Coming from New Zealand I thought I’d seen some incredible scenery.
In past travels I’ve spent a month in the South Island and witnessed the dramatic mountain ranges of Aoraki National Park and the majestic stars of the Dark Sky Reserve. I’ve seen waterfalls and white sand beaches, dense forests and landscapes that look like something out of a movie. All in my backyard.
But the Isle of Skye was something else.
Skye was the last stop on my interrupted 7-day Scotland road trip, and it felt kind of fitting that my Scotland adventure would end here, in one of the most magical places on Earth.
Honestly, a day on the Isle of Skye was nowhere near long enough. I think you could spend a week – or month, even – on Skye and not run out of things to do. But because we only had one day, and because we knew it might be the last place we could travel to for some time, we endeavoured to make the most of our time.
And though it wasn’t long enough, our one day in Skye turned out to be perfect.
So if you’re planning your own Scotland adventure, and you only have one day on the Isle of Skye, it can be done. You’ll still get to see some of the beaches, landscapes and historical points that Skye is famous for, and it may end up being the highlight of your entire Scotland trip.
Excited? Dive straight into this ultimate 1-day Isle of Skye itinerary and start planning your own one day on the Isle of Skye.
GETTING AROUND THE ISLE OF SKYE
To make the most of your time on the Isle of Skye I highly recommend hiring a car to get around. Although it is possible to get to Portree by public transport from Glasgow or Edinburgh a lot of the island is remote and unreachable without your own transport.
There are two main ways to get to the Isle of Skye. You can either drive to Kyle of Lochalsh and take the Skye Bridge across, or you can catch the ferry from Mallaig. We went via the Skye Bridge, which is probably the best route as it will enable you to check out Eilean Donan Castle on the way. Trust me, it’s one of the best castles I’ve ever seen.
To read more about hiring a car in Scotland check out my post on planning an epic 7-day Scotland itinerary.
BEST TIME TO VISIT THE ISLE OF SKYE
The Isle of Skye is one of the most popular destinations in Scotland, and for good reason; it’s fricking stunning. But with that popularity comes overtourism, crowded roads and erosion of natural sites.
I’m not saying don’t visit. But if you can you should consider visiting in the off peak season to spread the impact of tourists around. We visited in mid-March and the weather was mostly clear, though the days were cool.
The Ultimate 1-Day Isle of Skye Itinerary: Where To Go & What To Do
To make the most of your time on the Isle of Skye you need to spend two nights so you’ll have at least one full day to explore. We based ourselves in Portree, Skye’s largest town. Portree made for a great base to see as much as we could of the island in a day.
For full transparency, we had more like a day and a half on Skye. We set out from Fort William early in the morning (ok, at like 10…) and so had time to check out Elgol Beach and the Fairy Pools on our way to Portree.
But if you only have one day on the Isle of Skye, that’s ok too. This 1-day Isle of Skye itinerary is for you.
Morning: Neist Point Lighthouse
The first stop of our day in Skye was Neist Point Lighthouse.
Located on the most westerly tip of the Isle of Skye, Neist Point Lighthouse makes for a dramatic introduction to what Skye has to offer. From the carpark at the top the lighthouse isn’t visible, but you will see stunning views of the cliffs meeting the sea.
Make your way down the steep path and Neist Point Lighthouse will eventually come into view, starkly beautiful against the wild Atlantic Ocean.
Though the path is paved the whole way, the walk to the lighthouse is steep in parts and the climb back up can be strenuous. The path is 2.2km in length and it takes roughly 45 minutes to walk.
Morning: Dunvegan Castle and Gardens
Next up on your 1-day Isle of Skye itinerary we’re off to conquer a castle. Dunvegan Castle, to be exact.
First founded in the 13th century, Dunvegan Castle is one of the greatest of the Hebridean castle. Interestingly, it’s the only castle in the region occupied by the same family for 800 years. Cool, huh?
Today you can visit Dunvegan Castle and check out the intricately adorned rooms. Spend a little time wandering the gardens. But not too much time, Skye is waiting. (And you only have a day).
Dunvegan Castle is open to the public from April 1st – mid October each year. Tickets to the castle and gardens start from £14.00.
Lunch: The Dunvegan
You’ve had a busy morning already, and there’s still a whole lot more to do on this 1-day Isle of Skye itinerary. But first though, lunch.
As you’re already in the neighbourhood, stop for a bite at The Dunvegan. One of Skye’s newest, and loveliest spots, this deli-cafe caters for a whole range of appetites. In the mood for something Scottish? You could try Cullen Skink, a thick Scottish soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions. Or maybe their ‘Mac n Mull’, the classic mac and cheese made with an Isle of Mull cheese sauce.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to check out their cake cabinet.
Read More: Top 10 Things To Do in Inverness
Afternoon: The Fairy Glen
You already knew Skye was magical, but this next stop just about proves it. Next up on our 1-day Isle of Skye itinerary we’re headed to the Fairy Glen.
