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Surveying Scotland: What to do on the Isle of Skye (Part I)

Hopefully my picture post piqued your interest in the Isle of Skye. It truly served as the highwater mark of our trip – quite literally at times since we got the most rain there! As I mentioned on the last episode of the Saverocity Observation Deck podcast, if you need good weather to enjoy your vacation, you might need to pass on the Isle of Skye (or stay for two weeks). It does rain a lot in Scotland, especially out in Skye, but it’s not like 24/7 rain. Also, everything still looks beautiful in the rain. Still, the breaks in the rain make you marvel at the natural beauty even more.

Isle of Skye
M insisted on taking breakfast at 6 AM before our 630 AM taxi – let me sleep, girl!

Driving from Inverness to Skye

We took a short hop flight from LHR to Inverness that we remember very little of. That’s a good thing! As soon as we got off the plane I had the feeling we were going to really enjoy Scotland.

Isle of Skye
Take off at INV airport

Being a small airport, there was a huge line at the rental car desk. We were in no rush and the kids were hungry so we took lunch (fish and chips!). Thirty minutes later the desk was completely empty and I grabbed my car with no issue. It’s weird renting a standard sized car after years of renting the tiniest cars possible, but gotta fit all the luggage and strollers!

We had to drive three hours to get to our house in the Isle of Skye. The kids and the wife slept through a bunch of it, thankfully. The decision to make the drive during naptime paid off!

Isle of Skye
Some much needed R&R after a long day of travel

About forty minutes from our house, on the Isle of Skye, we stumbled upon the Sligachan Hotel at around 400 PM. We had done virtually no research but it looked like it had food and a playground so it was time to stretch and eat! This turned out to be the right decision as all the grocery stores closed at 5 PM and we would have starved that night if we hadn’t stopped.

Isle of Skye
I’ll take a whiskey, neat.

It turns out that the Sligachan Hotel is conveniently situated at the end/beginning of many hikes through the Cuillin Hills – there were backpackers and hikers coming and going the whole time. Seeing all those hikers come in and out was the first time I’ve ever felt a twinge of regret that my kids were with me on a vacation. That quickly passed, but man, who ever would have thought I’d miss hiking the most?

Isle of Skye
I would have loved to find out what was in those mountains myself – next time.

After dinner we made our way on a bunch of one way roads and managed to find our house without getting lost more than once!

Lodging on the Isle of Skye

Now admittedly, there are thousands of blogs out there, but I don’t recall anyone ever writing about the Isle of Skye. My guess is one reason for that is that until someone makes an Airbnb credit card, there is no way to stay here on miles and points (though cashback, of course, works!).

It’s of course tough to figure out lodging when all you have is Airbnb and Trip Advisor (we ended up going with the latter). Making things more complicated, the Isle of Skye is composed of a bunch of “fingers” – peninsulas carved out by glaciers long ago. If you’re on one finger it’s 45-60 minutes to the next, so it’s tough to find some place central. Broadford is a town with some housing, but that isn’t too far into the island so you’re looking at a long drive every day. Portree is the biggest town but it is pretty far inside the island so you might be backtracking to see sites.

Isle of Skye
There are breathtaking views throughout the island

My advice? It doesn’t matter much. We drove through almost all of the fingers and they were all beautiful. Also, you’re going to be driving a lot wherever you stay – just enjoy the scenic drives.

We stayed near Carbost and the Talisker Distillery. Every other day on the way home we would stop to pick up eggs from a box on the side of the road (the first time we did it I literally slammed on the brakes to turn in). Our house was four bedrooms, which we spread out in nicely. When my parents joined us later on in the week they got their own room and we still had a room to spare.

Isle of Skye
You’ll have a kitchen pretty much anywhere you rent on the island outside of hostels and the like

I’d happily recommend our house, called Arnaval and run by Isle of Skye Holiday Cottages. Dorothy was great and very responsive, though it takes a long time to respond to texts due to bad reception. We were able to do a nice hike right from our front door which I’ll cover in the next post. Just a beautiful, quaint place to live.


Oh, and it was 160 pounds per night for the four rooms, and you can fit up to 8 people in there. Pretty fair price if you ask me!

Visiting Portree

Our first full day in Skye we went to Portree to pick up supplies. It was raining but we still managed to eat some good fish and chips at this place called “The Chippy.” It’s fried right? So it must be good.

Isle of Skye

Due to the weather we didn’t venture out too much, which was unfortunate. But there’s lots of great stuff to do in Portree. On subsequent days we discovered a nice bakery called the Isle of Skye Baking Company. Jess also managed to find a nice secluded walk down to the harbor.

Carbs on carbs on carbs
Carbs on carbs on carbs

Really, though, Portree just served as a supply station for us – we loaded up on groceries and would swing through to grab picnic lunches, but other than that, we wanted to explore nature.

The Fairy Pools

One of the biggest attractions in Skye are the Fairy Pools. People go swimming in these pools although they are absolutely freezing. They are filled with beautiful, clear water cascading down rocks. You can hike all the way from the Fairy Pools to Sligachan in half a day – we will return to do that some day.

Isle of Skye
Fairies are down there, apparently?

Unfortunately, the first day we went the river was flooded and we couldn’t get far past the parking lot. I don’t think M would have gotten very far anyway but she pushed us to try. Of course, she did all the walking downhill and I did all the carrying of her back uphill, but oh well. H slept in the car the whole time. 🙂

Isle of Skye
No way across

Luckily, Jess and I made it back to the Fairy Pools on our last night (after my parents had arrived). We did about an hour hike, although a lot of the time was just spent soaking in the view and taking pictures. The Fairy Pools are definitely worth it but they get crowded (all relative in Skye but parking is at a premium). Go early or go late! The sun doesn’t set until 1030 PM anyway.

Isle of Skye Isle of Skye Isle of Skye

Talisker Distillery

On their first day on Skye, my parents graciously agreed to watch the kids for an hour. That meant whiskey! Although Talisker isn’t the most famous Scotch, it’s still a solid single malt and the only distillery on Skye. We weren’t sure if we’d get a chance to visit any other distilleries so we jumped at the opportunity.

The didn’t let us take pictures for fire safety reasons (the Scots are super serious about fire safety as far as I can tell), but it was fun to spend an hour to ourselves.

Isle of Skye
Random extra photo from our Fairy Pools walk

The worst thing about Skye: midges

Apparently, midges are little flying insects that are super annoying. As long as there is a light breeze you won’t see any, but if the air is still they come out in droves. We didn’t see any, probably due to our not so great weather, but people should know that going in.

Isle of Skye
One of many lovely views from the road

Final Thoughts

This post covered about half the things we did in Skye and the next post will cover the rest. We booked four nights and were worried that might have been too long, but honestly we could have spent our entire 2 weeks in the UK there and been happy. You will be hearing about this ad nauseum for one more post!

Isle of Skye

Other Posts in this Series


Preparing to travel with two children under four

Handling kid jetlag and other potential disasters

Getting around London with young kids

Free activities for young kids in London

Hyatt Regency London The Churchill Impressions

The Isle of Skye – 11 Photos that will hopefully make you want to visit




Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less

2 thoughts on “Surveying Scotland: What to do on the Isle of Skye (Part I)

  1. Pretty sure M’s rainbow tights have traveled around the world multiple times now. Sisterhood of the traveling rainbow tights…

    Great photos, btw!

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