The Isle of Skye is without doubt one of the most beautiful places in the UK; its ethereal glens and dramatic mountain ranges are unlike anything else you can see in the country. The Isle of Skye is a paradise for adventurous families, and in this post I’ll go over the best things to do on the Isle of Skye with kids.
It’s totally possible to visit the Isle of Skye with small kids – ours were just 6 and 4 when we visited in the August holidays. Some activities are more suitable than others for families so this guide should help you to work out what your family would like to do on Skye. I’ve also included tips on getting around the Isle of Skye, and where to stay.
Whatever you get up to on Skye, you won’t regret your visit – read on to find out why!
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Best things to do on the Isle of Skye with kids
The Isle of Skye is best known for its natural beauty and there are plenty of picturesque spots that you shouldn’t miss out on. But don’t forget Skye’s other attractions; the small but bustling town Portree has plenty of character and artisan shops to keep you busy for an afternoon, and Skye also has several castles which are worth visiting.
We visited the Isle of Skye in August with our small kids. Skye is great for kids as there’s plenty of fresh air and places to run around. If you’re lucky with the weather then there are several lovely beaches to explore too.
One of the best things to do on the Isle of Skye is exploring its walking trails, which can be a bit tough on little legs. Hopefully our experiences will help you work out what’s best for your family if you’re interested in visiting Skye with kids. Make sure you bring good walking shoes for the whole family!
It will take you at least three days to see all of the below, and there was plenty more that we left undone. One of the best things about Skye is that many of its attractions are free – those views aren’t going to cost you much – but do have some change for the car parks as many of them are paid. Keep an eye out for our upcoming Isle of Skye itinerary.
Old Man of Storr
The rock formation known as the Old Man of Storr is one of Skye’s most famous, and popular sights. It’s almost enough to admire it from the roadside viewpoint across the lake, but those with adventurous kids might want to tackle the hill. There’s a trail up the hillside next to the rocks, and if you’ve got the energy, it’s worth making the ascent.
The Old Man of Storr is just north of Portree, and on a clear day you can see the rocks from the town. I’d advise going as early as you can – if you arrive at about 8am you should be able to park. Skye’s soaring popularity has strained its infrastructure but this is set to improve – we saw new car parks being built in several places, including here. It looks as though there will be parking charges when it’s finished.
Is the hike to the Old Man of Storr suitable for small kids?
We had a bit of a mixed experience with hiking the Old Man of Storr with our kids. You can expect the walk to take an hour and a half to get to the main viewpoint without children, so you’ll need to add in a bit more time if you have little ones.
The main path is fairly steep and the ground is uneven with lots of small rocks and pebbles making it easy for little kids to trip. I think it’s fine for kids about 5 or 6 – they should be able to cope with it. Just make sure you’re all wearing good shoes. Babies and toddlers will need to be carried in a good sling – it is not buggy friendly!
On the day that we chose for our walk, we had a perfectly quiet calm day with not a breath of wind. Perfect, we thought. We fully expected to be able to walk all the way to the top. But anyone who’s been to Skye in the summer will know what happens when there’s sunshine and no wind.
As soon as we started our walk we were attacked by swarms of tiny midges. These things are real little bastards and will get into your eyes, mouth, nose and bite anywhere they can. Of course, we didn’t have repellant with us as the previous days had been cloudy and breezy, and we thought we’d got away with it.
The kids cried. We pressed on for a bit. They cried more. Derek took them back to the car and I carried on up the hill. At this point I broke through the midgie barrier and they stopped bothering me, but I didn’t feel as though I could carry on for another hour and a half to get to the top and back while the others sat in the car. So I got about halfway up before I turned back.
The views from even halfway up were incredible though, so I’d say it’s worth visiting. Even though our experience wasn’t a success, hopefully you can learn from our mistakes!
The Quiraing is another of Skye’s most popular walking trails. It’s part of the Trotternish ridge, a rocky outcrop that runs along a large part of northern Skye. The Quiraing has been formed from a landslip, and along the walk you can see some of the UK’s best scenery and plenty of interesting rock formations.
