2019 Discovery: Isle of Skye, Scotland

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Crowds got you down? This post is part of a series of 10 European Discoveries for 2019 — off-the-beaten-path gems where you can escape the tourist rut and find a corner of Europe all your own.

Most visitors to the Scottish Highlands do a predictable two- or three-day loop, hitting Inverness, Loch Ness, Glencoe, Oban, and maybe a few Outlander sights. But adding another couple of days buys you time for dramatically scenic, fun-to-explore Skye. While not quite “undiscovered,” the Isle of Skye demands — and rewards — a little extra effort to reach.

Settle into the village of Portree, with its rainbow-painted harbor, and use it as a home base for road-tripping across the isle. The Trotternish Peninsula, with dragon’s-tooth mossy mountains that have inspired sci-fi movies, is speckled with sleepy crofting communities whose humble stone cottages face million-dollar sea views. Talisker Distillery offers tours and dispenses peaty drams of whisky. Dunvegan Castle provides an intimate peek inside the lived-in home of an aristocratic clan that’s seen better days. Peat bogs, iconic views of bald Scottish mountains, and hiking areas with names like “The Fairy Glen” and “The Fairy Pools” round out Skye’s appeal.

If I had to choose just one place to get an idyllic taste of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, Skye would win by a mile.


Planning a trip to Scotland? Here’s how to get ready:

1) Check out my top 10 tips for traveling in Scotland
2) Pick up a copy of our Rick Steves Scotland guidebook.
3) Watch Rick’s three brand-new TV episodes on Scotland: Glasgow and Scottish Passions, Scotland’s Highlands, and Scotland’s Islands.

And for nine more suggestions on where to get away from the crowds, check out my 10 European Discoveries for 2019.

2 Replies to “2019 Discovery: Isle of Skye, Scotland”

  1. Hi Cameron, The Isle of Skye (Scotland) is completely overrun and there is a huge problem with infrastructure from accommodation (which is very over priced and sadly, often not good) to driving to parking of which there is very little. Skye is for walkers/hikers! Yet everyone just drives around and stop for 15 minutes each place, take photos and drive on. It’s become a zoo. It’s completely overcrowded from May into October. There are few toilets outside of Portree so hiking paths are littered with ’tissue’ as many people have no respect for their surroundings and others. Any place titled ‘Fairy’ (pools, glen) is overrun so no longer peaceful. There are so many truly undiscovered and worth visiting places in Scotland; sadly this is no longer one of them. However, if you keep sending people here, then our own favorite places will remain uncrowded and peaceful so I guess there’s an up side to this. Thanks for the article!

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