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Isle of Skye

Isle of SkyeIsle of Skye View slideshow
The largest of the inner isles, Skye, was known to the Vikings as "Sküyo" ("cloud island"), while in Gaelic it became known as "Eilean Sgiathanach" ("winged island") because of the irregular coastline. Thanks to the prevailing weather conditions it was also termed "Eilean a Cheo" ("misty island"). The attractions of Skye are its unspoiled natural environment, the wild, romantic mountain scenery and the green valleys, caves and attractive glens, magnificent waterfalls and sandy beaches. It measures about 50mi/80km in length and between 4 and 15mi/6.4-40km in width with many inlets reaching deep inland. To the south of the island lie the remains of primeval oak forests interspersed with birch, mountain ash, holly and hazel.
The wildlife includes otters, seals, salmon and trout and well over 200 different species of birds such as red-throated divers, corncrake, solan geese and a few pairs of golden eagles.

Kyleakin - Castle Moil

The Skye Bridge at Kyleakin.
The ferry from the Kyle of Lochalsh crosses the narrow Kyle Akin straits to Kyleakin (pop. 250). It is the main crossing point to the Isle of Skye but apart from ruins of Castle Moil there is nothing in the village to detain visitors.

Kyle House

Kyle House is by Loch Alsh. The splendid garden was laid out about 30 years ago by Colin Mackenzie.

Armadale - Castle & Clan Donald Centre

Armadale at the south end of Skye is often a starting point for touring the island as ferries arrive here from the mainland port of Mallaig, but it can also be reached via the A851 from Broadford. The castle that was built between 1815 and 1819 by Gillespie Graham and the Clan Donald Centre are well worth a visit. A museum illustrates thrilling tales of the "Lords of the Isles" who during the 15th century dominated the region between the Outer Hebrides, the northern coast of Antrim in what is now Northern Ireland and Easter Ross. An attractive garden is laid out in the castle grounds.

Broadford, Scotland

Broadford (pop. 1,250) 8mi/12.8km to the west of Kyleakin is the second-largest settlement on the Isle of Skye and a good base for tours.

Loch Scavaig

One of the most interesting excursions from Broadford starts with a visit to Loch Scavaig (15mi/24km) which affords a splendid view of the Blaven (3042ft/927m) followed by Loch Slapin and finally Elgol, a tiny village with a steep descent to the coast. The breathtaking view from Elgol encompasses numerous offshore islands. "Bonnie Prince Charlie" is said to have hidden from the English in one of the nearby caves.

Loch Coruisk

Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Sky.
Set in an idyllic rocky landscape Loch Coruisk is best viewed from a boat. It is linked to Loch Scavaig by a river and lies at the foot of the black Cuillin Hills or Coolins.

Cuillin Hills

Panormaic view of Cuillin Hills.
The Cuillin Hills are formed from gabbro, a rock of volcanic origin, and they attract hundreds of enthusiasts from all over Britain as there are climbs here to suit all abilities. The highest of the 20 peaks above 3,000ft/900m is Sgurr Alasdair (3,251ft/991m). Only experienced climbers should venture on to these higher peaks since the steep scree slopes can prove very hazardous. The high iron content of the rock can often distort compass readings so walkers need to exercise great care.

Sgurr nan Gillean (Glen Brittle)

Glen Brittle on the Isle of Sky.
The best known mountain in the Cuillin Hills is called Sgurr nan Gillean. Glen Sligachan mountain climbers' hotel and pony trekking center attracts many tourists to this part of the island. Glenbrittle is another base for mountaineers and courses in climbing are organized. There are good opportunities for bathing in Loch Brittle and boats cross to Rhum, Canna and Eigg.

Old Crofter's House

The A850 from Broadford to Portree passes the Old Skye Crofter's House. This dwelling offers an insight into the arduous life of Skye's peasant farmers at the beginning of the 20th century.
The Old Crofter's House is a traditional Skye thatched house situated in the crofting township of Bornesketaig, at the north end of Skye.

Portree, Scotland

Buildings along the waterfront in Portree.
Portree (pop. 2,000) is the largest town on Skye. It has an idyllic harbor with views across the Sound of Raasay. It is said that in 1746 "Bonnie Prince Charlie" and Flora MacDonald parted company in the Royal Hotel.

Heritage Centre

The Portree Heritage Centre in Viewfield Road documents life on the island of Skye from 1700 to the present day.

Trotternish Peninsula

View of the Trotternish Range, Isle of Skye.
The A855 follows the coastline of the Trotternish peninsula northwards affording fine views across to Raasay in the east.

Old Man of Storr

The Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye.
It is worth making a detour to Prince Charlie's Cave, another hideaway used by the "Young Pretender" before heading for Loch Fada and Loch Leathan to see the Old Man of Storr rock, a 164ft/50m high black basalt monolith surrounded by smaller pinnacles known as The Old Man's Wife, Castle and Dog.

Kilt Rock

Kilt Rock on the Isle of Skye.
Kilt Rock is so named because of the strange tartan-like pattern on the brownish basalt rock.

Quiraing Needles

The Quiraing on the Isle of Skye.
North from Kilt Rock stand the Quiraing Needles, a collection of bizarrely-shaped basalt rocks with needles, jagged peaks and steps.

Museum of Island Life

The A855 cuts off the northern tip of the Trotternish Peninsula before reaching the seven cottages which make up the Skye Museum of Island Life. The thatched huts give an insight into the rural life of crofters in the mid-19th century.

Kilmuir - Flora MacDonald's Tomb

The Hebridean heroine Flora MacDonald is buried in Kilmuir cemetery.


Before returning to Portree stop off in Uig, departure point for the ferries to Lewis and North Uist.

Dunvegan Castle

Entrance to the Dunvegan Castle.
Dunvegan (pop. 250) lies by the loch of the same name to the west of the Isle of Skye. It is noted mainly for its castle, one of the last inhabited seats of a Scottish clan, namely the MacLeods, who for centuries fought bloody battles against the MacDonalds of Armadale for supremacy of the island. The original building dates from the 13th century, but the keep was added in the 14th century and the Fairy Tower at the southeast corner of the rock was built ca. 1500. Norman, the 23rd clan chief, converted the building into a comfortable Victorian-style residence in the 19th century. Legends about fairies and crusaders surround the Fairy Flag (Am Bratach Sith), a piece of silk that originated in Rhodes or Syria and is said to date from between the fourth and seventh century. This ancient banner became a talisman for the MacLeods in battle and, according to legend, twice saved the clan from disaster. Of special interest in the castle are the family portraits which include work by Ramsay and Raeburn, letters from Sir Walter Scott and Dr Samuel Johnson who stopped off here on his Hebridean journey with companion James Boswell in 1773, an exhibition about the music and poetry of the MacCrimmons, old bagpipes, works by the Gaelic poetess MacLeod of Rodel (d. 1710) and the harp-playing bard Ruaraidh Dall Morrison.

Colbost - Folk Museum

About 3mi/4.8km to the west of Dunvegan on the Duirinish Peninsula the harsh deprivations of rural Skye in the mid-19th century are brought to life in the straw-roofed Black House of Colbost.

Piping Centre

The first school for pipers is said to have been founded ca. 1500 by the MacCrimmons, the legendary pipers for the MacLeod clan in Boreraig, and to have survived until 1800. Opposite the ruins of the old piping school, the Skye Piping Centre traces the history of the bagpipe and the traditions of the old clans right up to the present day.

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