nomadic life guide

Exploring the Isle of Skye

Since the opening of the Skye bridge in 1995, the island has become more and more popular with tourists. Second only to Edinburgh as a destination, Skye is a victim of its own success. One of the biggest problems is that that foreign tourists hire massive motor homes that are far to big for the single track roads, they have no idea how to drive them and less idea how to use passing places. Indeed the way they use the local roads I would not even trust them with a push bike. A seemingly endless convoy of coaches jam local roads and stop in local beauty spots, vast hoards then disembark, take thousands of photo’s then move off to disrupt the peace at the next stop. That said, the Island is still a place of mesmerising beauty, wilderness and one of the finest places to see wildlife. For total peace and quiet, and to see the REAL Isle of Skye, our advice is simply to stay as far from the tourist route as possible.

Isle of Skye - nomadic life guide

Old man of Storr/The Storr

This is by far and away the busiest walk on the Isle of Skye, possibly the busiest in Scotland. The ‘old man’ is a rock pinnacle standing in a seemingly unlikely spot below the dramatic peak of The Storr. The walk up is only a kilometre and a half but is moderately steep. Parking is a total nightmare, be prepared to park further away. The path soon peters out and turns into a mixture of bog and mud, it seems the authorities do not care about the erosion rates here. If you are an experienced hiker and decide to make the trip your progress up will be frustrated by people that have never walked on anything but a pavement before. It’s quite funny really, the Scottish weather can be doing its worst and they are wearing jeans, reeboks and carrying the rucksack that they use at the gym. Some of them are unfamiliar with gates, which can be so funny to just stand and watch. Many have cameras that look like something you could use to shoot down a helicopter. Beyond the ‘old man’ is cathedral rock, this is the best place to take a picture from. Those planning on walking The Storr will have peace and quiet from here, although not a biggie altitude wise, it should not be underestimated. Propper gear and knowledge is required and care taken with navigation, as there are plenty of cliffs not unlike the ones that Wylie Coyote plunges off in road runner cartoons.

Isle of Skye - nomadic life guide

Silgachan

Everyone stops here if only for a short time to take photographs of the bridge over the river with the Black Cuillin as a back drop. Indeed, the pictures they take must be more people than scenery, it is crawling with coach tours. There is a little secret worth knowing here however, just a few hundred yards upstream there is a series on wonderful waterfalls. THIS is the spot to take your photo’s.

Isle of Skye - nomadic life guide

The museum of island lifestyle

Situated at the far North of Skye, this little gem is both affordable and worth doing. Step back in time to an old Highland village. The museum offers visitors a unique experience and a true insight into island life a 100 years ago. Visitors are taken back in time, through the various cottages and artefacts they can experience how crofters lived and worked on the island. T

Portree

The largest town on the island. This pretty little harbour town is very popular for it’s shops and restaurants. The tourist information centre is large and well staffed, here you will find good information about what you can do with your time on the island and where to stay as well as various ways to be relieved of your cash (£70pp wild swimming trip anyone???). Boat trips to see the White tail Eagles leave from the harbour and can easily be booked through the chip shop on the harbour. We very much recommend this trip.

The Black Cuillins

These razor ridged, fierce, rugged and moody mountains on the South of the island are a haven for serious mountaineers and rock climbers. Some peaks are accessible without climbing gear but you will encounter high levels of exposure with scrabbling experience is essential. Not a place to be taken lightly or underestimated under any circumstances. Our favourite mountain range in the UK. See our Two Black Cuillins article

Isle of Skye - nomadic life guide

Rasaay

This tiny island off the East coast of Skye is so rarely visited despite it being easy to access. The ferry goes from Sconser and only takes a short time. Rasaay has fascinating geology, is a paradise for walkers and nature lovers or those that simply like peace and tranquillity. Anyone can enjoy walking on the woodland trails, dismantled railway lines, open moorland and coast paths. In addition to enjoying the island’s abundant flora, visitors can also catch glimpses of its rare wildlife including golden eagles, sea eagles and the unique Raasay vole. Offshore, otters and seals play, dolphins are regular visitors and the occasional basking shark or minke whale may pass close by.

The Fairy pools

A series of waterfalls and pools cascading down a mountain side. You will see pictures of them on every postcard stand on Skye. However, if you were stood before them and they looked like the ones in on the postcards, you should be asking yourself the following questions. 1)Who was it that put the drugs in my drink???? 2)What were the drugs???? 3)How can I acquire a life times supply of them???? The pictures were taken on the one and only blue sky day in the islands history, and then photoshopped to an extraordinary degree. They are heartstoppingly pretty but you have to remember that when you visit, it WILL be grey, it WILL be busy, it MAY be foggy and it will MOST LIKELY be raining!

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Dunvegan Castle

Scotland’s longest inhabited castle. Home to the Chief’s of Clan Macloed for 800 years. Learn about the bloody history, explore the formal gardens rich in exotic plants and see the seal colony. £13pp.

Practicalities

Anything that you need whilst on Skye is most likely to be found in Portree. It has the absolute basics like a chemist, post office, bank etc. Petrol can be found on the A87 which is the main road to Portree from the bridge and just outside Portree itself. The tourist information is a good place to find accommodation of any type from posh hotel to a campsite. Travel around the island can be difficult as mentioned previously, the volume of traffic combined with lack of driving ability can make this a real task. Skye is expensive. We all know that tourist destinations worldwide charge a ‘stupid tax’ designed to empty wallets quick-sharp, but the Scottish in general are masters at this. We can’t afford to eat out on Skye, well maybe fish and chips but that is it. Professionally organised trips are pretty much out of the equation, they want truly bizarre amounts of money for very simple, easy to do yourself trips.

Isle of Skye - nomadic life guide