Even if you don’t want to walk the full trail, it is worth stopping off at the Quiraing anyway just to admire the views. The first 10 minutes of the trail are fairly easy and you can get some great shots along the side of the imposing cliff face, before the path turns the corner and goes out of sight.
Is the Quiraing hike suitable for kids?
The full Quiraing hike is about 7km, so this makes it unsuitable for small kids like ours. If you decide to take your little ones then make sure you’ve got plenty of water and snacks with you to keep them going. Kids aged 7+ could probably do this, as long as it’s not the first long hike you’ve taken them on.
Be aware that there are sections where you’ll need to scramble or walk very close to cliff edges with big drops – make sure you and your kids are prepared for this.
We didn’t even attempt the full hike – we knew that our kids wouldn’t make it. But we walked along at the start of the trail alongside the rock formation called The Prison, for as far as we could – what stopped the kids was crossing a stream by a waterfall that had a nasty looking drop and a climb up the rock face opposite. Both kids refused to cross, so once again Derek walked back with them and I carried on until the gap in the cliffs in the photo.
The path is smoother and flatter than the walk by the Old Man of Storr, but much narrower and with steep drops on one side. I imagine that there’s amazing views along the way but on the day we visited, a thick layer of sea fog rolled in to cover half the island. The fog came almost all the way up to the path. It is not recommended to attempt this walk in poor visibility.
You can reach the Quiraing by driving from either Staffin or Uig, along single track roads. There is a reasonable sized car park by the start of the Quiraing trail but you may have to park on the roadside due to crowds.
Elgol to Loch Coruisk
Elgol is a tiny hamlet on the quiet, sparsely populated Strathaird peninsula. It often gets left off many itineraries which is a shame as there’s some incredible scenery on this part of the island. If you know the history of Bonnie Prince Charlie, then you’ll be interested to learn that he hid out on the Strathaird peninsula.
The main thing to do at Elgol is to take a boat tour from the village across the sea to an inland lake, Loch Coruisk, which is otherwise inaccessible. We took a trip with Misty Isle Boat Tours which was fantastic. If you’d like to do the same, click the link and give them a call to ensure that you’ve got a place on the boat tour that you’d like to take (there are a few different itineraries). Tours run from Easter to October, but you might be able to book at other times of the year too.
Along the way you can look out for dolphins, basking sharks, minke whales and other marine life (we were unlucky and didn’t see them). However there’s one animal that you’ll definitely see: a permanent colony of seals make their home by the entrance to the loch. Your boat tour will undoubtedly take you past the seal colony so make sure you’ve got a long lens with you!
Once at the jetty, your boat will leave you by the loch for an hour or so which is enough time to walk around the area and splash in plenty of puddles, if you’re a small child. The view of the loch with the Black Cuillins rising behind it is some of the most dramatic scenery in the UK, and not to be missed! You can choose to stay longer at Loch Coruisk, depending on your itinerary for the day.
Skye has more than one castle. Dunvegan Castle is the one that most people manage to get to, as it’s close to Portree. Armadale Castle is a ruin on Skye’s southernmost peninsula, the Sleat Peninsula. If you can spare the time it’s a very different experience to visiting Dunvegan.
Although the castle looks medieval, with its square battlements and narrow windows, it’s actually fairly recent. Armadale Castle was built in the 19th century by the MacDonalds of Clan Donald, a family with history going back hundreds of years on Skye. It was only lived in for a century before the family left for a smaller property.
Armadale fell into ruin and when it was finally sold in the 1970s, the main structure could not be saved, and most of it was demolished. Today only an inaccessible shell remains. You can peer through the smashed windows to see glimpses of the castle’s former glory – especially around the main staircase.
But there’s more on this site than just a ruined castle. The extensive gardens are spectacular and our kids had fun in the adventure playground. You could spend several hours just looking around the castle grounds, and it wouldn’t be wasted.
