Skye, Scotland: Aug 16-18

Updated: Feb 1

The Isle of Skye (an t-Eilean Sgiathanach in Gaelic) takes its name from the old Norse sky-a, meaning ‘cloud island’, a Viking reference to the often-mist-enshrouded Cuillin Hills. It’s the second-largest of Scotland’s islands, a 50-mile-long patchwork of velvet moors, jagged mountains, sparkling lochs and towering sea cliffs. In fact, its coastline is so deeply indented that no part is more than 5 miles from the sea. The stunning scenery is the main attraction, but when the mist closes in there are plenty of castles, crofting museums and pubs and restaurants.


Locations/activities covered in the blog:

  • Eilean Donan Castle

  • Sligacman Bridge

  • Old Man of Storr

  • Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock

  • Lealt Falls

  • Quiraing Hike

  • Fairy Glen

  • Dunvegan Castle

  • Neist Point Lighthouse

  • Fairy Pools

  • Glen Brittle Beach


Day 10 Plans

  • Eilean Donan Castle

  • Sligacman Bridge

  • Old Man of Storr

  • Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock

  • Lealt Falls

Below is a map of our Day 10 destinations as we left Oban and headed to the Isle of Skye. Most of the day was spent on the Trotternish peninsula where many incredible sites are located.


Eilean Donan Castle

By Richard Dorrell, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23955159

The name Eilean Donan, or island of Donan, is named after the 6th century Irish Saint Donan, who came to Scotland around 580 AD. The first castle was built on the island during the reign of Alexander II (13th century). The castle was intended to protect these lands against the Vikings, who raided, settled, and controlled much of the North of Scotland and the Western Isles between 800 and 1266.




Eilean Donan stands at the strategically important location where three sea lochs meet: Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Loch Alsh. During the Middle Ages, clan power was dependent upon controlling the sea and lochs. By holding this point, the occupants controlled shipping, trade and access to territory further inland.


Because we arrived during low tide, the pictures do not do justice to the 'island' nature of this stronghold. FYI. The foot bridge was added during the castle's restoration in the early 20th century.

Eilean Donan stands at the strategically important location where three sea lochs meet: Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Loch Alsh

By 1297, the castle became a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie for the next 200 years with the assistance of Clan Macrae. The Macraes migrated to this region in the 14th century and acted as Mackenzie's bodyguards, thereby helping them maintain control of Eilean Donan and the surrounding lands.


Some time around 1400, for reasons that are unclear, the castle was dramatically reduced in size. A third phase of construction in the 1500s is somewhat reflective of the present day castle.

By 1297, the Eilean Donan Castle on the Isle of Skye became a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie

Access to the interior of the castle was controlled through a portal with a portcullis - a vertically-closed gate which securely closing off the castle during time of attack. In the doorway right below the coat of arms is a Gaelic inscription that reads, "As long as there is a Macrae inside, there will never be a Fraser outside", referring to a bond of kinship between these two clans independent of their alliance with the Mackenzies.

Access to the interior of the Eilean Donan Castle was controlled through a portal with a portculli

Once through the portal you gain access to the inner courtyard.

The Inner Courtyard of Eilean Donan Castle in Skye looking out on the Loch Alsh
Building in the Inner Courtyard of Eilean Donan Castle on the Isle of Skye

A sea gate provided unobstructed views of Loch Alsh and showcased the strategic nature of the castle.

A sea gate provided unobstructed views of Loch Alsh and showcased the strategic nature of the Eilean Donan Castle on the Isle of Skye

A tower house or keep was built within the courtyard against the curtain wall at the high point of the island, probably in the 14th century. The keep acted as the primary place of residence. With its extra thick walls (9-10 ft thick) and protected entrance, the keep was generally the safest place in a castle during the siege.

The Tower House or Keep of Eilean Donan Castle on the Isle of Skye was built in 14th century

The castle stood in grandeur until the 18th century, when the Jacobites (Catholic Scottish opposition group to the Protestant, English-ruling government) took over the castle and occupied it. Soon after, English forces attacked and destroyed it in battle, leaving Eilean Donan in ruins for hundreds of years.

By 1297, the Eilean Donan Castle in Skye became a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie

It wasn't until the early 1900s that Lt. Col. John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the land the castle occupied and rebuilt Eilean Donan from the ground up. The present castle buildings are entirely the result of the reconstruction efforts. Varying opinions exist about the outcome but we are all beneficiaries of his efforts to once again open this great castle to the public.

