A TRAVEL GUIDE TO THE ISLE OF SKYE – SLOW TOURISM

by | Mar 15, 2024 | 0 comments

Walking Away from Fast: A Slow Adventure on the Isle of Skye

The misty peaks of the Quiraing pierce the sky, casting long shadows across emerald valleys. Sealions bob playfully amidst turquoise coves, their sleek bodies contrasting with the rugged coastline. This is the Isle of Skye, a tapestry of vibrant beauty where time dances to the rhythm of the tide and ancient stories whisper on the wind.

Forget fleeting glances from a speeding car window – Skye, the jewel of the Inner Hebrides, deserves to be savoured slowly and deeply.

Come, shed the shackles of routine and immerse yourself in a land where adventure awaits at every turn.  Let Skye reveal its magic inch by inch, as you meander through ancient glens.

 

This blog is essentially a guide about travelling to and around Skye.  But it’s also an encouragement to slow down and savour the island’s essence, from majestic mountains to stargazing beneath skies unpolluted by city lights. So, lace up your boots, pack your senses, and prepare to experience Skye at its unhurried best.

Visit Scotland has been thinking along the same lines, they are concerned with value rather than the volume of visitors and are embracing the idea of “slow tourism“…

HOW DO WE ACHIEVE VALUE OVER VOLUME?

For years, we’ve gauged success in visitor numbers and have been critical if the numbers go down – now is the time to take a look at how we can encourage people to stay longer, take life at a slower pace and enjoy what the whole of Scotland has to offer.

From fleeting glances to lingering embraces: Reimagining the Scottish tourism experience

The magic of Scotland should not just be a fleeting glimpse, but a lingering embrace. For years, Visit Scotland measured success in visitor numbers, celebrating the bustling crowds and vibrant atmosphere. Yet, within the heart of this beautiful land lies a different rhythm, an invitation to slow down, breathe deeply, and truly savour what Scotland has to offer.

Now is the time to shift focus. Instead of counting heads, let’s encourage visitors to trade rushing itineraries for meandering walks, to swap selfie sticks for heartfelt conversations, and to replace fleeting moments with memories that linger long after their return home.

This is not a call for empty solitude, but an invitation to a richer, more meaningful experience. Imagine spending days exploring the hidden coves of Skye, learning the history of a clan, or savouring fresh seafood plucked straight from the North Sea.

This is the new paradigm of Scottish tourism: one where slow travel is not just an option, but a cherished part of the experience. It’s about fostering genuine connections, celebrating local traditions, and immersing yourself in the authentic rhythm of life in this captivating land.

So, come, take a deep breath, and let Scotland work its magic. Unwind, explore, and discover the joy of a slower, more meaningful journey.

By nurturing this shift in perspective, we can ensure that Scotland remains not just a destination, but a cherished memory, a place where hearts find solace and souls find renewal.

There are obvious wins around slow tourism….

 

Traditionally, travellers to Skye spend an average of 2-3 days there, often using it as a base to explore the Outer Hebridean Islands, usually at a pretty fast pace. But with so many “must-sees” and not enough planning, it’s easy to see why so many holiday reviews from Skye end with…..

“we wished we’d stayed longer!”

So what are all your travel options if you decide to visit Skye?

Firstly, Skye is very well connected with public transport so leaving the car can be a rewarding option, allowing you to adopt a slower pace, stay longer and experience the best of what Skye and the islands have to offer.

Ditch the engine, embrace the journey: Exploring Skye’s secrets at a slower pace

Skye’s public transport network, though unhurried, opens a world of possibilities. This slower approach isn’t just about avoiding traffic. It’s about embracing the island’s rhythm and savouring the journey, not just the destination.

Of course, Skye’s remotest corners still hold secrets best accessed by car. Rugged tracks serpent through dramatic landscapes, leading to secluded waterfalls and deserted black sand beaches.

The choice is yours: a tapestry of interconnected journeys on public transport, or the freedom of the open road to reach hidden treasures. Whichever path you choose, remember that Skye deserves to be savoured, not rushed.

Let go of the need to see it all, and instead, focus on feeling it all. Embrace the island’s soul, one breathtaking vista, one friendly conversation, one invigorating step at a time.

Landscape view of Old Man of Storr rock formation, Scotland, United Kingdom

Planning and booking ahead is essential if you want to get around using public transport, but it’s well worth the effort, travelling throughout Scotland using its travel networks can open up an entirely new perception of the landscape and feed that desire for open spaces.

