Isle of Skye | Scotland Road Trip | Scottish Highlands | NC500 | I

Isle of Skye road trip rootless routes 2018

Scotland Road Trip | Isle of Skye | Part I

Isle of Skye road trip itinerary. Total trip time is about 8 hours. Included in this itinerary are calculations on estimated spent time at each location, time to park, a quick bite and toilet breaks. Below are the locations included on the itinerary. You can check out Part 2 here, once it is posted.

Isle of Skye Road Trip Itinerary Part 1 / Flora and The Old Man

  1. Portree
  2. Old Man of Storr (Storr)
  3. Tobhta Uachdrach
  4. Kilt Rock
  5. Mealt Falls
    1. Staffin Dinosaur Museum
  6. Quiraing
  7. Duntulm Castle
  8. Skye Museum of Life
  9. Kilmuir Cemetery (Flora MacDonald)
  10. Portree
  11. Skye Bridge

A Quick Note

I suggest you read Driving On Skye – What To Know Before You Go prior to planning your Isle of Skye road trip.  Splendor on The Isle of Skye Scotland shares general information about the Island.

The approximate estimate on timing, is just that… approximate. Time spent on this journey will vary greatly based on individual likes and desires. Both Isle of Skye road trip itineraries can be completed within a day if you stick with the general timetable offered.

A map is included at the end of this post. The letters indicated on each location description, correspond to those on the map and the written directions.

Although I did not travel Skye on my own, I am regularly a solo traveler. Everything on the Isle of Skye road trip itinerary is totally appropriate for solo travelers. The Island is friendly and safe (crime wise). It is not a good place to hike along the public roads. You should have some sort of transportation planned.

GPS can be dodgy in the Scottish Highlands and even more so on Skye. It really is important to read the above mentioned “Driving On Skye” to help you best prepare and understand the key challenges to visiting and driving on the Island.


13 Magical Stops on the Isle of Skye

A] The Skye Bridge / Drochaid an Eilein Sgitheanaich / A87

Take the Skye Bridge from Lochalsh. Once you’ve crossed the bridge onto the Isle of Skye, remain on A87 by taking the third (3) exit on the roundabout. After 32 miles you take a right onto Bridge Rd / A855.

Photo Alert: The lighthouse on the wee island of Eilean Bàn (White Island) below, is a particularly nice shot, as is the bridge itself. Best time for Skye Bridge photo opportunities is before you get onto the bridge.

Kid Alert: Check out the lighthouse on Eilean Ban as you cross the bridge.

Approximate time: 3 minutes

Toilet Alert: Main Rd, Broadford, Skye (about 10 minutes after the bridge) on A87 after the Cooperative, across from parking lot, next to church on right

Next Destination: Portree – Drive Time: 45 minutes


B] Village of Portree / Port Righ

Portree is a lovely spot for photographs, in addition there is a Visit Scotland visitor center too. This adorable fishing village claims to be the ‘Capital’ of Skye. It also claims to have everything you might need. That being said, everyone is likely going there for the same reason as you. It can get busy REALLY busy. It is usually quite difficult to find a sit down meal if you have not booked ahead. But there are supermarkets, shops, petrol stations and restaurants.

Don’t dawdle. Enjoy it, but be on your way. You can come back later if you wish, it is not a huge detour on your way back after the Fairy Pools.

Photo Alert: About 15 minutes after Portree is where you will find some of the best views  (and shots) of the ‘Old Man’. Once past that point, you may not be able to see it well until you have hiked up to it.

Toilet Alert: 1) Bridge Road behind Somerland Square, across from courthouse 2) Off A87 at the Aros Center

Approximate Time: 30 minutes – Total Trip Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Next Destination: Old Man of Storr – Drive Time: 10 Minutes


C] Old Man of Storr / Bodach an Stòr – The Storr / An Stòr

(not to be confused with The Old Man of Stoer in Sutherland)

Likely the most iconic location on the Isle of Skye, The Storr is a large pinnacle of jagged rocks precariously jutting from the mountain face including the “Old Man” of Storr. You will see it in the distance on your left when coming from Portree. The best place to take pictures of this unusual geological display is before you get there.

The path up to the The Storr is invigorating yet pretty easy, well marked with an obvious trail. It takes about 45 minutes up and 40 minutes down for adults in decent shape, if not lugging kids. I’d give it an hour if you are taking pictures, for you may need to stop and rest often or if you’ve got kids in tow.