At the far end of the gardens is a museum which tells the story of the Isle of Skye; about the first people to live here, and the struggles between the various clans; and even the stories of those who left Skye for the New World. There’s a lot of information here, mainly aimed at adults, but there’s a small play area for little kids.
Tickets cost £9 per adult, £5 per child aged 5+ and a family ticket costs £25. More information on the website.
Dunvegan Castle is one of Skye’s most popular attractions, with a history going back to the 13th century. It’s home to the MacLeods who have lived in the castle for 800 years. It’s much nearer to Portree than Armadale Castle is, and it’s also a very different experience. While Armadale is in ruins, Dunvegan is pristine, and has interiors akin to a stately home.
What the two castles do have in common is their beautiful grounds. The UK does gardens very well – Dunvegan’s gardens are lovely, with lots of different planted and wilder areas for kids to explore. Near to the castle are gardens bisected by bridges over little streams, and a waterfall at the far end which feeds them. There’s a stunningly planted walled garden too, with some modern art installations which the kids had fun playing with.
The inside of the castle is worth a look. We went to five castles on our trip to Scotland and each was quite different to the rest. Dunvegan’s interior is grand and comfortable, as it’s still lived in. Our kids had fun on a treasure hunt as they looked around the castle – they had to find hidden keys in each room and were given a badge once they’d found them all. This was a great simple activity to keep them busy while us grownups learned about the castle history.
Another thing to do at Dunvegan, and especially worthwhile if you’re not going to take the Loch Coruisk tour, is to take a seal watching trip from the harbour just behind the castle.
Entry to Dunvegan Castle and gardens is quite pricey at £14 per adult and £9 per child, or £35 per family. It’s £2 cheaper if you just want to tour the gardens. Seal trips cost £10 per adult and £7 per child. You can get more information and buy tickets on the website.
Skye can be a very rainy place and all that rain means that there’s lots of little rivers everywhere, which run down from the Black Cuillin mountains. There are fairy pools all over Skye, but the most famous ones are in the west of the island, near Carbost.
The River Brittle has cut a gorge into the hillside, and a series of waterfalls tumble down the mountain, forming crystal clear pools as they go. The pools are especially beautiful on a sunny day as the clear water turns shades of aqua and azure.
The fairy pools are a good half hour walk away from the roadside – again, the paths are stony and not suitable for pushchairs. You’ll also have to cross a couple of streams by stepping stones. If you’ve got a nice day then you can bring your swimsuits and swim in the pools as they’re quite calm (although wetsuits might be best, as I don’t think these pools will ever be described as warm).
We visited twice and the first time was a disaster as heavy rain the night before had caused the first stream to overflow. Adults were taking off their shoes and wading across but they needed help to keep their balance so we decided not to carry the children over; so we returned the next day and things were a lot calmer!
There is a large car park at the fairy pools – when we visited it was being rapidly expanded. It gets really busy so arriving early is best. There’s a £5 parking charge, cash only.
Meet a Heilan Coo
Scotland has a great “brand” with tartan, whisky, kilts and bagpipes being recognised all over the world. Another of the things most associated with Scotland is the Highland Cow (or Heilan Coo in Scots). These animals are instantly recognisable, with their large horns and long ginger coats (although they come in other colours, too). They’re bred mainly for their meat, which is said to be great quality.
The Highland Cow can be found all over Skye, and many roam about fairly freely. You’ll definitely see these huge ginger beasts as you explore the island – and you might even get close up to them! We saw this one in Elgol when a herd blocked the road – a typical occurrence on Skye. Otherwise you can often see them in paddocks close to the roadside so you can always stop for a closer look.
The cows are usually fairly docile and will enjoy attention, but don’t get too close if they have calves with them, or if you’ve got dogs.
You’re bound to find plenty of souvenirs and artworks featuring the Highland Cow on Skye and elsewhere in the Scottish Highlands.
Hunt for dinosaur footprints at Staffin
Millions of years ago, dinosaurs roamed the land that is now the Isle of Skye. In several places on the island you can look for their footprints preserved in the rocks along Skye’s shoreline.
