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What to see and do?

What to see and do

The Isle of Skye,  Isle of Raasay, Lochalsh and Inverness make incredible holiday destinations with something for everyone to enjoy!  As well as our overview of the different areas below,  our blog may have relevant articles and there is a facebook page called What’s Open in Skye and Lochalsh where local companies advertise events and their wares.

Arriving and Getting Around

If you are coming from further afield,  the nearest international and domestic airport is in Inverness,  about 80 miles away from Kyle of Lochalsh by road.  Inverness also has a railway station where Scotrail train services connect Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh, as well as to Edinburgh,  Glasgow and London.  Inverness, Kyle of Lochalsh, Portree and Uig  (as well as other stops in between)  are served by both local and national bus services.  The easiest way to plan your route by public transport is to use Traveline Scotland.  They link up the rail networks,  local and national bus services and ferry timetables to give a complete overview.

If you are driving to the area,  it is worth checking Traffic Scotland and Bear Scotland for any accidents,  road closures or roadworks that could disrupt your journey.  Due to the terrain,  there are few roads in this part of Scotland.  So quite often if a road is closed,  there is no easy alternative route.

The best way to explore the Isle of Skye and Lochalsh is with your own transport.  Public transport is very limited and does not connect all the towns, villages,  tourist attractions and walks that you can do.  So to explore fully,  your own transport is highly recommended.  If you do not have your own vehicle,  there are car hire companies in Inverness and in the Skye and Lochalsh area which are worth booking in advance as very limited locally.  Alternatively there are local tour and private hire companies where you can join a scheduled tour or enjoy a bespoke trip tailored to suit what you would like to see.

The Isle of Skye is linked to the mainland at Kyle of Lochalsh by the Isle of Skye Bridge.  It arrives on the Isle of Skye at Kyleakin and is toll free.  It is the simplest and quickest way of crossing to the Isle of Skye.

However,  you may want to be more traditional and go ‘Over the Sea to Skye’ by ferry.  Caledonian MacBrayne operate a timetabled roll-on-roll off car ferries between Mallaig (mainland) and Armadale (Isle of Skye),  Tarbert (Isle of Harris) to Uig (Isle of Skye) and between Lochmaddy (North Uist) and Uig (Isle of Skye).  Booking is essential for these ferries – especially in the summer!

Between Easter – October Skye Ferry a small community-run turntable ferry,  also takes vehicles and passengers to the Isle of Skye.  It crosses the sea between Glenelg and Kylerhea and involves a scenic drive over Mam Ratagan pass and the chance of seeing otters,  sea eagles and seals!  It may take a little longer than the Isle of Skye Bridge,  but it is certainly worth it for the views! And if you don’t do it on your way to the Isle of Skye, then it is well worth it as a day trip!  There is no public transport to this ferry.

It is always advisable to plan your journey ahead and check bus routes,  train and ferry timetables,  especially if you are looking to stay in a cottage out of the way and do not have use of a vehicle. Local bus times are often not linked to ferry or train arrivals / departures so you may have some waits between different forms of transport.

Explore Inverness

Highlights in the Scottish Year

Time your visit and celebrate with us!  Live traditional music and ceilidhs happen throughout the year in village halls,  bars and hotels all over the area.  Watch for local posters and listings in local newspapers.  Or on Whats On Skye facebook page.

25th January  Burn’s Night marks the birth of Scotland’s own Robert (Robbie) Burns.  Toast our beloved National Bard with a traditional Burns supper.

31st October   Halloween has its origins in the Celtic Samhain Festival and the Christian All Hallows or All Saints Day.  It is a great excuse for some ghoulish fun!  Check for a variety of local events including ghost walks and fancy dress parties!

5th November  Bonfire Night is our uniquely British response to the failed attempt by Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605!  Traditional events include fireworks and the burning of the guy.  Any resemblance to the Wicker Man is purely co-incidental!

30th November  St Andrew’s Day celebrates the Patron Saint of Scotland.  Any excuse for a party!

