Home » Europe » Scotland » Travel Tips for Isle of Skye & Isle of Lewis and Harris

Travel Tips for Isle of Skye & Isle of Lewis and Harris

This post contains affiliate links. Learn more here.

Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Five day itinerary and travel tips for the Isle of Skye and the Isle of Lewis and Harris in Scotland

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. That means we may earn a commission when you use the links on this site to book a hotel, buy your travel insurance, shop for travel essentials, etc. Learn more here.

After six weeks, we’ve left Scotland. Scotland is such a beautiful country, and we feel pretty fortunate to have been able to see as much as we did in the time we had. While we loved spending an entire month in Edinburgh, we were also pretty pleased with our decision to rent a car, which allowed us to explore places like Aberdeen, Inverness, and the Hebrides Islands. To say we left Scotland on a high note would be an understatement: the Isle of Skye and the Isle of Lewis and Harris are so insanely beautiful, I felt like my insides were smiling for the entire time we were there (for serious, I actually announced to Geoff at one point that my intestines were smiling because of the scenery).

While the islands are beautiful, we also found it kind of confusing to plan a visit to these somewhat remote islands. For one, it took me ages to figure out that the Isle of Lewis and Harris is one island, not two, even though the interwebz has references to visiting Harris and Lewis as if they are separate entities, and in fact this is the way locals refer to them. I also wasn’t sure which islands had bridges and which required a ferry to reach. The place names confounded me, and we weren’t sure whether we’d be able to stay in the same town each night, or would have to move to new towns closer to our daytime excursions.

We ended up spending five days in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. It was rushed, but in the end we found it struck a good balance between saving money (less time with a car rental/fewer nights in a hostel) and exploring. In the five days, we were happily able to see what we considered to be the highlights of each (more on that coming up in another post).

Isle of Skye & Isle of Lewis and Harris Five-Day Itinerary

Day 1

We traveled via Megabus from Edinburgh to Inverness on the morning of Day One, and picked up a rental car in Inverness. People love to complain about Megabus, but we found it to be perfectly adequate. Geoff was quite nervous having never driven in the UK with the sterrling wheel on the right side and driving on the left, so we decided Inverness, a smaller and calmer city would make a better starting point than Edinburgh or Glasgow. We also chose the pick-up location at a hotel away from the center to make things even smoother. We drove around the parking lot a few times to adjusted before heading out.

We drove southwest from Inverness to Kyle of Lochlash, stopping along the shores of Loch Ness to hunt for Nessie and admire the impressive ruins of Urquhart and Eilean Donan Castles. Loch Ness is just twenty minutes or so once you’re on the road, andKyle of Lochlash and the Skye Bridge is just about 2 hours unless you stop for photos (which you obviously will :)). From Kyle of Lochlash, we drove across the Skye Bridge to the Isle of Skye, and stayed the night in the main town of Portree, about another hour and a half after the Skye Bridge.

The drive is absolutely stunning, most of the time we just drove in silence with our jaws open, completely amazed by the landscapes and the scenery.

loch-ness-scotland
Geoff, searching for Nessie.

Day 2

We awoke early and drove north on the Isle of Skye to the town of Uig, which has a ferry crossing from Isle of Skye to Tarbert, a small town in the Harris part of the Isle of Lewis and Harris. The large drive-on ferry ride lasts about 2 hours. Upon arrival, we immediately headed to Luskentyre, about a 30 minute drive from the ferry terminal. Luskentyre is an insanely beautiful beach that looks as if it belongs in the Caribbean with a gorgeous white sand beach and turquoise water. Once our minds had been sufficiently blown, and we’d each said, “I can’t believe this is Scotland” about a thousand times, we got back in the car and drove to Stornoway, a decent-sized town/city and the largest on Lewis and Harris, about a 2 hour drive.

Luskentyre beach Scotland
Okay, but seriously. This is Scotland? Once I picked my jaw up off the ground, I was able to resume taking photographs.

Day 3

We hit up the rest of the sights we wanted to see on Lewis and Harris, including the Callanish Standing Stones, Carloway Broch, and Gearannan Blackhouse Village. The distances aren’t huge, Stornoway to the Gearannan Blackhouse Village is about 45 minutes, then the Broch and the Callanish Standing Stones have just about a 20 minute or so drive between them.

By the time we’d spent some time at each of these, and being short on budget, and still wanting to see things on the Isle of Skye, we needed to get back to Tarbert for our ferry crossing back to the Isle of Skye. Upon our late afternoon arrival back in Skye, we drove east from Uig to Quiraing, and then drove south along the eastern side of the island back to Portree to spend the night.