While once described as an ‘off the beaten path’ attraction, the Fairy Glen is now definitely on tourist’s radar. I’m not sure if it’s because we had it all to ourselves, but it was still lovely when we went. Though I can see how the magic might be ruined if you had to share it with hundreds of other tourists.
The Fairy Glen actually has no connection to faerie lore at all. Rather, the other-worldly landscape was what inspired the name. In reality, the unique features of the site were caused by a landslip.
Spent a little while here wandering around the grassy glen. Snap a pic or two of the stone circles created by tourists, and climb to the top of Castle Ewan for the best viewpoint of the surrounding countryside.
Soak in that Skye magic, because who knows? This is the kind of place that could make you believe in faeries after all.
The day is getting on, so it’s time we were too! The next stop of our whirlwind day on Skye is nearby Quiraing. Like the Fairy Glen, the dramatic landscape of Quiraing was caused by a landslip.
Honestly, Quiraing is one part of this itinerary you could skip if you’re short on time. We only saw the distinctive cliffs from the carpark, but if you have extra time you could hike the Quiraing loop. It’s said to be an essential walk for photographers, and takes around 2 hours to complete.
Afternoon: Dinosaur Footprints
We’ve seen fairy glens and impossible landscapes. Next up on our itinerary? Dinosaur footprints! Honestly, when you thought a day on Skye couldn’t get any better…
One of the best places to spy dinosaur footprints on Skye is on the beach at An Corran, Staffin. These footprints are very, very old. Seriously; they were left on the beach by a family of dinosaurs some 165 million years ago.
Today the footprints are covered by water at high tide and are often obscured by sand. The best time to spot them is after a winter storm when the sea has washed the sand away. But still, even though we didn’t spot them on our visit, it’s still a pretty incredible feeling to walk where the dinosaurs once walked.
Late Afternoon: Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls Viewpoint
The day is getting on, and we’ve managed to cram quite a bit into it. Before we call it a day, however, we’ve got a couple more things to see.
Next up we’ve got a quick stop to Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls Viewpoint.
Kilt Rock is named, unsurprisingly, because the pleated folds of stone look remarkably like the pleats of a kilt. The other point of interest here is Mealt Falls, a striking waterfall cascading off the cliff into the sea below.
It might just be a quick visit, because honestly that’s about all there is to it. But still, the viewpoint here offers stunning views, and it’s well worth making a stop.
Evening: Old Man of Storr
Hopefully you’ve still got a little bit of energy left, because we’ve got one last site to visit.
One of the most famous, and busiest, walks on the island, the Storr walk takes you up the path to a vantage point of more incredible Skye scenery. At the top you’ll see the ‘Old Man’, a large pinnacle of rocks pointing proudly into the sky and visible for miles around. On your way back down to the carpark you’ll be met with dramatic views of gently rolling hills and lochs.
The Storr walk is 3.8km long and takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete.
Other Things To Do If You Have More Than One Day On The Isle of Skye
After a little more Isle of Skye magic? Head to the Fairy Pools. The pools take around 20 minutes to reach from the car park, and they’re definitely worth the short walk.
You can see why they’re called the Fairy Pools, because this site is something out of a Scottish myth. Made up of a collection of rock pools with crystal clear water and waterfalls of varying sizes, the Fairy Pools are one of the most enchanting places on the Isle of Skye.
If you want to taste a dram or two of Scottish whiskey, this is the place to do it.
Head to Talisker Distillery for a tour of the oldest working distillery on the Isle of Skye. Though I didn’t get the chance to do it, the tour is said to be an interesting look into the whiskey making process. Plus, you get to taste their Talisker Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
The Classic Distillery Tour costs £10.00 for adults and takes around 45 minutes.
Hit the Beach
Though it’s maybe not what you’d expect, Scotland has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Ok, the water isn’t the warmest, and you probably wouldn’t get much of a suntan on a Scottish beach. But you can expect clear waters, wild coastlines and dramatically stunning scenery.
One of the most famous beaches on the Isle of Skye is Coral Beach. Located a 25-minute walk down a farm track, this hidden beach is a truly magical place. The sand is made from crushed white coral, and when the sun comes out the water looks almost turquoise.
Another great beach to visit on Skye, and one we saw on our way to Portree, is Elgol Beach. Located at the bottom of a large hill, Elgol Beach is one of those landscapes that doesn’t feel quite real. You’ve got a rocky, shingled beach, crashing waves and mountains in the distance capped with snow. Seriously, how is the Isle of Skye this beautiful?
The Isle of Skye is one of my favourite places in Scotland. No wait, the world. This magical island is everything I imagined it to be, and more. While a day here is long enough to see some of the main sites and experience the beauty of Scotland’s most famous island, I can guarantee you’ll be left wanting more. So go on, use this 1-day Isle of Skye itinerary as a starting point, and get exploring!