Just go through the wooden gate at the end of the carpark. Click here for the Isle of Skye trail guide.

After hiking The Storr, perhaps it is time for a little snack and some photo opportunities. Please leave the Old Man of Storr parking lot to make room for others.

Parking Alert: The carpark fills up fast. (I told you to head out early and not to dawdle in Portree). Luckily, there are laybys along the road designed for overflow parking if need be.

Note: It takes almost exactly an hour to get to the Old Man of Storr car park from the Skye Bridge (if you decided to forgo Portree) and about 10 minutes from Portree. (6.6 miles)

Next Destination: Tobhta Uachdrach – Drive Time: 5 minutes

Approximate Time: 3 hours – Total Trip Time: 4 hours 30 minutes


D] Tobhta Uachdrach / Upper Ruins

Just about 3 miles up the road on the right is an amazing viewpoint. There are green areas on which to picnic, while viewing the breathtaking scenery before you. This location offers only a view, but it really should not be missed.

A couple of things to note. Many people camp here so it can be crowded. The parking lot can be riddled with holes and sharp stones jutting up.

Photo Alert: Endless photo opportunities, look all around and down, not just across the water. The sheep gate on the cliff is not locked. Be careful if you head out there. Make sure to close the gate behind you and when you leave.

Kid Alert: Good place for a picnic or snack.

Kid Warning: As mentioned above. the sheep gate that blocks entrance to the cliff is NOT locked. Keep an eye on your kids.

Parking Alert: Parking is plentiful

Pothole Alert: The parking lot is a nightmare, big holes, sharp protruding rocks, puddles.

Approximate Time: 15 Minutes – Total Trip Time: 4 hours 40 minutes

Next Destination: Kilt Rock – Drive Time: 7 minutes


E] Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls / Creag an Fheilidh & Eas Mealt

Keep heading North (right turn) on A855 for five (5) miles until you come to Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls on the right. The parking lot is ample but it fills up quickly.

You will see hear then see Mealt Falls  to your left. The magnificent sea cliff known as Kilt Rock is beyond the Falls in the distance. The vertical basalt columns that make up this unique cliff, looks like the pleats on a kilt.

Photo Alert: The views are truly lovely here. Make sure to walk all the way over to the right and circle about as well. If you face back towards the road from which you came, there are lovely shots of lonely houses in rolling hills

Sheep Alert: There are often sheep close to the fence here. They tend to be less camera shy than others.

Kid Alert: If you are traveling with small kids or are limited for time, this is the place I’d skip.

The Staffin Dinosaur Museum  <– (check their site on the link given) is open Easter to October and although small supposedly has a significant collection of dinosaur bones.

Approximate Time: 20 minutes – Total Trip Time: 5 hours 20 minutes

Next Destination: Quiraing – Drive Time: 10 minutes

Alternate Next Destination: Staffin Dinosaur Museum Drive Time: 1 minute

  1. Staffin Dinosaur Museum

     Staffin Dinosaur Museum was established by Dugald Ross over 40 years ago and he is       still there today. The museum includes specimens from Stegosaurus, Megalosaurus,   Cetiosaurus, Hadrosaurus, and Ceolophysis. They also offer tours of the infamously hard to find Staffin dinosaur footprints.

Mealt Rootless Routes Elizabeth Whitener Isle of Skye 2018
Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock Isle of Skye 2018 photo by Elizabeth Whitener Isle of Skye 2018 Rootless Routes

F] The Quiraing / A’ Chuith-Raing / Kví Rand / Round Fold

Continue north on A855 for 3 to 5 minutes to bring you upon the entrance to the Quiraing Road. It is a fairly hard left at a little white house. There was no Quiraing sign when I was there, just a sign warning that the road may not be accessible in bad weather. But yeah, that is it. There should be a Chuith-Rang sign, but I did not see it.

The Quiraing was created by Tertiary age lava rock crushing Jurassic age sedimentary rock below it for millenia, resulting in a massive and ongoing landslide. This alien landscape is jaw droppingly stunning. The most dramatic vistas of the Quiraing  are the Table, Needle, Prison, Dùn Dubh and the Old Man of Storr.

I found the drive disappointing and drab. The roads are not in good condition. Many of those driving it are really poor drivers. It was in no way the thrill many blogs claim it to be. The views are spectacular from the carpark and the many hiking points. The drive, not so much.

