Winter Weekend on the Isle of Skye
Ask anyone where their dream Scottish holiday is and chances are it involves the Isle of Skye. An increasingly popular holiday destination, it can be a breath of fresh air to visit when swarms of tourists aren't around.
That's the great thing about visiting the Island in the winter - the famous landmarks that are usually packed with people and the single track-roads typically rammed with tour busses are all yours.
The beautiful landscapes, coastlines, beaches, hills and iconic natural attractions can be soaked up with very few people around.
The downside is that many of the Island's indoor attractions such as galleries, shops, museums and castles, are shut. Another thing to consider is the great Scottish weather. From beautiful blue skies, winter sunshine to bouts of rain, hail and snow. You can never predict the weather here in Scotland, getting up to 4 seasons in any one day.
If you do fancy packing up and heading to the Island this winter, however, we've put together a list of highlights everyone should tick of their lists whilst visiting Skye.
Where to Stay
Although there's no shortage of choice when it comes to where to stay on the Island, we get asked for recommendations a lot, so thought we'd mentioned the places we stayed on each visit.
The first time we went when it was just the two of us, we stayed in a charming wee bothy at the foot of the mighty Quiraing. Stunning scenery, close to Portree (the Island's largest town) and super handy for being close to many of the Island's main attractions. We found Ellen's Bothy on Airbnb for a great price (generally winter means cheaper) and thoroughly enjoyed our stay. Log burning fire, self-catering kitchen at the foot of a mountain, what else could you wish for?
During our second trip we were part of a much larger group, but managed to bag an amazing house called Tigh Bata, again through Airbnb. Situated on the seafront of the Waternish Peninsula, inclusive of amazing sea views, two large balconies and an impressive contemporary living space. Another great location, if a little more remote, but still within an hour's drive of Skye's main attractions. Again, out of season accommodation prices, win win!
What to do on the Isle of Skye in Winter
Skye’s a great place for those looking to get outdoors and explore. We'd recommend getting up and out early. This not only beats the crowds, but as many of Skye's attractions are dotted around the Island, you'll need to do a fair amount of travelling to get around and take full advantage of your time.
Don't let this put you off - driving around the Island gives you beautiful views round every twist and turn- a far cry from monotonous motorway driving.
Stop off at the small ferry port village of Uig to experience the delights of the shops, studios and even breweries. We popped into a local potter's studio overlooking the sea, before wandering to the Isle of Skye Brewery across the road where we bagged some of their very own beers. After a short stop off, we headed to the car to make our way to Fairy Glen.
Just a 5 minute drive from Uig, Fairy Glen is a magical patch of landscape consisting of peculiar grassy mounds and cones.
We spent around 45 minutes here walking round, climbing the mounds and of course, taking lots of pictures. We’ve heard that in the warmer months this placed can be extremely busy, and as there’s only 1 small single-track road leading to it, we were glad to had the road and the area to ourselves. A truly fascinating area, this is a must see for anyone visiting Skye.
From Fairy Glen, we headed back into Uig and followed signposts to Staffin, from which it took us around half an hour to reach the magnificent Quiraing. The Quiraing, part of the Trotternish Ridge, is a truly amazing stretch of landscape which got its distinct shapes, rock pinnacles, and high cliffs from a landslip, and is quite unlike anything else.
Here, we stopped off to get out the car, stretch our legs, ogle at the views, and get some pictures. You can also do the Quiraing Walk, a loop covering 6.8km (we didn’t but that’s definetley one for next time!)
Refreshed from the winds, we headed down the windy road towards Staffin until we reached the Kilt Rock viewpoint. Kilt Rock is a distinctive sea cliff, which as its name suggests is said to resemble a Kilt.
This is a great little stop off and photo spot on the way to the Island's largest town, Portree.
Portree is the Island’s largest town, so naturally a good place to stop and refuel with some food, browse some of the town’s local shops, and stock up on essentials.
Independent shops, eateries and pubs aplenty, we particularly enjoyed nosying around the Skye Soap Company before filling our bellies at Cafe Arriba.
It's difficult to miss, but make sure to catch the bay packed with a picturesque row of pastel-coloured houses. You can easily spend half a day here, but with only a couple of hours of sunlight left, we decided to go and catch the sunset from somewhere up high.
Old Man of Storr
No trip to Skye is complete without visiting the Old Man of Storr. The Old Man is a large, distinctive pinnacle that can be seen from miles away.
A steep walk up the hill towards the Storr takes around half an hour. The hard work is worth it as once at the top you’ll be rewarded with stunning views over the Island and out to the sea, as well as a close- up of the Old Man himself.
The Storr is arguably one of Skye’s most famous attractions and a world-class landmark, so we were glad that we were one of only a couple of walkers there, meaning we had the stunning scenery to ourselves - and great photograph opportunities.
The Coral Beach can be found near the area of Dunvegan. On route, you'll pass Dunvegan Castle. Unfortunately closed to the public between October - April, if you're visiting in the summer we imagine it would be a great place to stop.
The gates to the Castle may be shut, but driving along the road towards the beach offers a beautiful view of the Castle on the sea front. Naturally, we stopped here for a quick glance and photo opportunity before making our way to the Coral Beach carpark.
From here, a glorious half an hour walk along the coast will get you to the Beach. Expect white sands and blue seas. The perfect place for a walk in the winter sunshine. Again, this place is only accessible via a single- track road, so the lack of people/cars/traffic sure made it easier to get to!
If you’re lucky you might catch a glance at a seal or two- we had no such luck.
The famous Fairy Pools are one of the top highlights for any visit to Skye.
The drive towards the Pools will bring you closer to the distinctive Black Cuillin Mountains which dominate the landscape and make the drive a an experience in itself.
Once parked up, walk up towards the mountains to find the Pools running along the River Brittle. The Fairy Pools are magical, mysterious, crystal-clear pools of water set perfectly against the backdrop of the mighty Cuillin mountain range. The brave are known for wild swimming in the waters - we think we’ll stick to taking photographs of it instead.
Unfortunately during our last trip we didn’t get the chance to visit the Pools due to snow and ice causing the road leading to them to be closed- that’s definitely something to bear in mind if you’re visiting during the winter!
Neist Point Lighthouse
To end our second day we decided to head to Neist Point Lighthouse, the Island’s most westerly point and the perfect place to catch the sunset.
We walked down to the Lighthouse itself (which takes about half an hour one way.) It’s fascinating to explore the once-used Lighthouse and walk around the Island’s most westerly ridge!
The walk down to the Lighthouse is a breeze, but coming back up all those stairs is a little tiring. It’s worth it though as back at the top we had an amazing view over the ridge and the lighthouse. We placed our camera on the tripod and enjoyed watching the sun go down.