31st December  Never mind Christmas the week before,  we certainly know how to welcome in the New Year with Hogmanay!  A visit at this time of year will undoubtedly involve a fair few drams of whisky and traditional music. Go “first footing” and meet your neighbours whilst taking a gift of clootie dumpling and a lump of coal for their fire with you!

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Explore Lochalsh

The Lochalsh area is one of outstanding natural beauty,  wildlife and history.  It offers great opportunities for hillwalking,  cycling,  kayaking,  fishing,  golf and horse riding.

The pretty harbour village of Plockton with its iconic palm trees makes a great base.  Explore the local gift shops (or craft fair in the hall),  visit Craig Highland Farm with its friendly Llama or take a boat trip to see the seals!  There is a choice of places to eat – Plockton Takeaway is very popular – and there is plenty to see and do in and around the village.  Get out in the fresh air with a coastal walk from Drumbuie.  Keep your eye out for the natural wildlife and you may be lucky and catch a glimpse of an otter playing on the shore,  or a pine marten or red squirrel darting through the Atlantic woodland at Stromeferry or in the temporate rainforest at Balmacara.

The whole family will enjoy exploring scenic Eilean Donan Castle overlooking the meeting of three lochs –  Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh.  Or go back in time to see the amazingly well preserved Iron Age brochs near Glenelg.

The main town of Kyle of Lochalsh includes a range of amenities including banks,  post office and supermarket,  as well as places to eat.  There is also the local swimming pool complete with sauna,  steam room and hot tub!

Kyle of Lochalsh is also the gateway to the Isle of Skye,  with the mile long Skye Bridge being the easiest connection to the island.  Make sure to include at least a day trip excursion during your stay!

If you are not in a rush,  you can take the traditional drovers route to Skye via the ferry at Glenelg.  The Skye Ferry  is community owned and is open from Easter to October.  Seals,  otters and sea eagles are frequently spotted and the drive takes you over the Mam Rattagan Pass with stunning views of the Five Sisters of Kintail.

Attadale Gardens  provides a fun day out.  You can take the train from Kyle of Lochalsh and ask to get off at the request stop of Attadale.  A scenic walk into the glen takes you to the entrance to Attadale Gardens.  There is a sculpture trail and a maze of paths taking you through different vegetation and landscapes.

Annual Events in Lochalsh

Sat 10th June 2023 Lochalsh Dirty Thirty (and Dirty Dozen)   This annual hill race offers competitors the choice of two circuits in and around Glenelg.  Not for the faint hearted!

Sat 15th July 2023 Lochcarron Highland Games – known as the ‘Friendly Games’,  this annual event at Attadale showcases Highland Dancing,  Tossing the Caber and an amazing hill race.

Starting on the Monday after the 4th Sunday in July – Plockton Regatta  – 12 day annual event organised by the Plockton Small Boat Sailing Club.

Self Catering Holiday Cottages in Lochalsh

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Explore South Skye

South Skye is a large area with extremes of landscape.  It ranges from Sleat, the far south peninsula, to the village of Broadford and across to Elgol in the south west.

Sleat,  also known as the Garden of Skye,  includes the impressive 40 acre grounds of Armadale Castle  [Gardens open on Sunday’s until 18th December 2022, re-opens fully in Spring 2023] with towering monkey puzzle trees and carpets of bluebells,  picturesque castle ruins,  panoramic views across the bay towards Mallaig,  and the award winning Museum of the Isles to explore with children’s events during school holidays.

This area is steeped in Gaelic culture and is home to the Gaelic college Sabhal Mor Ostaig.  Don’t miss the community run An Crubh with its café and shop at Duisdale Beag.  Overlooking Isle Ornsay,  is Skye’s newest distillery.  2020 saw the launch of the first bottled single malt from Torabhaig Distillery.  Book a tour and learn all about the distilling process and get a bite to eat  before or afterwards in their on-site cafe.

