If you only have one day to spend on the magical Isle of Skye, you want to make sure you see as much of the island as possible. Your one day on the Isle of Skye will be predominately spent on the Trotternish Loop, the Isle of Skye’s largest peninsula.
This itinerary will take you to some of Skye’s most iconic, and most popular, tourist attractions. To get the attractions with the fewest people, you will drive clockwise around the peninsula as most guides will have you go counterclockwise.
A few tips:
- Be flexible: If you only have one day, be prepared to make compromises. Stay at one place longer, skip another. Look through this itinerary and prioritize what interests you most.
- Weather: we visited the Isle of Skye on a sunny, hot day. I’m not complaining at all because we got to see everything in bright, clear daylight. But the heat did tire us out! Be prepared for the weather to change your plans. It might be rainy, foggy, snowy, windy, or sunny—whatever the weather, it will affect your travels!
- Be prepared for crowds: The Isle of Skye is extremely popular with tourists, for good reason. During the busy season, be prepared for busy roads in the middle of the day, hard-to-find parking spaces, and crowded attractions. Starting earlier in the day and going during the off-season will make it easier.
Begin your day early in the capital of the Isle of Skye: Portree. Founded only 200 years ago, this former fishing village is now the largest town on the island. The Isle of Skye website explains the origins of the name Portree better than I could:
The name Portree or Port Righ, King’s Port in Gaelic, (as on the road signs) is popularly thought to derive from a visit by King James V (of Scotland) in 1540 but the area around the harbor was called Portree or Portray long before the arrival of the king. Its name really comes from the Gaelic for Port on the Slope.
While in Portree, explore the colorful harbor, visit the An T-Eilean Photographic Gallery, or just wander around its streets.
You’ll want to pick up some breakfast and/or snacks for later. We picked up breakfast from Mackenzie’s Bakery on Somerland Square. There are also other restaurants surrounding Somerland Square.
You’ll also want to pick up enough food for lunch. There’s a co-op on Bank Street where you can purchase lunch for later.
Finally, make sure you use the public toilets before you head off!
Stop 1: Fairy Glen
Time: 1 hour
Heading north on the A87 from Portree, you’ll turn right at a single track road in Uig pointing to Sheader and Balnaknock. Continue on the single track road (carefully, as cars will come at you the other way and there are few passing spaces) for about a mile until you spot Fairy Glen on the left side of the road.
There will be a few parking spaces in a small parking area that fits no more than eight cars. If there are no spaces, drive to Uig and park and walk from there. However, if you arrive at Fairy Glen early in the day you shouldn’t have a problem finding a spot to park at Fairy Glen itself.
Stop 2: The Quiraing
Time: 1-2 hours
After leaving Fairy Glen, you’ll have about a 20-minute drive to your next stop, Quiraing. Coming from the Old Norse “Kví Rand,” meaning Round Fold, the Quiraing is a landslip that’s part of the Trotternish Ridge. Its distinctive landscape is a must-see for any photographer.
From Fairy Glen, get back on the A87, turn right on A855, and then turn right onto the single track road after one mile. You’ll follow this road for about 5.5 miles until you come across the Quiraing carpark.
If you’re there on a sunny day or during high season, it will be extremely crowded. Drive down the road slowly and look for parking. Something should open up. If you can’t find parking in the main section, you can drive down the single track road and park in one of the smaller stopping spaces (as long as there is room for other cars to use). Be careful not to park in the peat—we saw one car park there and slowly sink into the ground. Yikes!
The entire hike will take about 2 hours. If you don’t like heights/cliffs/edges like me, you can walk about 10 minutes of the trail and then turn back when you hit the rock gorge you must cross to continue. If you want detailed instructions for the full hike, follow this guide. After our mini-hike, we went in the opposite direction to get views of the pinnacles from afar. If the weather iffy, be careful on the trails.
Stop 3: Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls
Time: 10-15 minutes
Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls will be the quickest stop of your day. To get there, you’ll continue on the A855 from the Quiraing until you come across a carpark labeled Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls 1.6 miles south of Staffin.
Kilt Rock is a 90-meter rock that looks like, you guessed it, a kilt!
Mealt Falls flows from Loch Mealt. If you are there after a dry spell (as we were) the waterfall won’t flow as strongly.
Stop 4: Brothers’ Point
Time: 2-3 hours
Brothers’ Point, or Rubha nam Brathairean, was one of my favorite stops on the Isle of Skye. This relatively under the radar hike is a little harder to find but so worth it. Follow this detailed guide from our hike to get step-by-step instructions for reaching this beautiful, secluded spot. You’ll spend roughly 2 to 3 hours hiking, exploring, and taking pictures.
Stop 5: Option 1: Old Man of Storr
Time: 1.5-2 hours
Old Man of Storr is one of the most iconic sites on the Isle of Skye. As a result, it will be one of the most crowded. From Brothers’ Point, follow the A855 until you come across the large carpark to your right.
Follow this guide for the hike. It will take you around 1.5 hours to hike.
We passed on this hike because we were too tired from our previous hikes—who knew the heat in Scotland would be such an issue!
Stop 5: Option 2: Dunvegan Castle
Time: 1.5-2 hours
If castles are more your thing, drive about an hour from Brothers’ Point to Dunvegan Castle. Owned by Clan McLeod for over 800 years, Dunvegan Castle is the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland.
We headed here instead of Old Man of Storr and really enjoyed seeing the castle, learning more about its history, and exploring the gardens. The last entry is at 5 pm and the castle and its gardens are open until 5:30 pm. We arrived around 4:45 and felt we had plenty of time to explore the castle and gardens without feeling too rushed.
If you are visiting between mid-October and the end of March, the castle and its gardens are closed.
Stop 6: Neist Point
If you’re staying the night on the Isle of Skye, drive an extra 30 minutes on the B844 from Dunvegan Castle to Neist Point. Found on the most westerly tip of the Isle of Skye, this famous lighthouse is a popular spot to view the sunset.
To get to the actual lighthouse, you’ll want to give yourself about 45 minutes. More information here. If walking alongside cliffs isn’t your thing, you can get a distant view of the lighthouse just beyond carpark.
If you’re visiting during busy months, parking will be difficult to find.
After Neist Point, head to your accommodation for the night and sleep well knowing you saw a lot that the Isle of Skye has to offer.