Skye is a big island, 50 miles long and 25 miles wide, Portree is the main town, the hub for buses and taxis. There are no trains in Skye, the closest railway station is Kyle of Lochalsh, often simply referred to as the Kyles, so it’s well worthwhile familiarising yourself with what’s possible before you travel.

Skye – Getting There

Unwinding on the A87 to Skye

The A87, a 99-mile artery of adventure, unfurls before you, promising breathtaking panoramas and charming stopovers at every turn.

Your journey begins at the picturesque crossroads of Invergarry, where the A82 and A87 merge and Loch Garry unfolds like a mirror to the sky, its surface reflecting the snow-capped peaks that pierce the clouds. As you follow the road’s gentle curve, Loch Cluanie emerges, its emerald waters cradled by verdant mountains.

The A87 then plunges into the heart of Glen Shiel, a dramatic canyon carved by glaciers eons ago. Towering rock faces guard a valley where waterfalls cascade down mossy cliffs. The road hugs the shore of Loch Duich, a sapphire ribbon reflecting the rugged beauty of the Cuillin Mountains.

Crossing the Skye Bridge, a modern marvel suspended over the Kyles is like stepping into a different world. The Isle of Skye, with its fairy pools, ancient castles, and wild coastlines, beckons you to explore. The A87 leads you deep into its heart, past dramatic landscapes, to the towns of Broadford and Portree, and finally to the remote northern reaches of Uig.

So, buckle up and let the A87 be your guide. This is not just a road; it’s a portal to a world of untamed beauty and rich history. With every bend in the road, a new story unfolds, inviting you to slow down, savour the moment, and whisper amidst the majesty of the Highlands.

 

There are lots of options to consider….

Soar to Skye: Flying and Navigating Your Highland Adventure

Whisking Your Way to Wilderness:

For a swift entrance to the heart of the Scottish Highlands, Inverness Airport beckons. Picture yourself soaring through the clouds, gazing down at patchwork quilts of emerald fields and shimmering lochs. Major airlines like BA, KLM, and EasyJet make reaching this gateway a breeze.

Landing in Land of Legends:

Upon touchdown, those yearning for independence, Inverness Airport welcomes you with open arms (and rental car keys!). Avis, Budget, and Europcar stand ready to equip you with your trusty chariot for a 2.15-hour adventure along the A890 and A87.

Public Transport Prowess:

For those who prefer to let the landscape unfold at a calmer pace, Inverness Airport boasts impeccable public transport links. Hop on a comfortable bus and let the journey become part of the adventure. Watch the dramatic mountains waltz by, each bend revealing a new chapter in the Highlands’ epic saga.

Planning Perfection:

To ensure a seamless journey, Get By Bus is a trusty travel companion. This comprehensive website maps out all routes, schedules, and even bus hire options for larger groups.  The bus journey will take around 3.15 hours from Inverness to Portree.

So, whether you crave the freedom of the open road or the leisurely charm of public transport, Inverness Airport opens the door to the soul of the Scottish Highlands.

 

 

For instance, a shuttle service Jet Bus Line 11 operates every 20 minutes from Inverness airport to Inverness centre where you can pick up any number of buses and trains that connect to the highlands and beyond.

Remember, there are no trains in Skye, they run from Inverness and only go as far as the Kyles, but you’ll need to arrange a transfer from there or change to the bus. If you’re arriving by air, there’s little sense in taking the train from Inverness to the Kyles unless you are collecting a hire car from one of the local hire companies listed below.

Travelling to Skye by Bus

City Link buses operate from Inverness airport and Inverness city centre and have network links all over Scotland. Regardless of where you are travelling from, a 3-day explorer pass would cost around £50 and offers unlimited travel for 3 days out of 5. The bus will take around 3.15 hours from Inverness to Portree. Use the City Link Journey Planner to plan your route, buy tickets in advance and book a seat.

For budget-conscious explorers, Stagecoach buses offer a delightful way to conquer Skye’s scenic highlights. From Portree’s Somerled Square, the #57(a) whisks you through the island’s northeast corner, a single Skye Day Ticket Rider is your key to unlocking epic views. Witness the Old Man of Storr’s stoic gaze, marvel at Kilt Rock’s pleated cliffs, and feel the ancient presence of the Quiraing. It’s a jam-packed day, £7.30 well spent, and just a glimpse of the adventures that await on Skye’s public transport network.

