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What is the best way to get from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye?
If you are planning a trip to this unique island from Edinburgh or other cities in Scotland, look no further.
In this post, our friend Stefanie from Open Road Odysseys will break down the best options as well as some of the places you should visit and accommodation options while you are there.
There are a few ways to travel between the iconic city and the popular tourist area depending on a number of factors. So let’s find out which one is best for your travel plans.
The best way to get from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye – Things to know before planning
Before you decide how to get from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye, there are a few things you should know ahead of time when you are planning your trip. So let’s get to it first.
How long is your trip?
The length of your trip matters because if you only have a few days from start to finish, you’ll probably want to get there as fast as possible so you have the most time to explore the area. If you have more time, you might sacrifice a bit of time for a cheaper or more exciting mode of transportation.
What is your budget?
There is a mode of transportation for all budgets, but you’ll need to know how much you can spend ahead of time so you can stick to it and not spend more than you can afford.
Who is traveling with you?
You might decide to travel differently depending on whether you are by yourself, with a friend, or with your spouse and kids. Certain options may work better and be cheaper depending on who is going with you and how much luggage you have.
When are you visiting?
Depending on the time of year, there may be limited options and routes available. The price can also fluctuate a bit by seasons and demand, so keep this in mind as well.
What do you want to see?
If you decide to rely entirely on public transportation, you will be limited on what attractions you can reach and also what time of day you can arrive.
On the flip side, if you plan to rent your own car, you’ll be able to see what you want when you want to.
Decide ahead of time what attractions are a priority and whether you can see them based on your preferred method of transportation.
Getting to the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh
There are a variety of methods of transportation to get to the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh. Here are all the options.
Note: for all the public transportation options, I use the website Rome2Rio to see the different routes, estimated costs, and also the links to book the tickets. It’s a fantastic resource to help you plan any trip that incorporates public transport!
1. Getting to the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh by train + ferry
A unique way to reach the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh is to take the ferry across the Sound of Sleat from Mallaig to Armadale.
This is a fun way that not many tourists know about and can be a whole experience in and of itself!
The best way to accomplish this is to first take the train from Edinburgh to Mallaig, and then take the ferry across the water to Armadale.
You’ll take the First ScotRail Service from Edinburgh to Glasgow Queen Street, transfer to Crianlarich, and then transfer to Mallaig.
Once in Mallaig, you’ll take the ferry, operated by CalMac Ferries, across the water to Armadale.
The ferry has a summer and a winter schedule, so depending on the time of year you visit, the ferry will run at different times. In the winter, there are only 2-3 ferries a day, so keep this in mind when you plan your journey.
2. Getting to the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh By train + bus
One of the most popular ways to get from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye is to combine taking a train and a bus.
Since there is no direct train line to the Isle of Skye, if you want to travel by train, you’ll need another mode of transportation to get the rest of the way.
There are 3 combinations of train and bus that will get you to the Isle of Skye. The first is to take the train from Edinburgh to Inverness (direct with First ScotRail Service) and then the bus (direct with Stagecoach Highlands) to Portree.
In my opinion, this is the best option because it’s the fastest and most direct and also a good budget-friendly choice. Plus it will get you directly to Portree, which is the best place to base yourself on the Isle of Skye.
The second option is to take a night train with First ScotRail Service from Edinburgh to Glasgow Queen Street, spend the night in Glasgow, and then take the train again from Glasgow Queens Street to Anniesland. From there, you’ll take the bus (Scottish Citylink 916) from Anniesland Cross to Portree.
I would only consider this route if you wanted to spend a day or two in Glasgow before heading to the Isle of Skye or if you are OK with finding a hotel in Glasgow to sleep at for a few hours.
The third choice is to take the direct night train to Fort William with Caledonian Sleeper and then the bus (direct with Scottish Citylink) to Portree. This would be a good option for you if you wanted to combine a place to sleep with transport. This is more expensive than the others but could also be fun and part of the adventure.
3. Getting to the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh By bus
If you would rather travel exclusively by bus, there are a couple of options.
The first is to take Megabus from Edinburgh to Inverness and then transfer to the 917 bus direct to Portree. The second is to take the 900 bus from Edinburgh to Glasgow and then transfer to either the 915 or the 916 direct to Portree.
If you are on a budget, taking the bus is probably going to be your cheapest option. It’s a slower way to get there than a train + bus combo, but you’ll spend less money.
4. Getting to the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh by train + tour
Maybe you want to take a day tour to explore the Isle of Skye but you want to base yourself a little closer than Edinburgh.
A good option for this is to take a train to Inverness and then catch a tour that leaves from there.
You would take the direct train with First ScotRail Service to Inverness, stay overnight, and then take a tour to Skye the next day.