Sligacman Bridge

The 'Old Sligachan Bridge' built between 1810 and 1818 is now only used for foot traffic. For a number of reasons, it's a popular stopping point. First is the legend and second is the amazing view of the Cuillins Mountains.

Mountain fed water running beneath the Sligacman Bridge in Skye

There's a legend that goes along with this bridge that says the mountain-fed waters that run beneath it are enchanted. It's said that if you hold your face in the water for a full seven seconds, you'll be granted eternal beauty. Unfortunately, we didn't know about this legend when we visited.

Mountain fed water running beneath the Sligacman Bridge in Skye

Secondly, there are some great views of the Black Cuillin Mountains. The Black Cuillin are considered the most spectacular and challenging mountains in Britain. These are peaks of which dreams are made - and nightmares!


In the picture below is the pyramidal peak of Sgurr nan Gillean, perhaps the most famous Cuillin peak. Here is description of the climb to the peak:


The easiest route to Sgurr nan Gillean is via the south eastern ridge, which is also called the “tourist route.” This route still requires scrambling and route finding skills and the last section entails walking or crawling along a foot-wide ridge with steep drops on either side. The remainder of the route, which includes some extremely rough, pathless terrain, requires very good route finding judgment and mountaineering skills.


Now you know why we passed ... I'd love to try something like that with an excellent guide but I'm not sure Dave would agree.

Pyramidal peak of Sgurr nan Gillean  and views of the Black Cuillin Mountains from Sligacman Bridge in Skye and the mountain fed waters

For the next few days we traveled around Trotternish, the northernmost peninsula of the Isle of Skye.


Old Man of Storr

I decided the Old Man of Storr and Quiraing hikes should be combined in a separate blog. Click on the link above to navigate to the blog for these hikes.


Lealt Falls

Right off the A855 was a parking lot which lead to a path revealed an incredible landscape and the Lealt Falls. Unfortunately, we didn't realize until we turned around that the falls were actually close to the road. So the best picture of the falls we captured is below; the thin white sliver of water in the bottom center of the picture.

Green lush lands of Lealt Falls on the Isle of Skye

But not to be disappointed, we followed this path along the narrow gorge to a platform with sweeping views of the sea cliffs.

Green hills and sea cliffs at Lealth Falls on the Isle of Skye
Green hills and sea cliffs at Lealth Falls on the Isle of Skye
Green hills and sea cliffs at Lealth Falls on the Isle of Skye

Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock

A few kilometers after the Lealt parking lot was the overlook for both Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock. At the falls, water from Loch Mealt plunges 180 feet over sea cliffs into the Sound of Raasay. Since Rassay is connected to the Atlantic Ocean, that makes Mealt Falls one of the rare waterfalls that spills into the ocean.


During our stop, it was a grey cloudy day so the pictures were OK but not great. Fortunately, the next day started with a blue sky and since we were driving by the overlook, we stopped again for pictures and it was definitely worth it!

Waters of Mealt Falls plunging over the sea cliffs into the Atlantic Ocean

Kilt Rock is located north of the falls. True to its name, the Kilt Rock actually did have a striking resemblance to the Scottish kilt with vertical basalt columns forming the pleats. These cliffs are almost 300 feet tall at the highest point.

Kilt Rock resembles a Scottish kilt with vertical basalt columns forming the pleats. These cliffs are almost 300 feet tall at the highest point

After a full day we returned to Portree and our Airbnb 'Cnoc Mhairi', run by Maggie - an incredible host who opened up her home to us. If you are staying on Skye consider checking in on the availability of this home.

Portree Airbnb 'Cnoc Mhairi' on the Isle of Skye

Sunrises were incredible from the living room window with panoramic views of Portree Bay.

Sunrise over Portree harbor on the Isle of Skye

Day 11 Plans

  • Quiraing Hike

  • Fairy Glen

  • Dunvegan Castle

  • Neist Point Lighthouse

Driving around the Trotternish peninsula by itself is an experience. Great views and vistas randomly crop up on the road. Even after all we has seen today, we continued to be overwhelmed by these coastal views.

Small villages on the Trotternish peninsula on the Isle of Skye
Flowering heather bushes along the coast of the Trotternish peninsula on the Isle of Skye
Sheep on the road along the coast of the Trotternish peninsula on the Isle of Skye
Old defensive towers along the coast of the Trotternish peninsula on the Isle of Skye

Quiraing Hike

We started the day off bright and early with a hike of Quiraing. As I mentioned previously, I decided the Old Man of Storr and Quiraing hikes should be combined in a separate blog. Click on the link above to navigate to the blog for these hikes.


