Skye is one of the most famous of Scotland's islands, and it's hugely popular with tourists. Linked to the mainland by a bridge, it's ridiculously easy to reach.
Simply driving around Skye was stunning, but walking to the Fairy Pools was on our bucket-list. Overall we found a mix of budget and luxurious treats for the family, so this is what worked for us.
The Fairy Pools
Skye is renowned for its mountains, hikes, hills and treks. We’re a pretty average family in the sense that we like a walk in the great outdoors, but we don’t want to push ourselves to reach the next snow-topped summit with a baby strapped to our back. If you’re looking for a nail-biting endurance hike, I am not the person to provide that, but if our family can reach the Fairy Pools, then probably yours can too.
The Fairy Pools are one of Skye’s most natural beauties. A series of waterfalls wonderfully appearing in the middle of nowhere. Despite the remote location, you’re rarely alone as this is a popular and gentle walking route. It undulates, rather than kids facing a steep uphill slog.
-Practical Tips for the Fairy Pools with Kids
Parking is busy, and works on a donation system. We left our three year old’s buggy behind as it’s not suitable for the terrain. He wasn’t the youngest tourist, as we spotted young babies in carriers. Pack snacks, pack wipes and nappy bags for the kids (as there are no toilet facilities) and dress for the weather. We wore head-to-toe waterproofs and walking-boots/wellies. Skye is exposed, and we could see the weather fronts coming in before they hit us. The rain would be upon us, then it would swiftly pass for the sun to beat down.
The walk was fantastic – lots of little streams and rivers to cross. Stone bridges to leap across, pools to stare into, all surrounded by raw unspoiled countryside. Our four year old loved it. Our three year old clambered on daddy’s shoulders for a significant chunk of the walk, admittedly he was too young to achieve it alone but, as a team, we got there. The walk took around three hours, and it was a pleasure. FREE + DONATION FOR CAR PARK
Seek out a decent beach if you get decent weather. We spent an hour throwing stones in the water at Sconser, waiting for the ferry to Raasay. But for a more picturesque beach, we stopped at Glen Brittle on the west of the island. It has a cool coffee shop, Cuillin Coffee, for light refreshments. Cuillin Coffee doesn’t serve hot meals but think freshly baked bread, croissants, cakes, snacks, Teapigs and hot chocolate. FREE + OPTIONAL COFFEE.
If you wish to combine a foodie experience, a few glasses of vino, and a boat trip, head to Portree to catch the Seaflower. This luxury catamaran will transport you (and your youngsters) for a few hours on the water, visiting the island of Rona or Raasay. It’s also a great way to see a bit more of Skye and other islands from a new perspective.
When we dropped anchor the white wine was opened, bowls of Cullen Skink were dished out, followed by a generous platter of langoustines and lobster. Kids are offered more child friendly dishes, such as tomato soup or ham/cheese sandwiches, but sadly my two quite like seafood so I had to share it.
The kids loved being on the water, spotting wildlife, ruins and castles, and the catamaran is powerful, making for a smooth journey. Find out more about sailings and prices here. This excursion isn’t cheap but it was a real highlight, including an excellent lunch as part of the package.
Every island needs a capital, and Portree is where the locals go for a supermarket shop, the opticians, the chemist etc. It’s an essential hub. To me it’s a working Scottish town, and I was bemused to see so many international tourists wandering past the Co-op and the local pharmacy, I couldn’t quite understand the attraction. If you do wish to visit Portree, the colourful harbour is the main draw, perhaps pick up some fish and chips, sit on the harbour walls and stare out to sea. That, undoubtedly, is a lovely spot. FREE + optional fish n chips.
If the weather isn’t doing you any favours, and you’re losing your mind with the kids, then consider visiting Jurassic Land at the Aros Centre. Three-storeys of soft play, people! We grabbed a bite there, it’s very casual dining, nachos, soup and a sandwich type grub. There’s also a gift shop, and the centre hosts performances and events as a creative space. Info about and prices for Jurassic Land can be found here.
Sligachan Playground & Never-Ending Youth
Sligachan Hotel has a playground set in the most outstanding scenery. The Cuillin range is on its doorstep. Kids can go mad on the flying fox, as parents grab a coffee in Seumas’ Bar or take a pew in the beer garden and take in the views. Tip – Bring wellies as the cork chips on the ground can be damp.
The playground is also next to the iconic Sligachan bridge, a popular photogenic spot, and a gateway into the hills. It’s said that if you wash your face in the river you’ll stay looking young forever, but I didn’t chance it. I don’t want the boys looking 3 & 4 forever – weird! FREE + coffee
We stayed at the refurbished Sligachan Hotel. The new owners have really modernised this old drovers inn, a hotel that’s a core part of Skye’s climbing history. It even contains a wee climbing museum highlighting the great climbers who put Skye on the map.
Seumas’ Bar is a cool aprés-hike hang out, which means you can wear what you want, you can bring your dog, bring your kids, have a meal, have a dram, hear some tunes. Be a parent, but still be cool. Kind of…
There’s also a more traditional restaurant, with relatively healthy kids food on the menu, such as mushroom soup and beans on toast.
We stayed in the Pinnacle Suite, which meant that we essentially had our own self-contained bedroom, with television, separate to the boys, who occupied the living room. Once the kids were finally asleep we could hang out without disturbing the cherubs. It’s a beautiful room, so read my full review of the hotel here.
The hotel also offers camping, self-catering and will whip you up a packed lunch if you preorder. For hotel prices and booking check here.
Nip Over to Raasay
Skye is the connection point for the tiny wee island of Raasay. We spent two nights on Raasay and loved it, but it’s perfectly feasible as a day trip. Discover what you could do with your family on Raasay here.
We drove from Aberdeen to Skye and caught the ferry to Raasay in one day. Two night were spent on Raasay, before returning to Skye to explore and overnight. The Fairy Pools and the Seaflower trip were definite highlights. Skye has more to offer, such as castles and crafts, but we’ve reviewed what we experienced, a great balance of free activities in the great outdoors and luxury treats.