Travel / UK

Travelling the Scottish Highlands Part 3: The Isle of Skye

Scotland Part 3

The final part of our Scottish tour ends in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the Isle of Skye. The Isle of Skye stole our hearts and it is one of those places where if we won the lottery tomorrow we’d pack everything up and buy a little house and restaurant there and live the good life. Its beauty is breathtaking, the air is so clean you feel freshness with every breath and the people live close to nature in a way we can only dream of. The Isle of Skye is that bucket list destination that you will never forget.

The Tour

Honestly this was the only part of Scotland we did real research about before going and we were very glad we did. Despite having hired a car in Scotland we decided to go on a guided day trip with Happy Tours.

I’m very happy we did because it took the stress off us trying to navigate the winding, and sometimes way too narrow, Scottish Highland roads (especially on the Isle of Skye) and we got some amazing insider knowledge from the tour guide. The tour guide was a real Scotsman, in his tartan and with loads of stories about Scotland and the tours he’s done. It was a great experience and I don’t think we would have had a clue about all the little hidden gems if it wasn’t for this tour. The tour is made up of only 8 people and the guide so it’s intimate enough to have fun but also not too small that you feel you need to fill every silence.

We also did the tour on my birthday and I would highly recommend that if you can wangle it. Free whiskey and singing Happy Birthday with a Scottish accent will be the order of the day and you will leave with the best birthday memories every!

Attractions

Through the Highlands

The tour sets off from Inverness and follows Loch Ness for a while until you turn off inland toward Glen Shiel. It’s a beautiful scenic journey with our guide telling us about the different Scottish clans. It was also the scene of a brutal battle as part of the Jacobite uprising between the British Government and a Jacobite-Spanish alliance. This battle in the mountains was won by the British but driving through the mountains you can imagine it must have been a pretty epic backdrop for a battle.

Eilean Donan Castle

Probably one of the most photographed castles in the Highlands it sits on a little island where three of the great sea lochs come together. It’s beautiful to look at and a great photo opportunity, but not necessarily worth going into. It’s £7.50 for adults and as our guide very aptly described it, the inside is somewhat kitsch and more a shrine to the family that own the castle, than to the actual history of the castle. In short if you’re looking for a real medieval castle, keep to the outside of Eilean Donan. The coffee shop does have great hot chocolate and cake (perfect for a birthday celebration).

The Skye Bridge

This is the bridge connecting mainland Scotland with the Isle of Skye. The bridge itself was opened in 1995 and was originally a toll bridge. The locals were heavily against the building of the bridge, especially because it was going to be tolled as well, but by 2004 the toll was removed from the bridge because so many tourists were using it, the tourism created by the bridge in the Isle of Skye was paying for itself. Although the short 500m route only takes 5 minutes to cross, we were still very happy for the bridge rather than a water journey.

Portee

The largest town on the Isle of Skye, Portee is a tourist hotspot and like most towns in the Highlands I wouldn’t recommend being there over lunch time. You can have a swig of Talisker Whiskey at one of the town’s pubs. Talisker is the unique Isle of Skye single malt whiskey and even me as a non-whiskey drinker, didn’t find it too bad. With air and water as clean as they have on the Isle of Skye it’s for sure that the Talisker is as pure as you can get. Portee is also famous for its seafood, however, once again don’t try any of the local take-away shops over lunch time. They are terribly run, and you will wait forever, unfortunately.

Cuillin Mountains

The mountains on the Isle of Skye fascinated me around every corner. The mountains were created by eroding magma from a 60 million year old volcano (it’s not one of those big erupting ones, more one where lava flowed out continually). The tops of the mountains are bare and you can see how the magma cooled and stagnated to form the mountains. The mountains are very popular with hikers but can also be dangerous so it’s important to be safe and go prepared if you do go hiking. To me the mountains reminded me of our own Drakensberg mountains in South Africa and I lost my heart it its beauty.

On the way through the mountains, we drove past a number of small communities and houses. With their washing on the lines and people going about their business in that beautiful landscape, you felt almost jealous of how removed they are from all the bad things going on in the world right now.

Kilt Rock

A waterfall going straight into the sea out of the mountain face is something I’ve only seen in movies and in pictures before. It’s spectacular! The rock is named Kilt Rock because the folds in the rock face reminds one of the folds at the back of a kilt. The lookout spot can also be packed in the summer so try get in there before any tour busses otherwise wait your time patiently to glimpse the waterfall.

Kilt Rock

Quiraing

This part of the tour is only possible to visit in the summer and if you do nothing else while on the Isle of Skye then I’d suggest taking the windy, narrow road up to the Quiraing. You will feel like you’re on top of the world, literally and at the edge of it as well. You can see for miles from on top, the sky is bluer than you ever imagined and stretched out in front of you is the greenest green of Scotland. The land might not be very fertile on the Isle of Skye, but it sure is beautiful. This is why we did the tour, we never would have known the best time to go up and where to take the best photos if it wasn’t for Happy Tours and I will never forget the sense of feeling of calmness I had in that place. It was the best birthday view anyone could ask for.

On the way back, the bus was silent with the fresh air (and a whiskey at the top of the mountains) having knocked everyone out and a sense of contentment with having seen one of the most beautiful places in the world. We had soft Celtic music playing in the background and I was so happy for this experience and sad that I had to leave this place that had stolen my heart. For weeks after I had very bad traveller’s blues thinking back to the Isle of Skye. I definitely lots my heart in Scotland and especially the Isle of Skye and I don’t think anyone can leave that magical place unchanged.

If you haven’t yet give Part 1 and 2 of my Scottish Highland tour posts a read for the full Highlands experience.

Hi, I'm Andri. A 20-something creative, content creator, writer, reader, traveler, healthy living enthusiast and eco warrior! My day job is in digital publishing, but just like The Loud Library, I am full of contradictions. I love my bunny rabbit Olive, cows and sharing my journey to rediscover my spark.

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