Isle of Skye, Scotland
The second-largest of Scotland’s islands, the Isle of Skye is known for its breathtaking, dramatic landscapes, beautiful natural wonders and quaint villages. As well as stunning scenery, such as rugged mountains, glittering lochs and impressive sea cliffs, there are castles, galleries, museums, pubs and other hidden gems to explore. Skye’s coastline is so heavily indented that no matter where you are on the island, you will never be more than 5 miles (8 km) from the sea. Once there, it is easy to see why it is one of the most popular destinations in Scotland. You can get to Skye either by road or ferry and many people choose to do the ultimate road trip, driving from Edinburgh, up through the Scottish Highlands and then across to Skye (Edinburgh is some 235 miles from Portree, the capital of Skye).
History of the Isle of Skye
Skye has been occupied since prehistoric times. The first known settlers were Gaelic-speaking Scots from Ireland during the first centuries BCE. Norsemen ruled the island form the 9th to 12 century and the Lord of the Isles maintained control of the Inner Hebrides, including Skye, until the 15th century.
The crofting system is still part of Skye’s culture and commercial farm fishing is an important part of the economy . Today, Gaelic is spoken by over 30% of the islanders.
What to See on the Isle of Skye
Dunvegan Castle is Skye’s most famous historic building and has been the seat of Clan Macleod since the 13th century. One of the island’s most iconic landmarks, it is thought to have been inhabited by a single family for longer than any other house in Scotland. The oldest part of the castle dates back to 1200 but a majority of it was restored between the 17th and 19th centuries. The picturesque castle is surrounded by equally beautiful gardens and woodlands.
Inside the castle, you will find impressive family portraits, clan treasures, medieval weapons and other interesting artefacts, including the famous Fairy Flag. The Fairy Flag is a silk banner that is said to have magical powers and dates back to somewhere between the 4th and 7th centuries. Another treasure is the Dunvegan Cup, a unique drinking bowl dating back to the Middle Ages.
Located within the grounds of the part-ruined Armadale Castle, you will find the Museum of the Isles, a museum which charts the history of the Clan Donald. The castle was the former seat of Lord MacDonald of Sleat and the museum tells the story of the Lordship of the Isles. As well as this, the museum has an impressive collection of oil paintings that include family portraits and prints and drawings of the Scottish landscape.
Quiraing is one of the island’s most magnificent landscape features. A stunning hill formation in the very north of the island, Quiraing provides incomparable views of the areas cliffs and jagged pinnacles. It makes for a great hike, which can be quite challenging, but it is also accessible by road.
Talisker Distillery is the oldest working whisky distillery on the island, founded in 1830, and is now Skye’s only operating distillery. Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote ‘The king o’ drinks, as I conceive it, Talisker, Islay, or Glenlivet‘ and the whisky is known for its peaty taste. Today, you can takes tours of the whisky distillery and sample the award-winning whisky.
Kilt Rock, named as such for its resemblance to a pleated Scottish kilt, is another must-see site. From the same observation point, you can see both the Kilt Rock cliffs and Mealt Falls, a long waterfall that cascades into the ocean below. On a clear day, you can sometimes see the Isle of Lewis and mainland Scotland.
Portree is the Isle of Skye’s largest town with great accommodation options and plenty of lively pubs and restaurants. Located on Skye’s eastern coastline, Portree is a vibrant harbour town and the pretty coloured houses and surrounding hills make it a great place to wander and walk around.
With its amazing natural scenery, Skye offers some of the best walking trails in Scotland. Whether you are a keen hiker or a just wanting a brisk walk in the fresh air, there will be a hike for you. The coastal landscape means you can enjoy amazing views of the surrounding waters. For those who prefer to be on the water, sea kayaking is a popular activity in the sheltered coves and sea lochs around the coast of Skye. You can also take a boat trip around the isle, on which you might see dolphins, basking sharks, whales and seals.
If you’re interested in visiting the beautiful Isle of Skye, take a look at our Prehistoric Britain tour which visits the island or our tour Tracing 5,000 years of Scotland’s history, which spends three nights in Skye. Our Islands of Scotland and Shetland also visits the Isle of Skye.
Articles about the Scottish Isles published by Odyssey Traveller.
The following list of articles published by odyssey Traveller for mature aged and senior travellers to maximise their knowledge and enjoyment of Scotland when visiting:
- The Scottish Isles
- Shetland Islands Discovered
- Questions about the Outer Hebrides
- How the Atlantic Ocean shaped early life in Europe
- Skara Brae
For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.
External articles to assist you on your visit to Scotland
- A Long Love Affair With the Scottish Isles, in Pictures
- The hidden history of Scotland’s Small Isles
- 10 things you (probably) didn’t know about Scottish history
The rest of our Scotland-related articles can be found here.
20 daysMay, Jul, Sep
Scottish Islands and Shetland small group tours for seniors
An escorted small group tour for couples and solo travellers of the Scottish isles including the isle of Skye draws on local guides to share their knowledge of the destinations in this unique part of Scotland. UNESCO world heritage site are visited as breathtaking scenery and authentic experiences are shared in a group of like minded people on this guided tour of remote Scotland.
19 daysAug, Jul
Whisky and Other Scottish Wonders
A guided small group tour of Scotland is a day tour collection that includes Edinburgh, the royal mile, Edinburgh castle, and the old town a UNESCO World heritage site Experience and learn about, Kellie castle, St Andrews, Skye, Balmoral castle, Loch Lomond and Loch Ness as well touring the Scottish highlands to finish in Glasgow.
22 daysJul, Sep
Scotland small group tour | Tracing 5,000 years of history
This guided tour of Scotland with a tour leader and local guides includes the isle of Skye, Orkney islands, the Scottish highlands with breathtaking scenery. Edinburgh including the royal mile, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Fort William, Urquhart castle, Stirling castle, loch lomond, Hadrians wall and New Lanark also a UNESCO World heritage site.
From A$13,995 AUDView Tour
5 daysJun, Jul
Edinburgh City Tour
From A$2,450 AUDView Tour
Prehistoric Britain small group history tour including standing stones
Visiting England, Scotland
This guided tour invites you to explore UNESCO World heritage sites at Skara Brae in the Orkneys, Isle of Skye, and Stonehenge in a prehistoric tour. This escorted tour has trips to key sites in Scotland, and the Irish sea in Wales such as Gower Peninsula and National Museum in Cardiff and England. Each day tour is supported by local guides.
From A$14,750 AUDView Tour
13 daysJun, Aug
Scotland's Great Trails Walking Tour
An escorted walking tour of Scotland. This trip is mainly in the Scottish Highlands. Your tour leader guides you to Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and Craignorms National park with experienced local guides. The tour for mature couples and solo travellers finishes in Edinburgh with time to visit Edinburgh Castle and the Royal mile a UNESCO World heritage site.
From A$9,250 AUDView Tour