United Kingdom

The Isle of Skye: A Real Life Treasure Island

The Isle Of Skye, Scotland

The Isle of Skye – where do I begin? I first heard about this island in the Inner Hebrides off the coast of Scotland when we were considering a trip up north during our first year in the UK. It caught my attention because of the name. A place with a name like the Isle of Skye must be beautiful, right? (For the record, I also judge books by their covers.) We ultimately chose to go elsewhere in the UK for that trip, and the Isle of Skye was stored away for future reference. Fast forward about 18 months and we found ourselves, once again, pondering a trip up to Scotland. While Edinburgh would surely have made a lovely introduction to the country, we were looking for something a little different. A little less city, a little more sky. And mountains, and hiking trails, and sheep, too, of course.

The Isle Of Skye, Scotland

The Isle Of Skye, Scotland

There is, indeed, a lot of sky in Skye, but it doesn’t end there. I suppose the Isle Of Dramatic Scenery, Dense Fog, Gale Force Winds, And Some Of The World’s Greatest Natural Treasures doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily, though. There truly is no other place like the Isle of Skye. We spent four full days driving through the Highlands, hiking on Skye, and enjoying some of the freshest air and prettiest scenery I’ve seen since Ireland last year. And did I mention we weren’t doing it alone?

Sometime shortly after Christmas, my mom texted to let me know my dad had a business trip in Belgium in April and they wanted to spend a week with us in London before going on to Brussels. I looked at my calendar and saw the week she was referring to was also the week we’d planned our trip to Skye. Accepting that, once again, we were going to have to move Scotland to a later date, I was about to cross it out of my planner when I realized maybe, just maybe I didn’t have to. Without thinking, I texted back and asked her if they wanted to join us. Not two seconds later, a huge wave of anxiety had me backpedaling. I couldn’t plan a trip worthy of my parents – the people who took us on a 16-day trip across India, a Southeast Asian adventure to Singapore and Bali, and countless other exotic locales. How could I possibly compete with that? When we travel, we stay in cheap hotels, eat (sometimes questionable) street food, and refuse to pay for almost anything other than said food and accommodations. Luxury travel is something we know nothing about, unless it’s on someone else’s dime, of course.

But then I realized, maybe it doesn’t have to be luxurious. Maybe we can still make it memorable without breaking the bank. And I quickly discovered there is no better place to do that than the Isle of Skye. All of the best things the island has to offer are free. And so I set to work designing the ultimate Isle of Skye itinerary using this excellent website as a guide.

The Isle Of Skye, Scotland

The Isle Of Skye, Scotland

The Isle Of Skye, Scotland

The hardest part was realizing we wouldn’t even be able to cover a fraction of the island in the four days we were going to be there. Google ‘hiking and the Isle of Skye’ and you’ll see what I mean. So I set about the difficult task of picking and choosing what I thought we’d all like best. Now, it’s not uncommon for me to spend around 30+ hours planning a trip. I do that nearly every time. But when you don’t have only yourself to think about – let’s be honest, as the resident family trip planner, what I want to see takes priority – the task becomes much much more time-consuming. I don’t even want to tell you how many hours I spent analyzing over 30 hiking locations just to choose five that I thought we would all enjoy/have the stamina for. But that extra work paid off in spades. Not a single disappointment the whole trip. And how could we have been the least bit disappointed with scenery like this?

The Isle Of Skye, Scotland

The Isle Of Skye, Scotland

The Isle Of Skye, Scotland

The Isle Of Skye, Scotland

Okay, so there might have been one tiny disappointment. I did not get stopped on the road by a herd of sheep like I’d hoped. (It’s possible I’ve seen too many romantic comedies.) But we certainly saw our fair share of the little woolly creatures. Even better, it was lambing season. I’m sure I don’t need to describe to you the level of cuteness that was.

We also lucked out big time with the weather. For about two months preceding our visit, it rained in Skye every day, sometimes all day. It did not look promising for us. And then, like Mother Nature had put us on trial and deemed us worthy, the rain cleared out the day before we arrived. Our days alternated between fog and sun, but never any rain. While I had come prepared for rain and cold weather, the one thing I hadn’t expected was the wind. I’m not talking hair-getting-stuck-in-your-lipgloss kind of wind. I’m talking blow-you-off-the-side-of-a-mountain wind. There was one time when we were hiking when I had to crawl on all fours, gripping the brambles growing on the cliffside to keep from blowing off the path. Now that was some wind. The only time I’ve ever experienced anything similar (that wasn’t actually a tornado or a hurricane) was on a summer night in Memphis when the winds were so strong and caused so much damage that some enterprising company started selling ‘I Survived Hurricane Elvis’ t-shirts the next day. My sister still has hers. Thankfully, the winds in Scotland weren’t always that strong, but they were always there. And I had the tangles in my hair every evening to prove it.

We stayed in Portree at Ballintoy B&B with our lovely hosts Gavin and Gillian who were very kind and a great source of Skye info and history. Portree ended up being the perfect base for exploring Skye and had, by far, the most choices for shops and dining on the island. (You must try the fish. It’s incredible. Like so fresh that seafood might be ruined for us back in London.) I highly recommend staying in this town if you plan on exploring more than one area of Skye as it’s ideally located on the main roads heading both north and south.

I could keep going for days about this trip, because it’s one of those, like Ireland was for us, that stays with you forever, but if you happened to read this post then you know I’m going to have to start writing about our trips a little differently. I’ve got only two more Scotland posts planned, one later this week about our road trip through the Scottish Highlands and one next week about hiking on the Isle of Skye. (That second one is going to be a list-style post. Sorry. I know how annoying those are, but desperate times!) I wish I had time to share more, I really do, but I’m confident that even with only three posts, I’ll have you convinced to make the Isle of Skye your next trip anyway!

