Isle of Skye Scotland: Exploring the Landscapes, Folklore, and Traditions

Isle of Skye, Scotland - Emma Loggins

One of the most stunning and enchanting places to visit in all of Scotland is the Isle of Skye. It’s the second largest island in all of Scotland, and it’s become rather popular with movie fans as it’s a popular filming destination for films such as 2015’s Macbeth, 2007’s Stardust, and 2012’s Snow White and The Huntsman.

Movies aside, Isle of Skye has some remarkable picturesque landscapes, folklore, and history on the island, which makes it more than worth a visit. So, if you’re planning a visit, here’s what you need to know, where you should consider visiting, and some of the best places to stay.

The Mysterious Landscapes of Isle of Skye, Scotland

The first time I visited the Isle of Skye, it was the island’s geological formations that made it feel so majestic. The dramatic cliffs, sculpted over millennia by wind and water, tower over the ocean, while the rolling hills are dotted with peculiar rock structures and ancient stone circles. You feel like you’re in another land in another time, far away from the noise of today’s hustle and bustle and overwhelming amounts of technology.

Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland

The Quiraing

One of the most beautiful spots on the island is the Quiraing, which is a landslip on the eastern face of the Meall na Suiramach, the northernmost summit of the Trotternish peninsula. Here, the earth has been molded into a surreal tableau of pinnacles, plateaus, and hidden valleys. Walking its trails feels like stepping into another world, one shaped by the raw forces of nature.

Other parts of the Quiraing landscape include the jagged 120-foot high pinnacle called The Needle. Northwest of The Needle is The Table, the flat, grassy area down from the summit’s plateau. The Quiraing takes its name from the Old Norse “Kvi Rang” which means “Round Fold.”

The Old Man of Storr

The Old Man of Storr, also known as The Storr, is also found on the Trotternish peninsula. It’s a rocky hill and its eastern face overlooks the Sound of Raasay. The Storr and The Quiraing present the most iconic views in the entirety of Scotland.

Kilt Rock

Kilt Rock is a columnar structure of the 105-meter cliffs. It takes its name from its appearance, as it is said to resemble the pleats of a Scottish kilt.

This unique combination of geology and folklore is what makes Kilt Rock an intriguing attraction for visitors. From its towering heights, one can enjoy sweeping views of the coast and the sparkling waters of the Sound of Raasay. On windy days, the cascading Mealt Waterfall, which freefalls off these cliffs into the sea below, creates a misty spectacle that further enhances the mystique of Kilt Rock.

Fairy Pools in Isle of Skye
Fairy Pools in Isle of Skye / Photo Credit: Emma Loggins

Fairy Pools

Another famous geological formation and attraction on the Isle of Skye are the Fairy Pools. It’s surrounded by the Cuillin Mountains by Glenbrittle. As its name implies, the Fairy Pools are a series of pools that have crystal-clear water.

But what truly makes the Fairy Pools mysterious is not just their ethereal beauty. It’s the lore and legend that surrounds them. Local folklore tells tales of fairies bathing in the pools under the moonlight, lending an enchanting aura to the place. It’s said that these supernatural beings chose the pools for their remarkable clarity and the magical reflections they create.

If you decide to hike up to the Fairy Pools, not that it can be a little intense, depending on the weather. It was raining, super windy, and cold when I was there in late June. I had to head back to our apartment and change clothes after our hike.

Hiking to the Fairy Pools on Isle of Skye
Hiking to the Fairy Pools on Isle of Skye / Photo Credit: Emma Loggins

Brother’s Point

Brother’s Point is not as known as the above locations. However, it also presents a unique geological formation that makes the Isle of Skye unique. It’s a headland that marks the easternmost point of the Trotternish peninsula.

Jutting out into the sea, Brother’s Point appears like a giant stepping stone. The terrain here is varied and dramatic, with rocky cliffs giving way to grassy slopes and pebbled beaches.

In addition to its geological marvels, Brother’s Point has a rich history. It’s said to have been a hermitage for early Christian monks, which is how it got its name. Some remnants of ancient buildings can still be found here, adding an extra layer of intrigue.

The Enthralling Folklore of Isle of Skye, Scotland

The Isle of Skye is rich in folklore and fantastical tales. Some of its most popular are tales behind some of the island’s most iconic landscapes.

The Legend of the Old Man of Storr

Most notably on Skye, there is the legend of the Old Man of Storr, which centers on a giant that once lived on the peninsula. The giant eventually died of old age and was buried with his thumb sticking out of the ground.

Another story about the Old Man of Storr is of a villager named O’Sheen, who saved the life of a mythical being called a brownie. The two became close friends until O’Sheen died of a broken heart after his wife passed away.

The brownie that O’Sheen saved, carved two rocks to honor his human friend and his wife.

Fairy Pools
Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland / Photo Credit: Emma Loggins

Fairy Glen and the Fairy Pools

The story behind the Fairy Glen and the Fairy Pools follows two kinds of faeries that are believed to exist on the Isle. The Seelie faeries are believed to be good and kind, while the Unseelie are believed to be evil-spirited. According to legend, the Seelie often interacted with humans and rewarded those who helped them. However, it’s said to be very rare for a Seelie to be spotted.

There are also the Selkies, also known as seal people. According to legend, three brothers went fishing at night. They were bewitched by three beautiful seal maidens or Selkies, who assumed their human forms to dance. The three brothers stole the furs of the seal maidens, seeking to take them as their wives.