There are a few great tour options that leave from Inverness. One of the best-valued and highest-rated is this full-day Skye tour from Timberbush Tours. You’ll see lots of popular attractions such as Eilean Donan Castle, the Skye Bridge, Portree, The Old Man of Storr, and Kilt Rock.
If you want to drive past Loch Ness and see attractions around this area as well, this 8-seat tour from Happy Tours is perfect for those who also want a small-group experience.
The tour only takes 8 people at a time, and you’ll get to see Urquart Castle along Loch Ness as well as several stops on the Isle of Skye itself.
5. Getting from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye By tour
If navigating the public transportation system seems too overwhelming for you, or if you’d rather be chauffeured around without worrying about anything, then consider taking a multi-day tour to the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye directly from Edinburgh.
While it is too far to take a day trip from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye, there are multi-day Scotland tours for all budgets, group sizes, and lengths. Check out the section below for the best 3-5 day tours from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye.
Also, having a knowledgeable guide and letting someone else do the driving is a great stress-free way to experience the Isle of Skye and all it has to offer. Here are the top multi-day tours from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye.
➡️ 3-Day Isle of Skye and Highlands Tour from Edinburgh
If you have 3 days, take this Isle of Skye and Highlands tour with Highland Experience Tours. You’ll see all the popular sights on the Isle of Skye, including Kilt Rock, Old Man of Storr, and Portree, plus attractions around Loch Ness and also the Culloden Battlefield.
➡️ 3-Day Isle of Skye and Scottish Highlands Tour Including “Hogwarts Express” Ride
Harry Potter fans, train enthusiasts, and history buffs will love this 3-day Isle of Skye tour by Highland Explorer Tours which includes a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train. This train and the Glenfinnian Viaduct were famous in the Harry Potter movies and the Scottish history of the Jacobite uprising and Bonnie Prince Charlie. You’ll also see Eilean Donan Castle, Dunvegan Castle, and the dramatic scenery of Glencoe in addition to the sights on Isle of Skye.
➡️ 4-Day Isle of Skye & West Highlands Small-Group Tour from Edinburgh
If you’ve got 4 days, this highly-rated tour from Rabbies Trail Burners is a great option. Not only will you spend 2 days on Skye, taking a customized tour based on what the group wants to see, but you’ll also get to ride the ferry from Mallaig to Armadale, which is a fun experience.
➡️ 5-Day Best of Scotland Experience from Edinburgh
If you want the full package and have 5 days to take a tour, then this one with Highland Experience Tours is the one you won’t want to miss. In addition to the Isle of Skye and the Highlands, you’ll also venture around Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Loch Ness, Glencoe, and the Glenfinnian Viaduct.
6. Getting from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye By car (road trip)
Renting a car in Scotland and driving yourself from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye is a fantastic way to really explore the Highlands and see as much as you can of this beautiful country.
If you are adventurous and want to have the most freedom to see everything on your Isle of Skye bucket list plus lots of other things along the way, then taking a road trip through Scotland is going to be the best option.
For some inspiration, take a look at this 7-day road trip from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye.
What’s the Best Time to Visit the Isle of Skye?
There’s really never a bad time to visit the Isle of Skye, but the time of year to visit will depend on what kind of experience you want to have.
If you want the best weather and all the attractions to be open, then you should visit in the summer.
This is the most popular time to visit the Isle of Skye, which also means you’ll have to deal with crowds and traffic.
But you’ll have the warmest weather and the longest days, which means more time to see the things you want.
If you want to visit with the least amount of tourists, consider taking a trip in the winter. While there will be certain attractions that won’t be open, you will often have many of the sights to yourself or only a few others, and the traffic won’t be bad at all.
It will be much colder though, and while the Isle of Skye doesn’t usually get snow, you will have a good chance of rain, so pack appropriately.
This is when we visited Scotland and we loved it. We didn’t mind the rain, although it did hamper a few of our hiking ambitions, driving on the one-lane roads was easy with fewer cars and we often had attractions that are swamped in the summer entirely to ourselves, like the Fairy Glen.
Spring and fall are also great times to visit the Isle of Skye. The tourists are not as numerous as in the summer, but the weather is a bit warmer than in the winter and there are still many attractions that will be open.
Prices are also good this time of year, and it’s a nice time for hiking and outdoor exploring.
Getting from Inverness to the Isle of Skye
Inverness is a great place to base yourself if you want to explore the Isle of Skye but also want to see more of the Highlands. It’s also a great choice if you want to take a day trip to the Isle of Skye since there are no one-day tours available from Edinburgh to Skye.
You can get to the Isle of Skye from Inverness in a few different ways. If you want to take public transportation, you can take the 917 direct bus to Portree.
You can also rent a car and drive yourself, or you can take a tour (see the previous section on the best days tours to the Isle of Skye from Inverness).
