Offering some of the best scenery on the Isle of Skye, the Trotternish Loop is a 50-mile circuit around the north of the island that simply cannot be missed. It connects many of the island’s main attractions and also provides jaw-dropping scenery. If you are visiting the Isle of Skye, add this road trip to your itinerary now!
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What is the Trotternish Loop?
The Trotternish Loop is an epic driving route that circles the Trotternish Peninsula in northeast Skye. Owing to a colossal landslip created over millions of years, this part of the island is home to some of the most dramatic landscapes on Skye.
The Trotternish Ridge is the spine of northern Skye and the area is home to many of the most famous attractions on the island. The best way to see these is by driving the Trotternish Loop. This road trip is great because it can be easily customised depending on how much time you have on the island.
Good to know! While absolutely a must-do on the island, the Trotternish Loop does not reveal all that the Isle of Skye has to offer! This is just a recommended driving route for the north of the island. Make sure that you budget enough time to visit some of the other amazing attractions located elsewhere on Skye.
Trotternish Loop Map
How Long Does It Take to Drive the Trotternish Loop?
Depending on the season and the direction in which you choose to drive the Trotternish Loop, the full journey should take between 2 and 3 hours. This estimate does not include the time spent at each attraction along the circuit. If you plan to make stops at every point of interest, you’ll want to allow for a couple of days, staying somewhere en route overnight.
Driving the Trotternish Loop is not the same as driving around the whole of the island. This Isle of Skye road trip takes you solely around the northern Trotternish peninsula. You won’t visit the west or south of the island on this route.
Be aware that during the summer, there will be significantly more traffic on the road (including bulky motorhomes) which can cause congestion and extend journey times. I recommend travelling in a clockwise direction beginning in Portree. This is because the roads around the Quiraing are easier to drive in this direction.
If you only have one day to dedicate to driving the Trotternish Loop and you want to do some hiking, I recommend only stopping at the Fairy Glen, The Quiraing, Mealt Falls, Kilt Rock and the Old Man of Storr. If you include any additional attractions, you will likely feel very rushed. Driving the full Trotternish Loop can take anywhere between 1-3 days depending on how many places of interest you want to properly explore.
It is worth pointing out that the above recommendation assumes that you are visiting during the summer months. Winter on the Isle of Skye results in dramatically reduced daylight hours and you would struggle to complete the version of the loop above along with the associated hikes before night falls.
Roads on the Trotternish Circuit
The Trotternish Circuit is easy to navigate and the main attractions on the loop are well signed. However, there are sections of the road trip that are along single-track roads. If you meet traffic along these stretches, make sure you pull into the nearest passing place on the left-hand side, leaving room for other vehicles behind you if necessary.
Whilst the roads are regularly maintained, the harsh, cold winters on Skye mean that the road surface can deteriorate quickly. Look out for potholes and try to avoid these whenever possible. If you are unable to go around the pothole, make sure to slow down to lessen the impact on your vehicle.
If you are visiting the Isle of Skye during winter, be aware that there are parts of the Trotternish Loop that are impassable in snow and ice. The circuit is still doable but you’ll need to exercise caution.
Facilities on the Trotternish Driving Route
If you have done much travelling in the Highlands, you’ll already know that public facilities can be few and far between. The Trotternish Circuit is no different.
Public toilets are available in the following spots:
- Portree (free)
- The Old Man of Storr
- The Skye Museum of Island Life
If you get caught short and have to take an al fresco pee, remember to take any toilet paper back with you to dispose of at a later opportunity. You should always follow leave no trace principles when visiting outdoor spaces.
The majority of food and restaurant options on the Trotternish Loop can be found in Portree. There are convenience shops located in Staffin and Uig. Sometimes you will find a hot food van in car parks at popular spots such as the Quiraing, however, these are not permanent features and should not be relied upon.
Aside from the shops, the only places to grab a drink en route are at the Old Man of Storr coffee shop or the shop in the Museum of Island Life.
Attractions on the Trotternish Loop
These points of interest are listed in the order that you will see them if you begin in Portree and follow the loop clockwise.
Portree and Broadford are the main accommodation hubs on the Isle of Skye. With this in mind, you will likely begin driving the Trotternish Loop beginning from Portree. If you are not staying in Portree, still take some time to explore the town on foot.
Portree is the capital of Skye but don’t let this fool you. It is very small and really doesn’t take long to walk around! There are beautiful views of the colourful harbour from the top of the nearby hill (known locally as the Lump) and along the Scorrybreac circuit.
Don’t miss the opportunity to pick up some Isle of Skye tartan from one of the many gift shops and make sure you allow time to sample one of the Scottish breakfasts at Cafe Arriba! If you are planning to spend the whole day exploring the places of interest along the Trotternish Loop, a hearty breakfast is a great way to start your road trip!
