I grew up on the Isle of Skye and now I live here with husband, 9 year old boy, 7 year old girl and two energetic dogs. And they all need to be entertained. ALL the time! Luckily Skye is brimming over with things to do, places to go and new adventures round every corner. There really is nowhere better to don shorts and sunscreen or throw on your waterproofs and get out and enjoy with a sense of exploration.
My love of Skye beaches is what keeps me here and drew me home time and time again. A walk on one of our beaches restores me likenothing else. Our absolute favourite beach is at Ashaig. A tidal beach close to the village of Breakish and so special that it gets a blog all of it’s own here! Other beautiful beaches are at Glenbrittle (which has a great campground), and Talisker on the west coast of the island (great for sunset views), the Coral beaches near Dunvegan (a bit of a walk for little ones so a backpack or some bribery may be required but so worth it once you get there) and Staffin beach – also tidal but with the added attraction of looking for a real fossilised dinosaur footprint once you get there. One of the most beautiful beaches anywhere is at Point of Sleat. A 3 mile walk (or 4 x 4 drive) down a very rough track is rewarded with positively Caribbean vistas. White sand, rocks to scramble on, and crystal clear aquamarine waters. And probably all to yourself. For a beach with a view it’s pretty hard to beat Elgol. The beach itself is a marvellous scramble of rocks shaped by the sea, as you make your way towards the Honeycomb rock for spectacular views of the Cuillin. Boat trips run from the small harbour and there are details below in the Excursion section.
Not on Skye but unmissable on the route here is Eilean Donan Castle – excellent interpretative guides and real life guides dressed up and happy to interact with your little historians. Our two love visiting, no matter how often we go. Gets very busy during August. Dunvegan Castle. In the north west of Skye with a long history and the famous fairy flag. Clan Donald and Armadale Castle have extensive grounds to run around in and a lovely little adventure playground and a shop selling gifts and ice cream which may be the key draw for children at this Sleat attraction near the Mallaig – Armadale ferry. For the more exploring types two ancient ruined castles are worth seeking out. Castle Moil in Kyleakin is easy to find and is an easy if steep scramble (and with no safety features) ruined keep with spectacular views south to Loch Duich and north to the Skye bridge and beyond. Harder to find but well worth the effort are the ruins of Dunscaith Castle between Ord and Tarskavaig on the Sleat peninsula. With wonderful views to the Cuillin it is easy to imagine defending the castle against maurading invaders. Again, an at your own risk visit! Knock castle ruins in Sleat overlooking Knock bay is also worth finding.
Excursions and Activities
A car is pretty much essential to get around on Skye. I’m sure you can do it on public transport but I’ve got to hold my hands up and say I’ve never tried. If you’re packing all the usual kids paraphenalia and perhaps a dog or two you really need your own wheels. A car will allow you to explore and your feet, some walking shoes and a backpack for wee ones will take you beyond the roads and into our amazing scenery. One of my very favourite trips on Skye, and one I am lucky enough to do at least once a week all summer as a wedding photographer, is to drive the winding road to Elgol and take a boat trip with the Misty Isles to either Loch Coruisk or Canna. The trips lasting either around 2 hours for the former or all day for the latter are a fabulous experience. Sailing to Loch Coruisk you visit a seal colony,have fabulous views of the Cuillin and then put ashore and scramble to a remote inland loch surrounded by moutains where you can picnic and explore. Youngsters aboard the return trip often have a chance to take the wheel and steer the boat while Mum and Dad can sit back with a coffee, hot chocolate and a piece of shortbread. The longer trip to the beautiful island of Canna makes a wonderful day out and there is often the chance to see dolphins, puffins, other sea birds as well as time to explore Canna and enjoy lunch in the lovely bistro. There are also boat trips to see seals at Dunvegan and Plockton. A fabulous day or overnight visit is to the island of Raasay. Reached by ferry from Sconsor it is easy to explore the island by car/bike (discover Calum’s Road and the North Pole!) and the wonderful Raasay House offers a range of family accommodation and activities such as archery, sailing, coasteering etc. Skye Jeeps Tours is a new and really novel way to take small intimate tours around the island – the effusively friendly owners know all the best and hidden places. Skyak Adventures will take you for a gentle days kayaking for beginners up to 5 star training in rough waters. Overnight camps and annual adventures to the far island of St Kilda are also possible – booking in advance of your visit is essential! From Portree there are boat trips to find our amazing Sea Eagles a Walking on Skye is fabulous and varied from Alpine climbing to gentle strolls. This excellent site lists a huge variety of walks for all Walk Highlands. From a gentle walk by the old bridge and river at Sligachan where you can create your own cairn to scrambling in the Cuillin there is something for everyone. Geocaching is a favourite of ours. Pick your walk, download the geocache app and pick some located along your walk to find en route. Take some small gifts to leave in the caches you find. Great fun and a good introduction to map co-ordinates. Armadale Activities provides a thrilling range of activities including axe throwing, archery and clay pigeon shooting. Located in beautiful Sleat by the Clan Donald Centre this definitely in our sights for this summer. There is a lovely 9 hole golf course at Sconsor and junior visitors are very much welcomed to the club with coaching sessions taking place throughout the summer. You can learn or improve your photography skills with a relaxed on location course from Landscapes 365, children are very welcome. Or you could schedule a family photo shoot with Love Skye Photography. What better time to create some memorable holiday portraits than when you are having fun together on beautiful Skye?
