The Skye Trail is an unofficial 80 mile walking route covering almost the full length of Skye. The trail is known for its breath-taking coastal paths, its dramatic ridge traverses, and its unparalleled feeling of isolation in one of the worlds most beautiful landscapes.
The Skye Trail is a challenging route so experience of walking on difficult terrain and map reading skills (with a compass) are essential. Having said that, we found it relatively easy to follow despite its lack of way-markers. We purchased the waterproof Harvey Skye trail map and downloaded the route from Walkhighlands onto OS Maps on our phones and both of these resources were sufficient for us to follow the route.
We decided to follow the route from North to South over 7 days. It can be completed in either direction depending on your preference. We picked May for our adventure for two main reasons: May typically provides great walking weather, and the midges aren’t out in full force either. Our plan seemed to work as we experienced only one day of bad weather and the midges were virtually non-existent.
I wanted to pack as light as possible so I could carry the equipment comfortably on my back. I bought lightweight camping equipment, took a minimum amount of clothes and food supplies for a few days as I knew I could restock in Portree.
Day 1 Skye Trail: Duntulm to Loch Langaig (9 miles)
There is a small car park at the starting point of the Skye Trail. I parked my car here. (Luckily Fin was coming through in her car halfway through my trip which would allow me to get a lift to pick it up and move it to the end of the trail at Broadford). There is public transport available if you are not driving.
It rained for the first few hours of our walk, but the sun soon showed its face and it turned out to be lovely afternoon. This part of route mostly follows cliff tops close to Skye’s dramatic coastline. As we navigated up and down the narrow path, we came dangerously close to sheer cliff drops with only the crashing waves below for comfort. A head for heights and sure footing is certainly needed for this section, and many others along the trail. Do not underestimate the risk involved with this route.
Bothy With a View
A few miles along the trail you come to a lookout bothy. This would be a great place to stay on your final night if you were doing the Skye trail in the opposite direction.
We had our lunch in the bothy at Rubha Hunish and used the binoculars provided in an attempt to spot some whales. Rubha Hunish is the northern most point of the Island and is renowned for sightings of marine mammals. We looked around and spotted some impressive sea stacks close to the lookout bothy. After lunch we continued along the rugged coastline, over cliff tops until we reached Flodigary.
From here we decided to walk a little further until we got to Loch Langaig. This is an excellent place to camp for the first night with the loch and the Quiraing as a backdrop. The beauty of this remote area can not be described in words, however the picture below gives an impression of the landscape we pitched up in. There was also the added bonus of being able to fill up our water supplies here.
Day 2 Skye Trail: Loch Langaig to The Storr (Trotternish Ridge) (15 miles)
This is the longest and hardest part of the Skye Trail; it is also one of the most beautiful sections, especially on a clear day. Trotternish Ridge has been described as one of the most dramatic ridge traverses in Britain and provides breath-taking scenery and views for miles.
Once you have started this section there is no easy escape route, so it is important to check the weather forecast thoroughly. The ridge can be dangerous in poor conditions. Unfortunately for us thunder and lightning was forecast for the day we were doing it and visibility was extremely poor. We did not want to take any risks so decided to follow the road for this part of the walk.
It was disappointing as we were excited to experience the beauty of the ridge however safety has to come first. I have had the privilege of doing parts of the ridge before so here are some pictures from it. The dramatic craggy ridge, with its rocky outcrops and unique structures is quite different to anywhere I have walked before. I will definitely be going back to complete this entire section on a better day.
Storr does not offer much choice for accommodation. Most walkers opt to wild camp or get a bus or taxi back to Portree for accommodation. We were soaked through from the incessant rain so we decided to make our way to Portree to stay in Portree Independent hostel. It was nice to have a bed for the night and we were able to dry off some of our clothes and kit while there.
Day 3 Skye Trail: The Storr To Portree (9.5mile)
The weather was back on our side for this dramatic coastal cliff walk on day three. Shortly after starting this section we made a short detour to see the Bearearaig waterfall. The waterfall did not disappoint. It was much taller than expected and ended up being quite a magical addition to our itinerary. The bay here is also famous for fossils so it makes for a fun detour if you have the time and energy to do so!
The views were incredible in all directions for this part of the walk. Looking back towards the Old Man of Storr, out to sea towards the Isle of Raasay and in front to the Cuillins. The highest point is marked by a trig, then the descent starts towards Portree. As you turn the corner into Portree harbour you see the famous line of colourful houses come into view! Our eyes were spoiled for choice along this entire section, and we had the weather to do it justice!