Take the single-track loop to Tarskavaig and marvel at the panoramic views across Loch Eishort towards Elgol, Soay and the Cuillins beyond.  Visit the ruins of Dunscaith Castle at Tokavaig bay.

The main town in the south end of the island is Broadford.  Centred around the bay,  Broadford offers great views toward the islands of Pabay and Scalpay and beyond.  Broadford has most amenities including a petrol station,  supermarket,  bank and post office,  as well as cafés, restaurants and an array of gift shops.

The island’s Accident & Emergency Department is at Broadford Hospital, centrally located in Broadford village.

Travel the single-track road from Broadford towards Elgol and explore the ruins of Cill Chroisd.  Take a walk in Torrin,  pass by Loch Slapin with the towering profile of Blaven and the red Cuillins and continue down to the coast.  The beach at Elgol with its distinct honeycombed rocks,  offers stunning views of the Cuillins.  Why not book a boat trip to Loch Coruisk and have fun spotting the marine wildlife such as porpoise,  whales,  dolphins and seals?  During the summer months you can also take boat trips from here to explore the small isles.

Explore the southern-most tip of the island, with a walk to the sandy beaches at Aird Point.  Occasionally sea eagles and golden eagles soar overhead,  circling in the thermals on a sunny day.

Or why not explore beneath the waves,  with a trip on a glass bottom boat from Kyleakin Harbour?

What’s On in the South of Skye 

The south of the islands hosts a vibrant calendar of events including:-

July – Kyleakin Gala is a great community event with stalls,  kids activities and traditional music.

Throughout the year – Kyleakin Hall hosts a variety of events

August – the annual Feis an Eilean (Skye Festival) takes place at Sabhal Mor Ostaig.  This great venue hosts a range of concerts,  ceilidh sessions,  drama and other events throughout the year. Some of the programme of the Festival of Small Halls in November also takes place there.

August – Skye Bridge 10K Run

Self Catering Holiday Cottages in South Skye

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Explore Central Skye

The central part of the island,  Minginish,  is characterised by wild and rugged landscape,  formed years ago by volcanic activity and weathered by wind,  ice and sea.  As well as including waterfalls,  beaches and coastal cliffs,  the heart if the area is dominated by the imposing Black Cuillin mountains.

It is the perfect base for hill walkers and mountain climbers (including Munro baggers!) with forest tracks perfect for mountain biking.  For those wanting to enjoy less strenuous walks,  try the walk to Talisker Bay or along Glen Brittle beach.  There is also a good network of paths through the Glen Brittle forest for both walkers and cyclists.  Watch the skies for soaring sea eagles,  golden eagles,  buzzards and sparrow hawks.

On the way to Glen Brittle you may also want to park and walk to the Fairy Pools and marvel at the clear turquoise water cascading over the rocks.

The waters of Loch Harport lap the shore at Carbost.  This village is home to the island’s oldest distillery where the peaty Talisker Single Malt is made.  Book a distillery tour and enjoy a wee taste.  You can also book a thrilling RIB boat trip from here and get the salt spray in your hair as you speed across the loch and out towards the Shiant Isles to see the puffins.

Minginish offers several options for eating out – don’t miss the Oyster Shed in Carbost at the top of the hill for some fresh locally caught seafood and The Old Inn in Carbost with views over the loch from the garden area.  It is also home to several artists and crafts people with lots of little galleries and studio shops to explore as well as a weekly Artisan Market at the community hall in Portnalong (Easter to Sep).

Self Catering Holiday Cottages in Central Skye

Explore North West Skye

The North West of the island covers the winged Glendale peninsula in the far west,  the Waternish peninsula and the Dunvegan area.  This vast area offers something for everyone!

Explore historic Dunvegan Castle and its magnificent Gardens.  Take a seal boat trip and get up close to the resident seal colony in Dunvegan loch.  Go further back to the Iron Age with a climb to Dun Beag broch at Struan with panoramic views down Loch Harport and across to the Western Isles on the horizon.

