A weekend in the Isle of Skye: from Portree to Uig
by Cinthia Varela
Monday, December 3, 2018
Last May I traveled to Scotland and spent a weekend in the breathtaking Isle of Skye. Immortalized by the modern Scottish song The Skye Boat Song, the Isle of Skye is the largest of the Inner Hebrides archipelago.
A journey Inspired by History and Fiction:
Enthused by the Outlander novels written by Diana Gabaldon and popularized by the television series, I decided to follow the Jacobite’s rebellion path from Edinburgh to Culloden Moor where the rising came to a dramatic end in 1746. After visiting the battlefield located near Inverness, I couldn’t help but trailing the last chapter of the Jacobite’s tragic story.
The lyrics of the song I mentioned before tells the story of how Flora MacDonald rescued the defeated Prince Charles Edward Stuart from the Hanoverian troops –under the Duke of Cumberland– after the battle of Culloden. Disguised as an Irish maid named Betty Burke, the infamous Prince sailed with Flora and a few more men from Benbecula (an island of the Outer Hebrides) to Kilbride in the Isle of Skye.
Inspired by this journey, I traveled from Inverness –the Scottish Highland’s administrative center– to Portree, Skye’s largest town and where Flora and Bonnie Prince Charles went separate ways. I spent the night there and the following day I traveled to Uig, a picturesque village on the west coast of the Trotternish peninsula.
How to Get to the Isle of Skye:
From Inverness to Portree:
It is a 3 hours and 30 minutes trip by bus. The journey has one of the most amazing views of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle, and Eilean Donan Castle. I highly recommend checking bus timetables and purchasing tickets at the Citylink website: https://www.citylink.co.uk/
From Portree to Uig:
It is less than a half hour journey by public bus. You can check the bus timetable at Portree’s main square (you can’t miss it! It is right where the Citylink bus stops and where all the town revolves around). I took the 57C and asked the driver to leave me right in front of my accommodation at Uig. Bus tickets cost £4.
Things to Do in the Isle of Skye:
The Isle of Skye is definitely a place to add to the bucket list if you are an outdoor enthusiast. There are many things to do and to see and a weekend is certainly not long enough to cover them all. Here are my top recommendations:
Walk up and marvel at the Old Man of Storr:
It is probably the most famous walk on the island and definitely the most crowded. The Old Man of Storr is a rocky hill located on the Trotternish peninsula. It has a well-constructed trail that starts and ends at the same point.
It’s a fairly easy walk (It took me 1 hour and 30 minutes approximately) with amazing views of the Sound of Raasay and the beautiful grassy slopes. You can get to the main entrance (the car park) with a public bus. The 57A goes from Portree’s main square and gets to the destination in less than 20 minutes (£3 return). I recommend wearing comfortable clothes and decent footwear because the highest parts of the trail can get muddy.
Step into the magical realm of Fairy Glen:
Just above Uig –if you know where to look– you can find Fairy Glen, a well-hidden scenery that looks like you’ve walked into a magical land. Although there is no public transportation, you can easily get to Fairy Glen from the A87 road. It is a 30-minute walk through a single track road that starts right next to Uig Hotel and leads you up through farms filled with sheep walking around with an amazing view of the Uig bay.
Once you get there you’ll find a landscape of round-topped hills covered by green vegetation.
The best view of the glen is from Castle Ewan, a natural rock formation that looks like a ruin. Although a bit difficult, with patience it is possible to climb to the top. Don’t be fooled by the rock spirals on the ground, it seems that in recent years’ visitors, encouraged by irresponsible tour guides, have started to move the rocks to make this designs.
Visit the Isle of Skye Brewing Co.:
In Uig, right by the pier, you can find the Isle of Skye Brewing Co. where you’ll find a wide range of craft beer –the best on the Highlands– and maybe get some cases for your loved ones at home.
Where to Eat in the Isle of Skye:
The Granary is a lovely café right in front of Portree’s main square. I ordered a very comforting cup of chocolate with marshmallows that helped me recover from the long walk up The Storr.
The Sheiling & Ella’s Café:
Near Uig’s pier, you’ll find The Sheiling & Ella’s Café, an excellent place for lunch. Once you step in, the sound of music from the 40s and 50s transports you back in time. The food is delicious, I ordered mushrooms with tomato sauce that was to die for and had the yummiest homemade brownies for dessert. Besides the restaurant, the place has a second-hand shop with books, vinyl’s, vintage clothes and other interesting stuff.
Where to Stay in the Isle of Skye:
The Portree Youth Hostel:
The Portree Youth Hostel is right in front of the main square where the bus stops and it is a low-cost option for outdoor enthusiasts wishing to make Portree a starting point to visit the island. The hostel offers both private and shared rooms and has a comfortable dining area, self-catering kitchen, Wi-Fi and a laundry room. The lounge, with its amazing view of Loch Portree, is equipped with board games and it is ideal for relaxing after a long day of walking.
The Cowshed Boutique Bunkhouse:
The Cowshed Boutique Bunkhouse is a high category hostel that offers both rooms and pods with a mind-blowing view of the Uig bay. I must say I have never seen a more incredible sunset. The main house has a self-catering kitchen and a very stylish lounge area with games. The guys at the reception are exceptionally kind and very helpful.
I highly recommend staying at one of the pods. They’re equipped with a kitchenette, a bathroom with shower, a double bed and a large sofa. But the best thing of all is the terrace!