Scotland: Isle of Skye

Guided Walking Tour, Scotland: Isle of SkyeGuided Walking Tour, Scotland: Isle of Skye

Scotland

Isle of Skye

overview

A grand Scottish welcome awaits in this exclusive Highlands and Western Islands adventure. Upon your arrival, you are swept up in the spirit with festive toasts, colorful characters, and the moody, romantic scenery. The Isle of Skye, buffering Scotland’s northwest from the Atlantic, contrasts rocky shoreline and plunging cliffs with sandy beaches and timeless villages perched on placid bays. Follow trails with stunning views of its most famous landmark, the Cuillin Mountains; continue up the rising headlands that reward with distant views of surrounding islands. Your guides bring Scotland’s history alive along the way, as they recount the legends and tales connected to the land, its castles, and country houses. Restful accommodations and epicurean fare—featuring the superb local salmon and shellfish, beef and lamb, and very fine malts—nourish you. It all comes together effortlessly as you explore this earthly paradise where, as Robert Burns wrote, “Nature hangs her mantle green on every blooming tree."

Activity Level
Easy to moderate;
3-8 miles daily
Meet
Inverness, Scotland
Depart
Edinburgh, Scotland
Daily Itinerary
Download printable
itinerary
Reading List
Recommended
pre-trip reading
Guided Walking 
7 days, 6 nights Trip Includes 

Trip Includes

  • Two expert, local guides (for groups of 8 or more), with you 24/7
  • All meals except for one lunch and one dinner; wine and local beer included with dinners
  • All accommodations (with private bathrooms) while on tour
  • Transportation from the meeting to the departure point
  • Entrance fees and special events as noted in the itinerary
  • The unbeatable and cumulative experience of the Country Walkers staff
per person double occupancy
Single supplement + $825
 

Solo surcharge + $0
 

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

REQUEST RESERVATION
Number of Travelers
Total in your party
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per person double occupancy

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

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Itinerary and Accommodations

Days
Destination
1
Sleat
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2
Sleat
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3
Sligachan
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4
Sligachan
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5
Portree
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6
Portree
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7
Departure
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Day 1

Sleat

Tour of Culloden Battlefields; 1 mile, easy. Inverness riverside walk; 2.5 miles, easy. Transfer to the Isle of Skye

You meet your guides and the rest of your fellow travel companions and begin the day by walking the nearby Culloden Battlefields. In April 1746, this site saw the last pitched battle on British soil, when the British Army decimated Bonnie Prince Charlie’s small force in a brief battle that had a lasting effect on Scottish, British, and European history. The morning concludes with a pleasant, easy walk along the banks of the River Ness to the charming Ness Islands, a series of small, wooded islands surrounded by the surging river.

After lunch in town, your drive to the Isle of Skye begins along the shore of Loch Ness, Scotland’s most famous loch and, at 23 miles, one of the longest. After passing the remains of Urquhart Castle, your route heads west through Glen Shiel, taking in some of the most stunning scenery in the Scottish Highlands. Shortly before reaching the Isle of Skye, you make a brief stop at the restored 13th-century Eilean Donan castle, one of Scotland’s iconic landmarks. You cross the Skye Bridge and from here it is a short drive to today’s final destination: the charming Eilean Iarmain Hotel, located on tranquil Isle Ornsay on the Sound of Sleat.

Eilean Iarmain

Sleat, Scotland

This charming hotel, with spectacular views overlooking the Sound of Sleat on the Isle of Skye, has comfortable rooms with traditional fabrics and furnishings, and in its public spaces, traditional Highland décor featuring fireplaces and tartan fabrics. Fine cuisine is served by candlelight in the wood-paneled dining room and the on-site bar offers a wide selection of whiskies, local ales, and traditional Scottish music.

Day 2

Sleat

The Cleared Coast: Boreraig and Suisnish; 7.5 miles, moderate, or the Marble Line and Cill Chriosd, 4 miles, easy

You begin the day with an award-winning breakfast—a wide selection of fresh fruits, baked goods, cooked items, and fresh yogurts. Today’s longer walk is one of the finest on the island, with magnificent views of Skye’s rugged interior and coast, mountains in the distance, and glistening water in the foreground. It begins at the ruined 16th-century church of Cill Chriosd near Broadford and initially climbs gently to the route of a narrow-gauge railway line that ran between Broadford pier and the Kilchrist marble quarries. Skye marble was highly prized, being used in Iona Abbey and Hamilton Palace, and this series of quarries had been worked for at least a century when they closed in 1912.

