About the Author, Leah LaRocco: “Hi there, I’m a Long Islander who lives in Franklin, Tennessee. My first love was the ocean, but growing up camping and hiking around Vermont also contributed to a deep appreciation for the mountains. Public lands are some of my favorite places to hike and Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a regular weekend getaway. I work full time, but believe dreams and passions can and should be pursued outside of the everyday 9-5. As a naturalist, I hope to convey how incredibly healing the woods, water, and wildlife can be when we make the choice to step outside.” Find her via her Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Website.
The Isle of Skye was my favorite part of our trip to Scotland last year. Following a ride on the Jacobite Train, we headed to the isle, and what a gorgeous drive it was. The scenery kept getting wilder and wilder until we were in the middle of a grand wilderness, as untamed and rugged as it was beautiful. There were golden eagles, red stags, and wild goats roaming the hillsides. Beams of light were striking the lochs below the clouds, causing us to gape in wonder.
It is possible to take a ferry or cross a bridge to Skye, but both of these options can be closed or shut down due to weather conditions, so it’s important to keep an eye on the forecast.
Eileen Donan Castle
Before arriving on the Isle of Skye, you’ll reach the Eileen Donan Castle, which was closed when we got there. Thankfully the daylight in April is long and we were able to walk around the castle, bracing ourselves against the biting chill wind. The grounds have a cafe and gift shop as well, but the nice thing about this castle is being able to walk all the way around it even when it’s not open.
Fairy Glen, Uig
The Castle Ewen Fairy Glen was a mile from the hotel where we stayed, and little did we know how truly magical it would be. I keep using that word to describe the places we saw in Scotland because it’s hard to describe these mystical lands in any other way. The glen is made up of knobby, conical, and textured hills that look like the wind has blown ridges into them over time. The castle is actually a basalt rock formation that happens to look like the many ruins which dot the landscape on Skye. Sheep roam freely, munching on lush green grasses, talking to each other across the hills with “Baaa!” carrying through the warbles of songbirds in the wind blown trees.
You can walk all over these hills as much as your heart desires, and this is a great place to explore without any fear of getting lost. Not far beyond the “castle,” a lovely stream makes babbling sounds that can be heard through the glen when all is quiet. Stunning scenery often makes me wonder whether I’m dreaming or not, which then makes me question why my actual everyday life is so devoid of this kind of beauty. My soul was fed to bursting on this trip.
Half a morning could easily be spent here, exploring all the nooks and crannies of this unique landscape. Parking is limited, so arrive early, or park in Uig and walk the road (approximately 30 minutes). Be sure to Leave No Trace when traversing the glen. As fun as it is to see the stone circles and cairns, these are often removed by the locals who want to keep this area pristine.
The Isle of Skye isn’t hard to navigate, but some care is required due to the many one track roads around and through the island. My husband got the hang of the pull offs, and I made lots of loud noises when sheep were in the road and I felt like he was going too fast.
After the Fairy Glen we headed to the Quiraing which was such a dynamic spot. When we got out of the car the wind nearly knocked us off our feet. Literally, it was difficult to stand. We’d planned to do the hike, a 6.8 km loop, that leads through this phenomenal area which is part of the Trotternish ridge. The wind was causing me to lose my balance and the raindrops felt like small bullets hitting the skin. We shielded our faces and took in as much of the jaw dropping scenery as we could before deciding to head to the next destination. Leaving this particular walk was the biggest disappointment of the day, but at least we got to see the area, and now have a reason to go back to Skye someday. If you find yourself here on a clear day when the wind is gentle, the Quiraing is the perfect way to spend a couple of hours soaking up all the scenery your heart can hold.
Another stunning view of the Skye coast awaited us when we pulled off into the car park for Lealt Waterfall. A trail leads toward the cliffs, where you can look back and catch a view of the falls. When you reach the main overlook, the expanse of sea and coastline lies before you, along with the ruins of the diatomite works below. Diatomite was a deposit used in the manufacture of dynamite and was shipped via railway to the bay. The trail continues downward, eventually leading to the shore where you can get a spot on view of the falls. Although the climb back up is a steep one, this is a gorgeous spot worthy of time and exploration.
Old Man of Storr
The Old Man of Storr was another hike on the list that was foiled due to foul weather. This pinnacle of rock was caused by a landslide many years ago and is one of the most photographed areas on Skye. Chances are you’ve seen pictures without realizing you were looking at Storr.
I’m not used to quitting mid-hike, especially on a short trail. When I decide to go, I go, even if the weather is less than favorable. However, the wind on the Isle of Skye is so strong that it was difficult to stand up at times. There are no trees that act as barriers, and weather systems move rapidly across the open landscape. It is possible to hike in these conditions with the right gear, but the experience would have been memorable for all the wrong reasons.
The Neist Point Lighthouse sits on a gorgeous peninsula and has a well maintained trail that leads right to its door. Be prepared for a 2.2 km, steep, paved path with stairs and the occasional sheep who might be standing in your way. The lighthouse cannot be immediately seen and requires a walk over the main promontory to get a good view. When we were there, it didn’t seem like the lighthouse was open to visitors, but you can walk around it and enjoy the glorious sea and surrounding cliffs from that vantage point. Even though this trail isn’t long, we definitely took our time and spent a couple of hours enjoying this lovely spot.
Other Places to Hike on the Isle of Skye
We were only able to scratch the surface of the many magnificent places there are to see in the three days we had on Skye. I’d go back in a heartbeat! Other places worth visiting include:
-The Cuillin Mountains offer many hill walks as well
There isn’t a place you can go on this island that won’t steal your breath away and make you wish you had a lifetime to know it better. The people are kind, the whisky is strong, and the hills beg to be walked.
“Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.”
My Heart’s In The Highlands by Robert Burns