Three-Day Isle of Skye, Scotland Itinerary
Summary: I’m sharing an example Isle of Skye itinerary in this post for a 3-day trip along with my advice about when to visit, what to pack when visiting Scotland.
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Whenever I talk about visiting Scotland, the first question I get is always “which part was your favorite?” My answer to that question is always Isle of Skye.
Scotland has such diverse landscape that you can be in the bustling city of Edinburgh, start driving, and make it to a remote island in the Scottish Highlands only five hours later. It’s one of the many reasons this is my favorite country out of everywhere I’ve traveled to. It felt familiar. Specifically, Isle of Skye felt like coming home in some way. The rolling hills, the epic views, the sheep that block the roads whenever they feel like it – it all felt like home to me. And it’s why you should NOT skip Isle of Skye on your next Scottish adventure.
The Best Time to Visit Isle of Skye
I visited Scotland in the beginning of November. This time of year is definitely cheaper to travel and you’ll find less crowds, but the weather can be tricky. Scotland is notoriously rainy in the fall, so you should expect quite a few rainy days if you decide to travel here this time of year. Coming from the Pacific Northwest, this wasn’t really a concern of ours. We packed our favorite rain jackets and took the risk!
We ended up getting super lucky with a few gorgeous days when we visited Isle of Skye. It would rain for a bit in the morning and then the sun would come out in the afternoon. It was still pretty chilly, but that’s perfect for me.
If you want the best chance at excellent weather, I’d plan a trip during the summer months. There are obviously no guarantees with weather, but this is when Scotland sees the least amount of rain. This also means you can embark on a few hikes that we had to skip due to mud (more on that later!) and you’ll get the most out of this Isle of Skye itinerary.
How to Get to Isle of Skye
My biggest tip for anyone traveling to Scotland in general is to rent a car while you’re there. The entire trip doesn’t have to be a road trip, but at least rent a car to explore areas in the highlands that you just can’t get to by bus or train. For instance, there is no train station on Isle of Skye. If you’re really against driving, you can take a bus to Portree on Isle of Skye from Glasgow, but that only gets you to Portree. Many of the beautiful stops I’ll talk about below will require transportation around the island.
Our Scotland itinerary started in Edinburgh, so we rented a car at the Edinburgh airport and drove to Isle of Skye. When our stay was over, we drove to Glasgow and dropped the car off at the Glasgow airport. Normally, we wouldn’t choose airports as our pick up and drop off points, but because we were picking up and dropping off in different cities, Hertz required it to be at the airports.
Isle of Skye is about a 5-hour drive from both Edinburgh and Glasgow. We decided to make a few stops along the way to break it up which included Midhope Castle (Lallybroch from the Outlander Series) and Dalwhinnie Distillery.
Tips for Driving On Isle of Skye
I won’t sugar coat it. If you’re used to driving in the US, it will be a little scary to drive in the UK in general, and even more intimidating to drive on Isle of Skye. In the UK, you’ll have to drive on the left side of the road. This takes some getting used to, but it doesn’t take long. I found myself singing Beyonce’s “to the left, to the left” song to keep it at the top of my mind.
When you make it to Isle of Skye, you’ll notice right away that the roads are VERY narrow. So narrow, in fact, that only one car can fit on them at a time. This can make for a very awkward situation if someone starts driving toward you. However, there are pockets to pull over every couple hundred feet, so if you see someone coming at you in the distance, just pull over, let them pass, and go about your day.
You’ll also find that the speed limit is quite high for the amount of twists and turns these roads have. The locals are used to driving 50 or 60 MPH on these roads, but we never felt comfortable going more than 40 MPH. If you find yourself in this same situation, the polite thing to do is pull over when you see someone coming up behind you so they can pass.
Austin did most of the driving and after about a day or two, he was a pro! You simply have to be aware of what’s going on around you.
One last thing I’ll mention is that sheep roam pretty freely on Isle of Skye. When we were driving at night, we found that they love to lay RIGHT next to the road, and sometimes even on the road. So again, make sure you’re paying attention – especially at night.
Where to Stay on Isle of Skye
There are several little towns you can stay in on Isle of Skye. The biggest one (while still being very tiny) is Portree. This is where we stayed and where I’d recommend staying. It is a very small town with a few restaurants, coffee shops, local stores, and a very aesthetic harbor. Portree is also kind of in the center of Isle of Skye, so if you’re following this itinerary, you won’t have to drive too far if you’re going north or south.
We stayed in the Portree Hotel right on the town square. The room was very modest, but it worked for what we needed (a place to sleep). The attached bar and restaurant seemed to be popular places for people to come, even if they weren’t staying at the hotel. I can attest to the breakfast – it was delicious!
