18 Things You Need To Know Before Visiting The Isle of Skye in Scotland
We recently returned from a road trip through Scotland to visit the Isle of Skye and it was absolutely amazing. We visited in April as a small family with a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old. I was worried Skye wouldn’t live up to my expectations, however, our trip to the Isle of Skye was incredible with experiences that sit at the top of our all-time favorites list.
We started our trip exploring in Edinburgh followed by a 5-hour drive up to the Isle of Skye with a few stops along the way.
Btw, if you are planning to visit the Isle of Skye on your own, be sure to check out my top tips for driving on the left-hand side in Scotland (trust me, you can do it and my post will help you feel confident in doing so). And if you are traveling with kids, check out my Ultimate Guide to the Isle of Skye with Kids.
Anyway, here are a few things you need to know before planning your visit to the Isle of Skye, Scotland. I hope you use these travel tips for the Isle of Skye and that you have the best of times like we did.
Is the Isle of Skye Worth Visiting?
Yes, Yes, YES. If you enjoy the outdoors and you need a rejuvenating yet fun vacation- you should definitely visit the Isle of Sky. I looked forward to our trip to the Isle of Skye with great anticipation hoping that it would live up to my expectations.
And I’m so happy to say that the Isle of Skye met or exceeded all of my expectations- it was just amazing. It’s definitely a place worth visiting- and I honestly think it should be at the top of your list.
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18 Tips You Need to Know for the Isle of Skye
1. The busiest time of year to visit Skye is from June to August
The busiest time of year on the Isle of Skye is June-August (with an uptick in visitors Easter weekend in April). You can expect trails full of people and lodging to be booked up during these months. However, these months also have the fewest days of rain (which still is about 12 days in July) and Skye is full-on green.
The peak tourist season does bleed into May and September, but you may want to consider those shoulder months to avoid both the crowds and the biting midges (more on that later).
2. Be sure to book lodging months in advance
There aren’t many (if any) large hotels on Skye meaning vacation rentals and B&Bs can fill up pretty quickly. We booked our amazing pod on Skye (more on that below) about three months in advance and I think we would have been out of luck had we waited much longer.
Lodging can sometimes make or break your experience, so be sure to book plenty ahead of time for your pick of choices.
3. Weather on the Isle of Skye almost always includes rain
Living in Denmark, I’m quite used to the rain. However, the Isle of Skye’s weather takes rain to a whole new level. If you are planning to visit the Isle of Skye, Scotland during the spring and summer months you can expect 13-16 days of rain per month (that’s pretty much every other day).
And if you want to visit Skye in the winter, brace yourself for rain around 22 days a month (like what?) plus it can snow.
All of this is to say that you need to plan for and be prepared for rain no matter when you visit. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be raining all day (it might!) but it also may just rain for a couple of hours at a time.
Either way, bring lots of layers, waterproof jackets, and even waterproof pants (we didn’t have waterproof pants but saw plenty of people on the trail with them).
4. There are three major airports within driving distance of the Isle of Skye, Scotland
There are three main airports you’ll want to consider flying into if you want to visit the Isle of Skye. Some are closer than others, but each of these cities make great stops in Scotland. We flew into Edinburgh Airport and spent two full days in Edinburgh before driving to Skye.
I’m so happy with our choice to fly into Edinburgh because it was absolutely magical and an awesome destination on its own (think the birthplace of Harry Potter).
However, if you want a much shorter drive to Skye, you may want to consider Inverness Airport.
International airports near Isle of Skye, Scotland:
- Inverness International Airport (INV): 2 hour and 45 minute drive to Portree on the Isle of Skye
- Glasgow International Airport (GLA): 4 hour and 45 minute drive to Portree on the Isle of Skye
- Edinburgh International Airport (EDI): 5 hour drive to Portree on the Isle of Skye
5. Staying in North Skye Pods may be a highlight of your trip
One of the top things that made our time on Skye so special was choosing to stay in a pod that we booked through North Skye Pods. North Skye Pods are comparable to tiny homes or some call them glamping pods.
Our pod had everything we needed including a kitchen (minus an oven), a comfortable bed, cozy bunk beds in a back nook, a super clean bathroom, and even an outdoor firepit.
However, the best part of the pod was the amazing view of Skye we had right from our bed (it was the best thing to wake up to each day). It was such a peaceful place to stay where the only sounds we could hear were the nearby sheep and the wind and rain.
We stayed in our pod with a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old (baby cot and highchair included) and it worked out great. We were worried it was going to feel too tight as a family, but the bunk bed nook was perfect for the kids to sleep in and we couldn’t have enjoyed it more.
And our pod was in seriously one of the most ideal locations on Skye. It was 15 minutes from Quiraing, 15 minutes from Old Man of Storr, 30 minutes from Portree, and 30 minutes from The Fairy Glen. For a place as large as Skye, these pods are some of the most ideally located accommodations you can find.
So often we would talk about how happy we were to have booked a pod on Skye rather than a more traditional hotel room or vacation rental- it was totally dreamy. Check out North Skye Pods here.