Budget tips for touring Scottish Isles
The Callanish Standing Stones were a highlight, despite the fact we had to avoid an overly-excited tourist who insisted on hugging the stones.

Day 4

We hit up Faerie Glenn and then drove out to Neist Point before heading south and visiting the Fairy Pools. Quirang and Faerie Glenn are quite close to the town of Uig, where the ferry terminal is. Neist Point and the old lighthouse are about an hour drive down the west coast, and The Fairy Pools are about an hour from Neist Point. The Fairy Pools are a bit of a hike from the car, but as with everything else, amazing. We finished this around four in the afternoon, and decided to drive back to Inverness, where we spent the night.

Neist Point Isle of Skye
With a view like this, the drive to Neist Point would have been worth it at twice the distance.

Day 5

With a half-day car rental remaining, we drove into the highlands around Inverness, amusing ourselves with sheep spotting, and searching for the gravestones of some of Geoff’s ancestors. Not much luck looking for the surname Grant, in a town called Grant-town but we did our best!

Accommodation Tips

In cities like Aberdeen or Edinburgh, we found there was a plethora of accommodation from which to choose, and it wasn’t too difficult to pick a neighbourhood that would suit our needs. On the islands, however, we found it slightly more confusing. We weren’t sure if we’d be able to base ourselves in the largest community on each island, and still be able to reach the places we wanted to see each day.

Isle of Skye

We ended up spending both nights in Portree, which is the largest town on the island and has around 2,500 residents. We found Portree was an ideal base from which to explore Quiraing, Neist Point, Faerie Glenn, and the Fairy Pools, and likely would have stayed in Portree a third night had we not decided to go back to Inverness. We stayed in each of the two hostels in Portree — the Portree Independent Hostel and Bayfield Backpacker’s (which is now the Portree SYHA Hostelling Scotland)– for one night each. Both were the same price (£18 per person for a dorm), and pretty similar in terms of quality.

Portree Accommodation…

The Portree Hotel (Affordable Historic 2-Star)

4 / 5 on Trip Advisor

The Portree Hotel – A historic building built in 1875 conveniently located in the main Somerled Square. Small but cozy rooms have been refurbished and offer modern bathrooms, but guests have noted the bathrooms are quite small. There is an enjoyable classic pub and restaurant on site, with a great fireplace and live music. Paid parking is available right outside in the main square.

Check Prices & Availability on
Booking.com

Cuillin Hills Hotel (4-Star with Amazing View)

4.5 / 5 on Trip Advisor

Cuillin Hills Hotel – A large estate offering great views of Portree Bay with rooms offering mineral water, fruit and tea and coffee. Enjoy a whisky and some great food in the restaurant while soaking in the view, or take the 15 minute stroll into the town center. An open fire is lit in the afternoon/evening to add to the ambience. Free parking on site.

Check Prices & Availability on
Booking.com

Bosville Hotel (4-Star on the Harbour)

4.5 / 5 on Trip Advisor

Bosville Hotel – A harbourside hotel with a restaurant that serves a daily catch along with traditional Scottish cuisine. A daily breakfast, inviting, cozy rooms, a bit on the small side according to some reviewers, coffee machines in the rooms, and good, modern showers. Some past guests have said the free parking is a bit tight, but others have said there is plenty nearby. A four minute walk to the main square.

Check Prices & Availability on
Booking.com

Accommodation Elsewhere on Isle of Skye…

Hallaig Guest House – Isle of Skye (Northeast – Staffin)

5 / 5 on Trip Advisor

Hallaig Guest House – A wonderfully cozy guest house offering 4 rooms, each with its own ensuite bathroom with toiletries, flat screen TV and coffee and tea. Enjoy a daily hearty Highland breakfast while taking in spledid views of the mountains and the north coast. The owners treat you like old friends, house has Wifi and free parking. About a 40 minute drive from Portree, and the house has easy access to the beautiful Quiraing walk.

Check Prices & Availability on
Booking.com

Abhaig B&B – Isle of Skye (Northwest – Uig)

no reviews yet on Trip Advisor

Abhaig B&B – An inviting 2 room guest house very close to the town of Uig, where the ferries come and go to the Isle of Lewis and Harris and Isle of North Uist. A relatively new B&B offering free parking, a nice lounge with TV and fireplace, wifi and a daily hearty breakfast to get go going. A 35 minute drive from Portree.

