Three Magical Tours on Skye
& How to Get There on Public Transport
Skye is an otherworldly land, and it’s easier to reach than you may think. You can travel to the island on public transport – no boats required – and when you arrive, you can explore many of its magical locations without a car, thanks to these epic tours on Skye.
The weather on Skye is nothing short of insane. To say you can experience all four seasons in one day is really playing it down; it’s more like all four in one hour! This mental microclimate is what makes Skye special, and our holiday photos so dramatic. Skye comes from the Norse for ‘misty isle’, while confirms that the island’s weather forecast has been consistent for centuries.
Never in my life have I seen clouds morph and move across the atmosphere like I have on Skye. The constant altercations between the sun and the rain create rainbows more frequently than we make cups of tea, and they take on many forms: full-arch, double-act and even rainbow mist.
Pair this atmospheric weather with Skye’s uniquely carved landscape, and that’s where the real magic happens. The Cuillin mountains are in a league of their own; they provoke an irrevocable sense of awe or surge of adrenaline for all those who experience them. The coastline is plentiful, sheer, and undulating, and it’s easy to imagine cheeky wee faeries showering in the abundant waterfalls. Prepare to enter into a fixed state of wide-eyed wonder at what nature created.
The good news is, if you don’t drive – or don’t want to drive – you can still get stuck into Skye, to immerse yourself in all its mystical beauty. I travelled to Skye via Glencoe on the Citylink service from Glasgow, and explored the island by bus, boat and on foot. Here are my recommendations for tours on Skye, followed by a summary of my experience on the scenic bus journey from Glasgow.
1. Bella Jane Boat Trip to Loch Coruisk.
Departure Point: Elgol Harbour
Nothing remedies a spot of mid-morning lethargy like a speed boat trip in the chilly Scottish Hebrides. The weather had been so extreme that week, there was a chance the boat wouldn’t run at all. Thankfully, the wind had subsided enough to safely make the crossing from Elgol to Loch Coruisk, and I soon found myself approaching the majestic Cuillins at rapid speed; sea-spray and the freshest of air blasting in my face.
Slowing down as we drew closer to our disembarkation point at Loch Na Cuilce, I was struck by the crystal clarity of the water, and the green tint which was unlike anything I’d seen before. Seals were comically manoeuvring themselves around on nearby rocks, rolling and shuffling in a far-from graceful fashion, like me trying to get comfy in bed at night. Then, one cheeky chappy who had taken himself for a swim was jumping out of the water, pretending to be a dolphin – just to show off!
Feet firmly on land, I followed Scavaig River upstream until Loch Coruisk and its fortress of mountains lay before me. The group I arrived with had set off on the hike to Sligachan so I was now the only soul around until the Bella Jane arrived. I was completely dwarfed by my surroundings, which had me energised in their all drama, yet relaxed by the serenity.
Given my clumsy tendencies, I exercised great caution and careful placement of feet when negotiating the boggy terrain and big slippery rocks. I soon found a good-looking rock to bask on, and admire the rainbows which hovered over the loch like holograms.
I returned on the Bella Jane, and spent the journey looking back at the epic Black Cuillins. Loch Coruisk is a truly amazing and otherworldly place. I honestly would’ve been unsurprised if I’d encountered a dinosaur or Gollum during my visit. An unmissable tour on Skye!
- The standard return trip with Bella Jane is £28 per adult and £16 per child
- The one-way trips on both the Bella Jane and Aqua Xplore are £15 per adult and £10 per child
- Thanks to David for arranging my trip, and Norman, Dougie and Louis for looking after us on the boats
- For more information or to book visit the Bella Jane and Aqua Xplore website
2. Portree Walking Tours – Evening Light & Whisky Experience.
Departure Point: Somerled Square, Portree
Exploring a destination on foot lets you get up close and personal with your surroundings. Admittedly, my (many) previous wanderings in Portree were limited to Somerled Square and the streets within a short radius. This had me wondering how our evening walk would be stretched out over a couple of hours. I obviously hadn’t read the full tour description, and for that I was glad, as I very much enjoy the element of surprise. I can tell you now, our tour guide David MacDonald is a man with a plan, and a bloody good one at that!
David’s Mum is from Glasgow and his Dad from Skye, which has gifted him with the business-mind set of a city dweller, plus the personal experience of spending every summer on Skye. David chose to bail out on the bustle of Glasgow, and relocate to Skye to develop his business in tourism; which he has been running since June 2018. As well as an island entrepreneur, he is also a trained Accountant, a talented musician, and a lovely legend of a guy.
