Scotland: Road Trip to the Isle of Skye

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For the first part of our travels around the UK we headed up to the Isle of Skye a few weeks ago and decided to do it old school. We bought a road map and didn’t use a GPS or Google. We left Monday with the aim to make it to the Isle of Skye and back home by Friday.

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To do it as cheaply as possible we slept in the back of our car and cooked only with our mess tins and Hexi burners. We are all too familiar with instant noodles and tinned food, it’s not our first choice but on the road and as backpackers it’s usually the cheapest option and saves us a lot of money.

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On Monday, our first target was Edinburgh, but because we’d already been to the city twice in the past we were only stopping briefly, to walk up Arthur’s Seat; something we both had yet to do.

We made good time and got to Edinburgh mid-afternoon. Unfortunately the weather was nothing but typical; windy, rainy, cold and gloomy. We did the walk anyway but really couldn’t see much from the top, not even the castle. I’m sure on a good day the 360° views that Arthur’s Seat offers are well worth the climb.

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From Edinburgh we continued on to Pitlochy where we camped for the night. Scotland is great for freedom camping. Unlike Australia, where you can get fined for camping where you shouldn’t, in Scotland you can legally camp where ever you’d like, as long as there is no sign saying otherwise.

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Tuesday morning we continued on towards the Isle of Skye, stopping at Loch Ness and Eilean Donan Castle along the way.

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Eilean Donan is one of the most photographed Castles in Scotland. It was featured in the movie Braveheart and the 1999 James Bond film The World is Not Enough. Unfortunately the original castle was destroyed in the early 1700’s and was rebuilt using surviving ground plans in 1932.

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We arrived to the Isle of Skye early evening on Tuesday and stopped for the night in Portree.

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On Wednesday we made our way up the East coast, stopping first at The Old Man of Storr, a rock formation easily seen from the road.

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We walked 20 minutes up to a great view point that offered beautiful views of the surround area but not of the Old Man. The Old Man of Storr is probably best seen from the road unless you do the full hike that takes you behind the large rock formation; if you’re up too close from the wrong angle it just blends into the other rocks.

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From there we stopped at Kilt Rock, 15 miles from Portree. Kilt Rock is another rock formation that looks like, you guessed it, a kilt. The view point also offers great views of the coastline and you can see the mainland from here too.

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After Kilt Rock we headed up and inland to the Quirrang. The Quirrang offers great hikes but we were trying to fit in as much as possible so we only did a short walk and watched paragliders land and take-off. The area looks like somewhere out of Lord of the Rings, it’s just stunning.

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Once we were on the west coast we headed south-west for Dunvegan Castle, which we were going to visit but for 13 pounds each, decided against it and carried on to Niest Point. We thought we’d get to Niest Point for sunset but were actually 3 hours early so we just did the hike to the lighthouse.

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It probably worked out for the best because as we were leaving, tons of people were on their way in, most likely to watch the sunset. And because the roads out to Niest Point are so narrow, it would have been a nightmare trying to leave once the sun went down.

We overnighted in Carbost, where, strangely enough is where the Talisker Distillery is, and not in Talisker (which is 5 minutes from Carbost).

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Thursday morning we ate breakfast in the Talisker Distillery parking lot and then went in to the distillery once it opened. Although we didn’t do the tour we did buy a couple bottles of their distillery only bottles.

From Carbost we went to the Fairy Pools where we did a short hike and then started heading back to the mainland.

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We were so lucky with the weather the whole time we were on the Isle of Skye, it was bright, sunny, and nothing but blue skies. We even got sunburnt! The Isle of Skye is now our favourite part of Scotland and it will be hard to beat when we get around to seeing the rest of the Country.

We successfully made it home that Thursday night without using GPS or Google maps throughout the whole trip, we only used our trusty road map 🙂

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