6. A car is by far the best way to get to the Isle of Skye
If you’re wondering how to travel to the Isle of Skye- the easiest answer is by car. If you want to really see everything, I definitely recommend renting a car.
It’d be near impossible to see all of the highlights of Skye on public transportation. There are busses that navigate parts of the Isle of Skye, but I would check all of the routes you want to take to see if a bus goes there. You may need to do extra walking to get to bus stops and it definitely won’t be time efficient.
We rented our car via Economy Bookings car rentals and got a killer deal. I definitely recommend checking out Economy Bookings– it was my first time using the site, but now I plan to always book through Economy Bookings in the future!
If you check Economy Bookings multiple times over a few days, you’ll probably find a great deal as well. I found that prices seemed to fluctuate and new deals would appear at random- so once the price was extra good, I booked immediately (and saved hundreds of dollars on our week long car rental).
If renting a car is not an option for you, don’t worry! There are loads of Isle of Skye tours you can book! You can find Isle of Skye tours from Inverness, Skye tours from Edinburgh, and even Skye tours from Glasgow.
7. You drive on the left side of the road on The Isle of Skye, Scotland
If you weren’t sure, yes, driving in Scotland is opposite to driving in the US (or anywhere else that drives on the right side of the road).
In Scotland, drivers drive on the left side of the road and sit on the right side of the car. And, if you are driving a manual you will shift with your left hand rather than your right hand (don’t worry though, the foot pedals are all the same 😅).
There are also a lot of single-track roads (single-lane roads) on the Isle of Skye you’ll need to navigate along with the occasional sheep crossing.
If you are planning to rent a car to explore the Isle of Skye be sure to check out my top tips that make driving in Scotland feel easy (you’ll thank me later).
8. The Isle of Skye isn’t green year-round
Maybe this is obvious to some, but we hadn’t totally considered it before our trip- the Isle of Skye isn’t green the entire year. We visited Skye in mid-April and as you can see from all of the photos in this post, we saw a great mix of dark greens along with plenty of earthy browns (depending on where we were on the island).
The Quiraing was really showing off in April with the perfect amount of moody greens and various browns that perfectly complemented each other.
It seemed like the rest of Skye was going to be turning vibrant green quite soon, so I’d imagine that by late May it would be green just about everywhere. (Don’t quote me on that, but it seems like the correct timing to me).
9. Midges come out in swarms on Skye during the summer months
One big reason that we decided to visit the Isle of Skye when we did is that we really wanted to avoid midges. Midges are small flies (sometimes called no see ums) that gather in large amounts and (get this) bite.
Having to deal with midges during our long-awaited trip to the Isle of Skye sounded like a nightmare- so we were sure to not visit during peak midge season.
The peak midge season on Skye is June-August with July and August being the absolute worst months (which is ironic because those are also the busiest months to visit the island).
When I was booking our pod on Skye, I asked our host his opinion on whether to visit in May or September (although we ended up booking for April).
He said that May and September are outside peak midge season. However, he considers May to be the better month because most midges have yet to come out. But if you want to visit in September, by the end of the month most of the midges have died off.
If you do want to visit during June-August, you may want to do some research on what to wear to ward off midges including the best kinds of midge repellent.
10. Cell phone service/data is quite spotty on the Isle of Skye
I had not even considered this, but cell phone service/data connection is quite spotty on Skye. We ended up downloading an offline map from Google Maps to help us navigate when we couldn’t connect to data. If you don’t know how to do that, you can learn here.
There are plenty of areas on the island where you can get data and start your route (it honestly felt a little random). But it’s nice to have a backup offline map, GPS, or map on hand in case you need it.
11. Be flexible with your itinerary and work it around the weather
We had a pretty good itinerary mapped out before we visited Skye, Scotland. However, once arriving, we quickly realized that we were going to need to watch the weather, prioritize our top things to do, and make sure we do those things on the days/hours that the weather was best.
We reviewed the weather right as we got to Skye and then we reviewed the hour-by-hour forecast each evening and morning to know when we needed to get out on the road exploring.
I’m so glad we did it this way because we were able to catch all of our biggest hikes on our days with the nicest weather. And we were able to relax in our pod during our time with the most rain.
This did mean that we did a bit of extra driving since we skipped some things nearby to do on a different day in order to make the most of our nice weather. But it was so worth it.
Sometimes we’d drive past trailheads on the days/hours it was raining and we were so grateful we’d adjusted our itinerary in a way to make the most of our good weather. Obviously, you won’t always be able to beat the rain- but you sure can try!
12. Add an additional 1-2 days to your Isle of Skye itinerary than what you think is necessary
We thought we’d be able to see most of what we’d want to see on Skye in three days, but we decided to add an additional day to our itinerary to have a little wiggle room in case of really rainy weather.
Because in the summer, you can expect rain on Skye every other day (that’s a lot of rain). And those chances only increase as you get further away from the summer months. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be raining all day long, however, the rain may still put a wrench in some of your plans.