As we ventured off the tourist path in Portree, we were treated to an elevated view of Portree Harbour, followed by the Old Man of Storr in the distance. David kept us entertained with very well-researched facts about Skye’s history, geology and culture, interspersed with casual chatter and bits of Scottish banter. We enjoyed some quintessential Scottish treats along the way, as we admired stunning views over to Raasay from our secluded spot on what felt like a secret walking trail.
Our walk concluded with a well-timed sunset over Portree Harbour, where thick, grey rainclouds were backlit by the falling sun. We retired to the pub, where David treated us each to dram of single malt, paired with chocolate and further tales of Skye’s history. Joined by David, our group continued on to have dinner together at The Granary (which I highly recommend!). David is passionate about tourism on Skye, and has many an idea for future developments. Watch this space!
- The tour lasted a total of three hours and costs £30
- For more information and to book visit the Portree Walking Tours website
3. Go Skye – Full Day Island Tour.
Departure Point: Outside Visit Scotland iCentre, Portree
Despite Skye’s immense popularity and spike in visitor numbers, there’s no shying away from the fact that the local transport on the island is somewhat limited. I’m pleased to report, however, that you can still experience many of Skye’s top attractions without a car, thanks to organised mini-bus tours which leave from Portree. Go Skye was set up in March 2017, to provide an easy and affordable service around the island’s hotspots; with some snippets of information along the way. This is a great option for first time visitors, and for myself who hadn’t been to the island for years.
I joined the full day trip, which explores the Trotternish Peninsula in the morning and the Fairy Pools in the afternoon. The places I visited/saw on the tour are:
- Old Man of Storr – one of Skye’s most iconic geological wonders, the Old Man of Storr is a pointy pinnacle which can be photographed from the roadside; mist dependant, of course.
- Lealt Falls – a beautiful waterfall which cascades into a skinny gorge and out to sea. Follow the path and look down towards the beach to spot the remnants of an old diatomite mine and railway; a substance used to create dynamite.
- Kilt Rock – this is where Skye’s coastline really shows off with yet another waterfall and a crinkly rock face, which folklore will tell you was formed by giants.
- Quiraing – the views of this landscape are unbelievable, and the hairpin bend to get up there will have you holding onto your seat. Fans of the 2007 film Stardust may recognise this otherworldly landscape as the backdrop for scenes featuring Michelle Pfieffer’s character is on a mission to find the fallen star.
- Uig – this wee pitstop involves a visit into the Isle of Skye Brewery Co. for some ‘never too early’ samples of their ales. I’m a big fan of the blonde!
- Fairy Glen – this unusual and enchanting wee landscape has become super-popular over recent years. Wander around, take pretty pictures, and please do not make stone stacks; you may think they look cool, but they pose a risk to the local livestock.
- Island at the Edge – a sheep farm run by a lovely couple called Trevor and Yasmin, who use the wool to make knitwear, tweed and even household insulation. Meet the sheep, hear about the (hilarious) challenges in shearing them, and check out the products for sale.
- Fairy Pools – arguably the most ‘social media famous’ sight on Skye, Glen Brittle is where waterfalls plunge into teal-coloured pools against a backdrop of black Cuillin mountains. Amazing!
- Go Skye operate their tours from March – November (the October and November tours are a little shorter due to shorter days and visibility)
- The full day tour is £40 and the half day tour is £30
- For more information visit the Go Skye website
From Glasgow to Skye on Public Transport.
I travelled on the Citylink service from Glasgow Buchanan Street Bus Station to the Isle of Skye. The journey takes in some of Scotland’s most beautiful and dramatic scenery, passing Loch Lomond, Glen Lyon, Glencoe, Glen Shiel, Eilean Donan, Kyle of Lochalsh, and over the Skye Bridge.
The bus stops in Fort William for a break (the duration may vary depending on what the traffic has been like), where I had time to pop into Morrisons to use the toilet and buy some snacks. All passengers doing the full journey have to disembark the bus during this break, then re-board before the passengers getting on at Fort William.
- The journey from Glasgow to Portree can take between 6 and 7 hours depending on which times you book (I promise it goes so quickly though with all the scenery to keep you amused)
- You can view the timetable here
- An advanced return ticket is £52.70 and I highly recommend pre-booking your seat on the Citylink website as the service can be very busy and there’s no guarantee you’ll get on