How to Get to the Isle of Skye: A Beginner’s Guide

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The Isle of Skye is one of Scotland’s most popular destinations with tons to explore

Packed with towering mountains, charming settlements, faraway treks, incredible wildlife, unusual attractions and plenty more, it’s like someone took all the best parts of Scotland, condensed them down, made them better, and shipped them off to a west-coast island.

If you like beauty, adventure and remote experiences, you’ll love the Isle of Skye.

But because it’s remote, Skye isn’t the world’s most accessible place, so planning a trip can be confusing. 

To help you out, we’ve assembled this informative guide. We’ve covered flying, buses, trains, ferries, hiring cars, travelling around the island and even more. Here’s everything you need to know about how to get to the Isle of Skye!

How To Get to the Isle of Skye by Airplane

Unsurprisingly, the Isle of Skye doesn’t have an airport.

If you’re coming from outside of the UK, your most straightforward option is to fly to Glasgow, around 220 miles (355km) south of the Isle of Skye. You can then take a direct bus to Skye or a scenic train/ferry combo from Glasgow, but more on those options later.

Inverness (around 120 miles/195km east of Skye) also has an airport, but it only offers flights from two destinations outside the UK: Amsterdam and Dublin.

Scotland’s biggest airport is in Edinburgh. But Edinburgh is around 240 miles (385km) from Skye and doesn’t offer direct public transport links to the island. So unless you’re hiring a car in Edinburgh, or you’re also exploring Edinburgh as part of your trip, don’t waste your time with a flight to Scotland’s capital.

How to Get To the Isle of Skye by Train

There’s no train station on the Isle of Skye. But the nearest train station is very close, in the tiny village of Kyle of Lochalsh. Kyle of Lochalsh is the closest mainland point to Skye, sitting less than 2 miles (3km) east of the island.

You can take a direct train from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh on a service that takes around 2.5 hours. From Kyle of Lochalsh, you can take a public bus to Broadford (the second-biggest settlement in Skye) or hire a car.

There’s no direct train from Glasgow to Kyle of Lochalsh. Instead, you need to take a 5-hour train from Glasgow to Mallaig. From Mallaig, you can take a 30-minute ferry to Armadale, in southern Skye. From Armadale, you can then take a bus to Broadford. This route is all pretty complicated and convoluted, and it’s not a great option if you’re keen to save time.

From Edinburgh, there are no direct trains to Kyle of Lochalsh. Instead, you need to change at Inverness.

ScotRail is the best website for finding further details on train timetables, prices and journey durations.

How to Get To the Isle of Skye by Bus or Coach

For reaching Skye from the Scottish mainland, taking a bus or coach is typically the best public transport option. 

From Glasgow, there are daily coaches to Portree (the enchanting capital of Skye). You can book these buses with CityLink and Megabus. The one-way journey from Glasgow to Skye takes around 7 hours.

From Inverness, you can also find direct coaches to Portree. Again, you’ll travel with CityLink or Megabus. The one-way Inverness to Isle of Skye journey takes just over 3 hours.

From Kyle of Lochalsh, you can take relatively regular public transport buses to the Isle of Skye. These buses will take you from Kyle of Lochalsh to Broadford, from which you can then travel to other parts of the island. Stagecoach is the only company operating public transport connections from Kyle of Lochalsh to Skye—you can find their timetables here. The journey from Kyle of Lochalsh to Broadford usually takes around 20 minutes and typically only operates Monday-Friday. 

From Edinburgh, there are no direct buses to Skye. You need to take a bus from Edinburgh to either Glasgow or Inverness before going from those places to Skye.

How to Get To the Isle of Skye by Car

If you don’t want to rely on public transport, you can either drive your car (if you’re travelling from within the UK) or hire a car from numerous places in Scotland. Having a car will make getting around the Isle of Skye way more manageable, but we’ve covered that in much more detail soon.

You can quickly and easily hire cars in Edinburgh, Inverness, Glasgow, Fort William, Kyle of Lochalsh, Portree, and endless other places in and around Scotland. But wherever you hire a car, make sure you book in advance!