You enter near Staffin and exit near Uig, (NG386643) Lat : 57.593464 Lon : -6.373546) It can be steep and curvy and filled with sheep, but the biggest challenge for me was the huge holes in the road. It is nothing like the exhilarating Bealach Na Ba.

Photo Alert: Most of the best photo ops occur once you hit the car park or the other viewing points along the Quiraing Rd. Once you walk out to the viewing area, you will be awestruck. There are a few unmarked stopping points that will be obvious when you come upon them. They are usually there due to a good view of something or for a hiking point entrance.

Sheep Alert: Sheep roam freely on this road and during lambing season April – June. little sheep inexperienced with roads and frightened by cars are unpredictable.

Parking Alert: The carpark often gets jammed packed early and stays that way throughout the day. There is an obvious wide layby to the side of the lot for overflow, but that often fills up as well. Please park courteously and with other people in mind.

Kid Alert: Your kids may or may not appreciate the views. It’s already been a bit of some time in the car. Maybe a wee hike is in order? I am unsure driving the entire Quiraing route would be worth it if your kid/s are already edgy. I am not sure it is actually ever worth it.

Pothole Alert: The roads suck on the Quiraing. The potholes are deep enough to cause injury to your vehicle.

Approximate Time: 45 minutes (per stop) – Total Trip Time: 5 hours 35 minutes

Next Destination: Duntulm Castle – Drive Time: 25 minutes


G] Duntulm Castle / Dun Dhaibhidh

You cannot enter this absolute ruin of a castle. Without a lot of imagination it isn’t much to see. Yet it is a dramatic location rich with ancient history. Fortified in the Iron Age. 

Clan Douglas, the McLeods and the MacDonalds fought over the damned thing for hundreds of years. The MacDonalds abandoned it in the 1730s and built a new house using stone taken from the castle.  Untended in such an exposed location  for nearly 300 years has taken its toll. The main tower collapsed into the sea in the 1990’s.

Gorgeous location, fantastic drive.

Photo Alert: Endless photo opportunities. About 3 miles up the road on the right is another viewpoint, with grassy areas for a picnic. View from the Minch to the Isle of Lewis is breathtaking.

Kid Alert: Good place for a picnic or snack.

Kid Warning: The castle is very unstable. The cliff rocks are as well. Keep an eye on your kids.

Parking Alert: Keep your eye out for the small parking area before the castle.

Pothole Alert: Parking area is ok The walk to the castle is often wet and muddy.

Toilet Alert: There are no facilities until you get the the next stop

Approximate Time: 45 hour – Total Trip Time: 7 hours

Next Destination: Skye Museum of Island Life – Drive Time: 7 minutes


H] Skye Museum of Island Life

The museum offers visitors a unique experience and true insight into island life a 100 years ago. This award winning attraction is a must for all visitors to the beautiful Isle of Skye. A perfect place to end this day long journey.

Photo Alert: Beautiful location with wonderful views.

Kid Alert: Kids may enjoy this, even more than you

Approximate Time: 45 minutes – Total Trip Time: 8 hours

Next Destination: Portree Harbour – Drive Time: 40 minutes


I) Village of Portree / Port Righ

Since you’ve already been here, it is time to take a break. Now you have time to take in the view you missed while rushing to get to the Old Man of Storr earlier. It is another 45 minutes to the Skye Bridge.

Photo Alert: There are many lovely spots to take pictures of the colorful houses along the harbour as well as the harbour itself

Toilet Alert: 1) Bridge Road behind Somerland Square, across from courthouse 2) Off A87 at the Aros Center

Approximate Time: 15 minutes – Total Trip Time: 8 hours

Next Destination: Skye Bridge – Drive Time: 45 minutes


J] The Skye Bridge / Drochaid an Eilein Sgitheanaich / A87

So you are back where you started. This road trip is complete.

Next Destination: Done – Drive Time: 8 hours 45 minutes

Driving On Skye – What To Know Before You Go

Uig Scotland Rootless Routes Scotland 2018 photo by Elizabeth Whitener
Uig Scotland Rootless Routes Scotland 2018 photo by Elizabeth Whitener
One track road at the Fairy Glen. Driving on Skye is not easy, but it is magical. Rootless Routes Scotland 2018 photo by Elizabeth Whitener

Should You Drive on Skye?

