The Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye

Skye (An t-Eilean Sgitheanach in Scottish Gaelic) often referred to as the Isle of Skye, represents the largest and most northerly of the Inner Hebrides located off the west coast of Scotland. The capital and largest town on the island is the picturesque port of Portree.

The island can be seen as a series of peninsulas that radiate from the mountainous centre of the Cuillin hills. Occupied since the Mesolithic era, there are currently about 9,200 people living on the island, although the transient population of tourists swells during the busy summer months. Skye's popularity with tourists is largely due to its remarkable landscape and easy accessibility from the mainland, both by car over the Skye Bridge or by ferry; and by bus and train through adjacent mainland towns.

Skye is part of the Highland Council local government area and is now linked to the mainland by a road bridge. The island is renowned for its spectacular scenery, vibrant culture and heritage, and its abundant wildlife including the Golden Eagle, Red Deer and Salmon. It is also one of the most accessible regions in which to hear Gaelic being spoken, with about thirty percent of the local population being fluent and a sizeable Gaelic college in Sleat.


Skye may be understood as a number of distinct peninsulas that extend out from the Cuillin, the mountainous centre of the island. A largely missable central plateau north of the Cuillin separates Portree on the east coast and Dunvegan in the west.

In the north (from west to east):

In the west:

In the south:


Get in

The Skye Bridge - linking back to the mainland

By road

There are two main roads to Skye: the A87 and travels west from the A82 Fort William - Inverness road at Invergarry (the A887 provides another connection to the A87 further north towards Inverness). The A87 reaches Skye over the bridge from the Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland to Kyleakin on Skye.

The lesser used but equally scenic route is by the A830 "Road to the Isles" from Fort William to Mallaig and thence by ferry to Armadale (see below).

By ferry

Now that the Skye Bridge is open (and free of charge since 2004), it is no longer essential to travel to Skye by boat, but it is still an enjoyable ride.

The main route to the mainland is on the Caledonian Macbrayne (aka Calmac) ferry between Armadale and Mallaig.

Skye Ferry, a seasonal car ferry (from around Easter till mid-October) operates between Glenelg and Kylerhea, reachable via minor roads.

For the Outer Hebrides, Calmac run from Uig in the north of Skye to Tarbert on Harris and Lochmaddy on North Uist. Many travellers bound for the Outer Hebrides will travel through Skye en route to Uig, usually on board the multiple daily Citylink buses from Inverness or Fort William and Glasgow.

A Calmac ferry also operates from Sconser on Skye to Inverarish on Raasay.

By train

Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom

There are two railway stations that serve Skye from the mainland, with the terminus of the West Highland Line in Mallaig (MLG) and the Kyle of Lochalsh Line terminating in its eponymous destination (KYL).

From Glasgow and Fort William

Trains travel about three times a day between Fort William and Mallaig, with convenient connections to the Calmac ferry to Armadale. At least one train a day continues to/from Glasgow.

During the summer months, a restored vintage steam train hauls a rake of restored carriages on a daily round trip between Fort William and Mallaig. Fares are slightly higher than regular ScotRail services, but offer an additional connection.

From Inverness

Four or five trains operate daily between Kyle of Lochalsh and Inverness, from where there are connections to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth.

From London and the south

Connections with overnight sleeper trains to/from London Euston are possible six nights a week in both Fort William and Inverness, as well as the daily 'Highland Chieftan' intercity train from Inverness to London King's Cross. For train times and fares contact ScotRail or National Rail.

By bus

Scottish Citylink operate two routes in and out of Skye:

Limited numbers of discounted advance purchase tickets are available on their webpage. It is advisable to reserve a seat during the summer or around holidays.

Local buses 51 & 52 connect Armadale pier (for the ferry to/from Mallaig with Broadford and Portree several times a day (fewer in the winter). Buses 50 & 55 run every 30 minutes over the Skye Bridge between Kyleakin and Kyle of Lochalsh.

Get around

By bus

The rural network of local buses is provided by Stagecoach Highlands (who acquired the local operator Rapsons in 2008). A Stagecoach Highlands Skye route map is available online.

North Skye routes include the following services (see Stagecoach Highlands timetable for North Skye routes 54, 56, 57A/57C, 58/158 and 59):

South Skye routes include the following services (see Stagecoach Highlands timetable for South Skye routes 55, 152, 155, 164):

Fares rise by distance travelled, with a half-hour journey usually costing around £3. There is an £8.25 dayrider ticket (which will normally make sense if you are using more than two buses in one day) and a 7 day megarider ticket for £32. Both types of tickets are only valid on Stagecoach Highlands buses on Skye and Lochalsh. Ask the bus driver for your best option. For an overview of ticket options for the general Stagecoach Highlands area check online.

An area guide for Skye and Lochalsh lists all bus times, and is issued twice annually for winter and summer seasons. It can be downloaded in pdf format from Stagecoach Highlands by clicking on 'Timetables' and then scrolling down to 'Skye and Lochalsh' or picked up in paper form from buses and tourist information centres. It is strongly recommended to check times in advance, paying special attention to any timetable notes relating to days when the bus runs or does not.

Although they are listed alongside local buses in journey planners and at bus stops, passengers should avoid taking Scottish Citylink coaches for journeys wholly within Skye or across the bridge to Kyle of Lochalsh since fares are substantially cheaper on local services.

During winter time, MacLean Coaches (tel: +44 1599 566766), a private company, runs service 601 (Portree / Kyle / Armadale). Check before using this service.

Use Travelline Scotland to plan your journey and get timetables.

By car

Although substantial European and Scottish funding has been made available to improve and widen certain key routes (most recently the southern section of the Armadale to Broadford road), major roads are still quite narrow and can get congested in high season. However in low season driving in Skye is a delight with only the occasional sheep wandering onto the tarmac to concern you. On narrow single track rural roads pay attention to passing places and drive courteously, being ready to pull over to allow an oncoming vehicle to pass.

Car hire is available in Portree and Kyle of Lochalsh, but can be expensive. When travelling to the island in the high season, call ahead for availability:

By bicycle

Many of the roads in Skye are well cyclable, although traffic can be a problem in late summer. If you're cycling, make sure you have good raingear; Skye is wet even by the drizzly standards of Scotland. The ferry from Mallaig accepts bicycles, and the ride from Armadale north to the bridge is pleasant.


Hitching is never one hundred percent safe, but residents of Skye are generally very open to giving rides in remoter areas (especially if you've missed the last bus of the day or it's raining).


Castle Moil, Kyleakin
Kilt Rock and Waterfall




Neist Point Lighthouse





Breweries and distillery

Note that Isle of Skye is a blended whisky produced near Edinburgh, with no extant connection to the island.



On Rubha nam Brathairean (Brothers Point) looking back to the rest of the Isle of Skye

Skye's busiest tourist season is from Easter until the end of September, when accommodation usually requires reservations and when some prices rise. Some places close during the winter.




Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, January 27, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.