Best things to do in the Isle of Skye
The town of Portee is considered the hub of the Isle of Skye and a fantastic place to base yourself while visiting. But it’s also a really nice area to explore and spend some time in.
Wander around the town, head down to the water, and check out all the colorful houses, take a hike on the Scorrybreac Trail, and stock up on meals and snacks for your adventures.
The Fairy Pools are one of the most iconic sites on the Isle of Skye. A short trail from the parking lot takes you down to the River Brittle and gets you up and close to the streams, pools, and waterfalls. The backdrop of the mountains completes the view of this magical place.
For whisky lovers, take a tour of Talisker Distillery and learn how the scotch is made. You’ll also get the chance to sample a dram and purchase any bottles you’d like to take home with you.
The Fairy Glen is another famous site for tourists to explore. This area boasts unique formations and stunning views. You could spend hours wandering around and seeing all the viewpoints.
The circles of stones often called the Fairy Circles, are a popular photo opportunity.
The Quiraing is a famous landslip that is also a popular hiking spot. On a clear day, you can see for miles from the top.
The hike up to the Quiraing is about 3.9 miles roundtrip. This hike should only be attempted on fair weather days as you won’t see much otherwise, and the rocks will be slippery and unsafe if it rains.
Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls
This rock formation and waterfall are worth a quick stop for a photo on any Isle of Skye visit. The waterfall plunges into the ocean over the unique, pleated-looking rocks.
Old Man of Storr
The Old Man of Storr is another popular rock formation that you can hike up to for nice views. The hike is about 3 miles roundtrip and should also only be done on a decent weather day. If hiking is not your thing, you can admire the site from the road assuming it’s not too foggy.
Dunvegan Castle & Gardens
If you are visiting between April and mid-October, Dunvegan Castle & Gardens is a beautiful place to spend a few hours and explore the historic structure and grounds. The property also offers boat trips out to see the local seal colony which is a unique experience for any visitor.
Neist Point is a stunning part of the Isle of Skye where visitors can walk out to the Neist Point Lighthouse and admire the fantastic coastal scenery. While a little more off the beaten path than some of the other sites, this area is well worth the effort if you have the time.
Where to stay on the Isle of Skye
Basing yourself in Portree and taking day trips to see the sights is probably the best option when visiting the Isle of Skye as there are more hotel options here than anywhere else.
The Cuillin Hills Hotel is one of the highest-rated hotels and offers free breakfast and free parking and also has a restaurant on site. It’s also within walking distance of downtown Portree so you can walk to and from the bus station and also any of the surrounding attractions.
From Edinburgh to Isle of Skye FAQ
Can you do a day trip to Isle of Skye from Edinburgh?
The short answer: no, you can’t feasibly do a day trip to the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh. The journey takes approximately 6 hours by car from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye one way, which leaves you with no time to see anything on the island.
Give yourself at least one day to get to the Isle of Skye and one day to get back when planning your trip.
Is Isle of Skye worth it?
Yes, the Isle of Skye is absolutely worth visiting! The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and there is so much variety in the landscape.
Even if you only have 1 full day to explore, it is well worth the journey to experience this magical place.
What is the best month to visit Skye?
While there is really never a bad time to visit Skye, if you are looking for fewer crowds and decent weather, September is a great month to come.
How many days do you need in Skye?
In short: as many as you can manage! That being said, to get a really good overview of the Isle of Skye, consider spending 2-3 days here. However, even if you only have one full day, you’ll still be able to see a lot and in my opinion is still worth it.
Is there a train from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye?
No, there is no train on the Isle of Skye. If you want to utilize the train system as much as you can, you’ll either need to take a train to Inverness, Fort William, or Mallaig and from there take a bus or a ferry to get the rest of the way.
Is it easy to walk to the Fairy Pools on Skye?
In my opinion, yes, it is easy to walk to the Fairy Pools on Skye. When you park in the car lot, there is a dirt path across the road that will take you to the pools.
It can be a little steep and uneven in places, but if you take your time, it’s not a difficult walk. Just be mindful if it’s wet or raining as it can be slippery.
Is Fairy Pools worth visiting?
Yes, I absolutely think the Fairy Pools are worth visiting! It can get a little crowded in the busy summer months, but the landscape is incredibly stunning and well worth a visit.
Can you explore Isle of Skye without a car?
Yes, you can explore the Isle of Skye without a car, but you will be much more limited on where you can go and when. There is a bus service that will take you around to some of the other towns on Skye, but you may have trouble getting to many of the attractions this way.
If you don’t have a car, I highly recommend you take a tour of the Isle of Skye so you can see the main sites and have a guide to enrich your experience.
Conclusion: How to get from Edinburgh to Isle of Skye
No matter your budget or number of days to explore, there is an option for you on how to get from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye. From public transportation to renting a car, to taking a tour, to a combination of them all, there is a choice that will work for you!