Driving on Skye is not for everyone. It can be more challenging than driving in other parts of rural Scotland. Although driving on Skye may be the easiest and possibly best way to tour this eilean, it is important to understand the semantics and expectations of taking on such a task. Knowing the challenges involved with driving on Skye before you get there and understanding that it may not be the best choice for you, is key.

If driving on the island stresses you out, makes you nervous and takes your focus away from best experiencing the trip, then what’s the point? It can put you and your travel companions, put others on the road in danger as well as diminish your experience. If you are not a confident left side of the road driver, you should not be driving on Skye or any part of Scotland.

Shocked Scottish sheep. Rootless Routes Scotland 2017 photo by Elizabeth Whitener
Sheep shocked by the dreadful driving skills of tourists driving on Skye. Scotland 2017 Arnisdale / Glenelg by Elizabeth Whitener Rootless routes

Me… I’m a driver. Give me a driving challenge and it is just as exciting to me as is the place I am visiting. Mastering the roads and learning to drive up to par with the locals, is as big an adventure for me as is the actual trip. I love to drive. LOVE IT! I much enjoyed driving on Skye. Yet it had its challenges. Many of which were the poorly driving tourists.

Navigating my way around without much assistance. Feeling as if I have not only taken in all of the new things around me, but have in some small way become a part of it. these tings heighten my travel experience. Driving in new places does not make me nervous, it invigorates me and in the end, I feel I have achieved something. As if I understand it better now that I can navigate it with confidence.

If you are hesitant on the roads in your country. Then driving on Skye is certainly not for you.

There are plenty of alternatives. Private tours, public transportation, smaller mini-coach tours. Or Heck, just call me. For the price of a plane ticket, food and a couple of adult beverages here and there, I’ll drive ya wherever and whenever you wish to go. (I’m not kidding either)

Scroll to the end of this post to find more information on tours and transportation alternative to driving on Skye yourself.

Mealt Rootless Routes Elizabeth Whitener Isle of Skye 2018
Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock Isle of Skye 2018 photo by Elizabeth Whitener Isle of Skye 2018 Rootless Routes

Skye is loaded with ethereal landscapes. Rich with history, teaming with waterfalls, wildlife, all  sprinkled with a fair amount of fairy dust. If you have decided you are indeed driving on Skye. The next step is to decide where to go.

When driving on Skye, a well pre-planned driving route is a must.  Skye is a very popular destination, it gets very busy. Yet it remains an extremely rural location.

Navigating rough, pothole ridden,steep, often unmarked roads is easier when prepared. Knowledge of what and where you plan to go and do, helps when navigating unfamiliar territory, and allows a better chance of taking in the views.


Preparing for and Understanding Driving On Skye

To get to the the Isle of Skye, you must first cross the Skye Bridge. This spits you out onto the one main road on Skye, A87. The second important road to remember is 855. Both of these roads vary from dual, to single track. Speed limits run around 60 MPH, unless right in the heart of a village then it decreases to 40, sometimes 30 MPH as is usually indicated. If a road is unmarked, the speed limit is usually 60 MPH.

Skye Bridge
The Skye Bridge Chas MacDonald of Spirit of Scotland

You are expected to to drive at the designated speed limit, even on winding single track roads (which as I said is usually 60 MPH).

Preload google maps while you have a good connection. SABRE maps is an interesting UK road mapping system that shows uncatagorized roads. Printing out pre planned routes from Google or SABRE Maps ahead of time, will aid you in finding uncategorized and remote roads even if your GPS is failing.

While driving Skye, I found almost every location with ease. I had a bit of difficulty with the Quiraing pass entrance (it is indeed uncategorized). I saw no sign saying Quiraing (at the time) just a warning sign about potential road conditions. Apparently there is a sign for the route on the other end of the pass.

I am in the process of posting two (2) full day driving routes for the Isle of Skye. These routes offer in depth locational information and should aid you in choosing your stops, and help get to each location safely, efficiently and stress free. You will find further information on these routes, below.


Before You Hit The Road for Skye

SCHEDULING:                                                                                                                                                          Leave early. Be on the island by 7am / 8am if possible. Car parks, roads and trails get insanely crowded. Stops nearest the bridge are unrestricted and always open, beyond dangerous weather conditions. Get them out of the way to beat the crowds. Obviously Castles and Museums have opening and closing times. The Quiraing viewpoint gets packed early. Leave yourself with ample time to enjoy your trip.

