This is a light hearted guide to our island, definitely not definitive, though we have tried our best to be factually correct. It is a bit of fun that attempts to raise awareness of and answer some questions about the beautiful Isle of Skye. However we would love your input and comments so feel free to get in touch via email/Facebook/Twitter or on the comments on this blog. So here we go, let’s start with an easy question: Where is Skye?
Just off the north west coast of Scotland. Largest and most northerly of the Inner Hebrides. To most people the edge of the world, to us it is home.
Why come to Skye?
Are you mad? Have a look at our website! The place is beautiful!
How do I get there?
Four and a half hours (OK probably nearer five hours) drive from the central belt of Scotland. We are connected to the mainland by a quite striking bridge (toll free). We are only an hour and a half from Inverness which is which has flights from London Gatwick – It also links to Amsterdam which is a much better hub then Gatwick. There is also a train that goes from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh. You can take a train from Glasgow up the west coast to Fort William and from there to Mallaig. This is a beautiful journey, a must for all Harry Potter fans – my daughter came up from Glasgow that way just to see the Glenfinnan Viaduct, famous in its own right but made even more famous by the films. Pity the view of it is a bit limited by being on the train and not a flying Ford Anglia.
You then take a ferry across to Armadale in the Sleat peninsula.
What would I do when I was there?
You would explore the rugged and beautiful mountains and walk the breathtaking (that could be because of the howling Skye breeze) beaches. You would marvel at the total unmetropolitanness of it all. You could revel in the peace and quiet. You can fish, or bird watch.You can go to ceilidhs , there are courses for all sorts of things at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, you can have a photo shoot with Love Skye Photography or go on a photo walk with Landscapes365. You can go Kayaking with Skyaks
Yes, I know I made the word up but it does describe Skye quite well. Portree and Broadford don’t have an Apple store or a Starbucks . There are no 24 hour supermarkets (yet) and some shops do have strange opening hours, but that’s the difference you’re coming here for. Climbing the hill opposite the cottage you’ve rented for a phone signal to check Facebook is all part of the fun. Wi-Fi may be a little difficult to find but there are no crowds, traffic jams or dangerous levels of diesel particulates either.
Where is the best place to stay?
It all depends on what you want out of your visit. If you want spoiled and pampered there are places like the Kinloch Lodge and The 3 Chimneys that will offer a culinary master class as well as somewhere fabulous to stay. There are too many great bed and breakfasts, guest house and hotels to list. Similarly, the choice of holiday cottages is wide and varied.
Here are a select few, based solely on the fact we know and like the people who own them.
When is the best time to visit?
For those without kids after Easter till the middle of June, that’s the time the weather is driest and you have the best chance of avoiding the midges. For those with kids probably during the school holidays would be the best time.
Where is the best place to visit?
I don’t know! What do you like doing? If you like hill walking – the hills. If you like mountain climbing – the mountains. If you like beaches… you know where I’m going. It’s an outdoorsy type of place and the best way to find out is to explore. There is Dunvegan castle in the north and Clan Donald in Sleat which has lovely gardens for the less off road amongst our visitors. Both also have very nice cafes.
Where is the best place to eat?
Skye is unusually blessed with fine places to eat. From the Kinloch Lodge Hotel with its Michelin star in the south to the rightly world famous Three Chimneys in the north, so fine dining is well catered for. There are also many excellent hotels and restaurants and pubs all specializing in excellent food using local produce. When you get to the cafe level Skye is incredibly well catered for (of course the pun was intended). There are many cafes scattered all over the island all providing awesome home baking and lovely coffees. I shall only recommend the ones we have sampled ourselves but there are many more well worth a try.
Pasta Shed, Armadale
Bread Shed, Broadford
Taste of India, by the bridge
These are just few of the many fine establishments on the island. We can recommend them as we have visited them. If we visit any more and they get the thumbs up they will be added.
Where has the best scone?
Aros in Portree – by a country mile. Though if someone wants to prove me wrong, I would be more than happy to do a taste test.
