Skye, despite the Bridge, remains an island economically, and can be very costly, if you haven't planned.
Arriving in Portree with nowhere to stay could well mean a very expensive hotel stay, once you've walked round and around all the full B&Bs.
I believe you should purchase as much as possible on the island, to assist the local economy. This includes food from the small shops, petrol from expensive stations, and hiked up accommodation charges in peak season. But, be prepared, and watch your spending. A night in Portree Bars could cost you a trip to Lewis - and you'd never forgive yourself.
Ok - If you are going to Skye - look at the weather forcast first.
In dry weather it can win your heart. With the sun and clouds draped over mountains, the coastline with its short grassy turf can be paradise - hence everyones photos on VT.
In mid summer, midgies swarm, unless the wind picks up (more than 4 mph is needed, and if you're sitting or camping, no hope).
In rain, with low cloud and no good indoor attractions, you can be at a loss. Many decide to turn and cross back over the bridge the same day ,which is sad.
So just be flexible, see the weather forcasts 2/3 days before, and don't trust to the weather gods.
West coast Scotland can be plagued by Midgies in June - August, to the extent that its not possible to stand still outside on calm days.
This is a very significant factor if planning to camp or have romantic evenings outdoors.
For lots more information, please see my Scotland Page Tips - Warnings where there is also links to external website with details and help.
2005 Bridge Toll Cancelled
Note - this tip is changed - it used to cost lots - but the toll has been removed.
To get on to the Isle of Skye costs money.
Either the Ferries or the Bridge.
Skye Bridge tolls for a car are presently £4.70, EACH WAY, so nearly £10 (ten pounds).
You can buy a 10 trip ticket book (20 crossings) as the locals do, for £26.80, so if you are wanting to make repeat crossings, this is well worth it.
You can buy these tickets from the little office BEFORE arriving at the ticket office. Go to the buildings to the RIGHT of the toll booth, (probably about 5 cars parked in its car park).
ticket books are valid for ONE YEAR, so can be passed on to others (ethics?)
The whole subject of a toll has caused great upset in the local community, but they seem to want something for nothing. With these discount books a crossing is reduced from £4.70 to about £1.30, and I think users should pay something.
For more info visit www.skat.org.uk
ps - the Glen Elg Ferry is the best way to arrive on Skye, and costs about the same as bridge. Way more romantic and island-like!!!
Unless you can afford to eat in the lap of luxury at The Three Chimneys, eating out on Skye can prove to be a massive disappointment.
In particular, Portree, where desperation can lead to costly and tasteless rip offs.
Where else would people buy their fish from one shop and their chips from the other, because they cannot cook. The restaurants are worse. Fancy menus and "fresh, local fish" do not make it to your plate as good food. Maybe I'm fussy. I am a chef.
Skye does not look so green for no reason. It has been known to rain - just a bit!.
The weather can also change very quickly, especially on the high ground. So always be prepared for a shower and take care to have the usual warm clothing if out walking.
This is obvious really but if you have to go into the mountains make sure you go well prepared, pleanty of warm clothes and liquid.
Speaking to a local barman and he was part of the local mountain rescue and he told us how a young fella went missing, he found him dead four days later, he had taken a tumble and the exposure had killed him and he actually zipped him up into the body bag. It really shook me up when i heard this and made me realise how fragile we are and how unforgiving the mountains are even in Autumn!
Most of the area around the Cuillin is open moorland - tundra, if you will - speckled with purple heath, bracken fern and the occasional sheep. You could feel right at home if you came here from Norway or Alaska. Like tundra everywhere, there is a superfusion of insect life - insects which seem to be there only for the purpose of making your life miserable. Here in the Cuillin, the problem is the lowly midge - I read that there are over 30 species of midge in Scotland and waiting for the bus, sometimes it seemed like I was given the chance to identify every one - similar to the no-see-um flies of North America. Midges seem to everywhere in calm conditions under 1500 feet. They don’t like high wind or pelting rains … but then neither do I. If you do get up high, they finally relent. While the midge is not nearly as bothersome as a fresh mosquito hatch after a snow melt, they still can be bothersome enough to keep you moving. Stop to take a picture and they find you quickly. They seem to congregate in place which because of some quality - maybe a small creek crossing, a short, sharp stretch of trail, or a great viewpoint - seems to slow your progress. As with other stage of life, ‘he who hesitates is lost’.
Then there is the possibility of ticks - especially a bother for dogs you may have along. The countryside is open but there are many sheep and red deer around, who manage to distribute the tick everywhere. Brush through the bracken and just be aware that you may have to check for the little guys later on. Some people obsess about the ticks and their ability to pass along lyme disease. Luckily, that chance is rather rare, but still the tick can be a nuisance that is not always disposed of easily, so long clothes should be the order of the day. The ticks could be the reason I always saw British hikers wearing gaiters, as well, even when the weather was sunny or they were hiking along a road.
Skye provides the first real barrier to the water-laden atlantic clouds... unless you are exceptionally lucky, you WILL experience bad weather here! And the weather on Skye can get incredibly bad!!! Especially at Sligachan, it gets so stormy that it will blow your tent to rags and pieces... better have some good equipment! Most of the mosquito nets in tents will be too big for keeping the tiny midges out.