DRESS APPROPRIATELY:
Weather on the island is even more unpredictable than on the mainland. As well as colder and windier. Wear water resistant walking or hiking shoes / boots. Even ‘easy to access’ locations can be swampy, rocky and or muddy.  Bring extra clothes, and a hat. Wear sunscreen (even if there is no sun).

BE PREPARED: 
Fill up with petrol, utilize the toilets, make sure you have everything you need before you cross the bridge. It’s a bigger pain in the ass to get to or do any of these things once on the island and often much more expensive. You are advised to eat before you cross the bridge.

If you intend to eat out, I still suggest that you bring snacks and drinks in the car. Make reservations ahead of time.

Input all data into your GPS ahead of time. If you, can pre-download maps. Signal can be very dodgy on the island. Be careful there is The Old Man of Storr (yes!) and the Old Man of Stoer (No).

BE DILIGENT: Sheep roam freely all over the island and there are active hidden driveways and uncategorized roads around blind bends. This is an active rural community. You never know when you’ll rear a turn to find a stopped tractor on the road.

There also tends to be a lot of inexperienced drivers and stupid people walking in places they obviously should not be. Add to this cyclists, bikers, hikers, dog walkers and drunken young people and well… just be careful. See my video of the tourists wheeling luggage along the Quiraing Rd and you’ll get what I mean.

KNOW THE RULES & COURTESIES OF THE ROAD:                                                                                      Passing places are not just for those driving towards you, they are also there so that a slower driver can stop and let those stuck behind them pass.

Make sure you are confident enough to drive extremely narrow, single track, winding, roads that are in bad condition and have a lot of blind spots, at the recommended speed limit. Which is 60 MPH. Not 60 KPH, 60 MPH. This is so very important when driving Skye.

If you cannot drive with confidence at a reasonable speed, you likely should NOT be driving in Scotland, let alone driving Skye. It is actually considered more unsafe to drive under the speed limit there, since it causes great impatience with the locals (and ME), causing them take unreasonable risks to get around you (so that they can get to their destination on time).

Passing Places are NEVER parking spots, so DON’T DO IT! (yea, I am talking to you, the asshole on the convertible red BMW on the Bealach Na Ba last month). Here is more thorough information on Driving in Scotland by ZigZag on Earth


 Driving Routes for Isle of Skye

I have developed two (2) full day driving routes covering every amazing thing I could, given the hours in a day. These driving routes are coordinated to help you best maximize your time on Skye. The itineraries include 20 potential stops on the Island, offering alternatives for various needs, interests, as well as locations for toilet breaks, petrol etc… Make use of the destinations as mapped out on the itineraries, or adjust them according to your interests, time and needs.

(if the links below are not active, I have not completed the posts yet. They will be complete within 2 days of this post, if not earlier)

Isle of Skye Driving Route 1: The Flora and the Old Man in the Skye 

  1. Portree
  2. Old Man of Storr
  3. Tobhta Uachdrach
  4. Kilt Rock
    1. Mealt Falls
    2. Staffin Dinosaur Museum
  5. Quiraing
    1. Viewpoint
    2. Drive
  6. Duntulm Castle
    1. Flora MacDonalds Grave
  7. Skye Museum of Life

Isle of Skye Driving Route 2: Fairies & Lights in Skye

  1. Loch Ainort
  2. Dunvegan Castle & Gardens
  3. Neist Point
    1. Neist Point Lighthouse
  4. Fairy Pools
    1. Coire na Creiche
  5. Eilean Ban
    1. Kyleakin Lighthouse
  6. Eilean Donan Castle (outside of Skye in Dornie)

Skye Tours, Information & Public Transportation / Scot owned Scotland based

Chas MacDonald of Spirit of Scotland offers various private and small group tours with a focus in Clan history, Clan gatherings, wildlife viewing, photography as well as personally curated themes of your choice. He also offers tours by More Gay the Gordon. A unique perspective with a like minded guide that delves into history of gay Scotland as well as LGBT exclusive tours.

Rabbie’s is a highly regarded small tour operator in business for over 20 years. This seasoned tour company has maintained their top reputation even after great growth.

You can find information on bus services to and on Skye here

Cycling routes and bike maps, in and around Skye.

Hiking routes maps and trails on Skye.

Traveling with kids?

Gay centric tours of Skye.