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Isle of Skye in October - worth visiting? Wildlife?

Hi all,

I hope you can help with my dilemma, I would love to go to Skye this year as I want to see the beautiful scenery as well as the wildlife. Currently I can only take leave mid Sept or mid Oct. I really do not want to wait until next year May/June as we have not been away (as has been the case for many people due to Covid) for more than a year. We also would like to avoid the crowds and enjoy the beauty of Skye without lots of crowds, hence not going at peak times.

Thanks to the helpful advice from various people (including Jacqui/SkyeGirl and Mike's posts and replies) I have come up with this itinerary:
5 Days/4 nights on Skye
Day 1
Start at Portree and see Old Man of Storr, Brother's Point, Kilt rock, Quiraing
Day 2
drive to Elgol and a 1/2 day small isles boat trip with the Bella Jane from there
Day 3
-Fairy pools, try to find secret pools/waterfall, Neist Point, stargazing
Day 4
Loch Coriuisk, Silgachan Bridge/waterfall

Is this realistic? Is Portree the best base for us? Are the daylight hours too short in October to make Skye a good visit? What wildlife can we expect, for example will dolphins and other marine wildlife be long gone? Also I noted that a lot of things are closing in October, so what can we expect in terms of restaurants and cafes being open still?

Thanks for your advice.

Posted by
5678 posts

I have visited in July, August and early September and I think you would have a wonderful time on Skye this fall. The weather can be variable year round in Scotland. When we had our first visit in July it poured rain as we walked back from Sigachan after walking in to see the overlook for Lock Coriusk. Someone graciously stopped and drove back to Portree. Thank you, Skye local decades later. When I was at photo workshop in September we had a mixed bag. We still went out and took pictures. As our instructor pointed out, colors are often more vibrant when the sun isn't glaring down. Just bring your rain gear.

Posted by
1386 posts

Hi, ephemeral,

In mid October, you'd have about 10 hours of useful daylight. If you're planning to visit Loch Coruisk, there are two ways to do so: You can take the Bella Jane from Elgol to the Loch Coruisk jetty. They give you approximately 90 minutes to six hours to explore the loch. A lot may depend on the daylight hours. However, they don't combine the Loch Coruisk trip with the Small Isles trip, so given your time on Skye, you'd have to choose one. The second way to visit Loch Coruisk is to hike in from the Sligachan Hotel (The "Slig"). However, this is an eight mile hike, and unless you've made arrangements to be met at the Loch Coruisk jetty, it's eight miles back. (See below)

Unless you see the loch from a high vantage point, it's not that impressive. You can hike around the shore (it's extremely boggy after a rainfall), but if you only stay near the jetty, you can't see all the way to the north end.

If you're coming over on the ferry from Mallaig, I'd recommend spending a day there and taking the MV Loch Nevis to either Eigg or Rum. It's possible, depending on the day of the week, to land on either of those two islands (but not both!), and spend a few hours. That would give you your visit to one of the Small Isles, and give you a full day for the Bella Jane trip to Loch Coruisk. If you choose, you can stay on the Loch Nevis and pay non-landing visits to three of the Small Isles. You also have the opportunity to see marine life from the ferry. It's possible (but not practical) to visit the Small Isles then take the last ferry from Mallaig to Armadale. I would not recommend it.

One caveat here: The Small Isles service cuts back considerably after October 17th, and the ferries are notorious this year for breaking down. That's actually two caveats!

It's a long drive from Portree to Elgol, so if you're taking early passage on the Bella Jane, you'd be better served spending the previous night in Broadford. I'd recommend taking the Bella Jane on your first day, then using Portree as your base for the Trotternish, Waternish, and Duirinish Peninsulas.

Some smaller restaurants may be closed by mid-October, but most of the hotels will still be serving non-residents, and the "Slig" is good for meals year-round. You can also get pub meals, and the "chippies" in Portree and Broadford should still be open. The Cafe Sia in Broadford should be still open, as a lot of the hostellers from the village eat there. If it's still on the menu, try the Highland Melt.

Speaking of the "Slig," a few years ago my wife and I took the Bella Jane from Elgol to Loch Coruisk, and hiked over the Druim Hain down in to Glen Sligachan. What I thought would be a four hour hike turned in to an eight hour hike, and we were mercilessly attacked by clegs as we hiked along the glen. It took so long to reach the "Slig" that we missed the last bus back to Broadford, and had to take a taxi all the way back to Elgol. My wife was not pleased! Happy to say that we are still married!

