The Fairy Glen (also sometimes spelt the Faerie Glen) might not be Skye’s most well-known attraction but it is undoubtedly one of its best. This otherworldly scene of conical hills, rocky outcrops and trickling falls make this place seem like something that has fallen straight out of a Tolkien novel.
Whether or not you believe in faeries, the magic of the Fairy Glen is something that has to be experienced first hand. However, as the site continues to grow in popularity, getting that intimate visit is becoming harder and harder. If you want to tick this whimsical spot off of your Skye itinerary and make your visit one to remember, read on for everything you need to know.
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What is the Fairy Glen?
When you first set eyes on the Fairy Glen, I’d bet good money that the words ‘wow’ will escape from your lips. And that really is the most perfect word for it. The scenery is jaw-dropping and immediately conjures up your memories of your favourite childhood fable. If you look close enough, you may just see a small mythical creature fly past out of the corner of your eye…
How was the Fairy Glen formed?
The Fairy Glen is believed to have been formed by a series of landslips, similar to the ones that created the epic Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing formations. The landscape was then smoothed by the movement of glaciers that occurred during the following ice age.
Faerie Glen Folklore
Scottish folklore has long painted fairies as something to be feared. Traditionally, it was said that these magical creatures would place spells on their enemies and act with malicious intent. Digging in fairy hills was banned and people were very cautious around these areas to avoid offending the mythical sprites.
Skye is known for its myths and legends but unlike the Sligachan Bridge and Spar Cave, there is no tall tale behind the Fairy Glen. According to the locals, the Fairy Glen was so named because of its otherworldly landscape and has no link to magical folklore. I still recommend keeping your eyes peeled just in case though!
While the large rock formation which overlooks the glen does appear to be the perfect faerie hiding place, this is just another characteristic of the landslip. Despite this, Castle Ewen as it has been named offers by far the best views of the glen below – if you are brave enough to climb it!
What is interesting is that there are a large number of Rowan trees scattered about the area which have long been known as a type of faerie tree. In British folklore, the Rowan tree has long been believed to protect against enchantment and witchcraft. Coincidence? I’ll let you make up your own mind on that one…
Visiting the Fairy Glen Responsibly
Over the years as the Fairy Glen has increased in popularity, the locals have had to battle to keep this special place protected. Litter, stone stacking and rock circles have long been a problem in this area.
Whilst seeing the spiral adorned with rocks might look nice, this can actually damage the fragile ecosystem of the glen and make life difficult for the animals which graze in this area. As the area is becoming so well-trodden, the ground can easily turn mushy in bad weather and the rocks need to be left in their original place to limit soil erosion.
The glen is located on private property so it is important to follow the directions of the locals regarding caring for the glen. There are signs urging visitors not to move rocks clearly displayed throughout the area. Be aware that the stone designs are considered to be vandalism and you should always strive to leave natural sites the way you found them.
Hiking the Fairy Glen
As one of my favourite places on the island, I couldn’t miss this easygoing trek from my best hikes on Skye list. The nice thing about the walk (which is marked on Walk Highlands) is that it is easy, short and offers many rewards in terms of views.
From the newly constructed car park, head up towards the hillocks, keeping left on the road. You will soon reach a fork where you need to take the right turn. Follow the track as its heads up into the Fairy Glen, around the side of Castle Ewen.
The route from here is not determined so you can explore at your leisure. Make sure to head up to the top of Castle Ewen for the best views and also take in the scenery from some of the other surrounding hillocks. As with any kind of hiking, stick to the beaten trail to preserve as much of the landscape as possible.
Getting to the Fairy Glen
The Fairy Glen is situated on the Trotternish Peninsula, although you will need to make a slight detour in order to see it if you are road tripping the Trottenish Loop.
Uig is the closest town to the Fairy Glen and it is possible to get a bus here from Portree (Bus 57 or Citylink 916). Bear in mind that the bus stop in Uig is located 1.5 miles from the Fairy Glen so you will need to walk the rest of the way along narrow roads. This takes around 30 minutes. There is also a shuttle bus to the Fairy Glen from Uig but you will need to reserve a seat in advance!
The best way to get to the Fairy Glen is to drive. At the time of writing, there are no signs directing visitors to the Fairy Glen, however, it is marked on Google Maps. From Portree, take the A87 and turn right just before the Uig Hotel. The drive from this point takes around five minutes. Be careful to watch for walkers along the side of the road and don’t park in any passing places. As of autumn 2020, a new car park is being constructed just before you reach the Fairy Glen.
Be aware that this spot gets very busy in the summer months and that larger vehicles such as motorhomes may struggle to park if the main car park is full. If you are visiting in a camper van or another large vehicle, park in Uig and walk the rest of the way to avoid getting stuck.
Tips For Visiting the Fairy Glen
Plan for midges
Across the Isle of Skye, the Scottish midges can be a real nightmare during the summer months. Usually, I’d say to try and avoid the times when the midges are most active (just before dawn breaks and as it starts getting dark) but this is when you are most likely to see the Fairy Glen without crowds. Instead, make sure you stock up on Smidge or Avon So Soft.
What to Bring
The most important way to plan for visiting the Fairy Glen is to prepare for typical Scottish weather. Sadly, when I say this I don’t mean beautiful sunny skies either! The weather changes very quickly on Skye (it isn’t known as the Misty Isle for nothing) and you will kick yourself if you forget to expect the unexpected.
These essentials are must-have items for a trip to the Fairy Glen!
- Waterproof jacket
- Tough hiking boots/shoes
When is the Best Time to Visit the Fairy Glen?
As you would expect, the summer months are the busiest for all of the attractions on Skye. If you can, plan your visit for the spring or autumn. The midges will be less prominent and you will also get to avoid the big crowds that the summer brings.
Nothing worth having comes easy and therefore, to get this magical place to yourself for a while, your best bet is to visit early in the morning. If you can bear to pull yourself out of bed early, it really is worth the bleary-eyed wake up as the Fairy Glen gets very busy!
Places to stay on the Isle of Skye
Located in Portnalong, this hostel is situated around an hour’s drive from the Fairy Glen. While this initially seems very far away, it is the best hostel on the island (and is regularly voted the best hostel in Scotland by Hostelworld) so it is worth driving a bit extra. The setting is quiet and rural but it is still easy to access all the main attractions if you have a car. Both dorms and private ensuite rooms are available.
22 Earlish $$
Situated in Uig, this B&B is less than a 10-minute drive from the Fairy Glen. A continental breakfast is available and all rooms have their own private bathroom. Danielle, the host, is rated very highly by guests and will do everything possible to make your trip unforgettable!
Redwood House $$$
Located a 40-minute drive from the Fairy Glen, this family-run guesthouse offers stunning lochside views. All of the rooms are doubles and have ensuite bathrooms. The food comes highly rated and there is a beautiful garden area too. If you’re looking for a luxury stay, this is the place for you!
Have you visited the Fairy Glen yet?