If you’re driving, here’s how to reach Portree from four of Scotland’s most popular access points:

  • Glasgow: This route is around 220 miles (355km) and typically takes about 5 hours. Of the four options we’ve outlined here, it’s the prettiest route. That said, they’re all pretty incredible! It would be best if you mainly travelled along the A82 and A87.
  • Edinburgh: The journey from Edinburgh to Portree is around 240 miles (385km), and it’ll take you between 5 and 6 hours. Most people tackle the route offered by the A9 and A87 roads, but there are many scenic options. 
  • Inverness: You can either take the A832 route (the first part of the iconic North Coast 500) or the A82/A87 route along Loch Ness and some other famous parts of the Highlands. Both routes measure in at around 120 miles (195km) and take 3 hours.
  • Fort William: A lovely drive along the A82 and A87. The route is about 110 miles (175km) and takes around 2.5 hours.

How to Get To the Isle of Skye by Ferry

A ferry isn’t the simplest solution, but it’s a solution. The Mallaig to Skye ferry is a popular choice for people who like scenic journeys and aren’t short on time. The 30-minute ride takes you from mainland Mallaig to Armadale, on Skye’s south coast.

The easiest way to reach the charming port town of Mallaig by public transport is to take a direct train from Glasgow. Again, this journey takes around 5 hours.

These ferries accept both pedestrians and passengers with vehicles. But no matter whether or not you’re taking a car from Mallaig to Skye, make sure you book your Mallaig ferry in advance.

Calmac operates the ferries. Calmac run ferries in and around Scotland, including from Skye to some other islands. If you want to know more about timetables and prices etc., check out their site here.

It’s also possible to take a rudimentary ferry from the tiny mainland settlement of Glenelg to the even smaller Skye settlement of Kylerhea. The Skye ferry is more of a retro attraction than a regular mode of transport, but if you’re interested, here’s more information

Getting Around the Isle of Skye

As we’ve covered, to get around the Isle of Skye, it’s best (by far!) to have a car. So if you can, you should either take your own or hire one. 

If you have the money to hire a car and the confidence to drive around Skye, this is way, way easier than any other option. You don’t need to worry about logistics, spend endless hours planning, or rely on inconsistent or nonexistent public transport routes.

The best place to hire a car is in Kyle of Lochalsh. If you do so, you can drive around the Isle of Skye easily and freely without having to do lots of driving to pick up and return your hired car. Simple! Your next best option is hiring a car in Portree.

Yes, it’s possible to get around the Isle of Skye without a car, but public transport isn’t at all extensive or regular. So you might not get to see all the things you want to see.

There are bus services between some of Skye’s biggest and most famous places (including Portree, Broadford, Uig, Dunvegan Castle and the Old Man of Storr), but public transport isn’t a good option if you want to go any further. And even in and around the most famous places, transport is pretty slow and irregular.

For more information on all the public bus journeys available in Skye, here are the most recent timetables (well, at the time this article was published!). You can find any updates to these timetables on the Stagecoach website. Again, Stagecoach is the only company offering public transport on Skye.

After having your own car, the next best way to get around (and my favourite way to get around) the Isle of Skye is by hitchhiking. I promise hitchhiking is way safer than you think. Regardless of what you might have heard, not everyone in the world is trying to murder you. And hitchhiking around the Isle of Skye (and all of Scotland) is easy.

Taking a Tour to the Isle of Skye

If all this planning and organization seems complicated and unappealing, you can instead take a tour to the Isle of Skye.

You can organize Skye tours in and from Inverness, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Portree and even London.

Many different tours are available from many other operators and locations, so you have endless options in terms of length, cost and all the attractions you can see.

That said, I don’t think anyone in the world should ever take a tour (unless it’s the only option they have). They’re expensive and overpriced, and you don’t get time to enjoy or experience anything. Yeah, they remove all the hassle, but they also remove all the adventure and freedom. You’ll see the most significant sites for about 5 minutes each, and not much else. You’re better off saving your money and looking at a Google image search instead.

If it’s your only option, a tour is better than no option. But for most people, a tour isn’t your only option.

Final Thoughts

That’s everything you need to know about how to get to the Isle of Skye. Thanks for reading!

In brief, if you’ve somehow forgotten, your two best options are to take a direct bus from Glasgow to Portree or a direct train from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh. Then when you arrive in one of those two places, hire a car. No matter how you get to the Isle of Skye, it’s always far better to have access to a vehicle for exploring the island.

However you decide to get to Skye, and however you decide to get around, you’ll love the place. One of Scotland’s most attractive and exciting destinations, there’s loads to do, and it’s simply stunning.

For even more information on Skye, check out our other guides:

Thanks for reading!

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