To begin your journey along the Trotternish Circuit, leave Portree via the A855 towards Uig. This will take you around the loop in a clockwise direction.
Your first stop along the Trotternish Loop will be the Fairy Glen, located just outside Uig. This whimsical attraction might well be my favourite place on the entire island. The journey from Portree takes around half an hour.
Once you are at the Fairy Glen, there is no real hiking route. However, visitors should attempt to stick to the beaten path whenever possible to limit damage to the landscape. There is an ongoing issue with stone stacking in this area which erodes the environment. Please don’t do this!
Most of all, don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for magical creatures here – if you’re going to see them anywhere on Skye, this is the place!
Where to park: There is now a small car park close to the glen but spaces fill up quickly so I recommend trying to get here early in the morning. The current cost is £2 for two hours or you can have up to four hours for £3. Follow the directions to the Fairy Glen on Google Maps and you’ll arrive at the car park.
Uig is a small fishing town which links Skye to the Outer Hebrides. It is from here that you can catch a ferry to North Uist or Lewis and Harris. There isn’t too much to see in town but it is well worth stopping at the Isle Of Skye Brewing Company if you enjoy gin or ale. Make sure you bring a bottle of Skye Gold home with you, it’s delicious!
Where to park: There is a free car park in the centre of Uig next to the ferry terminal.
Skye Museum of Island Life
Skye Museum of Island Life is a great place to go if you want to learn more about the history of the Isle of Skye and its people. Offering a wealth of information about island life through the ages, you’ll learn about the prevalence of the Gaelic language on Skye and get to explore a traditional Highland house. The entrance fee is £5 for adults.
Where to park: There is parking for visitors on-site and there are also public toilets and a gift shop.
Flora MacDonald Grave and Monument
A short walk up the road from the museum is Kilmuir Cemetery. This is where Flora MacDonald was laid to rest. She is most famous for aiding the escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie after the Battle of Culloden in 1746. This story inspired the well-known Skye Boat Song, later used as the theme tune for the popular Scottish time travel drama, Outlander. If you are an Outlander fan, make sure to check out Doune Castle close to Stirling, one of the filming locations!
Fashion enthusiasts will also be interested to know that Kilmuir Cemetery is also the resting place of A-list designer, Alexander McQueen.
Where to park: Leave your car in the Skye Museum of Island Life car park while you visit the monument.
Located at the top of the Trotternish Loop is Duntulm Castle, one of the best castles on the Isle of Skye. The castle ruins sit on a precarious cliff that has already claimed one tower. As such, entrance into the castle is prohibited. However, the ruin is still worth a look and the fence blocking the entrance isn’t all that big either…
What makes this stop particularly impressive is its ruggedness. In rough weather, the sea batters the cliff face, a truly wild spectacle to watch. It probably goes without saying that in a storm, you want to avoid walking anywhere near the cliffs but I’ll state it openly just in case.
If you can time your visit with low tide, this is a great spot to hunt for dinosaur footprints. Along with Staffin and Brothers’ Point, prints have been discovered here, dating from the Jurassic Period.
Where to park: There is a small parking area on the road close to Duntulm, however, it gets filled up very quickly. If it is full, there is a small amount of additional parking up the road but you will have a wee walk to get to the castle.
Perhaps the most impressive scenery on the Isle of Skye lies around the Quiraing area. This spectacular landslip is not only an icon of Skye but of the Scottish Highlands as a whole. Most of the organised tours stop here but very few allow time to do the circular hike, even though it is one of the best walks on Skye.
If you have the time, I wholeheartedly recommend doing the full hike. It is around 6.5 km and should take you around three to four hours to complete the circular path. Most people will be able to this hike as it is only of moderate difficulty. Bear in mind that the steep sections will be slippery after rain!
Where to park: There is a decent-sized car park located close to the trailhead of the Quiraing. Simply follow the directions on Google Maps to find it. It is open from 8 am to 8 pm, although there is a maximum stay limit of 6 hours. For 3 hours, the cost is £3 and for 6 hours, it costs £5. You can pay by card here. Sometimes there’s a burger van or equivalent in the car park. However, these should not be relied on as they aren’t always there, especially out of season.
The village of Staffin is most well known for the dinosaur prints which were discovered on An Corran Beach. It is great fun searching for the prints (especially if you have children), however, you should know that they are notoriously difficult to find.
For a helping hand, make sure you check out the Staffin Ecomuseum. There is an amazing fossil collection here as well as plenty of information about the discoveries made on the island. The owner is very knowledgeable and can give you some tips on where to find the prints.
Where to park: There is parking at the Staffin Ecomuseum. To visit the dinosaur footprints, there is limited parking at the Brothers’ Point car park (a lay-by off the main road) and also at Staffin Harbour car park (marked on Google Maps).
Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls
Just a short drive down the road is the viewpoint for Mealt Falls, one of Scotland’s most beautiful waterfalls. The water plunges 55 metres over the famous Kilt Rock (so named because the cliff face is said to look like the pleats of a kilt), before reaching the ocean below.
Where to park: There is adequate free parking close by which is signed from the road. The approach road is littered with massive potholes, take it slow and beware of oncoming traffic.
Also known as Rubha nam Brathairean in Gaelic, Brothers’ Point is the most easterly point of the Trotternish peninsula. This breathtaking headland offers an awesome hike which will be doable for most, however, it should only be attempted in good weather.
There is some steep cliffside walking which can be dangerous in the rain or wind so take care if you decide to do the whole hike. The scenery from the point is nothing short of epic, with beautiful views of the sea, cliff face and Mealt Falls in the distance. This is a great place to spot wildlife on the Isle and Skye and if you are lucky, you could even see dolphins around here!
Where to park: There is a small lay-by off the main road where you can park if you want to trek to Brothers’ Point. It is free but fills very quickly.
Whilst less impressive than Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock, it is still well worth stopping at Lealt Falls. The viewing platform juts out over the gorge which allows for the best views. There is also a track which you can follow out to the cliffs. Picnic benches are scattered about here so it is a good place to stop for a snack.
Where to park: You can park at the Lealt Falls car park for free. It is next to the viewing platform with only a short walk required.
Old Man of Storr
Did you even do the Trotternish Loop if you didn’t visit the Old Man of Storr? Storr is the gem in Skye’s crown and no visit to the island is complete without it. Whilst the landscape can be viewed from the road, it is well worth doing the hike if time allows.
There are two viewpoints, however, many visitors only trek to the first. If you wanted to complete the full hike, you should allow around two hours. This is Skye’s most popular attraction so bear in mind that the trail can get very crowded. If you have a few days on the island, it is worth doing the Storr trek first thing in the morning to avoid the hoards of people.
Storr has appeared in a number of feature films including ‘Prometheus’ and ‘The Wicker Man’.
Where to park: The council finally recognised that the car parking situation at the Old Man of Storr needed expanding. The result is a large car park, situated right at the bottom of the trail. There are public toilets available here for a small fee as well as a coffee shop. The car park costs £3 for three hours which should suffice for most to do the traditional out and back viewpoint hike. There is a limit of 12 hours.
Brides Veil Waterfall
Although this waterfall isn’t yet marked on Google Maps (not in the right place anyway), the map above will take you to where you need to go. The waterfall is located between the Old Man of Storr and Portree.
The falls can be viewed from the car park but the best views come from crossing the small burn and heading up the hill on the other side. This trail can get a little boggy in bad weather, however, the views of the falls and over to Storr are incredible on a clear day, especially after there has been rain (which is often on Skye)!
This is the last stop on Skye’s Trotternish Loop before you arrive back in Portree.
Where to park: There is a small lay-by with room for a few cars just off of the road. Keep your eyes peeled! It will be on the righthand side if you are travelling towards Portree.
Places to Stay on the Trotternish Loop
Owned by the YHA (Youth Hostelling Association), this no-frills option is great for backpackers on a budget. The hostel is conveniently located in the centre of Portree and is within easy walking distance from all of the shops. They have the capacity for both large and small groups of people, as well as a communal lounge and cooking facilities.
If you’re visiting Skye for a special occasion and really want a trip to remember, Flodigarry Hotel is sure to deliver. This idyllic country house sits atop a hill in Flodigarry offering breathtaking views of the mainland and the sea. With character rooms and beautiful grounds, Flodigarry is a great choice.
This hotel overlooks the colourful Portree harbour and offers great views from many of the rooms. The hotel is also home to the popular restaurant Dulse & Brose, which does a wonderful variety of meat and seafood dishes. Venture out early in the morning to get some fabulous shots of the picturesque bay below.
A contemporary hideaway, Flora’s Cliff View is located in Kilmuir and boasts astounding views out to sea. This cabin is wonderfully modern and offers everything guests could need to get the most out of their stay on Skye. This location is great for spotting birdlife so nature lovers are guaranteed to enjoy a visit here.
For a truly luxurious experience, head to the Cuillin Hills Hotel, located in 15 acres of private grounds. Whilst this hotel is located in Portree, it is also out of the main bustle of town, meaning guests can enjoy a tranquil and laidback visit. The rooms are tastefully decorated and very spacious, with incredible views over Portree bay.
Sitting in the village of Staffin, An Cnoc Bed and Breakfast offers homely rooms with a warm welcome. A delicious breakfast is included in the room tariff and a takeaway option can be arranged if you need to leave early. For a clean and comfortable stay, this is a great option.
What is your favourite place on the Isle of Skye’s Trotternish Loop?