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The Isle Of Skye, Scotland

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  • nikkiann
    November 26, 2017 at 2:20 PM

    What a wonderful trip! I’d love to visit Skye and having seen your photos, I want to go there right now :D

  • Luis A (mediodiablo)
    November 18, 2017 at 10:56 PM

    Your stunning photos are rekindling the inner fire of wanderlust in me. This is great!

  • Nicôle
    September 16, 2017 at 4:31 PM

    Aren’t the Islands beautiful? I spent most of my childhood on Lewis & in the Orkneys & I loved every minute! The beaches in Lewis are my favourite! I am actually eloping to Edinburgh next year too x

    • Sarah Shumate
      September 18, 2017 at 1:45 AM

      What an amazing place to spend your childhood. I’m jealous! And congrats – eloping to Edinburgh sounds like a beautiful way to start a marriage!

  • Eppie Shepherd
    June 2, 2017 at 6:54 AM

    I’m so glad I’ve discovered your blog! Your layout, photos and writing is beautiful.

    Now onto this piece… I’ve wanted to explore Scotland for a long time and Skye is a big part of that. It looks like a perfect place to just stop off and take some time to relax and enjoy your surroundings!

    • Sarah Shumate
      June 3, 2017 at 2:02 AM

      Thank you so much for the very kind compliments! :)

      I have no doubt you will fall in love with Scotland when you get to go, especially if you get to go up to the Highlands and Skye. It’s just incredible there!

  • rorybore
    May 18, 2015 at 4:23 AM

    oh. my. everything here speaks to me. so loudly, all my freckles literally stood up and looked at your photos and I swear I heard the distant yell of “frreeeedddooommmm!” LOL
    honestly, I have to get here one day. It looks familiar, but not and I don’t know how much can be said for genetics but I feel like the highlands are calling me home.
    I swear I’m not drunk.

    • Sarah Shumate
      May 20, 2015 at 9:52 AM

      Ha! I like the William Wallace shout-out. ;) I always feel at home in Scotland and Ireland. I think it’s the combination of landscapes I feel happiest in (mountains, countryside, the sea) and the friendliness of the people.

  • Emmymom
    May 13, 2015 at 8:32 PM

    Yeah!! So glad it was such a great trip and I have no doubt being with you and your family is more important to your mom than what you did.

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    May 13, 2015 at 10:35 AM

    Such a beautiful place that I’d love to see one day!! And what special memories with your parents!

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    May 8, 2015 at 11:28 AM

    I’m loving this post! I just want to hike all over England, it really is a pretty country.

    • Sarah Shumate
      May 9, 2015 at 10:32 AM

      You mean Scotland?! :) But yeah, I’d love to hike all over both of them!! We’re headed to Wales next – I love seeing how different the countries are in the UK from each other!

      • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
        May 12, 2015 at 8:39 AM

        I actually meant United Kingdom but forget and say England all the time hahah

  • Jessi @2feet1world
    May 7, 2015 at 11:16 AM

    Wow, absolutely gorgeous shots (as always) and so evocative! I do love that one of the man in his kilt. Looking forward to the other posts!

  • Sammy @ Days Like This
    May 6, 2015 at 7:28 PM

    Ohhh Sarah, i think we love the same things when we travel. Ireland and Scotland are 2 of my faves and they just feel magic!! My boyfriend and I did a week in Scotland in a campervan and it was hands down the BEST trip I have ever done. We stay at the Isle of Skye and I think it was our favourite part (Other than maybe Lock Lomond) It’s just an epic, epic country. I would go back again and again!! Great pictures, as always :)

    • Sarah Shumate
      May 9, 2015 at 10:31 AM

      I have heard lots of good things about Loch Lomond! I wish we’d had time to see that, too. I’m a little jealous you got to go around Scotland in a campervan! I would have LOVED doing that. I’m totally diggin’ your Instagrams right now, too, by the way! You are REALLY taking advantage of your last days! Live it up, lady!

  • Katrin
    May 6, 2015 at 12:41 PM

    Aww, I love sheep so much! Sorry they did not stop you on the road though. :) And I clearly want to travel there too now. Such a lovely place. It looks so peaceful…and of course all the beautiful nature is my kind of thing. PS: You are the perfect travel guide!

    • Sarah Shumate
      May 9, 2015 at 10:29 AM

      I love sheep, too! I know they’re not the smartest of animals, but they are some of the sweetest! I’ll never forget the sheep at Land’s End in Cornwall that just wanted me to keep petting it. I was in heaven!

      • Katrin
        May 10, 2015 at 9:55 AM

        Sheep are very sweet. I love to pet them. And they are actually pretty smart. They can learn tricks and they recognize faces even when they have not seen the person/other animal for years. They can also learn tricks that only humans and primates are able to. Fascinating animals! <3

  • Melanie Fontaine
    May 4, 2015 at 10:36 PM

    Your pictures and words have just taken me straight back to Skye! I didn’t spend nearly enough time on the island when I was there (though I recognize many of the places in your pictures!), so I’m already itching for a time when I can go visit Scotland again. It’s such a special and magical place and I’m glad that it touched you so deeply as well! :) Luckily a friend of mine is going to start Grad School in Edinburgh later this year, so I’m already excited for the “excuse” to come to the UK again! :) Can’t wait to read your other two posts on Scotland!

    • Sarah Shumate
      May 9, 2015 at 10:28 AM

      I felt like I didn’t get enough time on Skye either. I don’t really think it’s the sort of place I’d want to live, but it’s one of those locations I wouldn’t mind coming back to visit again and again. (I have a lot of those places…) Lucky you having a friend in Edinburgh! I’d like to see that city eventually, too. Maybe next year!