The most famous footprints are found near the town of Staffin. There’s a narrow road that leads you down to An Corran beach, where, if the tide is right, you can look for the footprints. It’s better to look for them after a spell of bad weather as they can be covered by sand in calmer conditions. Stormy weather and rough seas might uncover them.
When we visited the tide wasn’t right, and the beach was covered in fog so we turned back – sadly no footprints for us.
There is a dinosaur museum in Staffin, by the roadside before the turning to An Corran beach. Here you can see examples of fossils found on Skye. You can also find out more about where and how to find the footprints on the nearby beach. There’s a small charge to enter the museum (£2).
More dinosaur footprints can be seen near Brother’s Point, and also near Duntulm Castle – both sites are in the north of the Trotternish Peninsula. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to try to find these footprints, and again success depends on the tides.
Black and Red Cuillin Mountains
There are two main mountain ranges on Skye – the Black Cuillins and the Red Cuillins. They were both formed by volcanic activity, but the Black Cuillins are more jagged, and yes they are black; whereas the Red Cuillins are more rounded and gentle.
There are all sorts of walks and even climbs that visitors can attempt while they’re on Skye. I’d say that the hikes are only suitable for experienced older children and teens, and you will probably want to hire a guide rather than going it alone on many of the trails. Click here to book a mountain guide or an adventure tour on Skye – you can also choose family adventures for kids aged 6+.
Families with small kids and inexperienced hikers will find the walks too challenging, so they’re best not attempted. But you can still enjoy the Cuillins from many places nearby, even if you’re just driving past them. Good places to admire the Cuillins from include the Fairy Pools, Loch Coruisk, and there are a couple of moderately difficult walks from Glenbrittle Campsite.
Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls
Skye has several beautiful waterfalls, and one of the best to admire is Mealt Falls near to Staffin, and just a few minutes away from Lealt Falls. You can get wonderful views out over two of Skye’s best known sights, as well as the Scottish mainland on a clear day.
Mealt Falls is a spectacular cascade which tumbles over the cliff edge and into the sea, some 55 metres below. You don’t see many waterfalls that fall straight into the sea, so try to get to this one.
Beyond Mealt Falls lies Kilt Rock. Its basalt columns are pleated just like a Scottish kilt, hence the name.
The viewpoint here is the only real way to see these places, unless you’ve got a boat, or you fancy climbing down the cliffs (don’t try this)! If you have a drone then the shot of the waterfall with the loch that feeds it just behind is a fantastic one. The car park is a short drive from the main road, so it’s easy to find.
If you’re visiting the Old Man of Storr then you should stop in at Lealt Falls, just around the corner and right next to the road.
Make sure you stop once you’ve got around the Old Man of Storr headland; you can get lovely views both over the coast and looking back at the famous rock formation.
After you’ve soaked in the views, continue on for a few minutes. Lealt Falls is easy to spot as you’ll see the car park and the main viewing platform on your right.
Lealt Falls falls 90 metres down a tree lined gorge in two main stages. From the clifftop viewpoint you can get a long shot of the waterfall and its river as it flows out to the sea.
You can get a close up view of Lealt Falls from the wooden viewing platform which hangs over the cliffside. It’s not possible to get a perfect view but it’s definitely worth visiting both viewpoints as the sight of the waterfall is quite different from each of them.
The beautiful and ethereal Fairy Glen is a perfect place to take kids on Skye. We were lucky with the weather when we visited and both kids had great fun running around here.
The Fairy Glen is only a mile or so from the lovely little town of Uig and definitely worth stopping at, especially if you’re driving the Trotternish Loop. If you have a good day I’d stop here for a picnic.
The landscape is almost like a miniature Quiraing. There are several small hillocks which have been formed by a landslip, and there’s even a rock formation that looks suspiciously like a ruined castle – although it’s actually a natural basalt outcrop.
There are several trails around the Fairy Glen, and you should try to climb up as many of the little hills as you can to get different viewpoints over the area.