Driving past Dunvegan Castle to the end of the road takes you to Claigan and the walk to the Coral Beaches – please note that there is very limited parking here.

The North West is perfect for those sweeping sea views and great for sunset watching.  Try the drive out to Glendale and the walk to Neist Point or get away from the crowds and take a more strenuous walk up to the MacLeod’s Tables or out towards the Maidens from Varkasaig bay.  This area offers plenty of scope for a wide range of outdoor activities,  including scuba diving,  mountain biking,  kayaking,  fishing and horse riding at the Isle of Skye therapy and trekking centre.

The main village of Dunvegan offers the chance to fill up – both the car (petrol station) and yourselves!  As well as several places to eat there is also a couple of local stores and the island’s oldest bakery.  The small museum of the Giant MacAsklill is located in the centre of Dunvegan.  This part of the island is also home to award winning dining experiences at Edinbane Lodge and The Three Chimneys (Colbost).  Take your pick!

Don’t miss the Waternish peninsula, with its stunning views across the water to Dunvegan Head and on to the Wester Isles in the distance.  Take the road down to the harbour at Stein. From here boat trips depart to St. Kilda and Harris/Shiant Isles over the summer months.

Continue to the atmospheric ruins of Dun Hallin,  Trumpan Church, and perhaps a walk to the headland Light house past old settlements and graves.

With these views, it is little wonder that the North West of Skye is inspiration to many artists,  photographers and crafts people.  The area has several small galleries and studios to explore,  and the chance to pick up a locally crafted souvenir of your trip.  The small community of Edinbane at the head of Loch Greshornish is home to Edinbane Pottery.  There are photography studios such as Skyescape Gallery at Harlosh, and the gallery café  OldByreSkye at OseOr watch the traditional techniques of weaving at Skye Weavers in Glendale and the Tannery exhibition at Skye Skyns near Stein.

The Edinbane Inn  is a great place to hear local music and enjoy sumptuous food!  Just phone in advance to book a table!  Greshornish House offers traditional Afternoon tea’s along with dinner bookings.

What’s On in North West Skye

Hoping to be back for 2023 – the Dunvegan 10k / 5k and fun run. A chance to shake off the cobwebs and enjoy some glorious scenery whilst feeling proud of yourself for completing it!

July – the annual Dunvegan Agricultural Show traditionally takes place on the last Saturday of July  – a great day out for the whole family with stalls,  activities,  sheep and livestock judging, events and competitions,  including the ever popular Dog Show!

Community halls in Dunvegan, Glendale and Waternish host regular events including craft fairs throughout the summer months.

Self Catering Holiday Cottages in North West Skye

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Explore the Portree Area

Portree (Port Righ) the main town on the Isle of Skye and this bustling wee place has plenty to explore.

Take a walk down to the picturesque harbour with its brightly painted houses or wander up to the natural amphitheatre of The Lump and enjoy fabulous views across the bay.  There are also lovely walks along the coastline at Scorrybreac and out to Black Rock with views towards Raasay and the isle of Rona.  There are woodland walks starting from The Skye Shrubs garden centre and the Isle of Skye Candle company.

Want to learn more about the history of our island?  Book a ticket to see SkyeStory at Las theater at the Isle of Skye Candle Company on the outskirts of the village.  Including animation,  film and stunning photography set to traditional Gaelic music,  this must-see film will leave you spell bound.  There are also many hit films shown at Las,  along with the Isle of Skye Candle shop and Gasta restaurant in the same building.

As the island’s main town,  Portree is home to a range of local amenities including two supermarkets,  banks,  post office and chemist.  There is a wide choice of places to eat catering for all budgets.  Fresh seafood and locally produced ingredients are usually on the menu.  You may need to book a table in the summer months!

Wentworth Street in the centre of the village has a wide variety of gift shops many selling locally made crafts.

Skye Batiks is a quirky shop where you can discover a rainbow of clothes,  bags and furnishings … and sometimes pick up some excellent spice mixes too!