 

Ticketing for your Skye Adventure: From Concessions to Conquests

There are ticketing options for your Skye bus journey whether it’s for group treks or solo pursuits.  Day Planners and group tickets offer flexible adventures. But for true bargain hunters, a day of unlimited travel reigns supreme – your passport to unbridled exploration at its most affordable.

And did we mention the magic of concessionary bus passes? If you hold one of these golden tickets, hop aboard and soak in the scenery, compliments of the island!

Remember, while bus stops offer a designated rendezvous point, if you find yourself staring at a bus coming over the horizon and you’re not at the stop, fear not! Just raise your hand with a friendly wave, and chances are, the bus will pick you up.

So, whether you’re a budget-conscious explorer or a seasoned concessionary traveller, prepare to experience the island’s rhythm from the comfort of a Stagecoach seat. Remember, the journey itself is part of the magic, so relax, savour the views, and let Skye unfold before you.

Stagecoach and City Link both have excellent journey-planners that link with routes and timetables from Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Taxi and Transfer Services

For a tailored experience, consider private transfers from the airport or train station. Get By Transfer offers convenient options, and we also recommend exploring local Skye & Lochalsh companies. They specialize in door-to-door journeys, offer insider tips, and arrange guided tours, making your arrival a seamless step into island magic.

We would recommend using:

Inverness Airport Transfer

Skye Taxis (Gus’s)

BW’s Taxis (Skye Taxi Tours)

Portree Taxis

Taxis are available from Somerled Square in Portree so you could take the bus into town, have few drinks and take a taxi home.

Car Rental – Local

It’s fair to say, if you want to reach the more remote parts of Skye then a car is still the best way to see it all…

Skip the big franchises and dive into the island spirit! Local car hire companies offer more than just wheels – they’re a treasure trove of insider tips and friendly smiles. We highly recommend these local gems:

Morrisons Car Hire

Skye Car Hire

Morrisons offers good hire value rates and can arrange to meet you in several places around Skye and Lochalsh including the airport, railway stations and ferry terminals.

Skye Car Hire is a family-run company based in Kyle of Lochalsh and it’s worth checking out their website even if you are not hiring a car, it has lots of great links for accommodation, travel information and arts, crafts and gift shops and galleries.  Follow this link to their treasure trove of sites.

Travelling to Skye by Ferry

Embark on an Island Epic: Ferry Routes to Skye’s Enchanting Shores

The salty sting of the sea air, the rhythmic groan of the engines, and the promise of an island kingdom waiting to be explored – Skye beckons, and the ferry journey itself is your first taste of its magic.

From the mainland harbour of Mallaig, Caledonian MacBrayne ferries whisk you away on a 45-minute adventure. As the sea unfurls, watch Skye’s jagged peaks rise from the horizon, promising tales of ancient clans and wild landscapes. Your ship arrives in Armadale, a gateway to the island’s southern charm. Here, buses await to whisk you towards Portree, or you can pre-arrange a transfer for a seamless onward journey.

But Skye’s allure extends beyond the mainland. Those venturing from the Outer Hebrides can hop aboard ferries departing Lochmaddy on North Uist, or Tarbert on the rugged Isle of Harris. These longer journeys, stretching towards an hour and forty minutes, offer breathtaking glimpses of hidden coves and windswept coastlines.

 

 

Calmac Ferries journey planner allows you to book ferry tickets and make reservations.  With over 30 routes weaving through the Hebridean seas, Calmac’s island-hopping ferries offer a unique way to explore the archipelago. Keep in mind that, like any seafaring adventure, schedules can be affected by weather or unforeseen circumstances.

Travelling to Skye by Electric Car

Electric Voyage? No Worries:

Ditch the gas pumps, and embrace the green dream: Go Compare empowers your electric transition

Worried about ditching the gas can for an electric charger? You’re not alone. Charging costs and “range anxiety” can loom large when considering the leap to electric vehicles. But fear not, eco-conscious adventurers! Go Compare, champions of a greener planet, are here to hold your hand on your electric journey.

Introducing the interactive cost of charging calculator tool. This nifty little web wizard (found at https://www.gocompare.com/motoring/electric-cars/cost-to-charge/) demystifies the electric car experience. Simply plug in your desired car model, and your average mileage, and voila! You’ll see the real costs of fueling your new electric steed, comparing public charging with home options.

