The awe-inspiring Isle of Skye is situated along the northwest coast of Scotland. It’s an island filled with rich nature and roaming animals, including the magnificent Highland hairy coos (featured image).
After learning that the island is only a 5-6 hour drive from Edinburgh, I quickly added the road trip to our Scotland itinerary. I always try to include a bit of nature when visiting a new country, but I had no idea the scenes I was in for. With that, I’ll share a few tips and too many pictures to inspire your Isle of Skye road trip.
Edinburgh to Isle of Skye
You can choose a few routes when leaving Edinburgh, but they all lead to the same bridge connecting to the island. We went with the fastest and most direct route highlighted here because we were trying to arrive before dark. We rented our car through Alamo by the Waverly train station and had a good experience from pickup to drop off.
While in Scotland (and all of the U.K.), you’ll need to drive on the left side of the road. It sounds harder than it is if you’re from a right-driving country. But I promise that the drive from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye is an easy one as long as you remember to stay in the correct lane.
Driving might get more challenging once you arrive on the island. Some roads are more narrow than others but still meant for two-way traffic. Traffic is minimal, though, so it’s not hard to manage. Just keep in mind that animals are always roaming, so be extra careful when driving to respect their space.
The majority of the roads we were on were paved. But once you go deeper into Skye, you may encounter some dirt roads and no street lights. So I wouldn’t recommend too much night driving. We did it once, trying to find our way back to our bed and breakfast, and it was pretty stressful.
If you have more time than we did, there are some fascinating stops along the way, including Glasgow, national parks, gorgeous lakes, and maybe even a Loch Ness monster. The Scottish Highlands is another bucket list addition you can combine with the Isle of Skye.
The best time to visit seems to be between May and September, with peak tourism season happening during the summer.
We visited in September, and the weather was unpredictable. It’d be sunny one minute followed by dark clouds, a short rain, then back to sunny skies. It didn’t complicate driving; it only made taking consistent photos difficult because of the constant change in lighting.
Bed and Breakfast Isle of Skye
Our stay at Carter’s Rest was one of the most exciting things when visiting the Isle of Skye (besides the hairy coos). It turned out to be better than I imagined, and my only regret was not being able to stay longer.
Carter’s Rest is located in the middle of nowhere (Upper Milovaig), Skye. This bed and breakfast offered the sight of happy animals every day (in the backyard, front yard, side yard), made-to-order breakfast, a quietness that can never be experienced in a big city, plus breathtaking views.
The b&b is that white house below. Notice the sheep in the back and the cow near the driveway?
One of my favorite memories was looking out my room’s window and seeing all the sheep roaming, grazing, and butt scratching on the rocks. The next morning I jumped up to check on the sheep again (can you tell I’ve always lived in a big city?), and they were all replaced by cows! I couldn’t stop laughing and wondering who the heck swapped out my animals.
If you’re looking for something less secluded, the capital town of Portree is a popular base for exploring the island. This lovely town has more nearby offerings, including harborside pubs and shops. It might not be as picturesque as Carter’s Rest, but if you want to be easily connected, book your stay in Portree.
Isle of Skye Road Trip
We had 2 nights at the b&b but only 1.3 days to explore the island. Again, this is not enough time. But we still managed to see some incredible things along this scenic drive. If you plan well, you’ll be able to see a lot of these stops and possibly more if you’re a super early riser.
We made a simple loop following road A87; I’ll share the route here. It’s a 3-hour trip, but it took us the entire day with all the stops and dinner. Speaking of dinner, do not miss the best fish and chips ever in life served at The Old School Restaurant. Reservations are recommended.
NEIST POINT LIGHTHOUSE | If you’re staying at Carter’s Rest, this famous lighthouse is only a 9-minute drive away. You can stop for a photo from afar, or if you have more time, you can hike out to the lighthouse.
FAIRY GLEN | This unique landscape is a great place for photos and short hikes. Legend has it that Fairy Glen is home to the magical Skye fairies.
HAIRY COOS | I suggest you stop whenever you see these glorious creatures. The b&b owner shared that you can find hairy coos anywhere on the island. But for some strange reason, we went all day without seeing one. I was so sad that our drive was ending and no coo was to be found. Until we finally spotted the family below, and I shrieked for Jorge to stop the car.
KILT ROCK | Here, you’ll find impressive cliffs and a powerful waterfall. We were able to catch a beautiful rainbow and a piper who added the perfect music to our entire Kilt Rock experience. This specific place reminds me of Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher minus the bagpipes.
LEALT FALLS | More viewpoints and magical falls. They also have picnic benches for you to enjoy the views while eating a quick lunch.
PORTREE HARBOR | As mentioned, Portree is the capital city of the island and a chosen base for many. I was attracted to the colorful architecture and the serene views. If you’d rather have lunch at a restaurant, you’ll surely find a spot in this town.
THE OLD MAN OF STORR | This is a stop we didn’t have time for but would have loved to see. You need to hike up to this large pillar of rock, but it’ll offer you some amazing views over Skye once there.
FAIRY POOLS | Located at the foot of the Cuillin mountains, these crystal clear pools attract many visitors. Some go for a swim and others just for the photos.
DISTILLERIES | If you’re not the designated driver and love whisky, make sure to stop at one of the Skye distilleries. The most popular one is the Talisker Distillery, followed by Torabhaig.
This ram below was a little suspicious. After I took the photo, he wouldn’t stop staring, and I was certain he would ram me.
It’s pretty idyllic, don’t you think?
Isle of Skye Tours
If the idea of a self-driving trip to the island seems overwhelming, fret not; there are lots of tours that offer similar experiences without the stress of driving on the left side of the road. I’ll list some of the best-rated ones below.
If you decide to self-drive but would like to minimize your driving, check out some of these cool day tour offerings.
- Explore all the main attractions on the Isle of Skye, including the Fairy Pools, Talisker Distillery, Neist Point, plus many more starting from Portree. Duration is 9 hours. Click here for the latest prices.
- Sit back and let your local driver guide you through different locations of Skye with a small group limited to 15p. Duration is 9 hours. Check more info and availability here.
We aren’t done with the U.K. The little taste I got made me want to plan a 2-week road trip through the Scottish Highlands. I can’t wait to be back and experience more of this natural beauty.
VISITING THE UK? HERE ARE SOME HELPFUL GUIDES
- 3 Perfect Days in Edinburgh Itinerary
- Your Complete Guide to London
- Cotswolds Villages: 5 Places You Must Visit
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