The Island of Skye, situated off the West coast of Mainland Scotland, is the largest and best known of the Inner Hebrides.
Sometimes referred to in Gaelic poetry and song as Eilean a' Cheò (The Misty Isle), Skye is renown for its natural beauty, history and wildlife.
The Cuillin Hills, the Red Hills and Blaven have long been favourites with climbers and walkers. If you don't fancy the high places, the deeply indented coastline means you are never far from the sea.
Wildlife abounds on the Island, with birds from the tiny Goldcrest to magnificent Golden Eagle, mammals from Pygmy Shrew to Red Deer and fish from Saithe to Salmon. If you are lucky you might catch sight of the elusive Otter playing on the shore. The wide range of geology and topography provides habitats for many wild flowers.
As you travel around the Island it's not unusual to hear snatches of Scottish Gaelic, the indigenous language of the area. Gaelic culture and heritage pervade the atmosphere, each part of the Island having its own tales of times past and plans for the future.
The Skye Bridge
The Skye Bridge is a road bridge over Loch Alsh, connecting mainland Highland with the Isle of Skye, Scotland. It forms part of the A87.
Spindrift sails from Portree pier, taking parties of up to twelve on walking and wildlife visits to the Isle of Rona or the Isle of Raasay as well as shorter cruises in the Sound of Raasay.
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 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.
There is an additional seasonal ferry between Kylerhea and Glenelg, albeit via minor roads.
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 (a.k.a. Calmac) ferry between Armadale and Mallaig.
Skyeferry also operates in summer between Glenelg and Kylerhea.
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.
There are two railway stations that serve Skye from the mainland, with the terminus of the West Highland Line in Mallaig and the Kyle of Lochalsh Line terminating in its eponymous destination.
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.
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.
Scottish Citylink operate two routes in and out of Skye:
* 914 / 915 / 916 /917 run from Uig or Portree to Kyle of Lochalsh, Fort William, and Glasgow (about six and a half hours from Portree)
* 916 / 917 run from Uig or Portree to Kyle of Lochalsh and Inverness (about three and a half hours from Portree)
Limited numbers of discounted advance purchase tickets are available online. 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
An excellent rural network of local buses is provided by Stagecoach Highlands who recently acquired the local operator Rapsons. Routes include:
* 49, 49B Portree / Elgol
* 50, 55 Portree / Kyle of Lochalsh (for coach and train connections to Inverness, and coach connections to Fort William and Glasgow),
* 52, 52C Portree / Broadford / Armadale (for ferry connections to/from Mallaig and trains to Fort William and Glasgow)
* 53, 54 Portree / Carbost (and the Talisker Distillery) / Fiscavaig
* 56A, 56B Portree / Struan / Dunvegan
* 56 Portree / Dunvegan / Glendale
* 57C (clockwise) & 57A (anti-clockwise) Portree / Flodigarry Peninsula (for Old Man of Storr, the Quirang and Uig)
* 59 Portree / Peinchorran
Fares rise by distance travelled, with a half-hour journey usually costing around £3. In early 2009 a number of fares were increased and the useful three day Rover ticket was discontinued. The only remaining special ticket of interest to tourists is the £6 One Day Rover, which will normally make sense if you are using more than two buses in one day (although drivers will normally advise you if it is cheaper to buy that or singles). 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.
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 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.
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).