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!
This post contains affiliate links. If you use them, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. [toc]
What is the Trotternish Loop?
This epic stretch of road goes round the Trotternish Peninsula on the Isle of Skye. The north of the island is arguably home to the most interesting landscapes and many of the main sights can be seen on a circular driving tour of the Trotternish loop.
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 around 2 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, the loop will take the best part of a day so allow for this when putting together your Isle of Skye itinerary.
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 Quiriang are easier to drive in this direction.
What are the roads like 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 circuit which 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 and windy weather on Skye means 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 to your vehicle.
If you are visiting the Isle of Skye during winter, be aware that there are parts of the Trotternish Loop which are impassable in snow and ice. The circuit is still doable but you’ll need to exercise caution.
What is there to see on 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, it is highly likely that you will 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 hill close to the small Co-Op. Don’t miss the opportunity to pick up some Isle of Skye tartan from the Portree Knitwear Company 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 points 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. 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 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.
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!
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, 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!
Skye Museum of Island Life
Unfortunately, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit the Skye Museum of Island Life. During my most recent visit, the museum was closed due to COVID-19. However, the museum is rated highly and offers a wealth of information about island life throughout the ages.
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 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.
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 which has already claimed one tower. As such, the entrance into the castle is prohibited. However, the ruin is still worth a look and 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.
Perhaps the most impressive scenery on the Isle of Skye lies around the Quiriang 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 hike, even though it arguably one of the best treks on Skye.
If you have the time (and even if that involves returning another day), I wholeheartedly recommend doing the full hike. It is around 6.5 km and should take you around 4 hours to complete the circular path. In good weather, it shouldn’t be too difficult, however, bear in mind that the steep sections will be slippery after rain!
The village of Staffin is most well known for the dinosaur prints which were discovered on the 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 knowledgable and can give you some tips on where to find the prints.
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.
There is adequate 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, 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 of Mealt Falls in the distance. If you are lucky, you could even spot dolphins in the waters around here!
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.
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 2 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’.
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. There is a small lay by with room for a few cars just off of the road. The waterfall is located between the Old Man of Storr and Portree.
Although the falls can be viewed from the car park, the best views come from crossing the small burn and heading up the hill 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. For those short on time, this is the perfect first day for your Skye trip and covers the main highlights of the island.
Places to stay in Portree
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.
This contemporary 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 do a wonderful variety of meat and seafood dishes. Venture out early in the morning to get some fabulous shots of the picturesque bay below.
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.