What to Pack for a Trip to Scotland
What you pack will highly depend on when you’re visiting. If you choose to go in Fall, bring a lot of layers. It was chilly at times and borderline warm at other times. Typically, on Isle of Skye, we were hiking or exploring outside, so I wore a base layer, a sweater, and a rain jacket.
Speaking of rain jackets, you will need rain gear if you visit in Fall. I think Scotland scares some people away because of how much it rains, but it really is tolerable if you have the right gear with you. My favorite rain jacket is the Apollo Rain Jacket by Outdoor Research. I have it in the “Larch” color. It is very packable, light, and breathable. I loved that the hood stays up even in the harshest wind and rain.
I noticed the typical style change a bit in each city I visited throughout Scotland. I am NOT a fashion girlie, but in Edinburgh, I saw a lot of dark academia – think plaid, wool coats, tweed hats, dark leather, wide trousers, etc. However, on Isle of Skye, most people were wearing very functional clothing because the weather was a bit harsher. I was typically wearing leggings, hiking boots, and a rain jacket and I didn’t feel out of place at all.
Now let’s get into the itinerary for three amazing days on Isle of Skye:
Day 1: Old Man of Storr Hike, Kilt Rock, and Portree
We are starting day one of our Isle of Skye itinerary with a bang! The Old Man of Storr hike was my absolute favorite thing we did while in Scotland. This is a steep, 3.5mi hike that makes you feel like you’re simultaneously in the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones. This is truly such a good way to start exploring Isle of Skye because you’ll get some of the best views on the island. The hike is somewhat strenuous, so I’d highly recommend hiking boots or sneakers.
The Old Man of Storr trailhead is about a 15-minute drive from the center of Portree. There are bathrooms here!
After your hike, get back in the car and drive further north to Kilt Rock. This will be about 15 minutes away from Old Man of Storr and gives even more amazing scenery. Marvel at the cliff edges while you’re here!
After seeing these two sites, head back to Portree and explore some of the small town you’re staying in. If you left early in the morning, it might be lunch time by now and there are a few restaurants around Portree – check out one by the harbor to see the infamous colorful buildings.
After lunch, walk around to the different shops around town and get a feel of what it’s like to live in a small seaside town. There is a short walk called the Portree Walkway that follows the waterline and gives great views of the harbor coastline.
Day 2: Fairy Pools Hike, Cafe Cuil, and Sconser
Day two is starting off with another amazing hike. After breakfast, drive about 40 minutes south to the Fairy Pools. This hike is much easier than Old Man of Storr. It’s about 2.3 miles out and back, and it’s relatively flat. You’ll walk along the trail and see the waterfalls (i.e., fairy pools) on either side of you.
After you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Cafe Cuil for lunch. You can’t miss this building as it’s large and bright red! Inside, you’ll find delicious food and a great vibe to have a long, relaxing lunch. When we visited, there was a Scottish family playing different instruments and we just sat there and listened for a while.
After lunch, I’d suggest driving around the island a bit because that is an activity in itself. I’m not exaggerating when I talk about the scenery on Isle of Skye. It’s incredible! And you’ll want to see as much of it as you can. I recommend driving toward Sconser as that tends to be a great place to spot highland cows!
Day 3: Dunvegan Castle and Gardens and Neist Point
On your last full day on Isle of Skye, you’ll start off by driving West to Dunvegan Castle and Gardens. The castle is open from April 1-October 15. You can tour both the castle and gardens. They also have boat tours that start here for both seal watching and fishing!
You can easily spend an entire day at Dunvegan Castle, but pick the activities you’d like to do from their website and plan your day. Just make sure to leave some time to see Neist Point before the sun goes down!
Neist Point is a peninsula with a lighthouse at the end of it. You can choose to hike down to the lighthouse, or view it from the cliffside. It was raining hard when we got there and we mainly wanted a photo of the lighthouse, so we viewed it from the cliffside. The wind and rain honestly made it SO hard to walk (especially so close to the edge!), but I saw several other photographers lined up, so I knew I needed to get the shot. It was worth it to me.
Keep in mind that I visited in November, so if you go in the summer, you’ll likely get better weather conditions than we had.
If you’re looking for a place to eat tonight, I can’t recommend The Three Chimneys enough! It is pricey and you will need a reservation, but it is one of the best meals I ever had. If you’re celebrating something, that is perfect justification to splurge on an incredible meal!
Did you enjoy this Isle of Skye itinerary? Let me know if it helped you plan your trip!