Fairy Glen

Nestled in the middle of farmland and down a bumpy single track road lies Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye.

Fairy Glen rolling green hills on the Isle of Skye

Though there’s no definitive folklore linking the land to the magical realm, some say fairies created the dramatic landscape and still dwell within its many crevices. Everywhere you look are these lush green knolls with grooves in the surface.

Lush green knolls with grooves in the surface in the Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye

This picture provides perspective in terms of the size of these knolls - notice the people climbing the hillside.

People climbing the green knolls of Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye

Jutting up from a hill is a square-shaped basalt rock formation that resembles a castle ruins.

A square-shaped basalt rock formation that resembles a castle ruins in the Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye

Climbing up the narrow path to Castle Ewan.

Climbing the narrow path to Castle Ewan in the Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye

It was a tight squeeze into the castle.

Tight squeeze between the rocks in Castle Ewan in Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye

A great view from the top.

View from the top of Castle Ewan in Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye

A view from the top of the castle shows the glen and the cone-shaped hills that look like a scaled back version of Quiraing.

Cone-shaped hills that look like a scaled back version of Quiraing in Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye

Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan was constructed during the early 13th century on top of a basalt outcropping overlooking a harbor (later called Loch Dunvegan) by Leod, founder of the MacLeod clan. It is one the greatest and most renowned Hebridean strongholds, and the only one which has been continuously owned and (with the exception of the eighty years after the Potato Famine of the last century) occupied by the same family, during a period now reaching back over a span of nearly 8 centuries.


The castle is now accessed by a footbridge. Before this addition, the castle was surrounded by the sea on three sides and a naturally enhanced rock cut ditch which filled as the sea tides ebbed and flowed.

Using a footbridge to access Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye

The MacLeods dominated Lewis, in the Western Isles, and Dunvegan was constructed as part of their efforts to take control of the Isle of Skye. This location, built within a naturally sheltered harbor at the head of the loch, provided the clan with direct access to the sea and the Western Isles. Control of harbors and sea routes were key to their power in the Middle Ages.

Dunvegan Castle constructed during the early 13th century on top of a basalt outcropping overlooking a harbor of Loch Dunvega

Naturally occurring silt deposits and man-made changes in water flow have altered sea water levels around the castle.

Dunvegan Castle constructed during the early 13th century on top of a basalt outcropping overlooking a harbor of Loch Dunvega

The present appearance of the castle reflects alterations made for the 25th Chief, Norman MacLeod, between 1840 and 1850. However, underneath this outer skin there remains a series of complete buildings, covering ten different periods from 1200 to the 1850s.

Some of the stone walls of Dunvegan Castle have stood since the 1200

The castle houses a number of historical treasures, the most famous being the Fairy Flag. The Flag is supposed to grant MacLeods victory in battle every time is unfurled, but can only be used three times, with one use now left after the battles of Glendale (1490) and Trumpan (1580).


We didn't get many interior pictures. The rooms were rather small and were very crowded. It had been raining for several hours so more people than usual were walking around inside the castle.

The Fairy Flag housed in Dunvegan Castle is supposed to grant MacLeods victory in battle every time is unfurled. Isle of Skye

In the vaults beneath the castle is 'The Great Sword of Dunvegan' which belonged to William Long Sword (7th Chief) who was killed in 1480. It is one of only two surviving claymores dating back to that period of Scottish history.

The Great Sword of Dunvegan housed in Dunvegan Castle belonged to William Long Sword (7th Chief) who was killed in 1480

One interesting point is that the Cuillin Mountain range is part of the MacLeod Estate. In 2000, John MacLeod of MacLeod put the Cuillins on Skye on the market for £10m. However, in 2003 those plans changes when the range was handed over to a public trust in return for badly needed repairs to his castle.


Surrounding the castle were beautiful gardens. Despite the sporadic rain showers we still managed to walk around and enjoy them.

Surrounding Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye are beautiful gardens
Purple flowers in the gardens surrounding Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye
Red flowers in the gardens surrounding Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye
Yellow flowers in the gardens surrounding Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye

Neist Point Lighthouse

Despite the threat of heavy rain and wind, we drove to Neist Point, a famous lighthouses on the most westerly tip of Skye. You can follow a more or less well-maintained concrete path directly from the car park to the lighthouse. Although it wasn't raining when we arrived at the car park, the winds were blowing relentlessly. I don't need to describe how windy ... just watch the video. Dave said that this was Steve's audition tape for the Weather Channel.

