If you’re planning a trip to Scotland, you must take a side trip to the Isle of Skye. The Trotternish Loop is especially interesting, and you can easily hit all the major sites in one day. The geography is really something special and unique.
There are two ways to get to the Isle of Skye by car from mainland Scotland – by ferry or by bridge. We took the ferry to the Isle of Skye, then took the Skye Bridge back to the mainland two days later.
Glenelg to Kylerhea Ferry
There are two ferries available, depending on your starting point. The Original Glenelg-Skye ferry connects Glenelg on the mainland to the village of Kylerhea on the Isle of Skye. This ferry only holds up to 6 vehicles, and runs from Easter until October each year. This ferry connects the shortest span between the mainland and Skye. It’s also the only turntable ferry in the United Kingdom, making it quite unique.
Mallaig to Armadale Ferry
We took the larger Mallaig to Armadale ferry. The journey takes between a half hour and 45 minutes.
This is a nice relaxing journey, and the landscape is really stunning:
Isle of Skye Bridge and Portree
If you prefer to drive from the mainland to the Isle of Skye, you can take the Skye Bridge. The bridge runs approximately 2.4 km and links the village of Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland to the village of Kyleakin on Skye.
From Kyleakin we drove about an hour northwest to reach Portree.
Portree is the Isle of Skye’s beautiful capital and largest town. And by “large,” I mean the population is only around 4,570! We used Portree as our home base for our two days on the island.
Portree is very much a fishing village, as you can tell by all the boats. Although it may appear older, Portree was only founded about 200 years ago by Lord MacDonald. This little town is full of rainbow-hued buildings and amazing seafood restaurants.
To begin our Trotternish Loop adventure, we headed north on the A855 leading out of Portree.
Note that the roads here are not very wide, and there’s little-to-no shoulder to pull over should you get a flat tire or other vehicle emergency.
The Brides Veil Waterfall
Our first stop was a modest but lovely waterfall – The Brides Veil waterfall. It’s just a short 10km drive north of Portree. If you scale to the top of the hill, you should be able to see your next stop just off in the distance.
Old Man of Storr
The Old Man of Storr is probably the most well-known and most-often photographed natural phenomenon on the Isle of Skye. Storr is a large rocky outcropping on top of the Trotternish Ridge.
The hike up to the pinnacle can take you anywhere from 30 minutes to 45 minutes or more, depending on your pace and the path conditions. It was a bit wet and slippery in spots when we visited.
This is the big pointy rock everyone comes here to see, the Old Man of Storr. It’s approximately 160 feet tall! Legend claims that the Old Man of Storr was once a giant who lived on the Trotternish Ridge. When he died and was buried, his thumb remained sticking out of the earth – becoming this rocky formation.
Ancient glaciers actually carved this ridge and mountains. Storr mountain is also the highest point on the Isle of Skye.
The views from the top are just breathtaking.
Also note the interpretive signage at many of these sites. They are part of the Staffin Ecomuseum, a sort of open-air landscape museum consisting of 13 stops with interpretive plaques.
Lealt Gorge and Lealt Falls
Continuing north around the loop, you’ll pass Lealt Gorge and Lealt Falls. This is a picturesque little stop, and one that isn’t nearly as busy as Storr.
Old Diatomite Works
From Lealt you can cross the road and follow the Diatomite Road. Diatomite comes from a whitish clay made up of microscopic diatom shells, a type of algae. It had numerous industrial uses – as an abrasive, a filter for wine and beer making, an insulator, and as a filler in various products such as paper, paint, brick, and plastics. It was also a component in dynamite. You can see the remains of the drying shed here:
Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls
Kilt Rock is so-named because of the way the basalt rock cliffs appear to fold like the pleats in a kilt. The waterfall here is very dramatic and photo-worthy:
The Bay of Seals
The Bay of Seals shows remnants of thousands of years of habitation. Near the highest part of the path, you’ll find the remains of a Neolithic chambered cairn. There are also circular foundations of old Iron Age huts.
This old abandoned storehouse dates to the 1840s, when the government tried to assist citizens after the potato famine. The boat shelter next to it is called a baraichean in Gaelic.
Duntulm Castle is easy to miss, as it’s essentially just a pile of rubble now, with a few partial walls still standing. But the view from here is incredible. I wrote about it before in Three Beautiful Castle Ruins to Visit in Scotland. It’s just a half hour drive north of Kilt Rock.
Our last stop on the Trotternish Loop was in the village of Uig. Uig is a small village just 20 minutes from Portree. We stopped in at the Isle of Skye Brewing Co. They opened in 1995, and have won over 60 awards for their brews to date. I was hoping they offered tours of their facility, but they didn’t (sad face). But that didn’t stop us from buying some beer to take back to Portree!
There were several other stops along the Trotternish Loop we missed, such as the Fairy Pools and the Quairang. But we think we managed to get a pretty wide selection of sights into our day trip. Which sights are your favourite?