The ending of that legend is bittersweet as the youngest brother softens toward the maidens and returns their furs. The middle brother lost his selkie wife after she found her furs. However, the eldest brother burned his selkie wife’s seal skin but ended up killing her in the process.

The Fairy Glen
The Fairy Glen on Isle of Skye / Photo Credit: Emma Loggins

The Timeless Traditions of Isle of Skye

You can find the Scottish Gaelic college Sabhal Mor Ostaig on the Isle of Skye. Students studying Scottish Gaelic travel here to attend. The isle also embraces folk music traditions as another way to keep Scottish Gaelic alive.

Other events held in the Isle of Skye include the annual Isle of Skye Music Festival and the annual Isle of Skye Highland Games, which have occurred since 1877. The games in this sporting event include putting the stone, tossing the caber, and tug-of-war, with Bag Piping and Highland Dancing competitions.

Best Places to Stay on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

There is a wide range of options to choose from when booking accommodations on the Isle of Skye. Book your accommodations at least three months in advance if you’re visiting during the summer months. Six months in advance would be even more ideal, so you don’t run out of options when peak season arrives.

Your accommodation would likely be located in and around the Isle of Skye’s largest town, Portree. There’s the Cuillin Hills Hotel, located just outside Portree, for something a little high-end. It’s one of, if not, the best-rated accommodation in the Isle of Skye, largely due to its breathtaking views of the mountains and the sea.

Another hotel to check out is the Marmalade Hotel, which also has views of the town, the loch, and the Cuillin Mountains. For something more like a bed and breakfast, there’s The Skye Inn, located close to Portree’s main square. There’s also the family-run Duisdale House Hotel in Sleat, which has great views of the mountains and the sea.

Tor View is another bed and breakfast north of Portree, which guests rave about for its views. For accommodation that’s on the self-catering side, the Skeabost View Pods are one-bedroom studio chalets a few miles northwest of Portree. Each chalet has its own kitchenette, private bathroom, a small fire pit, and a supply of firewood.

There’s also no shortage of Airbnb options, which we stayed in last time we were there. It was a bit of a drive outside of Portree for us, but we stayed on the edge of a small, quaint town called Staffin. It was about a 45-minute drive into Portree, but it was nice to feel away from the center of action and feel a bit more connected with the land.

Scottish Coo
Highland cattle (Scottish Coo) on Isle of Skye / Photo Credit: Emma Loggins

Experiencing the Isle of Skye, Scotland

If you plan on visiting the Isle of Skye, the best time to visit is between May and September. Its peak season is in July and August. So, naturally, for these months, accommodations tend to sell out well ahead of time.

Car parks are also overflowing during these months, and restaurants are also packed. My personal recommendation for the best time to visit would be early June, as you’re still towards the beginning of peak season without as many tourists as there will be in another month.

Of course, you can still visit during the winter months, but it will be quite chilly, so be prepared as most of the places you’ll want to visit will be outdoors.

Allow yourself two or more days to fully experience everything the island has to offer. The longer you can stay, the more you will thank yourself for it. It’s a wonderfully relaxing environment that feels like Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

The Isle of Skye is also great for family trips, as there are many hikes for all ages and ability levels. You can walk to the Fairy Pools or a mile-long hike to the lesser-known Fairy Glen. For more experienced hikers or walkers, visit the Old Man of Storr, or for another easy walk, to Brother’s Point. And, for those who can really walk a long way, there’s the path to the Quiraing or a six-hour walk to the Bla Bheinn.

For Fans of Castles, Whales, and Whisky

Other attractions to visit on the Isle of Skye are Dunvegan Castle, Neist Point, and Mealt Falls. Neist Point is an abandoned lighthouse in the west of the Isle of Skye. It’s also considered the best place to see dolphins, whales, and sharks.

Whisky lovers will enjoy a visit to the Talisker Distillery, which has been making the spirit since 1830. After a day or two of visiting the attractions, stop by a local pub and listen to some live Scottish music. Some recommended pubs include The Old Inn, Carbost, and The Edinbane Inn.

Emma on Isle of Skye
Me on Isle of Skye / Photo Credit: FanBolt

Visiting the Isle of Skye, Scotland… A Personal Note

Isle of Skye is one of the most enchanting places I’ve ever visited. From the magical environments and stunning landscapes to some of the best fish and chips I’ve ever had (at The Portree Hotel), Skye was truly a breath of fresh air for me. I felt removed from the stresses of the world and surrounded by otherworldly terrain. 

If you’re looking for the best places to pick up a local item as a souvenir from your trip, be sure to check out ÒR. There are so many beautiful little shops right in that area for handmade knitwear, pottery, and jewelry.

One of my favorite memories from my trip was shopping in Portree. I remember walking into a small jewelry store that had just opened – and it was packed! I fell in love with a necklace that the shop owner had just sold. When I asked her if she had any more, she told me she didn’t, and then her eyes lit up – and she said, “Yes, yes, I do!” She sold me the necklace, which featured the Old Man of Storr, that she was wearing. I will never forget that kindness and how her smile lit up her store. Her hard work was paying off, and she knew her store would be a success. 

Considering a visit to the Isle of Skye? Have questions? Ask them below in the comment section, and I’ll do my best to help!


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