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Skye without a car

I will be staying 4 nights in Portree in mid-May. I arrive by Citylink bus from Fort William, and I depart by Citylink bus to Inverness.

I've booked an all day tour with for one of the days. Here's what's included on that tour:

  • Fairy Pools (Walk 1hr 15min)
  • Fairy Glen (Walk 30min)
  • Kilt Rock (Photo stop)
  • Old Man of Storr (Photo stop)
  • Cuillin Mountains (Photo stop)
  • Quiraing (Photo stop)
  • Neist Point Lighthouse (Walk 1hr)​​

That leaves me two free days. The advice I got on this forum was that I should allow that much time for Skye, but now I'm wondering what to see and do without a car.

Any recommendations for other tours to places not covered in the list above, or any activities I can enjoy on my own? I'm open to hiring a driver/guide, but prefer not to rent a car -- as a solo traveler, I find it frustrating to drive, navigate, and try to enjoy the scenery all at the same time. If I were to rent a bike (or eBike), would there by worthwhile excursions I could do?

Note: I originally wrote mid-April. Corrected to indicate it's actually mid-May.

Posted by
24044 posts

I wanted to take the boat trip to Lake Coruisk on the Bella Jane, but rainy weather (all too common in western Scotland) and insufficient time made it impossible. It sounds great, but I think it's weather-dependent, and I don't know how frequently the trip runs in April.

Dunvegan Castle is accessible by bus and a bit of a walk. My travel mate and I both enjoyed it. There's an interesting museum-like area covering Scottish history.

Not to be too pessimistic, but if you have bad weather on the day of your bus tour, you may be glad to have time for a repeat visit to the Trotternish Peninsula. There's bus service. In the summer, buses run in both directions. I don't know whether the April schedule is the same.

Posted by
3275 posts

When do you get to Skye, Lane? I will be there from the 14th through the 18th and will have a car and would be more than happy to share. I'm staying in Portree.

But if that doesn't work out, acraven's suggestion is a good one. I'm actually taking a trip on the AquaXplore but it's the same company as the Bella Jane. But I do remember when I was booking it, there was some information about public transport. I had to dig for it but found it here:

Even if you don't take the boat trip, it might be a nice bus ride down to that area. Elgol looks beautiful and from what I've read you have a wonderful view of Blaven on the drive there. There's lots of information about Elgol and the area around it on this post:

Posted by
1901 posts

This is the complete Isle of Skye Bus Timetable-

Dunvegan Buses are Service 56/56X.

There are also short seal spotting boat trips from Dunvegan Castle Pier-

the north end buses are 57A (for anticlockwise) and 57C (for clockwise).

A Skye Day Rider Bus Ticket costs £7.70- pay by contactless on the first bus of the day- that is always the cheapest option.

The other day trip possibility is the Citylink bus (either the Inverness or the Glasgow bus) to the ferry slipway at Sconser. From there take the ferry across to the Isle of Raasay.
Within the village there is quite a bit to see and do. If you've taken a bike over with you then you could ride the full length of the island.
This is the Raasay ferry timetable-

This is the complete citylink timetable- scroll down to find the Uig/Portee to Fort William section of route-

The other day trip possibility is Citylink or Stagecoach 57C to Uig, and, depending on the day of the week a non-landing ferry cruise to Tarbert (Isle of Harris)-
or Lochmaddy (North Uist)-

To get to Broadford for the 55 to Elgol (see first link), you would have to take the Citylink bus (above).

To reach The Skye Museum of Island Life (mentioned by Mardee) it's the 57C or the 57A (for the long way round)- stops outside. On Skye the bus will stop absolutely anywhere that is safe whether or not there is a bus stop- ask the bus driver to get off, wave at the driver on approach to board.

Posted by
3275 posts

I was going through my list of places (some I cribbed from TexasTravelmom) :) and thought of The Skye Museum of Island Life. It's located up north along the coast - I plan on visiting there and it looks like there are some beautiful walks available in the vicinity. Stagecoach buses go here (and also Dunvegan Castle as acraven pointed out).

Posted by
1901 posts

There is also Armadale Castle down by the ferry pier from the mainland- which can be accessed by Stagecoach bus from Armadale-

According to the ex Librarian for the Castle (who I did some genealogical work for once) there is a lot of clan genealogical material relating to Skye in their Library, although she also confirmed to me that due to missing Presbytery records my own tree, which currently goes back to the 1730's on Skye, can't be taken any further back.

There is more here about things to see on the Sleat peninsula (where Armadale is)- not all of which you will be able to get to. I didn't know about all of this- I found this page while scratching my head trying to remember the name of Kilmore Church (which you can reach on the bus)-

You can also get to Torabhaig Distillery- which has opened since the above blog was written-

Posted by
194 posts

I’ve traveled many places in my life. The Isle of Skye is not one of them, alas. Through familial ties and love of a heavily peated single malt, I can say Scotland and the Hebrides has been my playground on many an occasion.

Like you too, most of my trips I’m prepared with every option, explored ever possible adventure, flipped schedules back and forth to make sure I’m squeezing ever ounce of juice out of the orange. We’ve all hated hindsight when we wish we could have traded an extra night in town X instead of dreary town Z. The islands off the west coast of Scotland are different. Now maybe Skye is different because it’s connected to the mainland by bridge. Maybe tourism has changed its way of life from the other islands. I don’t know, I’ve never been.

This is my experience on the islands. From the moment, you step across the CalMac gangplank, it’s magic. As the coastline recedes, so does time. Check your timepiece, it’s slowed to the new pace too. You go back in time to communities that have grown up together, survived together and celebrated together. The guy at the ferry dock went to school with your B&B host 40 years ago and the wife took care of his mom before she passed. It’s that interrelated.

Suddenly it hits you how isolated but connected you are here. A few small communities scattered across an island. In winter the winds and gales can kick up such that no ferry or plane dare cross the Hebridean Sea. How these small enclaves clung to the land over the years enduring the clearances, famine, even war time creating this magical fairy tale land of physical beauty but also social idyllic.

The islands are a place to find yourself in. Learn how to breathe again. Walk a path, get lost, shelter under a tree in a rain storm until you follow some sheep home and the lady of the house insists she make you a cuppa while you wait for a taxi. Back at the pub while you wait for your boots to dry out next to the peat fire, revel in the medicinal effects of the local potion as its warmth spreads across your belly. Close your eyes and listen to that sing song patter of friends at the table behind you. That lyrical sound is Gaelic, still spoken in this hidden part of the world.

What I’m trying to express is the beauty and allure of the islands for me isn’t in the Instagram worthy sights, museums or castles. It is the enduring ruggedness and grit of the land and its people bobbing around on an island in an angry sea. Take the time to stand still. If Skye is anything like the other Hebrides, magic will find you. Forever bewitched, you’ve been warned.

Posted by
1314 posts

Hi, thenosbigs,

That is the best post that I have ever seen on this forum. You have captured my feeling about the Outer Hebrides (and islands like Colonsay and Islay) better than I could ever have imagined.

That was beautiful. Thank you!!

Best wishes,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
1580 posts

Mike (auchterless), you beat me to it. I was going to say the same thing.

Thenosbigs, thank you for reminding me (and us all) of the magic of travel. What you have written about is what we should all strive for on all of our journeys, both at home and abroad, whether on islands or on continents.

I will try hard to remember your words.

Posted by
1580 posts

And thanks to everyone for your helpful replies. You've offered up some terrific ideas. If I do enough of the standing still that thenosbigs recommends, I will definitely look into some of your suggestions.

@Mardee: I'm on Skye from the 8th to the 12th, so a few days ahead of you. But thank you so much for the offer, and I hope we have a chance to meet up elsewhere in Scotland.

Posted by
3275 posts

thenosbigs, I agree with the others. Such beautiful words that capture the heart. Thank you - I hope I can find that magic on Skye and other places.

Lane, I hope we get to meet up, too. Happy travels!

Posted by
1314 posts

Hi, Lane,

Given a couple of free days on Skye, I would definitely try for a boat trip out of Elgol on the Bella Jane or the Misty Isle. You didn't mention if you are interested in hiking, but there is a classic hike from Loch Coruisk to the Sligachan Hotel, best done only if the Scavaig River is not in spate. You'd have to check to see if the Broadford to Elgol bus operates in conjunction with any of the scheduled boat trips. isn31c has posted the schedule above.

Another good hike is from Kilmarie to Camasunary. That's an out and back.

As previously suggested, a visit to Raasay would be a good way to spend a day. There is no public transportation on the island, but there are several walking trails, including the hike up Dun Caan.

If your tour is at the beginning of your time on Skye, it should give you an idea of places that you'd like to revisit and explore in a more timely manner. If public transportation can't get you there, the islands are among the safest places in the world for hitchhiking. There is taxi service on Skye, although you may have a long wait if the booking is not prearranged.

I wouldn't recommend renting a bike, as Skye is hilly, and the roads are narrow. I have seen cyclists struggling with the hills. However, the downhills look like fun! Having said that, as isn31c mentioned above, having a bicycle on Raasay would certainly provide you with an opportunity for a greater exploration of the island. The roads on Raasay are definitely not crowded. You could go half an hour without seeing a vehicle on the roads.

Enjoy Skye, and your trip to Scotland!

best wishes,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
1901 posts


Pooling thoughts from what I thought vaguely last night, and Mike's comment above you can hire bikes on Raasay for between 2 and 7 hours- from Raasay House-

£15 for 2 hours, £35 for the day. The house is very close to the ferry slipway.

I don't cycle, so it was just a filed away bit of knowledge that I had seen on passing. Thanks Mike for reminding me about it.

By the way nosbigs words say better than I ever could what I think about the Isle of the West of Scotland and MacBrayne's ferries - as I still regard CalMac as. (the Mac in CalMac).
Very beautiful.

Not related to Skye see the David Hutcheson's statue on the north end of the Isle of Kerrera as you leave Oban on the ferry to Mull, Lismore or the Outer Hebrides- he ran the first ferries in the Western Isles, which later became David MacBraynes (or plain MacBraynes) which became CalMac after merger with the Caledonian Steamship Company-

Posted by
2736 posts

I saw this post on Lane's blog and was sad I missed it, so searched for it and wanted to also add how beautifully thenosbigs conveyed the magic of the Scotland Islands. I have only been to Skye, but wow, this makes me want to go back and experience the other islands magic.