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The largest of the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Skye has become an increasingly popular destination as a place that looks like a fantasy come to life. With its breathtaking landscape of soaring emerald covered mountains, dramatic sea cliffs and unique rock formations, countless waterfalls and pools, it’s so stunning it’s almost surreal. In addition, to enjoy its natural beauty, you’ll find many things to do, including these fabulous options.
One of the top things to do for any traveler to the Isle of Skye is to hike to the Old Man of Storr on the Trotternish Ridge, known as one of the world’s most photographed landscapes. The large pinnacle of rock can be seen for miles around, and can be reached via a fairly easy 2.4-mile round trip hike. The popular walk gently climbs to the massive pinnacle that’s just one of the many impressive elements among the wide range of incredible rock features. The views from here, of the Sound of Raasay and out to the mainland beyond are absolutely jaw-dropping.
At the foot of the Black Cuillins near Glenbrittle are the legendary fairy pools. The crystal blue pools on the River Brittle aren’t exactly warm, but feel wonderfully refreshing after a hike. They were featured in the 2007 fantasy film “Stardust” and are also a great place for a picnic if you don’t want to brave the chilly water. The lush scenery makes it easy to imagine that fairies live here, and if you look closely, you might even be able to see them among the glen and twisted trees.
Dunvegan Castle is the only castle on the Isle of Skye, but as the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for over 800 years, it’s Scotland’s oldest continuously inhabited castle. While it’s worth a visit just to view the magnificent exterior, the castle is open for public tours. Inside, you can check out the fine art and other clan heirlooms including the Fairy Flag, the sacred banner that, as legend has it, was responsible for the MacLeods miraculous victories in battle. Outside, you’ll find gorgeous 18th-century formal gardens to explore as well. You can also embark on a boat trip out onto the loch to see a seal colony, browse the gift shops and dine at the onsite cafe.
Whisky, spelled without the “e” here, has been around almost as long as Scotland itself, so while you’re in Scotland you should really visit one of the many distilleries, including Talisker, right on the Isle of Skye. Tucked away on Skye’s remote west coast on the shores of Loch Harport, it’s been producing since 1830 and enjoys an incredibly picturesque location. The sea air also makes a difference in the results, imparting conspicuous elements to the whisky that’s known for its peaty, smokey taste. Visitors can take a tour and enjoy a tasting as well a round table chat over drams.
On Coral Beach, when the sun comes out, you might swear you’re in a tropical locale, that is until you touch the water. Located just north of Dunvegan Castle, while it’s called Coral Beach, it’s not actually coral, but the crushed bleached skeletons of red coralline seaweed. Regardless, that’s what gives the water its stunning tropical blue look under the rays of the sun. Absolutely magical, it’s an ideal place for beach combing, with countless pretty seashells just waiting to be discovered. As you wander down the beach, you’ll discover little pools that are often filled with interesting marine creatures too.
If you want a close up look at some of the wildlife on and around Skye, consider taking a boat trip from Portree. Stardust Boat Trips operate from Portree Harbour, with sightings just about guaranteed. You’ll head out onto Portree Bay and Raasay Sound, where in the summer, you’ll not only be able to view white tailed sea eagles, the largest and rarest bird of prey in the U.K., but seals, dolphins, whales and basking sharks. A dazzling array of other bird life is often spotted too, including puffins.
Some of the most epic views on the Isle of Skye require very little hiking, including two of the most awe-inspiring sights that can both be seen from the same observation point on the Trotternish Peninsula. The nearly 300-feet-high Kilt Rock looks incredibly similar to a pleaded kilt, made up of basalt columns that rest on a sandstone base. Mealt Falls plunges here from the top of the cliffs and onto the rocky coast below.
Located near Dunvegan, Neist Point Lighthouse creates an especially impressive scene as the westernmost point on the Isle of Skye. It’s also one of the best places for enjoying a sunset, and in the summertime, you might be able to glimpse basking sharks and whales too. From the very start of the path that leads to the lighthouse, you’ll be able to take in exceptional views of the surrounding cliffs, but the lighthouse itself isn’t seen until you walk back along the cliff to the right of the carpark if you want that picture-perfect photograph. If you’re into painting or sketching, this is one of the best spots on the island to capture.