DRIVING THE TROTTERNISH ROUTE, ISLE OF SKYE
So, you’re planning an Isle of Skye road trip in the Scottish Highlands? You’re going to love what’s in store!
The drive to Skye itself is nothing short of incredible, whether you take the awe-inspiring pass through the bowels of Glencoe or the scenic route around the edge of the Cairngorms. But, what you’re about to encounter once you reach Skye will also blow your socks off!
Skye could fill its own library with tales of myths and legends grown from the ground of this enchanting misty isle. And, when you catch a glimpse of the landscape, you’ll fully understand the fairytale inspiration. Rolling Munroe’s alongside overbearing mountains shape the horizon, whilst ancient landslides fractured the earth carving splintered giant rock fingers and escaping waterfalls. Usually set to the backdrop of a dramatic sky as the weather rolls in and out across the Hebridean island, Skye can produce some of the most breathtaking scenery in all of Scotland.
But if you’re only visiting Skye for a short while, the Trotternish Loop (or peninsula) is absolutely the driving route you want to take to incorporate all the main Skye sights that you’ve been seeing popping up in travel magazines and Instagram accounts. It’s the perfect driving route for your Isle of Skye itinerary.
Our Guide To Driving The Trotternish Loop, Isle of Skye
If you’re wondering ‘How long does it take to drive the Trotternish loop’? the satisfying answer is that this is the perfect route for an Isle of Skye 1 day itinerary!
The Trotternish peninsula is the most northerly section of Skye and contains some of the island’s best landscapes. The coastal road is approximately 50 miles long but if you take little breaks and get out of the car and enjoy the scenery at each stop-off you can easily spend a full day enjoying the sights of Trotternish, Skye.
Start your Isle of Skye itinerary in the capital town Portree (we have a very good hotel recommendation at the end of the article if you’re looking for Skye accommodation) and try and leave early. The Trotternish loop can get busy in high season and since car parking spaces are limited at some of the destinations, some suggest doing the loop in the clockwise direction to avoid some crowds early in the day. But, in our experience, the vista is much better going anti-clockwise and if you leave on a full belly from a good Scottish breakfast you’ll just be getting peckish by the time you reach the town of Uig.
Make sure you take plenty of change for the car parking costs, or you can download the Ringo app which lets you pay via your phone.
Now you’re ready for the perfect one day Isle of Skye itinerary!
The Top 5 Stops On The Trotternish Peninsula
Starting in Portree set off north on the A855 for 15 minutes…
1. THE OLD MAN OF STORR
Probably the most famous landmark on Skye is the ancient rock formation known as The Old Man of Storr. You will be able to spot it even just as you leave Portree in the distance, it protrudes a whole 50 meters out of the ground.
Why do they call it The Old Man of Storr? Some say it resembles the face of an old man, a giant who lay down to die. Others say it is the giant’s thumb protruding from the grave. Whatever, you can’t help but appreciate the tale when you visit these outcrops on what is known as the Trotternish Ridge – the ancient landslides still give the area the appearance of movement, and maybe that’s where the magic is elaborated on.
If you were to climb the ascent to get a closer look at the giant’s remains, expect a busy one-way route and approximately a round trip of 1.5 hours trekking from the car park. Alternatively, you get a pretty good view from just 5 minutes walk from the car park if hiking’s not your thing, or if you’re saving your energy for later.
Back on the road, you will be driving a further 15 minutes before you reach the next stop on our Skye itinerary, Kilt Rock. However, it is worth pulling over for a minute just to admire the cute Lealt Falls 5 minutes from The Old Man of Storr. It’s not epic in any way but it’s a sweet little waterfall, especially if there’s been a lot of rain.
2. KILT ROCK AND MEALT FALLS VIEWPOINT
Mealt Falls is the most spectacular waterfall on Skye. And you get two for one at this stop since the rock formations of this ancient cliff edge are pretty cool too. The basalt columns form a pleat-like rock face and guess what… they look like a kilt! Fun Fact – the area is known as Staffin which comes from the old Norse word Stafr which means pillars.
Waterfalls that descend straight into the ocean are kind of rare and Mealt Falls does a pretty impressive job of brutishly throwing its contents into the Atlantic. And, looking out over the Sound of Raasay on a clear day you may well be rewarded with views of the Isle of Rona and sometimes to Lewis in the north.
The falls are supplied by nearby Loch Mealt and when the water is still the accompanying croft cottages create a picture postcard of reflections on the glass-like loch.
From Kilt Rock keep driving anti-clockwise along the Trotternish Loop (A855) through the village of Staffin and take a turn-off right, signposted An Corran Beach. It’s just over 2 miles from Kilt Rock car park to the An Corran Beach turn-off.
3. AN CORRAN BEACH, STAFFIN
My husband once shot a music video on An Corran beach and this was the primary reason I wanted to visit the area because I’d seen from the video how beautiful its surroundings were. What I didn’t bank on was that it’s also the best place to hunt for dinosaur footprints on Skye! One particular section of sandstone attracts fossil enthusiasts from far and wide. In the summer the footprints might be covered by sand but in the winter make sure to visit at low tide and you’ll see them fairly close to the beach ramp.
NOTE: The Staffin Museum has more information on where else to find dinosaur prints on Skye if this is your thing.
Aside from a dinosaur hunt, Staffin Beach is a lovely place to visit regardless. It’s a really cute little sandy cove sheltered from the big waves by the adjacent Staffin Island, lending itself to a peaceful stroll along the shore. Despite the fossil finds, An Corran still seems to be a quiet beauty spot.