Eventually the track becomes a path and begins to descend coastward to the abandoned village of Boreraig, set in one of the most beautiful locations on the island. In 1853, all the residents were brutally evicted and their homes burned to make way for the more-profitable sheep, and all that remains today are lichen-covered ruins surrounded by lush green pasture.

From Boreraig, your route hugs the coastline, passing below several fine waterfalls, and there is a chance that you may see seals and otters. Care is needed in a few places where the path has been destroyed by the decaying cliffs. A brief climb brings you to your picnic spot on a high promontory, and soon afterwards you come upon the ruins of the village of Suisnish, which suffered a similar fate to that of Boreraig. The final part of our walk follows a stony track down to the beach at Camas Malag, affording superb views of the southern end of the Cuillin, Bla Bheinn and the Broadford Red Hills.

Alternatively, today’s shorter option begins just north of Broadford. The first part of the walk follows a pleasant lane past the farms of Old Corry and the ruins of Coirechatachan (the corrie of the cat lairs). The house belonged to the Chief of the Makinnons of Strath, and the famous literary friends James Boswell and Samuel Johnson stayed here as the chief’s guests during their tour of the Hebrides in 1773. The path now crosses the Broadford River, then climbs gently up past a knoll known as An Sidhean (the Fairy Hill). These are the remains of a chambered cairn—one of the communal burial places of the first Neolithic settlers who farmed the fertile coastal areas of Skye.

After crossing the road, you join the Marble Line, the bed of the narrow-gauge railway. The route leads past the lower quarry to the higher quarry, where the circular remains of a winding wheel used to pull wagons up the steep incline can be seen. From here, we turn down toward the valley, with outstanding views of Blaven, one of the Cuillin peaks. This section of the walk ends with a visit to the ruined 16th-century church of Cill Chriosd. You can now either opt for the short ride back to the hotel and a chance to relax, or transfer down to the beach at Camas Malag, where you can enjoy a pleasant walk up the track towards Suisnish to meet up with the remainder of the group.

Eilean Iarmain

Sleat, Scotland

This charming hotel, with spectacular views overlooking the Sound of Sleat on the Isle of Skye, has comfortable rooms with traditional fabrics and furnishings, and in its public spaces, traditional Highland décor featuring fireplaces and tartan fabrics. Fine cuisine is served by candlelight in the wood-paneled dining room and the on-site bar offers a wide selection of whiskies, local ales, and traditional Scottish music.

Day 3

Sligachan

Ferry to Isle of Raasay. Churchton Bay to Inverarish via the Emigrants Trail; 3-5 miles, easy

After breakfast you depart Eilean Iarmain, headed for the day’s destination—the scenic Isle of Raasay, an island of the Inner Hebrides, which lie in deep channels between the Isle of Skye and the Scottish mainland. The name Raasay is from the Norse for “red deer,” and its stark beauty and independent culture were portrayed in the 2006 novel Calum’s Road about a resolute crofter (farmer) in the island’s north.

The short ferry ride from Skye brings you into Churchton Bay, where you begin today’s walk, closely observed by two huge, eroded stone sculptures of mermaids on the hillock just above the pier. A delightful path leads round Raasay Harbor and through a thick stand of rhododendrons to emerge above the beautiful North Bay, sandy at low tide, and with broad views towards Skye’s Trotternish coastline. A grassy path hugs the coast between beach and forest and then rises to cross a quiet lane and to climb gently on a wide grassy path through a lovely pine wood. Soon you come to a gigantic stone wall; the wall of the old orchard of Raasay House, though the fruit trees are long since gone. A little further on is Loch a Mhuillinn and a choice of routes. The shorter route leads directly to your lunchtime destination at Raasay House, while the longer versions take you via a section of the so-called “Burma Road” and the Emigrants Trail on the outskirts of the village of Inverarish.

Many people from Raasay, cleared from their homes by landlords in the 19th century, set off for new lives across the oceans. The Emigrants Trail takes you to a series of plinths that chart the travels of these pioneering Ratharsairich (Raasay people).

Lunch is waiting for you at Raasay House, which is a completely refurbished and renovated historic clan mansion house, once the clan seat of the MacLeods of Raasay.  Boswell and Johnson visited Raasay House in the 1770s and wrote, “We found nothing but civility, elegance, and plenty.”