The first thing is that there may well be rainy days. Bring wellies and waterproofs and you will still be able to get out and about – pottering on the beach, geocaching,or perhaps walking to the wonderful otter hide at Kylerhea and eating a picnic in the hide while watching for otters and seals from an amazing viewpoint . To escape inside for a few hours – visit one of the castles listed above, the marvellous Aros centre in Portree which has a small soft play for youngsters, a cinema, regular live music throughout the year, a gift shop and a large cafe. The museum at the Clan Donald centre/Armadale Castle is another favourite of our children – full of tales of the highlands, the clearances and Bonnie Prince Charlie the exhibitions are engaging for all ages (lots of guns and swords too if that appeals to your wee ones!) There are excellent community swimming pools at both Portree and Kyle of Lochalsh. The Fingal Centre in Portree offers a climbing wall and a multi use sports hall that can be booked for badminton or indoor football. All over the island there are villages halls which can be booked very inexpensively to use for games and get togethers on a rainy day. If the Screen Machine is on the island it’s a great and unforgettable experience. A huge lorry that tours the Highlands and unfolds itself into a proper cinema – seeing is believing – make sure you check it’s schedule and treat yourself to a visit. Another perhaps unexpected find is the Skye Serpentarium in Broadford – absolutley fascinating reptile house with informative staff and a chance to learn about and handle some of the reptiles. Sadly this centre will close in Autumn 2015 after 25 years so if you are on Skye this summer visit while you can.
The Isle of Skye is foodie heaven. Taking the lead are the Michelin starred Kinloch Lodge Hotel and the Three Chimneys both of which embrace your little ones and encourage exploration of new taste combinations. Our favourite places to eat with our wee brood (and this ties in well with rainy days above! ) are (arranged from south to north of the island) – Harry’s in Kyleakin, Cafe Sia (pizzas to die for) in Broadford and an especially nice Merlot for Mum, the Blue Shed Cafe in Torrin on the road to Elgol – doffing hats to their range of fiendish puzzles that keep the children entertained and the ice cream fridge. On reaching Elgol, the Elgol Shop’s coffee is fab but it’s cakes! Oh my. Heading north to Portree we adore visits to both the Skye Baking Company – unusal eats and plenty of gluten free options and a lovely gallery with craft materials too and Cafe Arriba – upstairs with great views across the harbour, epic hot chocolate and a great vegetarian choice. Heading north to the Old Man of Storr and Staffin you have to stop at the Skye Pie Shop! In Dunvegan we love Blas Cafe, the Old School Restaurant and when we head to Glendale and Neist point a stop at the Red Roof Cafe is a must. I hear great things about the Oyster Shed at Carbost and that’s on our must do list for this summer.
We’d love to add to our list. Please tell us your top Skye activities for families and we’ll give it a go and add it to the blog:) you can follow our Skye family adventures on twitter and instagram #lifeonskye
All images Rosie and Andrew Woodhouse EXCEPT feature image at head of article credit Penny Hardie at Penny Hardie Photography