Considered by many as the most beautiful island in Scotland – among over 900 isles, Skye has been part of my ever-growing bucket list for a long time and when I discovered about the existence of the Skye Trail I had to make my way there instantly!
The approximately 128 Km long route, is normally done over 7 days, here you can read on how I did it in 6 days wild camping along the way.
NOTE: This blog contains affiliate links to pages selling products and/or services, I may get a small commission if you make a purchase through these links at no extra cost for you. There’s no sponsored content on this blog.
Is the Skye Trail for experts?
The Skye Trail is an unofficial route, meaning that there’s no signage around and sometimes not even a path to follow so you have to improvise a little.
However, if you have gone on a few hikes in your life, you should not have any issues to complete this hike either solo or with your friends – except with extreme weather which of course has to be considered in this part of the world. I read in a few places about the need to get waterproof maps and learn know how to read them, etc. In my opinion, you don’t really need this as it’s not as if you’re going to the middle of the Amazonian rainforest. If you keep your mobile charged you will be able to check offline maps on the GPS every now and then.
I normally use the maps.me app whenever I go on hikes as it works really well, on this hiking adventure I combined that app with the alltrails app, I used this route that you can download for free and use offline, thanks to the alltrails user that uploaded it! (Couldn’t find the name to properly thank you but if you read this post you’re a legend!). Please note that this route linked doesn’t not pass by the “bad step”, I didn’t know about this and only realised I left it behind when it was too late to go back.
TIP: to save your phone battery over a multi-day hike, disable wifi, bluetooth and data. Just connect if at some point you need to check on something. Get a good power bank and you will still be able to update your loved ones on how you go, but embrace the freedom of being offline for a few days!
For me, the route was only demanding when you go along the Trotternish Ridge and the Quiraing as for the rest of the Skye Trail is almost all flat or gentle up and downs.
So, don’t get scared by reading elsewhere that this route is challenging and for experienced hikers only, it’s good to know what you’re doing but you don’t need to be a professional hiker (if such a thing exists). But if this is going to be your first hiking adventure I’d recommend you to start with something like the West Highland Way or a section of the South West Coast Path which are also beautiful and of similar length and perhaps more suitable for beginners.
Please remember that if you wild camp you must adhere to the Leave no Trace principles.
Hiking South to North or North to South?
The Walkhighlands website says this route is done north to south, however, I think the opposite direction is so much better because I think it’s always better to finish a hike with a beautiful view instead of ending your journey at a populated village.
Going south to north I felt that every day was getting more beautiful than the day before, and I don’t think you will get that on the north to south direction.
What to pack and where to find water on the Isle of Skye
When wild camping, every gram you carry on your shoulders feels heavier every day, specially if going solo as you cannot split the equipment weight with someone else, so it’s crucial to go as lightweight as possible.
When you hike the Skye trail you don’t get many chances to buy provisions but you could still make a little shopping when you pass by Portree on day 4 of the hike as there’s a small Co-Op supermarket there. Do not expect too much variety though.
When it comes to water, it was pretty easy to find clean fast-flowing streams every day, with the important exception of the second half of day 5 and almost all of day 6. Keep reading for more on that!
I was carrying my 2.5L camelback reservoir and a 500ml bottle. This was enough considering that I had pretty warm days that made my water consumption a bit higher than usual. I didn’t carry a water filter or purifying tablets, although in hindsight I’d recommend to have some purifying system just in case as on the final day I found a couple of streams where the water was yellowish and I didn’t drink it but kept looking for better water sources.
As always when hiking and camping in the UK, you need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best as even during summertime you could have storms and cold days. This was no exception in Skye, even that I had an incredibly sunny week, my first and final days did come with a few rains.
My packing list for the Skye Trail:
MSR Elixir 2P Tent
Osprey 68L Kestrel Rucksack
Terra Nova Down Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bag liner
Camping gaz canister
Stainless steel mug
Swiss army knife
Toilet paper roll
Toiletries (tooth brush, tooth paste, deodorant)
A few plastic bags, this is very important! to carry your rubbish, put wet things inside, etc.
Down liner jacket
Waterproof hiking boots. I definitely recommend boots and not trail running shoes as Skye is very boggy!
Zip-off Hiking pants
Base layers top and bottom
Quick dry towel
For the annoying midges!:
Pre-cooked pouches x10 (cooked chickpeas, quinoa, rice, couscous, lentils, etc. you can find these on most supermarkets in the UK)
Bag of cashews for adding crunchiness, protein and flavour to the pouches.
Pack of 8 tortillas (to make wraps)
Block of cheddar cheese
Large pack of cured ham (serrano, prosciutto or black forest ham last well without being refrigerated)
During the day:
Energy bars/snacks (3 per day)
Instant coffee and tea
How to get to Skye and start the trail?
