4 of the Best Walks on The Isle of Skye
Best for: Wildlife spotting
Ben Tianavaig sits isolated above Camastianavaig – a small hamlet which hugs the East Coast a few miles from Portree.
The hill itself is a rocky mound which slips into the sea on one side and on the other is surrounded by rolling green pastures, vivid green bushes and plenty of sheep – these guys reach daring heights up here – so keep your pups on the lead for the entire walk. The path begins on a pebble beach, and winds up through the fern bushes. Height is gained fairly quickly, however the going is not too steep and the path is clear and easy to follow. The exposure arrives later, as the foliage becomes sparse and the path rises above dramatic sea cliffs. On the approach to the trig point, the path hovers fairly close to the edge: where magnificent sea eagles can be seen patrolling their territory. The eagles nest here on the cliffs on Ben Tianavaig – all of the wildlife boat trips that leave from Portree come straight here for an almost guaranteed sighting of the rare birds.
The views are spectacular on the way back down, with the added bonus of being able to enjoy them on your own: unlike the Old Man of Storr or the Fairy Pools, it’s very rare to spot groups of visitors on this path. Don’t expect complete isolation, however, as you will almost certainly come across members of the local ‘bob’ – a collective of handsome grey seals, who use this section of the coastline to feed and play. These creatures are infinitely curious and will follow walkers who choose a path closer to the water line. Below, Braes is also a great place to spot sea otters rolling around in the shallow waters – but don’t worry if you don’t see much wildlife – the views from the top of Portree, The Old Man of Storr and the Trotternish Ridge make it well worth the trip anyway.
The trip to Portree from Braes only takes 5 minutes (by car) so it’s a good spot to head for to have a well earned rest and a drink. On of the most beautiful drinks gardens in Portree is situated at the classy Cuillin Hills Hotel, with views across the harbour where you can even make out the silhouette of Ben Tianavaig. The cocktail list here is superb – try the high tea sharing cocktail – an alcoholic version of iced tea served in a teapot. Perfect for cooling off and watching the sun go down with your hiking buddy.
Rubh’ an Dunain (Glenbrittle Viking Settlement)
Best for: History Buffs
Although long in distance, this walk is flat almost the entire way: which may serve as welcome respite from the many hills of Skye you and your party have been bounding up during your stay on this mountainous island.
The entire route takes around 4-5 hours to complete but the views are incredible from the setting off point at Glenbrittle campsite – and the path is a straight there-and-back rather than a loop, making it an easy walk to shorten for tired and/or shorter legs. If you do decide to keep going past the point where the path runs out, expect a lot of bog-hopping. The end point is a derelict Viking settlement, including an impressive ruin which is said to have once been the home of the MacAskill clan chief. T
The ground upon which the settlement is built undulates dramatically and is very wet in parts – there are no clear paths other than those made by the local sheep. The ruins sit next to a loch, and from the loch runs a neat little stream which you may or may not choose to jump over. The engineering of this stream has been credited to Viking settlers who created acanal leading their boats to the loch. There is plenty to explore and learn about here – be sure to download instructions to take with you to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the sights. The site feels so isolated because there is a distinct lack of signage and good pathways – how much you discover is all down to your navigational skills and savvy.
A short drive back from Glenbrittle is the village of Carbost, on the Minginish Peninsula. The Old Inn is a great wee locals pub with low ceilings and a buzzing atmosphere, serving up hearty home-cooked meals and a solid selection of local beers. Expect chatty punters, lots of dogs and delightful traditional music sessions.
Sgurr Dearg (The Inaccessible Pinnacle)
Best for: Adventure Seekers
‘Bagging’ any of Skye’s twelve Munros will certainly earn you bragging rights, but none more so than the aptly named Inaccessible Pinnacle.
The ‘In Pinn’, as it is fondly referred to by locals, is a needle shaped rock formation sitting atop Sgùrr Dearg (Gaelic for ‘Red Peak’), and is widely revered as the most challenging of the Munros. The path begins at the Glenbrittle Youth Hostel, and is a steady incline past waterfalls and corries. Fill up a bottle at the fast flowing waterfalls: the water is clean, having travelled only a few metres from the source. There is a little scrambling required as you approach the In Pinn itself, which soon begins to dominate the skyline.
The course gabbro that makes up the Cuillin range is fairly easy to climb due to its excellent grip, however, the In Pinn stands out due to it’s extreme exposure – depending on your constitution this can be good or bad thing! The views from the top span across the jagged peaks and as far as the outer Hebridean islands – an intoxicating experience – but it would be dishonest to give the impression that clambering up this narrow rock formation isn’t a true test of nerve. Although some of the Cuillin peaks can be tackled with a good pair of boots and a decent map – check out the brilliant walk highlands website for detailed route plans and advice – climbing the Inaccessible Pinnacle is safest done in the hands of a local mountain guide – try www.skyeadventure.com or https://skyeguides.co.uk – who will make sure you always put your best foot forward as well as getting you roped up for the abseil down.
You may not have the energy – but if you do, Seumas’ Bar is an excellent place to gather with friends and drunkenly boast of your daring day out. The Cuillin Brewery next door brew a malty ale called ‘Pinnacle’ which is almost always on cask and features a cute illustration of the In Pinn itself. The walls too, are littered with pictures of the Cuillins – this is a real climbers hangout.
Rhuba Hunish and The Lookout bothy
Best for: Sealife and sleepovers
The starting point for this walk is at Port Gobhlaig, where a small site containing a derelict church leads to a tiny carpark. The walk to the Lookout Bothy itself only takes around an hour and half from here – and its position on the edge of a cliff on the northern most point of Skye makes it an extremely satisfying destination.
The bothy itself is a romantic, wind-and sea-battered hut made of white-washed wood, with impressive windows wrapped around the sea-facing walls. The cliffs on which it sits are steeply angular – so watch your footing. One can choose to wander around the area, scaling these sea cliffs and venturing out to the peninsula before heading home – it’s great fun scrambling up and down the cliffs and arriving at the end of the beach-y peninsular feels like the edge of the world. Or – and this is when it gets really fun – you can choose to spend the night in the bothy. In the summer you’ll likely have company but that’s all part of the experience. There is a fascinating guestbook filled with stories and sketches of perilous hikes, whale-watching and glorious sunsets. So why not pack a sleeping bag and add to the collection? For information on bothy etiquette and learn more about how they work, have a look at the Scottish bothy association website.
If you fancy the bothy experience but with a touch more privacy, Whitewave – a nearby family-run outdoor activity centre – have a few wigwams perched on the same coastline, with incredible sunset views across the Minch. These wooden pods can sleep up to four adults on alpine-style sleeping platforms and there’s a few different options depending on your budget. Also a great option if you’ve got kids with you – Whitewave have plenty of activities on offer to keep them entertained!