Check Prices & Availability on
Booking.com

Kinloch Follart – Isle of Skye (Southwest – Dunvegan)

5 / 5 on Trip Advisor

Kinloch Follart – A five room B&B with a terrace offering stunning views of the mountain and lake. Clean and comfortable rooms, a great breakfast, Wifi and free parking. Walking distance to the Old School Restaurant which past guests recommend trying. Also very close to Dunvegan Castle, a 40 minute hike or a seven minute drive. Past guests have given this B&B top marks in every category.

Check Prices & Availability on
Booking.com

Off The Hill B&B – Isle of Skye (Southeast – Isleornsay)

5 / 5 on Trip Advisor

Off The Hill B&B – A 20 minute drive from Kyle of Lochalsh and the Skye bridge, a newly renovated B&B with free parking, great views and a great breakfast with homemade goodies. Flatscreen TVs, coffee & tea, and private bathrooms. Past guests have said there is a great traditional pub just a 10 minute walk into the village, and other restaurants a short drive away. Lots of great walks and hiking nearby.

Check Prices & Availability on
Booking.com

Fairy Pools Isle of Skye Scotland
The Fairy Pools of the Isle of Skye were beautiful, but not our most favouritest of things to see

Isle of Lewis and Harris

Because of ferry times and our budget, we were only able to stay for one night on the Isle of Lewis and Harris, arriving in the morning of Day Two and leaving late in the afternoon on Day Three. We stayed the night in Stornoway at Heb Hostel. Stornoway is conveniently located for everything we saw, but it would have been a stretch had we wanted to see anything south of Luskentyre.

Stornoway Accommodation…

The Crown Inn (Central Stornoway)

4 / 5 on Trip Advisor

The Crown Inn – A small 16 room hotel in the center of the town. There is free parking availble near the hotel (not onsite). A restaurant offering traditinal, locally sourced food and, of course, whisky. Past guests have commented on the great views of Lews Castle and the harbour, a nice looking hotel, however according to some reviewers, not necessarily the quietest, but cute and comfortable.

Check Prices & Availability on
Booking.com

Cuanna House (4-Star B&B)

4.5 / 5 on Trip Advisor

Cuanna House – A warm and inviting 5 room B&B, each room with private bathrooms and free parking on site. Breakfast orders are taken the night before so you’ll always get exactly what you like. A pleasant owner, full of great advice, the house is just a short walk to the center of town with pubs, restaurants and shops.

Check Prices & Availability on
Booking.com

Hal o’the Wynd (Charming Guesthouse)

4.5 / 5 on Trip Advisor

Hal o’the Wynd Guesthouse – Conveniently located across from the ferry terminal, the guesthouse offers rooms with coffee and tea making facilities, and views of the sea and Lews Castle. Enjoy a full cooked breakfast before heading out in the morning, a ten minute walk to the town center, a large supermarket next door so you can stock up on supplies before exploring the island. There is free parking available nearby.

Check Prices & Availability on
Booking.com

Enter your dates and scroll around of the map below to find the best deal…

Food & Transportation Tips

Food

We found everything in the UK to be painfully expensive, including food. On the islands, the Scottish Co-Op Grocery store was a life saver. The Co-Op in Stornoway is huge, and has a decent deli where you can pick up pre-made food, such as chicken skewers and pakora bites. Not necessarily the healthiest of options, but not the worst either. Because we visited in the off-season, most restaurants and cafes outside of the major towns were closed. That meant we ended up having to stock up at the grocery store each morning with enough food to last us throughout the day.

Transportation Tips

When we were first considering a trip to the Hebrides, we figured we’d take a bus to the Isle of Skye, and then use public transport to get around the islands. In hindsight, this would have been a huge mistake. There’s no way we could have seen all the things to do in Skye that we managed to, including some of the highlights like Neist Point, without a car. While it adds a huge chunk to the travel costs of visiting the Hebrides, I think a car is essential.

Our trusty Corsa proved its worth when we saw the places it could take us
Couldn’t have done it without our trusty Corsa.

24 thoughts on “Travel Tips for Isle of Skye & Isle of Lewis and Harris”

  1. What a wonderful post! I am going on a solo trip around the world this year and Scotland will be my 2nd stop after Iceland. I found this so helpful! I have a few questions if you don’t mind. I too was planning on taking Megabus from Edinburgh, along with the other busline they have, but all the way to Portree or possibly stopping in Inverness a night and then renting my car in Portree when I got settled in. I am concerned about rental costs and maintaining a budget. Especially after my trip to Iceland. Did you find driving on the other side of the road a challenge? Also is Inverness worth seeing and staying a night? I’m also torn as to seeing the Callanish Standing Stones. How were they? I have a few hikes planned out for Isle of Skye and don’t want to feel rushed. I was thinking of maybe just focusing on that area and skipping going to see the stones. It’s so tough, there are so many beautiful things to see! Love your site!