Portree High School includes the public library (with free internet access),  leisure centre with swimming pool and the adjacent Archive Centre where you can research your Highland heritage or catch one of their temporary exhibitions.

Just outside Portree there are various options for activities,  including archery,  axe throwing,  rifle shooting,  clay target shooting and paintball at ACE Target Sports (Struan Road).  There is also fly fishing at Storr Lochs (pick up a permit and/or boat hire from Inside Out outdoor shop) and horse riding at Suladale.

Why not take a boat trip from the harbour to see the Sea Eagles or a longer trip up the Trottinish coast?  For a special day out Sea Flower Skye offer sea food lunch trips to the isle of Rona and Raasay.

What’s On in the Portree Area

Portree has plenty going on all year round with several annual events already in the calendar.

12th – 13th May – Skye Live Festival at The Lump.  Well established on the festival scene.  With live music from a wide range of artists and bands including pop,  rock.  Celtic fusion and indie.  Previous years the line ups have included everyone from the Peatbog Faeries to The Waterboys!  The festival sells out every year so be sure to book your tickets early.

Sat 10th June 2023 –  Isle of Skye Half Marathon – for those who like a challenge this single loop race of 13.1m takes place around the outskirts of the village and back.  Good luck!

1st Saturday in August – the annual Skye Agricultural Show in Portree, with livestock competitions,  craft stalls and displays.

1st Tues and Wed in August – The peak season event is the annual Isle of Skye Highland Games The Games will begin with the Piping competitions on Tuesday and the main events on Wednesday with traditional music in the hotel bars and buskers in the square.

There are regular craft fairs at The Royal Hotel throughout the year.

Self Catering Holiday Cottages in the Portree Area

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Explore North East Skye

The North East of Skye is dominated by the dramatic Trotternish Ridge.  This amazing area,  characterised by volcanic derived scenery and iconic rock formations has been the backdrop for many films,  adverts and music videos – so you may get the feeling that you have seen it before!  However,  nothing beats seeing these sights in person!

The North End is perfect for hill walking,  wildlife spotting,  and fossil hunting!  Not to mention being a photographer’s dream!  Take the path up to The Old Man of Storr,  or the atmospheric Quiraing, and drink in the vistas!  Marvel at the spectacular sight of cascading water plummeting seawards at the Kilt Rock viewpoint.  Or go in search of fossils and dinosaur footprints at Staffin Bay and Score bay.  The area is rich in wildlife too,  with whales,  dolphins and porpoises often sighted at Rubha Hunnish,  the most northernly point.  And for a touch of magic,  who can resist the Fairy Glen near Uig.  Or take the path to the Rha Falls.

Remember your walking boots and waterproofs before hitting the trails in this area!

Uig is the largest village in the North End of the island and a busy ferry port.  It offers plenty of basic amenities with a petrol station and well stocked grocery store as well as a choice of cafés and hotels for a bite to eat.  Don’t miss a visit to the Isle of Skye Brewery and Uig Pottery for locally crafted ales and amazing ceramics!  Fancy getting out on the water?  As well as the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry crossings to Lochmaddy (Isle of  North Uist) and Tarbet (Isle of Harris) there are a number of boat trips to choose from.  SkyeXplorer run trips at various times of the year to see puffins on the Ascrib Islands and Minke whales.

For a glimpse into life gone by,  drop into the Museum of Island Life at Kilmuir.  Peep inside the restored black houses,  once home to the crofter families living in this remote part of Scotland.  Behind this open air museum is the graveyard where Flora MacDonald is buried.  Not far from here is the Kilvaxter Souterrain,  a fascinating glimpse of an iron age food store.

And for those who like an adrenalin rush,  try kayaking along the scenic coastline – just one of the outdoor activities on offer from Whitewave Activities near Kilmuir or hire an ebike from Skye Ebikes,  they create a unique way to explore the Quirang.

