If you do any travel research on Scotland, you’ll soon learn about the Isle of Skye. Skye is the largest island in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, and it’s a truly magical place. A simple Google search will yield hundreds of gorgeous photos displaying the island’s rugged rock formations, mountains, waterfalls, seaside cliffs and other incredible sights.
Because I had already planned to travel through Scotland, I knew I had to make a trip to the legendary Skye. It wasn’t easy to find an available hostel bed in this popular destination in August, but I was finally able to reserve two nights (though sadly unable to get a third) at a hostel in Portree, the island’s largest town. If you plan to visit the Isle of Skye during the summer, it’s a good idea to finalize your accommodation a couple of months in advance. Oops.
I arrived by bus one afternoon from the Scottish Highlands. After visiting the tourist information center, picking up a few groceries and checking into the hostel, I took some time to explore Portree. Honestly, it didn’t take too long. There isn’t much to see in this little fishing village except for a few streets of shops, cafes and B&Bs. The harbor area, while pretty, is tiny and surrounded by just a few dining establishments that appear as though they’ve seen better days. The main appeal of Portree is that it’s an ideal place to “park” while exploring the really lovely parts of the Isle of Skye.
Isle of Skye Tour
After the difficulty I experienced with booking a room, I made sure to arrange a tour of the island with Real Scottish Journeys in advance, even though the company’s brochure assured me that I could just show up on the day of the tour. I’m glad I booked ahead, as the 15-passenger bus was full on the day of the tour and I would have been very disappointed to have missed this amazing experience.
After a couple of days of rain in the Highlands, my prayers for good weather on our tour day were answered. And when the Real Scottish Journeys vehicle pulled into the bus stop in the center of town, I had even more reason to smile. Our transportation was to be a Volkswagen bus driven by a wiry 40-something Scottish gent named Bill, whose curly salt-and-pepper hair reached his shoulders. He was dressed in jeans, a wrinkled t-shirt, a pair of black Chuck Taylors and a big Scottish grin. Clearly this would be a fun day.
We made numerous stops throughout our nine-hour day together as we traveled around the coastline of the Isle of Skye and took in the island’s amazing and varied scenery. The rest of the tour group and I soon learned that in addition to having a great sense of humor and being well versed in the island’s history and geography, Bill is also an absolutely amazing storyteller.
Old Man of Storr
Our first stop was the Old Man of Storr, an unusual rock formation on the Trotternish Peninsula in the north of Skye. It was created by an ancient landslide and is now one of the most popular hiking destinations on the Isle of Skye.
Further along the Trotternish Peninsula, we stopped at Kilt Rock. These sea cliffs along the edge of the Sound of Raasay are said to resemble a kilt (only the Scots would come up with this!) with basalt columns forming the kilt’s pleats.
From Kilt Rock, we traveled to the northernmost summit of Trotternish Peninsula to Quiraing, a gorgeous green landscape of hills, plateaus and visitas. Trails lead through the Quiraing and make for incredibly scenic hikes.
After a drive, we came to the aptly-named Fairy Glen. This is truly a magical landscape, with its bright green grasses, pools, rocks and unusual mounds of earth. It isn’t hard to imagine that a band of fairies could be dancing beyond the next hill.
We were treated to more stunning views at Neist Point, which is the most westerly point on the Isle of Skye. This is said to be a prime spot for bird and whale watchers, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the gorgeous cliffs and green landscapes. There is a long climb to the top of the point, but the views are well worth the hike. The cliffs are unfenced, so be careful!
During ride and on various stops, we enjoyed beautiful views of Isle of Skye’s rocky mountain range, the Cuillin Mountains. Many hiking routes exist in these mountains, and the Black Cuillins are said to be the most spectacular and challenging mountains in Britain. On this day, I was content to enjoy them from the ground!
Our final destination for the day was the majestic Fairy Pools. We had more than an hour to explore this area on foot, and the time was hardly enough. A trail runs from the car park up along a creek dotted by waterfalls, rock formations and crystal-clear pools. Each view is stunning, and I could hardly walk a few yards without stopping to take a picture.
In addition to seeing the incredible natural beauty of Skye, we had the added benefit of an amazing tour guide to narrate the journey. I was lucky enough to have a front row seat to Bill’s storytelling performances, during which he stopped the van and turned to face us as he spun legendary Scottish tales and fairy stories in vivid detail. We listened with rapt attention, completely absorbed in the beautiful descriptions of a human fiddler who joined the fairy world, of kings who dined together at a stone table under the stars, and of the giant Finn McCool, whose clever wife used trickery to protect him from his giant Irish nemesis.
The Isle of Skye tour with Real Scottish Journeys was a truly wonderful experience from beginning to end. you have the opportunity to visit Scotland, don’t miss a trip to the magical Isle of Skye. And if you’d like a narrated tour with a Skye expert, I would highly recommend Real Scottish Journeys. I did not receive a discount on my tour to write this post. I’m recommending this company simply because I had a great experience. Please tell Bill I said hello!