Go Compare doesn’t just crunch numbers; they empower your green choices. This tool unveils the hidden benefits of going electric – from saving money on fuel to reducing your carbon footprint. So, ditch the “range anxiety” and embrace the green dream. With Go Compare, navigating the exciting world of electric vehicles has never been easier!

Whether you arrive by sea or land, fret not if you’re driving an electric vehicle. Charging points can be found throughout Skye, with one conveniently located at the CalMac Ferry Terminal in Uig. For a comprehensive map of island charging stations, head to ZapMaps. and plot your worry-free adventure.

Travelling to Skye by Bike

Skye Unveiled: Two Wheels, Endless Emerald Wonders

Are breathtaking landscapes your kryptonite? Then prepare to melt on the Isle of Skye, a cyclist’s paradise woven from windswept moors, sparkling lochs, and jagged peaks.

Skye begs to be explored on two wheels, and thankfully, bike hire shops abound. No need to lug your trusty steed across the ferry; these friendly folks deliver and pick up your rental, ready for adventure. And they’re more than just mechanics – they’re local oracles, eager to share hidden gems, secret viewpoints, and the best fish and chips on the island.

Mallaig E-Bike Hire

Skye MTB Adventure

South Skye Cycles

Skye-E Bike Hire

 

Travelling to Skye by Rail

While no trains run on Skye, the Kyles of Lochalsh station acts as your gateway. Frequent buses from the Harbour whisk you to Portree in an hour, showcasing stunning landscapes along the way. Check local and network timetables for your ideal journey.

ScotRail operates networks all over the UK but if you fancy taking a tour of Scotland by train then Scottish Tours is a useful site for packages.  It’s certainly worth considering the train as all routes are scenic.

Unveiling the Highlands by Train: A Journey of Enchantment

Forget tarmac and embrace the rhythm of the rails! For your foray into the Highlands, consider the most alluring route – weaving from Glasgow Queen Street, in the heart of Scotland, to Mallaig along the celebrated West Highland Rail Line.

Prepare to be captivated at every turn as the train carves through landscapes straight out of legend. Witness the ethereal beauty of Rannoch Moor, a vast tapestry of purple heather and windswept solitude. In Fort William, history whispers from Victorian streets, before the journey unfurls its final act – a shared path with the iconic Jacobite Steam Train.

As you cross the majestic Glenfinnan Viaduct, dubbed the “Harry Potter Bridge,” imagine Hogwarts students peering from carriage windows, wands poised for magical adventures.

This train journey isn’t just a means of transport; it’s a portal to the soul of the Highlands. Embrace the romance of steam engines, the drama of towering mountains, and the whisper of ancient tales carried on the wind. So, book your ticket, settle back, and let the rhythm of the rails lead you to landscapes that will leave you breathless, and memories that will stay with you long after the final whistle blows.

Steam Train on Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland in August 2020

Perhaps it’s the vastness that awakens your soul, the ever-shifting tapestry of sea and sky, whispering tales of ancient battles and forgotten heroes. If so, head north, where Skye’s headland surges from the sea, sculpted by fire and time into jagged giants of granite. These are the bones of long-extinct volcanoes, a testament to Skye’s wild, untamed spirit.

But wherever you choose to go remember, beneath the drama lies a rhythm of serenity, an invitation to slow down and let Scotland’s magic work its spell, one awe-inspiring vista at a time.

If you’re in London and considering travelling to Skye by train, then our previous blog London Kings Cross to the Isle of Skye in One Magical Day may offer you some food for thought!

Our upcoming blog is on the subject of whiskey distilleries, a great excuse to use public transport, and book that extended whiskey tasting so you can enjoy a good dram, take the scenic route home to Chasing The Moon Skye on the number 57 bus, and watch the sun go down over Brother Point……

Some Useful Links

www.citylink.co.uk Bus service linking the main Scottish towns and cities.

www.stagecoachbus.com Local bus service.

www.scotrail.co.uk Train service linking the main Scottish towns and cities.

www.jacobitetrain.com Steam train from Fort William to Mallaig.

www.calmac.co.uk Ferry service for the Scottish Islands.

www.skyeferry.co.uk Glenelg-Skye ferry.

www.hial.co.uk Inverness Airport

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