From the beach, carry on along the A855 for one mile. Turn left following signs to the Quirang Car Park. The ascent can be a bit hairy with single-track roads, tourist traffic, and some quite steep climbs – it’s not for the faint-hearted!
Some Skye itineraries suggest completing the full coastal loop of the Trotternish Peninsula and visiting Duntulm Castle and Flora Macdonald’s grave at Kilmuir. I can’t comment on these two sights but our friends who live on Skye suggested forgoing these two places in order to spend the right amount of time at the more impressive Skye sights on this list. I’m glad we did since we weren’t interested in seeing a grave and as much as we love a good castle, these are only remains of Duntulm.
4. THE QUIRANG
NOTE: The Quirang is on everybody’s Isle of Skye itinerary so expect it to be busy.
The Quirang is the northern part of the Trotternish Ridge – the volcanic landslide ridge caused by the pressure of heavy lava on the weak Jurassic sedimentary rock below. And the great thing about this section of the Trotternish peninsula is that you don’t have to take a helicopter ride to see this otherworldly spectacle.
From the Quirang car park you can set off on a little hike to see some of the greatest scenery on the Isle of Skye – just follow the signs.
As the earth dips gently to the west, certain rock formations of the Quirang have earned themselves titles such as The Needle, The Prison, and The Table, all visible from your hike. And, if you know that these nooks and crannies of Skye were once the hiding place from Viking invaders and also a meeting ground for the local clan, you kind of become absorbed in thoughts of bygone days. This is the most dramatic landscape I have ever seen and I haven’t been able to shake it from my memory ever since.
Exit the car park in the opposite direction to which you came and follow the road for another slow 6 miles. Whilst the landscape isn’t as steep as the ascent to the Quirang, the roads are narrow and winding. Just take it easy and enjoy the views of the heather and peat fields. On our last trip, I was just remarking on how pleasant a drive it was, with smooth roads and no traffic, when we stumbled into a traffic jam of cows who weren’t for budging. My co-pilot had to get out and gently shoo them away! This is Skye, nothing moves quickly!
The views become particularly appealing, and the very reason why we suggest you take the Totternish Loop road in the anti-clockwise direction, as you slowly descend into Uig Bay below you.
If at this point you are feeling a bit peckish, Uig has a lovely little supermarket called Rankins where you could perhaps pick up something for lunch. It caters for all your essentials but also has some culinary surprises too.
Just after the Uig Free Church on the A87, take a left along Sheadar Road, signposted The Fairy Glen. You will reach the Car Park after 1 mile.
5. THE FAIRY GLEN
Last, but certainly not least, on our Totternish peninsula drive, is our favourite – The Fairy Glen. The car park here is new and many outdated websites advise you to park in Uig and walk the rest of the way, but nowadays there is no need.
We think putting the Fairy Glen last on your bucket list is the right choice because honestly, you could spend hours at this magical place! Whilst the ancient landslips of Skye have created uniquely dramatic rock formations at both the Quirang and Old Man of Storr, the same earth rumblings made a slightly more ethereal impact here at the Fairy Glen. Lumpy bumpy mounds of bouncy ground absorb any form of noise and the resulting atmosphere is very other-worldly. Add to that a few babbling brooks, miniature geological shelves, a handful of grazing sheep, and a few strategically placed stone circles and you might find you can’t pull yourself away easily! We would recommend allowing at least an hour to explore and absorb this wonderful place.
We wrote more about our Fairy Glen experience here.
Leaving the Fairy Glen it’s about a half-hour drive on the A87 back to the town of Portree.
So there you have our favourite 5 stops on the Trotternish Loop – a perfect Isle of Skye 1 day itinerary.
The Trotternish peninsula would take approximately 1.5 hours to just drive the loop with no stops – knowing this can help you factor in how long you can spend at each stop. We decided to make a slight detour from the official Trotternish loop on the way back to Portree as we had a little bit of spare time before the light faded, and we’re so pleased we did!
The alternative route involves turning off the A87 onto the A850 until you get to Carbost. At Carbost take the road to Glengrasco. Before you reach Gelngrasco take a right turn along the A885 towards Bracadale and Loch Harport. It was this final section that really made our day as we approached Loch Harport – the views were incredible and you start to see the Cuillin Mountains in the distance. Continuing alongside the Loch towards Sligachan, you may have thought you’d seen all the impressive scenery there was to see on Skye by this point but this last little stretch rewards you with more. If you have a spare hour after your Trotternish loop drive, we really recommend you take this final little detour, especially as you will fast be approaching Golden Hour, and trust me – these are the views you want to see!
Skye definitely stole our hearts on our recent trip and we cannot wait to return!
Our Skye Hotel Recommendation
We spent 2 nights at The Skye Inn in Portree and would definitely recommend it. The staff were so friendly and accommodating and nothing was too much trouble. The rooms were really cosy with brand new modern bathrooms and tea/coffee facilities and a couple of nice extras. But the main reason for our recommendation is the food… the breakfast was so substantial you could easily go a whole day on its sustenance and everything was to a very high quality. We also ate an evening meal there one evening and again the culinary standards were very high.
For the best deals at The Skye Inn, Isle of Skye, click here.
* Note: We may make a small commission if you book via our site. This comes at no extra cost to you but does enable us to keep blogging and cover our website expenses. Thank you so much for choosing to book through us – we really appreciate it! 🙂
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One Comment Add yours
This is a lovely post of a special couple of days in Skye. Thank you always for your hard work and research to make time spent together extra soecial.