So there with chances of rain that high, there really is a possibility you’ll experience some during your trip. And honestly, some of the hikes really aren’t safe when it’s rainy and windy.
We ended up being so glad we added an extra day because we had one day that was raining most of the day and we felt totally content spending most of the day in our pod.
We went out for 1-2 hours in the morning and 1-2 hours in the late afternoon but were able to listen to the rain on our rooftop the rest of the day. And honestly, I could have spent even more days on Skye if we would have had the time available to us.
Trust me, I doubt you’ll regret adding an extra day to your itinerary, but you may regret not adding one.
13. There are loads of guided tours you can book for Skye (including multi-day tours)
As I’ve briefly mentioned in other sections- there are loads of guided tours you can book for Skye. We spent four full days exploring the Isle of Skye and we saw many, many tour groups. There were group tours of varying sizes and even some private tours like this.
A tour of Skye would be a great option if you want to have everything taken care of for you so that you can really just relax and enjoy your trip. Also, if you are super worried about driving on the left side of the road- just book a tour!
There are tours that leave from most of the large cities in Scotland. The shortest drive to Skye is from Inverness, however, we took our road trip from Edinburgh and really enjoyed visiting Edinburgh before Skye. Check out the tours from various cities below for some great options:
Tours Leaving from Inverness:
Tours leaving from Edinburgh:
Tours Leaving from Glasgow:
14. Hiking is one of the best ways to experience the Isle of Skye
Most of our favorite experiences on Skye include some amount of hiking. Sure, you can see a lot of the beauty of the island just by driving the Trotternish Loop, however, taking a hike forces you to stay outside and really soak up the beauty of your surroundings.
The top hikes to consider are the Quiraing, Old Man of Storr, the Fairy Glen, and the Fairy Pools. The views from the Quiraing trail (and honestly even the parking lot) are breathtaking and my favorite views from our entire trip.
If you do plan to hike, be sure to bring lots of layers and plenty of water. The weather can change quickly and the rain and wind can make it quite cold.
15. However, there are more things to do on Skye than just hiking
Although hiking is definitely one of the best ways to experience the Isle of Skye, there are lots of other things to do as well.
You can go dinosaur footprint hunting on the beach, visit castles, hang out at a cafe in Portree, take boat tours, or see sheepherding in action (among lots of other things). And if you really want to just sit back and enjoy the scenery- you can book a guided tour of Skye!
One of my favorite quick stops was a small museum called the Staffin Dinosaur Museum located in an old schoolhouse right off the road between The Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing. There are dinosaur fossils and footprints from right in the area and it’s absolutely amazing.
16. Many food establishments on Skye have unique opening hours
Since we travel as a family with young kids, we tend to pack most lunches and cook food at our accommodations. However, we do like to go out for a few meals.
We found that most places on Skye that seemed easy to visit with a toddler (aka not a fancy sit-down restaurant) closed around 4 pm and were also closed on Sundays and Mondays.
However, we did visit a very yummy food truck in Portree called Pizza in the Skye. It was open late, 6 days a week and it was so good we actually went twice. Pizza in the Skye is run by a local guy serving wood-fired oven pizza and I highly recommend it. The cheesy garlic bread was our favorite.
It’s a popular place so you’ve got to order online in advance (I recommend ordering 1-2 hours before you want to pick it up- especially if you want it in the evening).
We often found ourselves passing through Portree on our way back from exploring for the day and would order online before we started our drive.
17. ‘Hiya’ is Scottish slang for ‘hi’
Hiya is definitely the most common way we were greeted entering shops or passing other hikers on trails.
I think it’s always fun to know a few local phrases before visiting a new destination. If you want to sound a bit more like the locals- try greeting others with ‘hiya’. It’s the Scottish way of saying ‘hi’ or ‘hey’.
18. The Fairy Glen is one of the most kid-friendly things to do on Skye
By far, one of our favorite things we did with our kids on Skye was exploring the Fairy Glen. It’s a very kid-friendly hike with amazing places to climb, scramble and explore. There is an initial trail you follow, but then it opens up to a miniature valley surrounded by small hills with trails leading in all directions.
It’s just an absolutely perfect place for kids compared to the steep ascent to the Old Man of Storr or the cliff edge of the Quiraing. We brought a small LEGO fairy with us that our 4-year-old just LOVED. She found little homes for her fairy along the trail and showed her fairy everything.
Because of this, the Fairy Glen was definitely the most magical part of our trip for our kiddos.
Check out these other posts, I know you’ll love them:
- The Ultimate Guide to the Isle of Skye with Kids: 21+ Things to Do & Top Tips
- 21 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh With Kids + Top Tips
- The Only Itinerary You Need For a Day Trip to Edinburgh (+ Map)
- 16 Helpful Tips That Make Driving in Scotland Feel Easy
And those are all of the Isle of Skye travel tips I think you need to know! Be sure to let me know in the comments below if you have any questions- I’ll be sure to get back to you!