The simple task of walking was a challenge due to the winds but there was a handrail to make things a little easier. From the start there are impressive views of the surrounding cliffs, but the lighthouse itself wasn't immediately visible.

As we approached the cliffs in the picture above, it started to rain 'horizontally'. It was difficult balancing myself against the wind and protecting the camera lens against the rain.

Storms battering the sea cliff of Neist Point on the Isle of Skye

Fortunately after a few minutes the wind and rain both let up and we felt more comfortable walking closer to the edge.

Towering sea cliffs of Neist Point on the Isle of Skye

Neist Point Lighthouse was built in 1900. The lighthouse tower is 62 feet high and stands 142 feet above sea-level. The light can be seen from up to 16 miles away.

Neist Point Lighthouse on the western tip of the Isle of Skye

Even with the winds, we could still hear the waves pounding the coast.

Waves pounding the basalt rock outcroppings on Neist Point on the Isle of Skye

It was time for a quick selfie.

Neist Point on the western tip of the Isle of Skye

As we approached the end of the path back to the car, the wind once again picked up. The winds were so strong, Dave almost got knocked over.

Strong winds blowing people over on Neist Point on the Isle of Skye

Just so you know what Neist looks like on a good day (postcard image).


Day 12 Plans

  • Fairy Pools

  • Glen Brittle Beach

The map below identifies the sites we visited during our time on Skye. I'd have to say I'm happy with how we spent our time on Skye. With the exception of trekking in the Cuillins, I think we accomplished everything we had hoped for during our stay.


Fairy Pools

Many tributaries of the River Brittle run down from the Black Cuillin Mountains into a glen creating a series of waterfalls known as the Fairy Pools. Since it had been extremely rainy the last few days, water levels were very high.


The area was really crowded so we had to park 15 minutes away from the trail head, but we were greeted with these beautiful views of the Black Cuillins rising in front of us.

Fairy pool waterfalls along the stream fed by waters from the Black Cuillin Mountains on the Isle of Skye

The walk to the pools followed a gravel path that was in good condition most of the way, but did involve river crossings over stepping stones.

Crossing the stream at Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye

It took less than 30 minutes to reach the first and largest waterfall which mark the start of the Fairy Pools.

Waterfall at Fairy Pools fed by waters from the Black Cuillin Mountains on the Isle of Skye

Imagine how incredible it was to walk and constantly hear this sound.

The path meanders along the banks so you are never far from the sound of rushing water.

Following the path along the waters of Fairy Pools
Waterfall at Fairy Pools fed by waters from the Black Cuillin Mountains on the Isle of Skye

At several points the water was only ankle deep so Dave tested the cold mountain water.

Standing in the waters of Fairy Pool on the Isle of Skye

I didn't brave the water but instead did some yoga... being in the moment.

Yoga Crow Pose at the Fairy Pool on the Isle of Skye

We continued past the 'typical end' of the Fairy Pool path moving closer to the imposing pinnacle of Sgurr an Fheadain (2,3313 ft) that dominated the skyline along the entire path.

Pinnacle of Sgurr an Fheadain (2,3313 ft) dominated the skyline along the entire path of the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye

We had our first encounter with midges but were prepared with hats that incorporate a midge-proof netting that covered your entire face and neck area; they were a life saver. If you look closely you can see midges clinging to the net.

Wearing hats with midge netting at the Fairy Pool on the Isle of Skye

The Fairy Pools deserve their name. It was a fun way to spend part of our last full day in Skye. With the exception of trekking in the Cuillins, I think we got the most of our time in this beautiful island.

Waterfall at Fairy Pools fed by waters from the Black Cuillin Mountains on the Isle of Skye. Pinnacle of Sgurr an Fheadain in the background

Glen Brittle Beach

After we returned to the car, we continued driving on a single lane road that led to the coast. We arrived at Glen Brittle beach and campground that butts right up against the Cuillins.

Glen Brittle Beach at the base of the Black Cuillin Mountain range on the Isle of Skye

We stopped to get a coffee and snack at the camp store then walked along the beach. It was low tide so it was a long walk out to the water's edge.

Glen Brittle Beach at the base of the Black Cuillin Mountain range on the Isle of Skye
Glen Brittle Beach at the base of the Black Cuillin Mountain range on the Isle of Skye

We got back to the Airbnb, had a great home-cooked dinner, and then began the packing so that we'd be able to leave early and catch the ferry to Lewis Island in the Outer Hebrides. Lewis would be our home base for four nights - our chill beach vacation time.

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