We stayed for a second night in the Portree independent hostel which costs about £22 a night. It was well worth it for a bed and hot shower. It also allowed us to dry off the remainder of our wet clothes. There are lots of facilities available in Portree so we were able to stock up on food supplies.
Day 4 Skye Trail: Portree to Sligachan (14 miles)
This was probably the easiest part of the trail for us. Much of day four followed the road from Portree to the Braes. There was an honesty box on route and the unexpected treats gave us extra energy for the road ahead. We also came across a small area with some extremely friendly little lambs. We enjoyed their company before it was time to move on.
Once the minor road ends, a rougher track can be followed for a few miles along Loch Sligachan. There were a few stream crossings for us to navigate but they did not prove to be difficult. We spotted lots of seals basking on the rocks below.
Once at Sligachan, there are a variety of places to stay for the night. There is a hotel and bunkhouse or places for wild camping. Fin joined for a few nights at this section of the trail, and we wild camped here under the backdrop of the imposing Cuillin range.
Day 5 Skye Trail: Sligachan to Camasunary (9 miles)
Day 5 was allocated as a rest day but we decided to walk to Camasunary bothy. At this stage of the trail you have the option to walk straight through the glen or tackle the more challenging coastal route that takes you via the bad step.
We decided to go through the glen and head straight to the bothy. It is situated on a beautiful sandy bay with the Munro, Bla Bheinn (Blaven) behind it. The recently renovated bothy is spacious and clean and can comfortably sleep 15 people.
We got to the bothy early and two of us decided we wanted to walk to the bad step. We left our bags in the bothy and set off on our short adventure around the coast. There is a river crossing which is difficult to navigate without getting your feet wet. The path is barely visible in places and meanders across a fairly challenging terrain until you reach the infamous “bad step”. The detour took us longer than expected but our spirits were soon lifted when we spotted seals lazing on the rocks below.
The Bad Step
I gave the bad step a go and it was terrifying! It was easier climbing the step than it was coming back down it. If you have a head for heights and are comfortable scrambling then it is an obstacle that can be overcome. Fin decided to swim around the step rather than climb it (I cant say I blame her).
This is a video of us approaching the bad step on Skye. This will hopefully give you an idea of what it is like and if you want to tackle it on the Skye trail or take the alternative route.
In the evening Fin cooked a delicious carbonara at the bothy for us all. She was determined to show us you can cook a full meal on camping stoves and it didn’t disappoint.
After dinner we had a wander around the area. There are some beautiful waterfalls and pools coming down from Blaven which are great for a dip and for getting fresh water supplies.
Day 6 Skye Trail: Camasunary to Torrin (15.5 miles)
The first 3 miles of the route on day 6 follows high cliff tops that are not for the faint hearted. We followed the trail until we reached Elgol. It’s important to be careful with your footing as the narrow path is uneven and runs along a sheer cliff edge. There are many points where one slip or trip could be disastrous so it’s imperative to take your time. I wouldn’t recommend doing this section on a windy or rainy day.
From Elgol we followed the road to Glasnakille which provides great views of Eigg and Rum. If the tide is out it is well worth the detour down to Spar Cave which can only be acesssed an hour each side of low tide. If you want to read more about this spectacular cave click here.
The ruins of Keppoch can be explored on this part of the trail – 44 families were forced out their homes in 1852 with many of them forced to board a ship to Australia. It’s an interesting historical stop.
There is plenty opportunity here for wild camping once you reach the head of Loch Slapin. There is also a B&B in Torrin if you prefer. We were delighted to find a beautiful spot for having a dip at the Torrin Pools. We were also able to refill our water bottles here.
Day 7 Skye Trail: Torrin to Broadford (13 miles)
The final day of the walk started in Torrin. The trail follows the road for a short while before diverting to the coast. The trail then passes through the village ruins of Suisnish and Boreraig. Not far from the shore at Camas Malag I found my first fossil.
As we gazed back on the long trail behind us, we were rewarded with brilliant views of the Cuillins, Bla Bhein and the Red Hills. It was a fitting reminder of everything we had overcome. On the descent into Broadford we passed the remains of one of Skyes marble quarries.
We celebrated finishing our trail with a white pudding supper from the chip shop in Broadford. White pudding never tasted so good!
Finishing the Skye Trail felt like a massive accomplishment. It was a different level of long distance walking to anything I had experienced before, and I have completed both the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way. It’s important not to underestimate the difficulty and remoteness of the route, however if you feel ready, it’s an amazing challenge with huge rewards!
Remember wherever you go to take only pictures and leave only footprints to help protect Scotland’s beauty for all who live here and visit!
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