    1. Hi Sheri! Thanks for the comment and the great questions! This is Geoff replying so Katie may have a different take but I’ll fill you in on my thoughts! I admit I laid awake the night before worrying about the driving but I didn’t actually find it challenging at all. When it came to it, the driving was as normal as it’s ever been: the gear shift, turn signal, brake and gas pedals etc, are all in the same place, the only difference is being on the other side of the car! Blue signs with big arrows ensure you always turn into the correct lane, and on the island most of the roads are single lane anyway, and with barely any traffic.

      Inverness is okay but if the choice is a night in Inverness just to see it, or another night on the island, take the island. But driving from Inverness has the added bonus of going past Loch Ness and Eilean Donan Castle. The Standing Stones were both underwhelming and overwhelming at the same time if that makes any sense. Don’t get me wrong, they are mystifying and the views are stunning, but I also felt as if I was walking on someone’s farm, however, when I look at the pictures now, I can’t believe I actually stood there! They’re so strange! Even just the ferry ride over was awesome, as is Lewis and Harris in general, but there is plenty to keep you busy on Skye as well. You will be amazed by whatever you choose! Always happy to help if we can and please get in touch if you have anymore questions – safe travels and happy hiking!

  2. Enjoyed reading your post! I am travelling from Bristol to Isle of Skye and Isle of Harris Lewis in June.
    i was wondering what car hire company you used?

  3. Thank you for your helpful post. I have been to Skye before and will revisit this July, planning to spend a night there. We are also planning a trip to the Isles of Lewis and Harris. We have enquired about staying 3 nights but I wonder if this is too long. Would you say 2 nights/3 days would be enough to see everything? (We will be traveling with a 6 and 9 year old so a little bit slower pace than if it was just me and my husband).

    Thanks

  4. Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for the comment! Skye, Lewis & Harris are so beautiful, I’m sure your family will enjoy it :)

    I wasn’t sure from your question if you are asking if 2 nights/3 days is enough for Skye alone (yes, I think so) or if it is enough for Skye + Lewis & Harris (I think that’s probably a bit tight, especially with kids > I think 3 nights would be better if you can swing it). The driving is slow-ish, and while the distances in between attractions on Lewis and Harris isn’t insurmountable, it’s nice to be able to go at a slow pace and there are ferry schedules to consider.

    If I recall, we had the following itinerary:

    Day 1 – drive from Inverness to Skye, and spend the night in Portree
    Day 2 – Went to the faerie glen on Skye, then then took the ferry to Lewis & Harris. Went to Luskentyre beach on Harris, as well as drive around Harris and check things out. In the late afternoon, drove up to Stornoway on Lewis for the night.
    Day 3 – Went to the Callanish Standing Stones and a beautiful lighthouse on Harris. Another night in Stornoway
    Day 4 – AM ferry back to Skye, and driving to see the Fairy Pools in the afternoon. We then drove back to Inverness that night.

    Good luck and have a fun trip!

  5. Ha….should have re-read the article before I commented! I see I put our itinerary in the original post :)

  6. How long did it take you to drive from Inverness to Skye out of curiosity? I am making my first trip in April for 3 weeks, with two nights on Mull, Skye and Lewis each. I am taking the rental car to Skye, but was debating on taking it over to Lewis as it is pricey. I have a guided tour set for Skye and I am looking into a guided tour for Lewis and Harris as well.

    1. Great question – I can’t remember exactly, but it wasn’t more than a few hours. Maybe 3 hours? We loved having the rental car over in Lewis, but if you do a guided tour you quite likely wouldn’t need it. For us, we were doing everything on our own and the car was essential.

  7. Gorgeous doesn’t begin to describe the stunning locales that you have so beautifully documented! I love the solitary serenity of these images and couldn’t help getting caught up in the whimsical fairytale quality of the region. I wonder if you might have crossed paths with a selkie on your travels!

  8. Thanks for such an informative post. I’m lucking at going to the Hebrides in the next few weeks. How did you get on with the midges?

    I’m English and have never been there, in fact I don’t think many English people have.

    Many thanks

    Mike

    1. Yes – I think you’re right. Most of our English friends that we’ve spoken with haven’t been. It’s a shame, as it is such a beautiful and unique area, and is so close. However, I don’t think it’s particularly unusual – there are many beautiful places in our home country that we’ve never seen, too!

      Re. midges, we didn’t notice any or have any problems. Perhaps it was time of year that we were there? We visited in late winter / early spring.

      Enjoy your trip!