I am therefore very sceptical about camping being a good idea for Skye. Better rent yourself a cosy cottage with a fireplace to survive one of those days.
Skye surely is a magical place with a lot of appeal for the romanticising outdoor lover. And what could be more romantic than staying in a tent, as close to Mother Nature as possible? Yes. But let me tell you something, my dear nature afficionado: I don't think camping on Skye is a good idea at all. You are very welcome to disagree with me, but in order to avoid utter disaster to yourself and your belongings please take note of the following:
1. You need a REAL tent and REAL equipment, not that stuff from the supermarket. You see, the wind here can be strong. Very strong indeed. As a matter of fact, there are loads of people who had their Tesco tent getting ripped apart and blown away by gale force winds. A particularly infamous spot for this is the campground at Sligachan. Your tent must have good wind stability and you must know how to make it stable. Needless to say, it must be excellently waterproof with strong and sealed seams.
2. If you are camping in the summer months, your most important piece of equipment is the tent's mosquito net. It must be very fine, so fine that the tiny midges can't get through. Normal mosquito nets won't do as midges are much smaller. So what, you might say, why bother about such tiny insects? Well, my friend, you might just find out why you should indeed bother about such tiny insects. You might find out.
3. Choice of a well suited place is paramount. Try to find a well-drained spot, keep away from damp places, shady woods, spots with poor air circulation, all of which are prone to intensify the midge problem.
4. Apart from the notorious campground at Sligachan, there are others at Edinbane and GlenBrittle plus many more spots where camping is allowed. I am not sure about access rights to privately owned land, but I guess it's always a good idea to ask people living nearby if camping is okay.
Skye isn't called the "Misty Isle" for nothing. Conditions can rapidly deteriorate and it's not just mountaineers who become affected. This picture is from the scenic but narrow road traversing the Trotternish Ridge from Uig to Staffin. As you can see, you can hardly see the next bend -- even though it's very close!
I mentionned it in a recent page on Mull, but here goes again. Skye is full of mushrooms and have lots of different type. I have read recently that Scotland have the most poisonnous (mortal) mushroom in the world, and it is difficult to recognize as it looks so much like an edible type. Make sure you know them before you start adding them to your gastronomic dinner!
Skye derives from the Norwegian word for cloud, ‘skyen’. Gaelic speakers talk of the ‘Island of Mist’ - Eilean a’ Cheo - and that is very apropos for Skye. One woman I spoke with mentioned she had first been to Skye in 1992. She had enjoyed an entire week of blue skies and mountain walks. That week had hooked her and she had returned many times afterwards though sadly, each subsequent visit had been in mists and rain.
If you come to climb, bring along full weather gear. Know where you are going with an accurate topographical map as well because of the extreme variability of the weather. Also, if you are hiking in the rain - strangely enough people here do seem to enjoy that sort of thing - be cognizant of the level of streams. There is water everywhere and streams everywhere. Many walks become an exercise in bog ecology. Creeks swell up forcing a wet crossing as a matter of course. One hike that looked intriguing to me was the one from Sligachan up the Glen Sligachan, a valley that effectively separates the Red Cuillin to the east from the Black Cuillin to the west. A popular guidebook describes the hike as one with the ‘proper weather and light as a glimpse into what the “Highway to Hell” must be like’ - likening the hike to an eight mile hike through a bog, if done during or just after rains (which is most of the time). If conditions are actually dry, well then it is only eight miles of midges to deal with … and eight miles back.
A lot of roads in the countryside of Scotland are still SINGLE-TRACK-ROADS with passing places and these passing places sometimes are used by tourists to park their cars and take photos of the beautiful landscapes.
If the police catches you, parking there without beeing really close to your car, it might be really expensive - as these small roads with single-tracks are also used by heavy trucks, catterpillars and other big machinery and even if there is mostly not a lot of traffic at all, a trafic jam caused by a blocked passing-place is a real problem on these streets.
There is quite a number of people who fall so much in love with the island that they decide to relocate to Skye and live there permanently. Most people come to the island from other parts of Britain where they often have made so much money that they can afford a slower-paced lifestyle in scenic surroundings. Other people are lured by the beauty of the place and accept even the worst kind of jobs only so that they can stay on the Island. I personally know some Germans coming to Skye romanticising the "Celtic Way of Life" and for people like that I am writing this warning.
In general, I think it is great that in our Western societies people can decide for themselves how and where they want to live.
But the consequences of moving to Skye are far-reaching.
There are very few decent paying jobs on Skye. The infrastructure is still insufficient and this finding extends to all areas of human activity, also to medical services. The recent influx of people has improved a lot of things, but it has not really solved the old problems existing for hundreds of years and it has also created some new problems.
It's not at all as vibrant as the touristy brochures want you to believe -- sports clubs, local associations, interest groups, choirs of various styles, friendly competitions with the neighbour village, where there is a rich extracurricular life in a German village and plenty of opportunities to mingle with the locals and integrate into society, there often is just a blank on Skye if you are looking for an equivalent.
Also, do not expect to be welcomed into the community, especially if you belong to some kind of minority group with views and lifestyle differing from the mainstream.
So, as a summary, if you lead a miserable life in your place right now and are thinking about moving to Skye changing all that, please think again. Chances are, your life will become even more miserable when in Skye.