I'm sure that Jacqui will be able to provide you with more local information. Skye is quite spectacular year round, although most of Western Scotland is as well.

Wishing you happy travels! Is there room for me in your suitcase?

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
4472 posts

I'll admit my ignorance-are "clegs" a type of insect?

Posted by
33313 posts

vicious horseflies. have your arm off horseflies.

Posted by
1215 posts

Hi ephemeral,

Well, Mike (auchterless) has given you great advice, so there's probably not much that I can add, but here goes.

  1. Time of year. September would definitely be a better time than October. Many things start to close here at the end of September and even now in mid August I am noticing the days becoming shorter (and colder). As I write at 4.30pm, a steady drizzle is falling and it is about 53 Fahrenheit.

  2. I am not sure whether the Bella Jane trips are running this year, although their website says they hope to offer late season trips. Worth calling them to check I think. Misty Isle see website here also run out of Elgol but do not go to the Small Isles. They could be an option for the Loch Coruisk trip. As Mike suggests I am not sure whether it is worth making a second trip to Elgol on day 4 to see Loch Coruisk and you could cover that on a boat trip from Elgol on day 2. My favourite Small Isle is Canna, which can be done on the 1/2 day Bella Jane trip - but obviously only if they are running! :) Mike's option of a trip from Mallaig is a good suggestion.

  3. Day 1 - your plan looks fine.

  4. Fairy Pools. If the weather has been rainy then the river that you need to cross to reach the pools could be in spate and the crossing (stepping stones) difficult/dangerous/impossible. Several times this season our B&B guests have been turned back by rangers warning that the crossing is unsafe. However, there are other pools (that I am not prepared to share the location of here because they will get over-run with visitors if I do and the locals will kill me). But have a look at the map of that general area and you should be able to see other streams coming off the Cullin Mountains. If you really get stuck send me a private message! But see point 7 below.....

  5. Neist Point. Neist is the windiest point on the island, so you really want to only go up there if it's a) not foggy/misty and b) not too windy. It just wouldn't be enjoyable in bad conditions. It is also about 1.5 hours from the Fairy Pools by car. However, the high cliffs and views out to the Outer Hebrides are amazing so I can see why people want to go there.

  6. Stargazing. Can be done from any location on the island apart from Portree or Broadford where there is a bit of light pollution. Obviously depends on clear skies! There is a designated dark sky area (with parking and picnic benches) at Trumpan near the tip of the Waternish peninsula. A ruined church adds to the atmosphere.

  7. Sligachan Bridge/waterfalls etc. The Sligachan Hotel could make a decent base and while I can't vouch for the rooms, the food is decent and the staff very friendly. From the hotel there are numerous walks towards and into the Cullin Hills (mountains!). Walk for around 10 minutes and you will be alone in the stunning scenery having left behind those who only come to look at the old bridge. You will encounter hidden pools galore and small but beautiful waterfalls. Come with walking boots and a good sense of humour as the potential to end up knee deep in a bog is very real. I find walking poles help, as I prod the ground to check it is sound before stepping forward - I have avoided many boggy spots using this technique.

  8. Cleggs. These are horseflies that give a very nasty bite. Shouldn't be around in the autumn though. And all the midges will be long dead.

  9. Other wildlife. I am not sure whether you can still expect to see dolphins, but the seals are here year round and you might see otters if you are patient and quiet. Look up and you should see White Tailed Sea Eagles too. You will also probably spot red deer.

  10. Cafes and restaurants. Should be fine!

Well that ended up being a longer post that I intended. Good luck with your trip planning.

Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
5678 posts

Many years ago my sister and I did the hike in to have the view of Loch Coruisk from on high. We liked the hike in and you do get a different view going back! To be fair we also did the boat ride over to the Loch from Elgol as well.

It's a beautiful place. You should have a great visit.


Posted by
2063 posts

Have you checked on availability of accommodation? Scotland and particularly Skye have been really busy this year and visitors have had problems trying to find accommodation.

Posted by
1215 posts

Re accommodation on Skye. Things should be slowing down from mid September, although smaller B&Bs may well be closing for their own (well deserved!) holidays. However, if you join a Facebook group called Skye Rooms you can post your dates and what you are looking for and accommodation providers will reply with details of what they have.

Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks everyone, all your advice has been so helplful!! We have made the changes suggested and have decided to go in the beginning of October, we will be prepared for the weather and look forward to the beauty of Skye in Autumn.