On the other side of the peninsula is the community of Staffin,  rich in Gaelic heritage and clustered around a stunning bay,  Staffin has a petrol station,  community store and café.  Nearby is the fascinating fossil displays at Staffin Dinosaur Museum as well as several artisan craft studios to explore.

Hunt for the dinosaur footprints at Staffin beach,  see the spectacular views at Kilt rock or take a walk down to Brother’s Point – the most Eastly point of Skye.

What’s On in the North East of Skye

The annual Uig Gala takes place each August and offers a fun day out for all the family with stalls,  competitions,  live music and activities

Self Catering Holiday Cottages in North East Skye

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Explore the Isle of Raasay

The Isle of Raasay with its stunning natural beauty and wildlife is just a half hour ferry crossing from Sconser (Isle of Skye) and most definitely worth a visit!  There is a Cafe at Sconser with a boat children can play on and a beach area.

The timetabled ferry does take vehicles,  but many people choose to leave the car behind and come to Raasay for a day trip.  The main village of Inverarish and Raasay House,  along with several beautiful sites can be enjoyed in a day’s walk.  There is no public transport on the island,  so if you fancy exploring the North of the island or get to Hallaig,  you will need to hire a bike (from Raasay House) or take the car.

The village of Inverarish is a pleasant 15 minute walk from the ferry terminal and there is plenty to see and do within easy walking distance of the village.

Fancy a wee dram?  The Isle of Raasay Distillery offers a tour to learn all about the distilling process.

Raasay is the perfect haven for wildlife (The islands name in Gaelic is Ratharsair – Isle of the Roe Deer) and offers plenty of opportunity for walking or cycling.  Don’t forget to bring your binoculars!  Watch the resident seal colony basking on the tidal islet of Holoman Island,  just a few miles down the west coast from Inverarish.

Also a short walk from Inverarish is the Iron Age Broch Dun Borodale.  Or you can also take the longer trail to explore the island’s iron ore mining heritage on the Burma Road.

In the north of the island,  Brochel Wood and the atmospheric ruins of Brochel Castle mark the start of Calum’s Road running to Arnish.  Beyond that,  the remote northern tip of Raasay is perfect for exploring further by bike or on foot.

It is advisable to take food and drinks with you if visiting outwith the summer months.

What’s On in the Isle of Raasay

Regular events are held at Raasay Community Hall including craft fairs and music concerts in the summer months.

Explore the Inverness Area

Inverness the “Capital of the Highlands” offers all the amenities of city life,  alongside historic character and cultural attractions to explore.  With an international airport,  train and bus station, Inverness makes a great base for exploring the islands and Highlands of Scotland.

Spend a few days there,  and enjoy great shopping,  cinemas,  restaurants and bars.  Explore the Castle and Museum in the city centre or take a boat trip from the harbour to see the dolphins in the Moray Firth.  Drive a little further and see if you can spot Nessie from the shores of Loch Ness!  Discover Urqhuart Castle,  or explore the many forest and waterfall walks in Glen Affric.  Visit Fort Augustus for boat trips on Loch Ness and watch boats coming down through the canal locks.  Soak up the atmosphere and history at Culloden Battlefield,  the site of the last battle fought on British soil.  Or go further back in time and visit nearby Clava Cairns – thought to be behind some of the inspiration for “Outlander”.

Inverness can also make a great base for day trips with local tour companies to areas such as the Isle of Skye and Orkney Isles,  Wester Ross and Speyside.

Sat 15th July 2023 – The City of  Inverness Highland Games at Bught Park with the traditional field events like tossing the caber and hammer throwing.

1st October 2023 – Loch Ness Marathon,  River Ness 10K and 5K

Self Catering Holiday Cottages in Inverness

 

Looking to explore elsewhere?

Wheelwrights lets some of the nicest cottages in the Lake District.  Like Islands and Highlands Cottages they are a small company able to offer a personal service tailored to meet your expectations.  Centrally placed for getting to every corner of the National Park,  all Wheelwrights cottages make excellent bases.

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