What about midges?
No getting away from them, for 10 weeks a year they are a plague on us all. Dawn and dusk are the worst time for them. The theory is that they hide from direct sunlight but some of the more gung ho midges will venture out for a quick stab even then. There are many different methods of protecting yourself from them – we use Skye Meadowsweet’s midge oil – but by far the best protection is staying indoors at the beginning and end of the day. Have a lunchtime barbecue.
What to do if it’s wet?
Good book/Kindle, couch, roaring fire. Or DVD, TV, couch, roaring fire. If you don’t fancy the great outdoors when there is some torrential sideways Skye mist there isn’t that much to do. There is rightly famous Serpentarium in Broadford, The Skye Museum of Island Life, Dunvegan Castle and the Museum of the isles at Clan Donald. There are various other things you could do like the glass bottomed boat and Eilean Donan Castle, but they are on the mainland so we won’t mention them.
What to do if it’s too sunny?
Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
Why does it rain so much?
Rain bearing westerly winds and a lot of high ground. It’s something we just have to live with like some people have to live with hosepipe bans. May is the driest month of the year as well as the sunniest but not the warmest. The weather usually turns a bit dreich the minute the school bell rings for the last time in summer term and children run out into a summer of showers and midges.
What should I wear?
This is where it all started. A lovely couple from Florida USA asked our advice on what clothes to bring for their visit to Skye. We thought, comparing the weather in Florida to the Inner Hebrides, they should just bring all their clothes because the weather here is going to be a shock to them.
The real answer is layers and make quite a few of them wind- and waterproof. The ability to have the full range of metrological events in one day here is legendary. Off road footwear is also a pre-requisite. Luckily wellies are acceptable socially nowadays as they have been a necessary fashion statement up here for years and there is a good reason why. The unspoilt nature of Skye means that a lot of the places you want to see are a little inaccessible to those wearing converses or uggs.
Will I have mobile phone reception?
Probably, well, maybe sometimes, but on the whole…no. All the networks have coverage at some point but it the mountainous nature of the island means signals are easily blocked. Driving along in Skye lets you watch the signal bars go between nil and full in a rollercoaster ride as you drive round the hills and mountains. We do get sporadic uotbursts of 3G and 3G+ but don’t even contemplate thinking about 4G though. All teenagers and social media addicts who use their phones to feed their need should go on a decompression course before coming here.
Where can I camp?
Anywhere really as long as it isn’t in someone’s garden. A sensible approach should be enough follow the advice in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and also avoid areas of common grazing where there are lots of highland cattle – those horns can make a real mess of a tent!
You can camp at these sites too;
How do I get around the island using public transport?
There is a bus service run by Stagecoach that services most of the island. The buses don’t accept bikes onboard (according to Stagecoach’s website) though drivers are allowed some discretion but since the buses aren’t the biggest (or newest) we think there is no space for any on board.
Here is a route map of the bus service service
Bikes can be hired in Portree, Broadford, Armadale and Uig
There is also an extensive network of local taxis on the island.
So what makes Skye better than all the other Scottish islands?
Accessibility. Many other islands have mountains, beaches, views, culture, food and so on, but Skye has almost everything and it’s easy to get at. Even the Inaccessible Peak is not as inaccessible as you would imagine (ask Skye Guides). The bridge makes it a one stop shop for the almost complete Hebridean package.
I haven’t mentioned tons of other stuff. All the things you can do. Trips to Loch Coruisk from Elgol. Wildlife trips. Wildlife boat trips. Visiting Rum Egg and Canna. The places to see, crumbly old ruins, beautiful beaches and forest walks.
The one thing to bear in mind is that the Isle of Skye is not for the urban. It is challenging, rugged and not necessarily subtle. So if you can’t be separated from your high heels or just have to be in constant internet contact or don’t like having the weather smack you repeatedly in the face then have a city break. However if you like challenging, rugged and not subtle then you will have a whale of a time.