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Isle of Skye

Visitor Guide to the Isle of Skye on Scotland's West Coast Inner Hebrides,  includes guide to towns, walks and the general area of Skye.

The Isle of Skye (An t-Eilean Sgitheanach), the most scenically spectacular of all the Scottish islands, gets its name from the Norse word for cloud (skuy) and is commonly known as Eilean a Cheo (the Misty Isle), so it obviously rains a lot here. But when the rain and mist clear, the views make the heart soar.

Despite the unpredictable weather, tourism is an important part of the island's economy, and has been since Victorian times when climbers returned home extolling its beauty. The most popular destination is the Cuillins, the greatest concentration of peaks in Britain. They provide Scotland's best climbing and have become a mecca for all serious and experienced walkers. Equally spectacular are the bizarre rock formations of the Trotternish Peninsula in the north.

Trotternish is also inextricably linked with one of the most significant characters from the island's colourful past, Flora MacDonald, who is buried at Kilmuir.

More of the island's fascinating history can be discovered at Dunvegan Castle, ancient seat of the Macleods, Armadale Castle (the Clan MacDonald), with the Museum of the Isles and also The Skye Museum of Island Life.

All main routes to Skye come through some of the most stunning scenery in Scotland, which is why most visitors choose to arrive and depart using different routes - Skye Bridge on and a ferry off, is probably the most common combination!

The most direct route to Skye is across the Skye Bridge (tolls were abolished December 2004), from Kyle of Lochalsh to the roundabout at the top end of Kyleakin. Coach services run to Skye from Glasgow and Inverness, with connections to all main cities in the UK (Citylink, Tel. 08705-5505050; National Express, Tel. 08705-808080). There is also a train service from Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness - the Kyle Line, which was made famous as one of Michael Palin's Greatest Railway Journeys.

To some, a more romantic approach to Skye, is by car ferry from Mallaig to Armadale, on the southern Sleat Peninsula. The car and passenger ferry makes the 30-min crossing 7 times daily each way (first one leaves Mallaig at 0840, Armadale at 0925; the last one at 1845 and 1920) Mon-Sat from Mar to Oct, and Sun end of May to mid-Sep. The ferry runs twice daily & not at weekends during the winter months; for details contact Mallaig, Tel. 01687-462403, or Armadale, Tel. 01471-844248. Booking is recommended during the summer months, Tel. 08705- 650000. Visit www.calmac.co.uk for current prices and timetables. Trains to and from Fort William and Glasgow Queen St connect with some of the ferries.

Romantic visitors can also make the journey to/from Skye using the Original Skye Ferry which operates between Glenelg (follow signposts from Shiel Bridge on the mainland) and Kylerhea (south of Kyleakin on Skye). The tiny private car ferry makes the 5 min crossing frequently, for a maximum of 6 cars. The ferry does not operate during the winter period (normally starts Easter or 1st April, whichever is first and does not operate on Sundays until the main summer season!) - for up to date prices and times visit www.skyeferry.co.uk

Ferries leave from Uig, in the north of Skye, to Lochmaddy on North Uist (1 3/4 hrs) and to Tarbert on Harris (1hrs). To Lochmaddy on Mon, Wed and Fri at 0945 and 1855, Tue, Thu and Sat at 1400 and Sun at 0940 and 1400. The return trip costs £14.55 per passenger and £69 per car. To Tarbert on Mon, Wed and Fri at 0515 and 1400, Tue, Thu and Sat at 0940 and 1800 (no service on Sun). The return trip costs the same as for Lochmaddy. For more details, contact Uig, Tel. 01470-542219 or again visit www.calmac.co.uk

Getting around Skye

Skye is the largest of the Hebridean islands, at almost 50 miles long and between 7 and 25 miles wide. It is possible to run up a hefty mileage as the extensive road system penetrates to all but the most remote corners of its many peninsulas. It is possible to get around by public transport midweek, with postbuses supplementing the normal services, but, as everywhere in the Highlands and Islands, buses are few and far between at weekends, especially Sun, and during the winter months. Buses run between Portree, Broadford, Uig (for ferries to the Western Isles), Kyleakin, Armadale (for ferries to Mallaig), Dunvegan and Carbost, and a more limited service runs from Broadford to Elgol and Portree to Glen Brittle.

Getting around by public transport is virtually impossible in winter (Oct-Mar) as bus and postbus services are severely limited

Information about Skye

Skye is well served by all types of accommodation: B&Bs, guesthouses, hostels, bunkhouses, campsites and some very fine hotels. During the peak summer months advance bookings are recommended. These can be made directly or through the island's Tourist Information Centres; in Portree (open all year), Broadford, Uig and Dunvegan.

The island today is very popular for walkers. See Isle of Skye walks.


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