The Fairy Pools and Wild Camping
The Isle of Skye is a beautiful and rugged island off the west coast of mainland Scotland. For many years, it was only accessible by ferry, but in 1992 a huge bridge was built that connects the island to the mainland. We filled the gas tank of our tiny blue rental car, and drove from Fort William to the bridge, and then over the sea to Skye. The Isle of Skye is chalk-full of spectacular and totally stunning natural phenomena and, what’s more, it’s not very big which makes it easy to get around!
The Fairy Pools
We arrived on the island in the late afternoon, and drove straight to the Fairy Pools in the southwest part of the island. In the bottom of a big, wide, and very beautiful munro valley, a small river of water has cut through the ground. The water carved away at the rock and formed multiple waterfalls and swimmable pools. They are aptly named “The Fairy Pools” and truly, this is a spot where I imagine Fairies come to frolic and play when all the humans are gone. We arrived in the early evening, and while the sun was still out, we wandered down the path, and followed the water upstream to where the waterfalls were. The site wasn’t too busy, but I think it was due to the time of day. I imagine between noon and 5pm, this place is super busy with folks soaking up the magic. We sat by the water, and watched the sky change colours as the sunset. When the sun was gone, we walked back to the car.
Wild Camping in Skye
In Scotland, one has the Right to Roam, which allows one to set up their tent and camp almost anywhere in the country for one or two nights. Our first night on Skye would be spent next to the pools. We found a lovely, foresty spot near the pools and set up our tent. There were a few little flying bugs around, but we weren’t too bothered by them. Then a few turned into a bajillion little flying bugs, and they began swarming and biting! Midges! The bane of any Isle of Skye camper’s existence. They are teensy little flies that swarm and bite and are maybe the most annoying thing one can come across. We escaped to the safety of our tent and prayed they would be gone in the morning. Here’s hoping!
Neist Point, the Fairy Glen, and our Oceanside Campsite
After a quick peanut butter and apple breakfast (enjoyed while sitting in the car in an attempt to avoid the midges that clearly weren’t gone by morning), we visited the Fairy Pools again, how could we not? We walk up to the waterfalls and soaked in the magic before walking back to the car and hitting the road.
On the most western part of the island is the Neist Point lighthouse. Built over 100 years ago, the lighthouse sits on a terribly rugged and rocky cliff-top, and looks out over the beautiful coastline of Skye, and the causeway between it and the isles nearby. Talk about an epic view. We parked the car, said hello to the grazing cows nearby, and waked the few hundred metres to where the path starts. I couldn’t help but notice all the wild campers tearing down their sites from the night before. Now this would be an epic spot to wake up at! We came to the edge of the cliff and my jaw dropped. From where we stood, past the jagged and treacherous cliffs, we could see the lighthouse. Wow. We walked along the path that took us up to the top of the cliff nearby, and we sat up there for a while, speechless. We looked out over the deep blue water, scouring the surface for signs of whales or dolphins, but none graced us with their presence.
The Fairy Glen
Back to the car, and back on the road. Our next stop? The Fairy Glen of Uig (pronounced ooo-ig), in the northeast of the island. We parked behind a few other cars stopped on the side of the road, and climbed the closest hill. The Fairy Glen is another mystical spot in Skye. Numerous hills pop up from the ground and create a rippling and rolling landscape. The hills, while not high, are surprisingly steep and very close together. At the top of a hill, we could look out and see the landscape, busy with other tourists wandering around the site. When we walked back down, we found ourselves in narrow dells (the small space between the hills), with nobody around. In one flat spot, we found a fairy spiral made out of rocks. This is how you greet the fairies! We found the outermost part of the spiral and entered the maze-like structure. We followed the path round and around, until we reached the very middle of the spiral. Here, is where you gift the fairies with something shiny or special, and make a wish! Piled in the middle were coins from all over the world, bracelets and rings, and perfect little seashells. I regretted leaving my wallet in the car, and put my hands in my jacket pockets, hoping to find something. Lo and behold, my fingers were happy to find the green rock with chunks of quartz I picked up from a river in Chur, Switzerland (haven’t worn this jacket in a while…)! I placed the rock on the pile and closed my eyes to make a wish. “Nice to meet you, fairies,” I thought.
We drove north on the highway, enjoying the rolling hills surrounding us. The highway took us through farm fields, and past quaint villages, until it spit us out right next to the water. We found a wee pullout with a picnic table and a super flat spot, perfect for a tent. We set up our camp, and boiled a cup of tea each. We sat, drinking our tea, looking out over the causeway and across to the Western Isles. Anywhere else in the world, a camp spot with a view like this would cost money, and you definitely wouldn’t be the only ones there. But there we were with the place to ourselves. We were happy with the view, but the best part was probably the slight breeze blowing in from the water. Slight breeze means no midges! It doesn’t get much better than this.
The Isle of Skye Brewery, the Quirang, the Old Man of Storr, and a Rainy Evening
We woke up to the soothing sounds of the ocean. The slight breeze remained through the night and into this morning, which meant there were still no midges about. Woohoo! We jumped in the car and drove back south, back to Uig.
Isle of Skye Brewery
The Isle of Skye Brewery is a small and traditional brewery right in Uig. At the moment, they don’t offer tastings, but in the next year they hope to acquire the right licence, and begin offering tours that end with a tasting. We visited the shop and were given so much information about the tasting notes of each beer, I didn’t need to actually taste any before buying the ones I knew I would love. We bought the Black, the Blaven, the Red, and the Tarasgeir. We nestled them in the ice in the cooler in the boot of the car. We will save them for later!
We drove into the Quirang and parked the car. The main hike began right from the main carpark, and took us up into the hills. There wasn’t a single moment along the entire hike that the view stopped being stunning. We looked down the south coast of the isle, and when we turned the corner, could see the entire north coast. The rock formations along the trail are jagged and epic, and the view never gets old. The whole loop is about 7km and took us about three hours to complete.
Old Man of Storr
Our next stop was to another famous rock formation, the Old Man of Storr. We parked on the road and began the walk up. It was a short walk, but quite steep in some places, and with lots of loose rocks, we had to be careful of where we stepped. The site wasn’t too busy, because the weather wasn’t very nice, but I imagine this place is teeming with people when the sun is out. We reached the top, the perfect viewpoint of the rocks, and wow, it’s almost supernatural. The rocks were carved by glaciers melting, and look like they are precariously balanced on the side of a hill. It really is something else. Again, from up top, we could see the south east coast of Skye, and the other isle in the distance. What an amazing horizon!
A Rainy Evening
We drove into Portree, the main settlement on the island, and found the public pool. Here, we paid a few pounds for a shower. There is nothing quite like a hot shower, and after living in a van for ten months, I can honestly say I will never get over it. After we were both squeaky clean, we took our tiny blue car to another perfect camping spot. We found a little road turn off and set up the tent right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the water. The sky threatened rain, so we set up the tarp from the car to the tent, and created a little dry spot between the two where we could cook dinner and enjoy our Isle of Skye Brewery beers!
Visit the Isle of Skye!
Our three days and three nights on the Isle of Skye were unforgettable. It boasts epic walks, beautiful views, and some of the most spectacular coastline I’ve ever seen. It is easy to get around too, so you don’t need too much time to see a lot of it. That being said, I could have stayed another week, driving, discovering, and wild camping in magnificent spots.
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