When we visited there was a stone fairy circle in the centre of the glen just by the “castle.” It might look delightful but it’s not actually popular with the locals. Instead, tourists have moved the stones to make the circle and the locals are trying to return the area to its natural state. So please don’t make any stone statues or add to the stone circle when you visit.
Again, parking at the Fairy Glen is limited and you’ll probably have to try to find a spot along the side of the road.
Neist Point is a headland on the most westerly part of the island, around an hour’s drive from Portree. It’s an especially famous sunset viewpoint so try to time your visit for evening. The setting sun can cast a lovely glow across the cliff face.
The imposing rocky outcrop is made even more picturesque by a cheerful white and yellow lighthouse on the far end of the peninsula.
From the small car park it’s possible to walk down to the lighthouse, although it’s a fair slog with little kids. You may prefer to just walk to the cliff viewpoint or even stay near the car park for further reaching views.
Be aware that the car park here is extremely small and Neist Point is extremely popular! To avoid the crowds consider visiting Neist Point at another point in the day.
Wander through Portree
Portree is the largest settlement on Skye. It can definitely be called a town, whereas many of the other towns and villages on Skye are little more than a house or two either side of the main road. All roads seem to converge here so you’ll no doubt be driving through Portree at one point or another.
Portree is worth stopping in for few hours. Make sure you find the harbour which is lined with cheerful rainbow coloured houses, and it’s a good place to eat some fish and chips (a British seaside institution).
Elsewhere in the town you can browse plenty of souvenir and art shops – yes, it’s all very touristy, but there are some lovely things to buy, and Portree does feel like a typical British seaside town.
Of course, Portree is also useful as a base on Skye as it’s got a supermarket or two as well as plenty of restaurants and takeaways if you don’t want to self cater.
Cheat – Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle is not actually on Skye, so it’s a bit of a cheat to add it to this list. But as it’s right on the Kyle of Lochalsh you’ll almost certainly drive right past it on your way to Skye. And it would be rude not to look in, wouldn’t it?
Eilean Donan castle has a long and violent history. At one point it was pretty much reduced to rubble after ships in the Kyle sat there and casually took it to pieces with their cannons. The castle was rebuilt and restored fairly recently, but you’d never know.
It’s worth looking around just for the main hall which is decorated in a marvellously Scottish way. Tartan, boars’ heads, plenty of patriotism; it’s all there.
We visited Scotland in mid to late August and even though Scottish kids had returned to school, we still found everywhere to be really busy. It’s worth timing your arrival to Eilean Donan with opening time as the car park was totally full when we arrived – finding parking was on ongoing headache for us for our whole trip. We parked just outside a nearby housing estate, about a 10 minute walk away.
Know before you go: Isle of Skye
What to pack for the Isle of Skye
Unsurprisingly my first item to pack for the Isle of Skye is going to be midgie repellant. Unless is rains every day (totally possible, to be fair) at some point those little buggers are going to get you. Their bites are pretty itchy for about a week and being swarmed by them is definitely in my top five least favourite travel experiences. Don’t wing it like we did.
I would also pack a full set of waterproofs including trousers. Good hiking shoes are a must, even for small kids. Nobody wants a child with a sprained ankle!
How to get to, and around, the Isle of Skye
Most people get to the Isle of Skye by road. Skye is connected to the mainland by a bridge so you don’t need to bother with a ferry. The Skye Bridge allows you to cross at the narrowest point by the Kyle of Lochalsh. Portree is another hour along the good A roads from Skye Bridge – the Isle of Skye is deceptively large!
If you do want to bother with a ferry then you can take a trip over the sea to Skye (sorry) from Mallaig on the West Coast. This ferry must be booked in advance. There are around nine crossings a day in the summer; fewer on Sundays and in the winter. Click here for timetables and to book.
Driving on the Isle of Skye
Once on Skye you really do need a car. Public transport is limited and won’t get you to many of the points of interest. The roads from the bridge to Portree and several others are A roads but the rest are single land B roads and care is needed.