After your plentiful lunch you stroll down to the pier to take the mid-afternoon ferry back to the mainland and settle into your home for the next two nights: the Sligachan Hotel, set in truly magnificent scenery and popular with walkers and lovers of wild Highland scenery for over 180 years.

Sligachan Hotel

Sligachan, Isle of Skye

Originally built as an inn in the 1830s, the Sligachan Hotel now has a great blend of modern comforts and friendly informality. Please note that the rooms in this hotel are more simple than the other hotels on this tour; however, it is in a fantastic location, is locally owned, and lends an authenticity to your whole walking experience.

Day 4

Sligachan

Coire na Creiche and the Fairy Pools; 2-5 miles, mainly moderate or Glen Brittle and Eas Mor Waterfall; 4 miles moderate with elevation gain/loss of approx. 1,000 ft. Easy forest walk also available

The Fairy Pools is a delightful walk set against the backdrop of the rugged Cuillin Mountains. From Glen Brittle, you initially descend towards the crystalline Allt Coir a Mhadaidh stream and then climb gently towards Coire na Creiche, in 1601 the site of the last clan battle fought on the island, between the MacDonalds and the MacLeods. The trail runs alongside the Fairy Pools—a series of translucent aquamarine pools linked by small waterfalls and rapids, tempting for a dip on a hot day and enchanting whatever the weather. Straight ahead are views of the impressive pinnacle of Sgurr an Fheadain, appreciated by serious mountain climbers since the 19th century. Here you may be lucky enough to sight a golden eagle soaring over the hilltops and valleys. At any point you can retrace your steps back down along the pools, or you can continue farther to traverse the lower slopes of Bruach na Frithe and return to the starting point on a higher trail.

Alternatively, you may prefer a more challenging walk. This begins from the beach at the end of Glen Brittle and climbs steadily up towards Coire Lagan on the westerly flank of the Black Cuillin. As height is gained, tremendous views open up of the Isle of Rhum and, later, Eigg. After an elevation gain of approximately 1,000 feet, you reach a large cairn where you pause to enjoy the tranquility of the location and to gaze at the awesome rock face of the Cuillins. You then follow the well- constructed path which descends gently past Loch an Fhir-Bhallaich toward the final highlight of the walk: Eas Mor Waterfall, where crystal-clear water from the high Black Cuillins falls uninterrupted for 200 feet into a chasm below. The path continues descending to emerge on the Glen Brittle road a short distance from the starting point.

Lunch today is at the Old Inn in nearby Carbost. The remainder of the afternoon offers the opportunity to visit the famous Talisker distillery—the only whisky distillery on the island—or to take a short stroll to the nearby Talisker Beach.

Sligachan Hotel

Sligachan, Isle of Skye

Originally built as an inn in the 1830s, the Sligachan Hotel now has a great blend of modern comforts and friendly informality. Please note that the rooms in this hotel are more simple than the other hotels on this tour; however, it is in a fantastic location, is locally owned, and lends an authenticity to your whole walking experience.

Day 5

Portree

Ramasaig, the Hoe and Waterstein Cliffs; 6 miles, mainly moderate. Or Coral Beaches walk; 2.5 miles, easy and afternoon visit to Dunvegan Castle or 2- mile optional easy walk

Today, after a wholesome Scottish breakfast, you visit the most westerly part of the island. The longer walk takes you to the imposing high cliffs of Waterstein Head and offers unsurpassed coastal views. Beginning from the isolated farmstead of Ramasaig, your route follows the old cart track heading south towards Lorgill Bay. Below you in the sheltered and fertile valley lie heaps of grass and moss-covered stones, the remains of the homes of the crofters evicted in 1830 and sent to Nova Scotia on board the ship Midlothian. You then traverse open terrain to reach a spectacularly located promontory high above Hoe Point. This affords magnificent views of the dramatic Duirinish coast and, in the distance, the three impressive sea stacks known as MacLeod’s Maidens.  The tallest stack—the mother—rises more than 200 feet out of the sea, accompanied by her two daughters. You parallel the side of the Hoe and then climb gradually to the cliff edge at Gob na Hoe, with tremendous views of Waterstein Head and Moonen Bay ahead. From this point, the path follows the edge of the cliffs, the home of nesting seabirds, and you are accompanied by their calls as you make your way down to Ramasaig Bay, close to where the Ramasaig Burn drops an impressive 60 feet into the sea. You return to the walk’s starting point through the low stone walls of the once-thriving crofting settlement.