I took a night bus from London to Glasgow and then a second bus from Glasgow to Broadford, this was a pretty long trip but not the worst I have done!
After some 19 hours of travelling, I made it to Broadford at 16:20 and started looking for a place to camp nearby as it was rainy and I wanted to rest and chill.
Off the bus, I walked towards the Irishman’s Point, which is well signalled on maps.me and you will also find signs in Broadford to get there and it was a great spot for pitching my tent.
On the way to Irishman’s Point you can find a water tap by the pier. And not far from the bus stop there’s a big Co-Op supermarket in case you need any last minute provisions. There’s also a YHA in case you get a stormy day and would like a bed instead of camping already, I stayed at the hostel on my final night after finishing the hike and it was quite nice with a good atmosphere of fellow adventurers.
If you decide to hike north to south, the bus from Glasgow will go all the way towards Rubha Hunish.
Day 1 of the Skye Trail solo adventures
Distance: 24Km, Hiking time: 6h
Water: there’s a tap by the pier in Broadford and at a house in Torrin which had a tap in the outside.
The first hiking day was relatively easy and didn’t push much. The first hour or so was a bit boring next to roads but some 90 minutes after departing from Irishman’s Point the dramatic views of the south coast are spectacular and stay like that for a good couple of hours.
Every day I would normally look at the maps.me and alltrails apps to get an idea on where I could pitch my tent for the night, so I started this day with the objective of going towards a lake right after the village of Torrin.
For this first day Skye and the weather Gods were surprising me already with mostly great hiking conditions and even warm at times!
The final hour for the day was on a transited road and was not easy to find a good place to pitch my tent once I made it to the lake as the terrain was quite boggy everywhere. I pitched my tent on the rocky path and even there I got water from the ground wetting my tent by the time I woke up the following morning.
I may have seen maximum 15 people hiking on that day, and it was pretty much like that for the rest of the week even that it was August and most were just day hikers, not doing the entire Skye Trail.
Day 2 solo hiking the Skye Trail
Distance: 21Km, Hiking time: 6h45min
Water: no taps available, I took water from fast flowing streams, no tablets used but I don’t condone this.
The second day felt harder than the first one although I didn’t feel yet that I was pushing hard, the views were getting better and better and even saw some highland cows! The hardest part of the day were the last 7 Km after the village of Elgol as it was up and down on a beautiful narrow trail.
The first 4 hours of the day were mostly on paved roads with some short exceptions.
There’s an option to stay at a bothy on this day in case the weather conditions are not good, it’s quite a large bothy by the Camasunary beach at a magnificent location, I didn’t stay there however as I wanted to check the lake that was some 15 minutes away which you can find on google maps as Loch na Creitheach, with the plan that if the lake was not good for camping I’d return to the bothy, and what a great decision that was as I found a jackpot of a place to pitch my tent by the loch. The beach was super cool but after a day of hiking is always nice to be able to have a cold swim in fresh water and do some laundry.
The pitching spot is big enough for two tents, with a uniquely soft – and not boggy! – grass that I was able to spot in the distance, the cotton candy sunset colours were the perfect end for a beautiful hiking day and the prelude of a stunning starry night.
In the following morning I woke up with some shy noises of beautiful deers just a few meters from my tent!
At the beginning of the day, there’s a shortcut near Kilmarie which is an option to consider if you’re short in days as it avoids a lot of road walking but misses the stunning little trail after Elgol, but eventually could help you save half a day of hiking.
Day 3 wild camping the Skye Trail solo
Distance: 20Km, Hiking time: 6h
Water: no taps available, I took water from fast flowing streams, no tablets used but I don’t condone this.
The start of the day was really peaceful, passing by beautiful lakes every 20min or so. It took me about 3h to get to Sligachan mostly over flat terrains with lots of little stream crossings.
From Sligachan it took me 2 hours to do 5.5Km sorting puddles, improvising the route as there was no trail, with ups and downs…still, it was a pretty cool section!
Skye was turning even more beautiful every day but this day brought some uncertainty as after leaving behind these cool sections I found myself by the end of the day in a developed area after Gedintailor with the map not showing anything that could resemble a nice place to camp.
Curious as I am, at one point walking on the road I saw a little grassy path going downhill at a place that the map didn’t show anything at all and decided to explore it. To my surprise I arrived to a secluded rocky beach with a small stream providing fresh water and a perfect green patch to pitch my tent. Jackpot once again!
There were a family of locals at the beach and when I went to ask them if they were the landowners to get permission to camp they told me they were fine but to please do not disclose the exact location as this is a little piece of paradise that only the locals know. Good luck finding it yourself 😉
On this day I was having some doubts about how long it’d take me to finish as I didn’t really know at the beginning if it’d take 6 or 7 days.
Day 4 of the Skye Trail solo hiking adventures
Distance: 23.5Km, Hiking time: 6h with about 1h extra walking around Portree.
