.
  • Portree Hotel – A good mid-range option located right on the main square in the center of town.

Best time to visit the Isle of Skye

You can visit Skye year-round (the Skye Bridge makes it easy to reach, no matter the season), but it’s worth noting that some attractions and restaurants are only open from April through September or October.

The most popular months to visit the Isle of Skye are July and August, so if you want to avoid the busiest times, plan your trip for May/early June, or in September. (But even a visit during the busiest months can be lovely; just prepare for the most popular sites like the Fairy Pools, Old Man of Storr, the Quiraing, etc. to be busy during the middle part of the day.)

Amanda next to a waterfall at the Fairy Pools
At the Fairy Pools in July

What to pack for the Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye isn’t known as the “Misty Isle” for nothing. You could very well come to Skye and get sunburnt (it’s happened to me!), or you might be faced with low clouds and drizzle for days (it’s also happened to me!). It’s important, then, to pack for all Scottish weather eventualities.

Layers are a must. Summer temperatures usually top out in the 60s (F) (though I have been on Skye when it got up into the 70s and felt warmer with the sun!), and tend to be cooler at night. A good pair of waterproof shoes and rain gear are also recommended – along with that sunscreen!

A few things you definitely need to bring include:

  • Clothing you can layer (I’m a fan of Unbound Merino for base layers)
  • Waterproof shoes (hiking boots recommended for hikes, especially the ones that can get muddy)
  • A good raincoat (I like this Columbia one)
  • Rain pants you can quickly pull on over whatever else you’re wearing
  • A light hat and gloves (yes, even in the summer!)
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses, in case you run into days like the ones in some of my photos
  • A day pack for hiking, sightseeing, or shopping
  • reusable water bottle (tap water is safe to drink in Scotland)

You’ll also want to pack a little patience and flexibility, and perhaps a willingness to explore even if the weather isn’t great (rain gear also helps with this!).

And now you’re all set for an epic trip to the Isle of Skye!

Source link