Driving on Skye’s narrow, single track roads can be hair-pullingly frustrating for even seasoned drivers used to driving on the left. The going can be very slow at times so factor this in when planning your itinerary. It’s not helped by hoards of tourists who can’t follow the rules either.
Use the passing places on your side of the road only. Don’t dart across and use ones for oncoming traffic – it’s not helpful. Instead, wait by the passing place so that the oncoming vehicle can use it. The number of people who couldn’t work this out was incredible.
Tours on the Isle of Skye
If driving on the Isle of Skye isn’t an option then you could consider visiting the island as part of a tour. You can get tours easily from Edinburgh, Inverness, and Glasgow, and these tours generally last three days or so.
The disadvantage of taking a tour is lack of freedom on the itinerary; but on the plus side you can sit back and relax while someone else worries about parking.
This tour from local specialists Rabbies takes you from Edinburgh to Skye over three days. The drive takes you past Glencoe on the way, and Loch Ness on the return journey. There’s some flexibility with the itinerary on Skye, and it’s suitable for kids aged 5+. Click here to book.
Rabbie’s also runs a similar tour departing from Glasgow – click here to book.
If you’ve made your own way to Skye (such as taking the ferry) then you could take a day trip around the Trotternish Loop or similar with Skye Tours – click here to find out more.
Accommodation on the Isle of Skye
Don’t arrive on the Isle of Skye without having booked your accommodation. Once you’ve decided you’re going, I’d book something sharpish as accommodation on the Isle of Skye books up really quickly.
There are all sorts of different accommodation on the Isle of Skye – you can choose from fancy hotels, to B&Bs and guesthouses, or try glamping. If you’re much hardier than us you can even wild camp – we saw lots of people doing this.
Popular campsites on the Isle of Skye include Glenbrittle Campsite (first come, first served); Torvaig Campsite which is only a mile from Portree; Camping Skye just outside Broadford; and camping at Loch Greshornish in the far north.
One of the best places to book accommodation in Skye is near to Portree. Many of the island’s best attractions are in the north and Portree is a nice central location. We stayed in the south and so we had to do some extra driving most days.
If you don’t mind being a little further south then Broadford is also a great location – there’s a large supermarket, and Elgol and Armadale are easily accessible from here.
You can get a full list of accommodation in Skye here.
Glamping on the Isle of Skye
As we tend to go for comfortable but cheap accommodation, we decided to go for glamping on the Isle of Skye. There’s loads to choose from but we fancied staying in a yurt which is something we’d never done before. We were really happy with our choice and it was by far the best place we stayed in Scotland.
Our yurt was totally beautiful and had tons of space for us to spread out a bit. We had fun lighting a fire in the woodburner each evening (don’t put five logs on like Derek did – he nearly roasted us alive).
There’s a fully equipped kitchen on site which makes self catering super easy – we weren’t sure how many shops we’d find on Skye so we brought all our food with us. We found supermarkets easily enough so we stocked up on drink and snacks while we were there too.
The only caveat to staying here is that it’s an hour from Portree so you need to start your days extra early if you want to explore the north part of Skye.
More things to do in Scotland with kids
Make sure you also visit more of the Scottish Highlands. We also stayed in Fort Augustus which is a really cute little town with a lovely staircase of loch gates. It’s right on Loch Ness, so of course, taking a boat trip on one of the most famous lakes in the world is a great thing to do.
We’d also recommend visiting Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness, and taking a trip to nearby-ish Glen Coe – this has to be the most beautiful place in the UK, and rivals Iceland for stunning natural scenery. Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog post on the Scottish Highlands.
Our favourite thing to do in the Scottish Highlands was taking a trip on the Harry Potter train from Fort William to Mallaig, and watching it cross over the Glenfinnan viaduct. See our blog post to find out how to do this in one day.
And don’t forget to visit one of the UK’s best and most vibrant cities – Edinburgh. Find out about the best things to do in Edinburgh with kids.
Would you like to visit Skye with your kids? Is there anything we’ve missed out? Let us know in the comments!