The shorter walk is to the spectacular Coral Beaches—one of the most beautiful coastal locations on Skye. The walk affords lovely views across Loch Dunvegan to Borreraig and Dunvegan Head, with the chance of seeing inquisitive seals popping up out of the water. The Coral Beaches are a beautiful sight, appearing almost tropical on a fine day. The sand, however, is actually dried, calcified seaweed, known as maerl. There are also thousands of tiny, delicate snail shells. Before retracing your steps, you can climb a little flat-topped hill, known as Cnoc Mor a Ghrobain, directly behind the beach to enjoy the extensive views.

After lunch you may choose to visit Dunvegan Castle, the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland. It has been the stronghold of the chiefs of the Clan MacLeod for 800 years and is still the home of the present chief. On display are many clan treasures, the most famous of which is the Fairy Flag, a sacred banner dating back at least 14 centuries, which, according to legend, has miraculous powers. Surrounding the castle are magnificent gardens, originally laid out in the 18th century and consisting of both formal gardens and woodland glades.

Alternatively, you may prefer to take a short walk beginning from the Castle car park. The path climbs up to the edge of the woods and then onto the open moor, with views of Macleods Tables, and the distant Cuillin. As you begin to descend, you see a prominent Standing Stone on the hill to the right. Although the height and shape of a prehistoric monument, the stone was erected on Midsummer’s Day in 2000 by the local villagers, using only hand power and ropes. A short detour takes you to the ruined St Mary’s Church, dating back to 1694 and burial place of some of the Macleod chiefs as well as generations of MacCrimmons, hereditary pipers to the Macleods. A short walk along the road brings you to the current parish church, built in 1823-32. The final part of the walk is through a forestry plantation with some amazing geological formations.

Your final accommodation is the luxurious Cuillin Hills Hotel on the outskirts of Portree, the island’s capital.

Cuillin Hills Hotel

Portree, Scotland

A 19th-century hunting lodge once belonging to the MacDonald clan, this renovated, elegant hotel is in a stunning location overlooking Portree Bay and the majestic Cuillin Hills. Guest rooms blend classic décor with contemporary comfort, and inviting public spaces include a Victorian-style drawing room with fireplace. Both the fine dining room and more casual brasserie overlook the property’s lovely gardens and harbor.

Day 6

Portree

Flora Macdonald’s Grave and Skye Museum of Island Life. Rubha Hunish; 4 miles, easy to moderate with shorter, easier option available. Afternoon walk: Quiraing; 4 miles, moderate, or Caisteal Uisdean; 3 miles, easy

You awaken to magnificent scenery and an ample breakfast, then embark on a scenic drive north along the coast of the Trotternish peninsula. In the tiny settlement of Kilmuir, you first visit the grave of the famed 18th-century heroine Flora Macdonald, who assisted Bonnie Prince Charlie in his flight through the Highlands after the Battle of Culloden. Nearby is the Skye Museum of Island Life, a privately owned outdoor museum housed in original traditional thatched cottages. The painstakingly assembled collection of tools and artifacts depicts the simple lives of local crofters in the 19th century and emphasizes the tenacity required in their daily struggle to survive in this inhospitable environment.

You then embark on the morning’s walk to the tip of Skye’s most northerly point, Rubha Hunish. The walk begins near a red telephone booth, seemingly out of place in this remote area. The ruins of the abandoned village of Erisco soon come into view as you ascend gently northwards onto Meall Tuath, eventually reaching a former coastguard lookout which is now a volunteer-maintained hut offering shelter from the wind if needed. From this spectacular location, the north cliffs plunge down hundreds of feet, with magnificent views across the sea to the mountains on the Isle of Harris. The headland’s northernmost tip is the best place on Skye for spotting dolphins, porpoise, and whales.

The trail circles back along the coast with views of the melancholy ruins of 13th-century Duntulm Castle, once the seat of the chiefs of Clan MacDonald of Sleat, and for several centuries an important clan stronghold.

After lunch, you may choose to walk the Quirang. This is one of the island’s finest walks, a journey through an elevated wild landscape of fantastic rock formations, pinnacles, and buttresses. From the starting point, a narrow path traverses a grassy ridge then crosses a rocky gully before ascending a rough path among the scattered rocks. Magnificent views of Kilmaluag Bay open up as you reach the highest point of the walk. Further ahead is a valley of austere rocky shapes, and here you begin your descent on a well-walked trail through the heather-filled valley to the walk’s end at Loch Langaig near Flodigarry.