  9. Found this to be very helpful. Spent three weeks in the Highlands and Borders in October 2015, now planning to return and visit the Orkneys, Isle of Lewis and Isle of Skye – also trying to get in Fingal’s Cave/Oban. Have around 15 – 16 days. My cousin (who lives in Glenrothes) has said that we need to spend at least 4 to 5 night in the Orkneys – a lot to see. If you have any suggestions please forward on. I think where it’s gets a little difficult is that if I don’t rent a car I have to take busses and they take forever. Guess I’ll rent a car again.

  10. Hi Katie,

    Can you tell me if the following is feasible or it could be a run against time (which we wouldn’t opt for as after all we are on vacation :-)

    We would take a morning ferry from Mallaig to Skye and then make our way, while stopping along the way, to Uig. We’ll spend the night in Uig. The next morning we would take the ferry from Uig to Tarbert and vist for the rest of the day, either returning by the ferry (if Monday or Saturday) the same day or spend the night most probably in Stornoway.

    We would either sleep in Uig if returning the same day or take the ferry the next morning and exit Skye toward Kyle of Lochalsh.

    Too little too much? We would have spent two nights and almost three days in Skye and South Harris.

    1. Hi there, thanks for the note! An very sorry for the delayed response. Some of the stops along way require getting out of the car and walking a while, so that’s something to consider. For example, you could start by visiting the Fairy Pools reachable in about 1hr – 1 1/2 hr drive accounting for a few photo stops along the way. Once the car is parked it’s a good hike to actually see the pools. It’s an easy, flat walk in good weather but might not be worth it if the weather is poor. A visit to Neiste Point Lighthouse on Isle of Skye, is about a 2 hour drive, accounting for a few photo stops along the way, from Armandale, or roughly an hour from the Fairy Pools. You’d likely spend an hour while you’re there getting one or two vantage points of the beautiful coast. Near the village of Uig, which is just an hour drive from Neiste, is Fairy Glen which are stunning and look like unnatural landscape, and worth a drive through.

      As far as staying the night, I don’t remember there being much of anything in Uig for food, etc. I’m sure there is obviously, but given that Portree is just a half hour drive, it might be a better option giving you restaurants, accommodation choices, stock up on sandwiches and car snacks for the next day, etc, as there aren’t really any shops on the roadside.

      The ferry from Uig is about 2 hours, and from Tarbert, you could see, for example, Luskentyre beach, the Callanish Standing Stones, Carloway Broch, and Gearannan Blackhouse Village in a day as the distances between them are not so long, and you don’t have to walk far from the parking area to see them. However, heading back to Skye the same day would definitely be less enjoyable and a bit rushed. Again, staying in Stornoway, gives you a chance to refuel, accommodation and restaurant choices, as well as a supermarket. Stornoway is slightly less than an hour back to Tarbert (staying in Tarbert is an option as well).

      Depending on what you choose, if you are back on Skye early enough, you could go to a site like Quirang on the way back down to the mainland and Kyle of Lochalsh.

      A bit of a long winded response, sorry about that, but I hope it’s helpful :) We saw a lot in our time there and didn’t feel rushed, as there is no traffic really to speak of, no bus loads of tourists to compete with, and having a car made us feel in control of our schedule. Most of the beautiful scenery is seen and enjoyed from the car, too, so all in all, it was quite relaxing and enjoyable. So no, I think you will have a wonderful holiday, and I hope the weather is wonderful for you! If there are any other questions, please let us know – happy to help!

  11. Pingback: How to Stay in a Hostel in Your 30s, 40s, 50s...And Beyond - Wandertooth

  12. I am so lucky I found this post, at first we were going to do day trips but decided to rent a car and do it ourselves—glad you agreed. Wer are staying on Harris for 3 nights and then one night on Skye—off to inverness for flight to Orkney.

  13. We are traveling to Skye in May.
    I will have a car and plan to visit Skye, spend the night in Skye, go to Lewis the next day and then spend the night again in Skye.Is this feasible or should we stay one night in Lewis instead. I am so confused regarding the ferry times and can’t really find any info about it. Is there a site you can recommend? Thank you

    1. Hi! I would plan to spend a night so you’re not rushed and might be difficult to coordinate as there aren’t that many daily ferry sailings. You’ll likely want the Uig (Skye) to Tarbert (Harris) route, and if you look at the link, you’ll see the times for May 4 – Sept 10. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays, there is one morning crossing and one afternoon crossing, and one crossing each way on Sunday.

      https://www.calmac.co.uk/uig-tarbert-harris-ferry-summer-timetable

      Hope this helps! Such an amazing journey!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *