The Isle of Skye is one of the most popular places for tourists to visit in Scotland and it’s easy to see why. Dramatic rust-tinted mountains that are bursting with waterfalls, fairytale landscapes, historic castles, charming villages, and epic wildlife.
Travellers from around the globe love often join a three-day guided tour around three top destinations in the Scottish Highlands: Loch Ness, Glen Coe, and the Isle of Skye.
Those bus tours are a fantastic way to see as much of Scotland as possible on a limited schedule. But there are so many things to do on the Isle of Skye to fill three, four, five days or even more!
Sure, it doesn’t have a UNESCO World Heritage Site or a mythological monster, but it’s one of the easiest out of Scotland’s 93 inhabited islands to reach as you can cross the Isle of Skye Bridge. No time wasted waiting for ferry crossings and bad weather to subside means more time exploring!
No matter the weather, there are plenty of amazing things to do on the Isle of Skye. And this list includes all the top Isle of Skye attractions that you cannot miss on a visit over the sea to Skye…
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If you visit any castle on the Isle of Skye during your trip, make it Dunvegan Castle. It’s the ancestral castle of Clan MacLeod and dates back to the 1200s.
It sits on a rock overlooking its namesake sea loch and is a fully-furnished, regal castle with manicured gardens.
Dunvegan Castle is the only Highland fortress that has been continuously occupied by the same family for 800 years. Like many Isle of Skye attractions, it’s only open to the public during the shoulder and peak seasons between April – October.
Neist Point Lighthouse
Scotland has some phenomenal lighthouses all thanks to the Stevenson family. Several members of this family built most of the lighthouses that are still standing around the Scottish coastlines today, and it was David A Stevenson who built Neist Point Lighthouse in 1909.
You may be more familiar with his cousin, Robert Louis Stevenson, who wasn’t part of the family business. He wrote famous novels like Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Neist Point Lighthouse is beautiful when you are close up, but you’ll get a better photograph of it with the stunning rocky cliff edge if you approach the lighthouse via the Neist Point Walking Trail. There are a couple of amazing viewpoints en route from a distance.
Talisker Whisky Distillery
It might surprise you, but the Isle of Skye isn’t a large producer of scotch whisky. You’d be better travelling to the Isle of Islay or Speyside if you wanted to sample a few drams from different distilleries. However, the Isle of Skye does have two great whisky distilleries on the island: Talisker and Torabhaig.
Talisker Distillery in Carbost is the oldest working distillery on the Isle of Skye. They’re open year-round for guided tours (book ahead or contact them in advance to avoid disappointment) plus they have a shop too.
When many people see photographs of Coral Beach, they think it’s a hidden gem on a Caribbean island. Without feeling the cool temperatures and the bracing wind, no one would guess that this pink sand beach surrounded by waters of ever-changing hues of blue is in Skye!
It’s in a fairly secluded, sheltered part of western Skye so the wind isn’t often as strong as it is on other parts of the island’s coast.
Coral Beach is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing stroll and there are lots of rocky cliffs to explore too where you might spot some seals or birds.
Eilean Donan Castle
Okay, Eilean Donan Castle isn’t technically on the Isle of Skye. It’s on the Kyle of Lochalsh just off the main A87 road where it is just 13 minutes away from the Skye Bridge.
But this restored 13th-century castle is so iconic and so amazing that you simply cannot drive right passed it (you’ll easily spot it from outside your car window!) without stopping.
It’s a fully-restored castle of Clan MacRae which sits on an island between Loch Long, Loch Duich, and Loch Alsh. Aside from Edinburgh Castle, it’s one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. And Scotland has around 8,000 castles, so it’s a competitive title!
Book your tickets in advance and book them as early in the day as possible. This is a popular attraction.
The Old Man of Storr Walk
There are dozens of fantastic walks and hikes on the Isle of Skye and one of the best for first-time visitors is to walk up to the Old Man of Storr.
The Storr is a hill and the ‘Old Man’ is a pointy rock near the summit. While this walk is a little steep, it’s only 3.8km so you’ll soon make your way to the top with a few rests.
Fun Fact: Munros are a collection of mountains in Scotland with over 3,000 feet (914.4 m) elevation.
There are 282 of them and they are named after the mountaineer Sir Hugh Munro who charted the peaks. Because the Old Man of Storr is only 2,300 feet (719 m), it’s jokingly referred to as a ‘Marilyn Munro.’
Armadale Castle Gardens & Museum
Aside from crossing the Skye Bridge, another way to reach the island is to hop onto the ferry at Mallaig which sails to Armadale on the southern coastline. If you take this route, you absolutely have to visit Armadale Castle.
This is the ancestral home of Clan Donald. There has been a building on this site for around 2,000 years, but the current mansion dates back to the early 1800s. Since a fire in 1925, the castle has sadly fallen into ruin.
However, the museum about Clan Donald and the gorgeous gardens make up for the dilapidated state of the mansion.
The Fairy Glen
Is the Fairy Glen in Uig’s magical appearance caused by a series of small landslips or because fairies really do live there?
While the logical part of your brain may have already made up your mind, you may doubt your decision once you set foot in this enchanting place.
This landscape is covered in a series of small conical hills with perfect ridges like a honeycomb. It’s almost unbelievable how this phenomenon occurred in such a concentrated area.
While the area is free and open to visitors at all times, get here early to avoid the tourist rush.
Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls
You can’t drive for two minutes on the Isle of Skye without passing an amazing waterfall. One of the best is Mealt Falls on the island’s northeast coast which flows over Kilt Rock.
There’s a fantastic viewpoint for photographs but note that you can’t fly drones here (or in many other places around Skye) as they disrupt nesting birds.
Another great waterfall on Skye is Lealt Falls which is only a six-minute drive south of Mealt Falls.
Skye Museum of Island Life
Skye is more of an outdoorsy destination than one with lots of galleries and museums. But the Skye Museum of Island Life is an open-air museum, so it also counts as an outdoor activity!
The Skye Museum is a series of preserved thatched croft houses dating back to the late 1800s.
Crofts are small farms in Scotland and this is how many islanders used to make a living in the 19th century and earlier. They even have their own highland coos (cows)!
Jurassic Dinosaur Footprints on An Corran Beach
Do you prefer learning about pre-historic history? Head to An Corran Beach on the Isle of Skye’s northwest coast where you can see actual dinosaur footprints from the Jurassic period.
There is a signpost to help you find them but you can only see them in low tide so check the tide times before your visit.
Swim in the Fairy Pools
The Fairy Pools, nestled inland towards the south of the island, isn’t just one waterfall but a series of cascading waterfalls.
In the weather months, these pools are the perfect place to try the popular outdoor activity in Scotland known as wild swimming. This is essentially just swimming in waterfalls, lakes, and other natural waters.
And if you’re wondering whether natural waters in Scotland are still very cold during the warmer months, they definitely are!
But as long as do your research on wild swimming safely, you’ll be absolutely fine and you may even find it as invigorating as the Scots do.
Town of Portree
Portree is Skye’s unofficial capital because it’s the biggest town on the island and has the main bus terminal.
There are lots of outdoor clothing shops, art galleries, pubs, eateries, and walking trails around Portree. You’ll also find lots of colourful houses around the harbour which brighten the place up even on the wettest of days.
And because of its location in the middle of the island, it’s a great place to base yourself during your trip to Skye so it will be easy to travel to all of the top attractions. Some recommendations for Portree include Cafe Arriba and Ten 10 Creations gift shop.
Boat Trip to Loch Coruisk
There are so many lochs on the Isle of Skye but one of the most spectacular is Loch Coruisk with the backdrop of the Cuillin Hills next to this 38 m deep freshwater lake.
The Cuillin Hills are a stunning mountain range that attracts advanced, avid hikers. But if you’re more of a casual hillwalker then the best way to see the mountains is from this boat trip!
There is a lot of marine life in this loch which you might be able to spot from a boat, canoe or kayak.
Dance a Ceilidh at Edinbane Inn
If you don’t mind making a fool of yourself in the name of immersing yourself in local culture, then Skye offers the perfect opportunity for you to do just that!
Ceilidhs (pronounced kay-lee) are traditional Scottish or Irish gatherings that often involved dancing and folk music. Today, the term almost always suggests ceilidh dancing.
Head to the Edinbane Inn at the weekend to take part in ceilidh dancing yourself! It’s a lot of stomping and spinning around with partners, so as long as you have a local to cling onto then you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
Try Canyoning or Coasteering
Along with wild swimming, canyoning or coasteering is another outdoor activity that is growing in popularity in Scotland nowadays. And it involves waterfalls, so Skye is the perfect location to give it ago! It involves wearing a wetsuit and hard hat and scrambling and jumping up and down waterfalls or rocky coastal areas.
If you’ve never tried it before or don’t know Skye very well, it’s best to book a local guide. Lucky for you, there are plenty of activity groups and tours you can book to see the waterfalls in Skye up close and personal.
Join a Wildlife Boat Tour
Seals, eagles, ospreys, puffins… There is an abundance of wildlife off the coast of Skye and around the neighbouring small isles of Canna, Rum, Eigg and Muck.
By taking a boat trip to Canna you will have a better chance of spotting puffins, whilst seals are common to spot in various areas around the island. Boat trips are often seasonal and will be cancelled in bad weather.
Book them for the first day of your trip so that you can hopefully rearrange your trip for another day if you get rained out.
Day Trip to the Isle of Raasay
Raasay is a beautiful smaller island off the northeast coast of Skye that is well worth visiting if you’re in Skye for a week or longer.
It only takes around 30 minutes on the ferry to cross the waters between Sconser on Skye to Clachan on Raasay.
On the island, you can visit Raasay Distillery and visit the ruins of Brochel Castle as well as the many beautiful hikes.
Witness the Northern Lights
Did you know that there is a chance you could see the Northern Lights during your stay on the Isle of Skye?!
Granted, your chances of seeing them in Scotland are much slimmer than in other places like Alaska, Canada, and Nordic countries but it’s still a possibility. Just don’t book your entire trip around seeing them here as you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment!
The best months to visit the Isle of Skye to see the Northern Lights are November and December. These are winter months with the most hours of darkness.
Check weather reports and set your alarm clock so you know when you are most likely to spot them. If you cannot see them with your naked eye, try setting up your camera on a tripod with a long exposure setting.
Stay for Free in a Local Bothy
One of the best things to do on Isle Skye Scotland which is outdoorsy and unique to Scotland is to stay overnight in a bothy. These are simple mountain shelters that often resemble small cottages or cabins. They are unlocked and free for anyone to use.
Facilities vary from bothy to bothy but at the very least they provide sturdy shelters during a multiday hike.
There are three on the Isle of Skye: the Lookout at Rubha Hunish, the northernmost point on Skye, Ollisdal on the west coast, and Camasunary to the south.
Recommended tours in Isle of Skye
- Spar Cave Adventure
- Explore the Isle of Skye in a full day tour
- Trotternish Shore Excursion Tour
- Skye In A Day From Portree Visiting The Most Scenic Spots
- Full-Day Private Tour Eilean Donan Castle and Scenic West Coast
- Isle of Skye and the Fairy Pools Tour