The afternoon’s gentler alternative is a low-level coastal walk to Caisteal Uisdean (Hugh’s Castle) on the western coast of Trotternish. You drive past the Quirang outcrop over to the outskirts of Uig, the island’s ferry port for the outer isles. The walk begins on the road to Cuidrach, a quiet track through pastoral landscape. You pass a crag  which was the site of an Iron Age fort, then turn south along the coast. A mile or so further on is Caisteal Uisdean, perched on a low cliff above Loch Snizort. The entrance to the castle was via a ladder to the first floor, so there is only a single window at ground-floor level. The castle dates from the 17th century, built by Hugh MacDonald, a lifelong rival to his uncle, Donald Gorm, the clan chief, who lived at Duntulm Castle. You retrace your steps to the van and return to Portree for the final evening’s celebratory dinner in one of the town’s restaurants.

Cuillin Hills Hotel

Portree, Scotland

A 19th-century hunting lodge once belonging to the MacDonald clan, this renovated, elegant hotel is in a stunning location overlooking Portree Bay and the majestic Cuillin Hills. Guest rooms blend classic décor with contemporary comfort, and inviting public spaces include a Victorian-style drawing room with fireplace. Both the fine dining room and more casual brasserie overlook the property’s lovely gardens and harbor.

Day 7

Departure

Departure from Edinburgh

After a sumptuous breakfast, you transfer to Edinburgh, which takes approximately six hours. En route, you stop for lunch at the popular House of Bruar near Pitlochry. You arrive in Edinburgh’s West End in the mid- to late afternoon.

Itinerary Disclaimer

Bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. If you are currently booked on a CW adventure, an itinerary has been sent to you for your exact departure date. Please call CW at 800.464.9255 if you have any questions about the exact itinerary or hotels selected for any of our tours.

Guides

Stuart Hall

Stuart was born in Dundee, Scotland, and has traveled widely in Southeast Asia, Australia, and Europe. Stuart has lived in Aberfoyle, in the heart of the Trossachs, for 10 years and while not guiding for Country Walkers, he enjoys a variety of winter sports including climbing and hiking in the Scottish hills.

Ruth Hackney

Raised near Manchester in northern England, Ruth Hackney has always been a passionate hiker and a history enthusiast. She majored in Oriental Studies at King’s College, Cambridge, then taught in India for 2 years, followed by a year in Australia on a Rotary Foundation Scholarship. She has lived in southern Greece since 1987, initially teaching English to Greek teenagers before she found her perfect vocation as a tour guide. On our Greek trips she loves to share her deep affection for the history and culture of her adopted homeland, while each summer she returns to her roots in the UK and guides our Scottish tours.

Brian Wilson

Brian is native to Scotland and has been guiding walking, cycling, kayaking, and multi-adventure tours for over thirty years. He was educated at Edinburgh University, where he graduated with a Philosophy degree. Currently he specializes in stonework and roof thatching. He has written two adventure travel books and lives in North West Scotland with his wife and three daughters.

Guest Comments

A. Sheffield, Washington, D.C., May 2013

Absolutely awesome adventure in all respects: delightful guides and comrades, enjoyable walks over varied terrain, incredible and remarkably different scenery. In addition to the sheer joy I felt, I learned much about Scottish history and ecology, and came away from this experience with great fondness for the country and its inhabitants.

B. Smith, France, June 2013

This ranks among the top of the nine CW tours I've done to date. Skye is a remarkable place: old, rugged, green, and full of interesting history and nature. I enjoyed the hikes, despite the difficulties the weather and terrain sometimes presented. I like taking photographs, and Skye offered so many interesting subjects. It was an unforgettable week.

W. & B. Smith, France, June 2013

What a pristine, beautiful, rugged, historic place to hike! Stuart and Ruth really put us through our paces with exciting, beautiful and challenging hikes, all the while sharing the incredible and important history of the Isle of Skye and the Highlands in general.

A. & E. Hayes, New York, June 2013

Ruth and Stuart were tuned into everything we needed and fine-tuned walks. The countryside was breathtaking, and the hotels very appropriate to the area.

M. Lively, Texas, May 2013

I had no idea that the Isle of Skye would be so beautiful! I would recommend visiting Skye to anyone who loves nature in the raw!
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