Water: tap at the public toilets in Portree or ask to refill at the local pub.
After a stunning sunrise and leaving my beautiful beach camping spot behind, the fourth day of my adventures in Skye took me through Portree, the pretty little capital of the island, there I refilled water, bought some provisions as the Co-Op supermarket (beware, it’s a small supermarket with not many options compared to the Co-Op in Broadford)
I powered the first 11Km of the day as it was all on paved roads and even a bit of highway but right after you leave Portree behind it becomes beautiful again.
There are some small climbs at this stage which is a nice change to the previous flattish days. There are points where is easy to miss the trail so a good sense of orientation and the help of the map will come handy. I even got a bit lost at one point and got into a really steep goat trail which I realised was a bit dangerous, then I decided to check the map and realised I have left the correct trail behind.
There are plenty of places to camp for the night. On my constant search for camping near water sources I decided to camp by the small “beach” by the dam of Loch Leathan. There are signs there saying that you can enter at your own peril but does not forbid to camp.
Beware on the terrain approaching the dam as it can be super boggy. At one point one foot sunk deep almost knee-high!
I had plenty of midges once again, this was a constant pretty much every day.
The second part of this day offered the best scenery so far…and the best was yet to come.
Day 5 Hiking the Skye Trail solo
Distance: 18Km, Hiking time: 7h
Water: not many good fast flowing streams so make sure to keep your bottles or reservoir filled if you find a good stream. There are no streams at all on the Trotternish Ridge so try to save water on this challenging day.
This was the most beautiful section of the entire trail (if there’s any way to measure natural beauty)
Possibly the most famous sight in the entire island is the Old Man of Storr which is not far from the camping spot I chose by the dam the previous day. Those rock formations are the result of millions of years of natural changes on the landscape and I find these natural sculptures simply breathtaking.
You can surely expect to find lots of people at the Old Man of Storr, which after the previous days not really seeing much people can be either a relief or too much to bear.
This was a much tougher day than the previous ones but also “forced” me to many more stops than usual as the landscape was incredibly beautiful.
There were quite a few climbs up and down that at the end of the day can take a toll on your legs and knees. The screenshot below shows the section for Day 5 of the Skye Trail in between the two yellow lines (ignore the length and elevation gain as that’s for the entire route, not just one day)
The Trotternish Ridge is a truly spectacular place where most hikers don’t venture into. It was also really hard to find a spot to pitch my tent because it’s very exposed to strong winds. By the end of the day, feeling pretty tired I found a slightly sheltered area to camp which was the only place I saw along the almost 30km of the ridge that would be a bit protected from the winds. This sheltered place is approximately at the 104Km mark from the beginning of the alltrails route.
The views were simply magical from up there!
Day 6 The final day hiking the Skye Trail!
Distance: 20Km, Hiking time: 7h
Water: not many good streams, so keep saving water! I only found a tap outside a house in Port Gobhlaih.
This day felt harder than it looks on the terrain profile, likely because of the accumulated effort and the lack of water on the previous day. I also had a bit of rain but that helped to not feel so thirsty!
Starting with a rainy and windy morning, which was the only one I had in Skye and that caused me to pack my tent from the inside out in a matter of seconds, it took me from my camping spot at the top of the Trotternish Ridge about 1h40min to the Quiraing car park. It was quite nice even to have a “bad” weather day as I enjoyed seeing the stereotypical Scottish wet landscapes.
There was still a bit to climb to do along the Quiraing range until going down again bordering along the dramatic rocky coastline by Floregarry.
I ended up my Skye Trail adventures not camping but staying at The Lookout Bothy in Rubha Hunish which was built in 1928 and has better views than any 5 stars hotel, and I also had the company of other fellow hikers which were starting the trail on a north-south direction. From the bothy you can see whales at certain times of the year but I didn’t see any.
That night we ended up having a good laugh, playing a bit of cards and some having wine brought by two super friendly Scottish guys. It was a perfect ending for this week of adventures!
I actually spent 7 days in Skye simply because for the final night I decided to stay at the bothy in Rubha Hunish which is just 30 min walk from the end of the trail so if you’re short on time you could still catch a bus by the end of the day and make your way back home, but if you can stay at the bothy I highly recommend it as it allows for some beautiful and peaceful contemplation and realisation of the incredible sights seen over a week.
Can you do the Skye Trail in 5 days?
Possibly yes, if you’re a fast hiker I think the first three days that I did could be combined into two days, there’s also the shortcut that I mentioned on day 2 that can help you save some time if you’re really short on days. However, being in such an incredible part of this beautiful planet I just recommend to take your time to enjoy the landscapes!
I completely fell in love with Skye and can’t wait to go back again someday!
This was a long post! I hope you enjoyed reading and please do leave any comments or questions below if you’re planning to hike the Skye Trail or share your tips if you have some more!